The Hitman series and hotels have a storied history, with Codename 47's Traditions of the Trade and Blood Money's A House of Cards missions ranking among the best stealth-friendly kill zones which happen to masquerade as virtual luxury accommodation.
The latest DLC mission in Hitman 2016's ongoing episodic escapades continues this exalted tradition within the ostentatious walls of the Himmapan Hotel – a lavish building decorated with shimmering gold shades, exquisitely lit by the soft glow of the morning sun in Bangkok, Thailand.
The tropical climate immediately recalls the sun-drenched shores of Sapienza – the crowning jewel of IO Interactive's ambitious episodic AAA experiment thus far. In actual fact, Episode Four's Club 27 mission is much closer to the Parisian fashion show found in Episode One, with both sharing a sense of verticality within their sandbox structures.
Yet, while Paris' tiered approach felt rather one note, the Himmapan differentiates its separate floors impressively well despite its smaller size.
One of Club 27's strengths lie in the fact that accessing the correct areas feels less like you've happened upon the 'correct' outfit and more that you've adopted the garb of a particular social class. It's telling, for example, that reaching the penthouse suites and top-floor gardens decorated with crass fountains and gaudy statues is much easier if you happen to look like you might be ready to clean up after its uber wealthy inhabitants.
Thailand's two targets play into this dynamic with aplomb. Listening to their respective pre-mission dossiers, you would be forgiven for thinking that the vicious punishment that awaits them doesn't fit their lowly crimes – relative to Hitman's usual litany of morally bankrupt scumbags, at least.
But then you meet them.
Singer-songwriter, The Class frontman and all round sniveling, petulant weasel Jordan Cross and his family's obnxious, holier-than-thou elitist family lawyer Ken Morgan are perfect assassination fodder – not because they need to die, but because you want them to die, preferably in humiliating fashion.
Thankfully there are a litany of ways to off the reprehensible duo, with coconuts, birthday cakes, Tik-Tuks and old-school microphones all lying in wait for those looking to get creative. Without wishing to spoil a particularly devilish moment, you can even set events in place so that one of the targets does the dirty wet-work for you.
Club 27 also manages to sneak in one of the coldest, most matter-of-fact assassinations the series has seen so far – a stark reminder that, stripped of all the dress-up fun and makeshift rubber duck bombs, Agent 47 himself is the perfect unemotional avatar for the Hitman franchises' dastardly brand of wicked wish fulfillment.
Episode Four's lack of access-all outfits or magic keycards (there is one, but it has limited use) seems to speak of a development team that has grown into the episodic series' base mechanics. This is particularly evident when it comes to the mission's Opportunities. In the past Opportunities have felt a little like an exercise in hand-holding, but here they often withhold the actual moment where you pull the trigger (both literally and metaphorically). The breadcrumb trail is still there and it manages to limit player frustration, but it never stifles the murderous creativity.
Unfortunately, bugs and glitches can sometimes get in the way. Stuttering sound clips and NPCs missing pre-set cues were quite common across my multiple playthroughs (on PS4). Nothing a patch won't fix, but frustrating all the same.
Technical niggles aside, Bangkok is a confident return to form for Hitman's first season – after the characterless trudge through Marrakesh and the fun, but throwaway mid-season summer special episode. While Sapienza is still the undisputed highlight, Club 27's tight, multi-tiered design and wonderfully vile pair of targets show that IO Interactive isn't ready to rest on its laurels.