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HITMAN on Linux - First Impressions

By Andrew Powell, published 19/02/2017 in Previews

With HITMAN releasing just days ago on Linux, we have yet another big title landing on our favourite platform. It's also courtesy once again of the heavy lifting in porting that Feral Interactive do. The game is also interesting in that Feral promised launch-day Mesa 13 support, which is especially good news for Linux gamers such as those who own AMD/Radeon GPUs. With this in mind, I installed the game and took it for a whirl.

My Rig:

  • CPU: Intel Pentium G4560 3.5Ghz (Kaby Lake)
  • Memory: 16 GB RAM
  • GPU: AMD R9 380X 4GB
  • OS: Arch Linux (Rolling) | Kernel 4.10 RC8
  • Desktop Environment: GNOME 3.22 (Wayland)
  • GPU Driver: AMDGPU (Open Source, Kernel) + Mesa 17 Git

First things first, like a lot of modern games, it needs a lot of space. And we're talking about 38 gigs to download. But as I said, that's not terribly unusual these days.

The good news is, Feral promised launch-day Mesa support and indeed, it seems they delivered. Which is VERY pleasing for anyone who isn't gaming on proprietary NVIDIA drivers. With the rapid increase of development in Mesa lately and AMD generally helping out with the open source aspect of drivers for their graphics cards, hopefully we'll see more of this sort of thing. I for one am glad to have switched (recently) to an AMD graphics card and the open source drivers.

Though I'm running the latest Mesa 17 git, as opposed to Mesa 13 that Feral officially supports at the time of launch, I didn't expect any issues. Indeed, as we all know, Mesa 17.x is a very impressive all-round improvement over Mesa 13.x, so there should only be plusses not minuses.

Pleasingly, that turns out to be a correct assumption. HITMAN launched from Steam in typical fashion for a game ported by Feral Interactive, with a big customised but unmistakable Feral splash-kind-of-launcher that lets you edit your screen resolution if you wish as well as a couple of other settings. Clicking Play, the game itself launched fully and away I went.

The game defaulted to mostly Medium graphical settings (plus 4x Anisotropic Filtering and FXAA (Anti-Aliasing)) at my native resolution of 1920x1080. Ahh yes, I remember back in the day when that was actually considered an impressive HD resolution! Alas, these days I am but one of the little folk still having not caught up to 4K gaming and such. But no matter, it all looks fine to me.

The game's default graphical settings are about right, I believe. I can crank up some of the details to High or at least some combination of Medium to High, but the game does have some intensive areas that chug the framerate enough that the trade off of Medium details means things are a bit more consistent. I also set the Vsync setting to the number "2" setting, which effectively sets the game to a framerate limit of 30. Yes, PC Master Race, I might as well be a console peasant, yada yada, I know. But again, in line with keeping a more consistent FPS and therefore a more all round smooth experience, I find the 30FPS cap works quite well.

I believe my hardware can probably theoretically handle more than that, but at this point in time running on open source drivers and until we have better threading options to help with the overhead of the DirectX to OpenGL translation layer in these ports (or just get proper Vulkan support happening), we have to deal with some slightly lesser performance than what the hardware is actually capable of.

Having said that, my CPU is no world beater and these games tend to be somewhat CPU limited for the time being. Having said that, don't let the Intel Pentium branding of the G4560 fool you - it holds its own with many of its much more expensive i3 and i5 cousins.

Back to the game itself, it otherwise runs and looks great all things considered (I remember the days of barely being able to play Urban Terror on open source ATI drivers. We've come a long way, people!) and it wasn't long before I was immersed in Agent 47's world. I've personally had limited exposure to the previous Hitman series of games, but it seems much like those games you get a mini-sandbox put before you that lets you approach your targets (for assassination) in multiple ways. You have a lot of contexual actions on-screen and some mini quicktime events as opposed to direct controls such as punching, stabbing or jumping etc. But it works well.

The game has some very impressive cinematic movies in between gameplay, which must be often rendered in-engine, because the game often fades almost completely seamlessly from movie to actual gameplay, sometimes taking you by surprise as it hands over control of Agent 47 to you, the player. The places in the game are fairly impressive in scope too, not only in the amount of area you can move around and explore, but the sheer amount of stuff going on. Large crowds of people is not uncommon, and it's all fully rendered and animated, not to mention generally interactive.

Actual executing of your targets (read: murdering, but it's just your job, right?) can be done in all sorts of ways, which can be actually downright hilarious, as morbid as that sounds. But often you really are left to your imagination and you can approach the situation any way you like - taking clothes off victims you have knocked unconscious and disguising as them, poisoning someone's drink or setting a clever trap, for example. And many more. Certainly, if you pull off the job in a creative and successful way, it's very satisfying.

Without giving anything away, I do feel sometimes the game tries a little too hard to justify your reasons for killing someone (or someones, given sometimes there are multiple targets in any one level). What I mean by this is, when the voice over of your handler in the movie sequences goes out of their way to tell you all the deplorable things your target(s) have done and why they should be removed from the face of the Earth for the good of the rest of the population. It just feels a tiny bit forced, in my opinion.

I mean, sure, you want to then kill these guys even more, but it seems a little odd in a game about a pretty cold emotionless assassin, that they try to almost justify the murdering aspect. I don't think anyone needs too many reasons or justifications to do the things they do in games like Grand Theft Auto, for instance.

But it is a minor quibble or point, really. There is a storyline to be followed, and it does seem like it could be quite interesting. But even besides the single player story aspect, the game seems to be a bit of a hoot in terms of actual gameplay and it is very well executed. How repetitive it may become, which can be the problem in these grandiose sandbox type of games, remains to be seen.

On the other hand, with all the different ways to approach entire levels and challenges to complete, there should be tonnes of replayability!

For anyone interested, the Linux System Requirements are below:

    OS: Ubuntu 16.04 or Steam OS 2.0
    Processor: Intel Core i5-2500K/AMD FX-8350
    Memory: 8 GB RAM
    Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 680/AMD R9 270X graphics card or better*
    Storage: 67 GB available space
    Additional Notes: *NVIDIA graphics cards require driver version 375.26. AMD graphics cards require MESA 13.0.3 or better. Intel graphics cards will not be supported on release.

    OS: Ubuntu 16.10 or Steam OS 2.0
    Processor: Intel Core i7 3770
    Memory: 16 GB RAM
    Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970/AMD R9 290 graphics card or better*
    Storage: 67 GB available space
    Additional Notes: *NVIDIA graphics cards require driver version 375.26. AMD graphics cards require MESA 13.0.3 or better. Intel graphics cards will not be supported on release.

HITMAN is also currently on sale (at time of writing) for 50% off on Steam and Feral Interactive's store. Buy from Feral directly if you want to support them with a few extra dollars!

About the author

Andrew Powell is the editor and owner of The Linux Rain who loves all things Linux, gaming and everything in between.

Tags: previews gaming linux-games hitman steam feral-interactive
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