Whilst some of us are happy to envision Agent 47’s signature fibre-wire slowly wrapping around The Brent-meister General’s neck, his words hold some merit with regards to the Hitman series. Technological advances may have suppressed the impact of Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, Hitman: Contracts and Hitman: Blood Money, but the new Hitman HD Trilogy freshens up the paint job, giving Agent 47 new shine and disguising blemishes of old.
No matter the glossy coat, however, the cracks will eventually resurface. The Hitman series—for better or worse—can be somewhat unforgiving, paving the way for numerous episodes of reloaded saves and questionable AI. This set-up can be a potential knockback for newcomers fresh off the boat from 2012’s Hitman: Absolution.
But a good idea is a good idea forever. And no small gripe will diminish the atmosphere and grand context present throughout the series’ impressive missions. The Hitman HD Trilogy is the best way to experience the ultimate assassin simulation on consoles, satisfying both the hitman veteran and the rookie contract killer.
Planning the perfect hit is the hallmark of this series. The player is given every opportunity to become as ruthless and calculated as Agent 47 himself. Your ability to carefully observe the environment and pre-empt the actions of your targets or the innocent civilians surrounding them is your primary resource. And even the most intimidating fortresses can’t keep Agent 47 out of business.
But living up to the killer clone’s high standard isn’t an easy path. Reloading your last save is a common occurrence in a quest to land the cleanest kill amidst the energy of a bustling real-world environment.
A private hospital guarded by the most expensive bouncers in the criminal underworld becomes the stage of another well-rehearsed scene for the player. After several hiccups throughout your exploration, you acquire enough knowledge to restart the mission and begin your contract proper.
You’ve learned that a doctor’s outfit can be used as a disguise to infiltrate the hospital, and that the target requires a heart transplant. You’ve learned that a scalpel can be found in the storage room of the basement and that the power can be shut down from the same area. Put all the pieces together, and your route to executing the perfect hit becomes much clearer. The rocky road of trial and error is a necessary evil that facilitates complicated and fulfilling assassination missions within the context of a living, breathing world.
When we pull back the curtain, the Hitman series is a set of puzzle games. Each disguise acting as a key to a different door, every conversation and meeting taking place between targets becomes a hidden time limit, and a poison vial signals the player that another opportunity to sabotage the target’s food or drink is somewhere in the labyrinth. But despite the simplistic nature of what’s running in the engine room, the games ask a lot of you.
At least in Hitman 2: Silent Assassin and Hitman: Contracts, the high demand from the game is a key ingredient to its supreme satisfaction, and not in some meaningless “hardcore gamer” kind of way.
Anything that enhances the believability of the world strengthens the impact of your murder in broad daylight. For example, seeing the same NPC urinate every two minutes underneath a stack of barrels can be somewhat jarring, even after the penny’s dropped (along with the barrels). This is a shallow and dissatisfying way to realize your epic assassination, making everything feel like a creepy simulation in which the world was made to feed your hunger for covert bloodshed and nothing else.
The Hitman HD Trilogy benefits from the fact that everything would continue on without your presence. Whether you were there or not, these two targets are having their meeting. Whether you found the poison or not, the chef gives them their food and they finish their meal. On your fifth retry, after everything has fallen into place and you’ve found the right disguise and the correct moment to poison, you have compromised a sensitive environment that should have been impossible to penetrate. In the long run, bouts of trial and error are a small price to pay for such memorable moments.
The structure of the three games is enhanced by the hands-off approach of the narrative. Across the forty six levels, the vast majority are contract killings, each one as unique and detailed as the last. With the missions of Contracts and Blood Money contextualized as flashbacks, IO interactive was able to let their imagination run riot with everything done in service of the gameplay.
The games possess an interesting story that has a consistent thread no matter which part of the world 47 finds himself in. But don’t expect a huge cast of characters with intricate branches of plot. The minimalist nature of the Hitman games focuses on Agent 47, the ICA, and the myth that surrounds both of them.
All of this gives way to the nitty-gritty of the Hitman – the contracts. Missions begin with a briefing of your objectives and information concerning the targets from Diana, your mission handler at the ICA. Depending on the difficulty, you will receive more or less assistance from the agency in the form of equipment and points of interest located on the map. These points of interest will be your first port of call, leading you to useful disguises, explosives, or other tools of the trade exclusive to that level.
With each game boasting its own atmosphere and variety of assassination missions, it can be tough to pick one as the centre piece of the Hitman HD Trilogy. But Hitman: Blood Money is considered—amongst many fans—the quintessential Hitman experience. Should 47 put a gun to your head and demand you play one of these games, it is recommended you go for Blood Money.
He also looks his best here. A bit of flattery never hurt anyone.
From the classy world of a Paris Opera to a sunny suburban neighbourhood, Hitman: Blood Money consistently demonstrates IO Interactive’s ability to offer up memorable levels with a vast amount of options at the player’s disposal. It is also the most impressive technically, with the HD makeover bringing Blood Money up to a standard not too distant from the earliest games of this generation. Improved gunplay, upgradeable equipment, your own weapon load-outs; without a doubt, this is the most fully featured of the three games.
Newcomers are fortunate to experience a trio of the most unique stealth action games ever created, now in high-definition. Glitches that were present way back when are still present here, and the demands asked of the player might be too much for some, but getting the job done is never easy. Whether or not your patience is put to the test, the end result is something special – the life of a contract killer is yours to experience in the Hitman HD Trilogy.
This review was based on a final version of the game provided by Square-Enix.