Agent 47 has been accepting contracts for over a decade now, and it’s about time we paid respect to the classic titles that kicked off one of the best stealth franchises around. IO Interactive’s Hitman: HD Trilogy bundles together Hitman: Contracts, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin and Hitman: Blood Money into one convenient package.
Each game features a graphical overhaul that effectively brings the classic stealth mechanics into glorious HD. Agent 47′s cosmetic makeover is clearly most effective with Contracts and Silent Assassin. With Blood Money seeing the light of day in 2006, it becomes hard to identify whether or not the small layer of polish benefits the visual appeal, but comparing it against the earlier titles clearly marks a leap in technology.
The original Hitman game is missing in action from the package, but the Hitman: HD Trilogy makes up for it by including Contracts. This Hitman game delivers its story through a flashback of missions from the first title. The narrative shifts through time, and effectively ties much of the original storyline into the game.
Moving straight into Silent Assassin, which you know you will, players are exposed to 47′s growing moral conscience. He hopes to leave his murderous past behind him, and what better place for a genetically engineered hitman to retire than a church in Sicily?
Unfortunately, 47 is forced to retrieve his Silverballers again after the church’s Father, Vittorio, is kidnapped by mobsters. What else is 47 supposed to do? Let’s face it, it’d be a sin for him not to use his talents to try and save the Father. Without delay, 47 embarks on numerous missions from the Agency in order to gain intel on the location of Vittorio.
Over the course of Blood Money, we learn that the Agency’s employees are quickly being eliminated by two clones of a counterpart to the Agency named, “The Franchise.” Agent 47 ultimately reaches an ending that can take readers by surprise, and marks a leap in narrative design for the franchise. Creating gameplay that is interwoven with bouts of pre-meditated murder helps remind players of why 47 remains one of the most important figures of stealth gaming.
Surely, many gamers are familiar with the history of the franchise already, so for the original fans, the Hitman: HD Trilogy won’t be treading new ground. The Trilogy does serve as a nice package that brings the classic gameplay and narrative into one location, though. Replaying through each game simultaneously grants players with an opportunity to re-introduce themselves with the franchise, and help catch newcomers up to speed.
Each of the three games offers players the traditional stealth gameplay the Hitman franchise is known for. Observing your environments, formulating a plan of attack, and execution are key elements of Agent 47′s skill set. The core gameplay remains unaltered through each title, and is sure to provide gaming bliss for stealth fans. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this HD Trilogy, is that it allows fans to witness firsthand the evolution of Hitman’s gameplay. Each title presents a step in the evolutionary chain of IO Interactive’s team. When you compare it to the team’s recent Hitman: Absolution, it’s really quite an experience.
Observing the gameplay evolution of the series is an amazing spectacle, but that doesn’t mean the games have aged well. Playing through Contracts and Silent Assassin exposes the bitter-sweet reality of just how dated these games have become. This poses a greater challenge for players, as gameplay remains restricted by the confines of the consoles the games were released on. The experiences of each game are focused on precise plans of attack that can quickly go awry if you are unable to adapt quickly to the game mechanics.
At one point, I managed to perfectly sedate an unsuspecting civilian, snatch his disguise, and ultimately have my cover blown simply by walking too fast past a guard. Controlling 47 in these early installments reflects clunky controls that juxtapose the seamless movements of Absolution.
In addition, the A.I. of earlier games is infinitely primitive in comparison to the more evolved Hitman counterparts. Many times you may find yourself being fired upon, but you won’t quite understand what it was that set the guards off. As they open fire, you instinctively draw your Silverballers, blasting into the hordes of enemies that surround you, but ultimately your efforts are in vain.
Hitman is a series about stealth, and as such, the repercussions for being discovered are lethal. Yet, this is what the series is about, planning and execution. Is it right to punish a game for sticking to its guns, and ensuring that stealth is the focus? I think not. Hitman provides a greater challenge on Professional difficulty, which limits players to one save per playthrough. Jumping into the Professional difficulty is clearly a challenge for the hardcore gamer, but it provides gamers with a reason to come back after completing each game.
Even though the games will very likely feel dated to many, each one provides classic stealth action that fans will easily get lost in. Planning out your hit is as fun as it has ever been, and luckily, we can finally do it in HD with the Hitman: HD Trilogy.
This review is based on an Xbox 360 copy of the game that was provided for us.