Hitman HD Trilogy
Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PlayStation 3
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Price: $39.99 – Available Here
For over a decade now, Agent 47 has been sneaking around, hiding in plain sight. He is paid to do one thing, and he does it very well. If it’s possible you’ve made someone’s hit list, you should probably keep an eye out for a bald man. The problem is that you probably still won’t see him coming, unless he wants you to…and by then, it’s going to be too late for you to do anything about it anyway. Nothing can stop him. No number of guards, no security checkpoints, no distance or wall. If he wants you, he’s going to get you. So now it comes down to this. The Hitman HD Trilogy has been released to the world, and you’re curious about it. The critical question presents itself – does the Hitman HD Trilogy hit its mark or has it botched the job? Let’s find out.
While the story may be old hat to Hitman veterans, newcomers will find an entire set of stories related to Agent 47. As Hitman 2: Silent Assassin opens, we see Agent 47 as he’s been living in a monastery, keeping a garden and trying to lead a peaceful existence. His mentor, Father Vittorio, is kidnapped. In an effort to get him back, 47 contacts the Agency and agrees to carry out a hit for them in exchange for information leading back to Father Vittorio. This ends up drawing him back in over the course of several missions, kicking this trilogy off.
As Hitman: Contracts begins, 47 is stumbling back into his hotel room after completing a job. Shot and suffering, he collapses to the ground. He begins to have flashbacks of some of his past missions (many of which are remastered versions of Hitman: Codename 47). Between missions, we glimpse his suffering from the gunshot wound as well as his salvation in the form of a surgeon sent from the Agency.
The story in Hitman: Blood Money is told through a series of missions played as former FBI director Jack Cayne and reporter Rick Henderson. It all begins with an attack on the White House, but drives itself to a much more relevant dispute between the Agency and their counterpart, The Franchise.
It’s incredible to see how a game franchise can evolve over the years. Developers create things as best they know how in the beginning, but before long they learn what works and what doesn’t, and their franchises adapt and grow to fit the market and deliver a tighter experience to their fanbase. Well, either that or they stumble along for a little while before ultimately fading into obscurity. The Hitman franchise has certainly proven that it has the chops to stay.
Though it certainly shows its age with this collection, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin has still been very well translated onto modern consoles. Newcomers to the franchise may find it a little frustrating at first, though, as it’s definitely the roughest of the three games in this collection. While it obviously has a few flaws, they’re well worth working through for the intensely satisfying underlying game. The voice acting can be a bit rough at times, animations can feel stiff (like going from standing to crouching), a few bugs still haunt the title (such as guards clipping through doors), and the enemy AI tends to be an all-or-nothing, almost sentient race at times.
Even with those flaws, though, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin still has some moments that will make you want to stand up and shout, or at least wish you’d recorded how flawless your last mission was. Silent Assassin has some fantastic mission and level design, and with that it’s no wonder the series grew to have such a lasting legacy. You’ll also discover so much as you play, that it will make you want to go back and try out that golf club you saw in the bedroom next time.
Released two years after Silent Assassin, Hitman: Contracts shows significant improvement in the design choices the developers made to move the franchise forward. Not only does Contracts look better than Silent Assassin, it improves nearly everything about its predecessor. Inventory management, controls, user interface, enemy intelligence – it has all been improved to better serve the player.
The layout of the controls were improved to provide easier access to your in-game map as well as inventory management. Enemy intelligence was also given a pretty drastic re-working. No longer will you feel cheated by guards who somehow just magically knew that you were a hostile force to be taken out. Contracts does a good job of dropping hints to the player that something may be amiss. Killed a butcher and taken his clothes in order to sneak into that party? The game lets you know that “Butchers don’t carry guns,” giving you the hint to ditch any firearms you have before you get patted down at the door. The map has also become much more functional with the addition of “Points of Interest” – people, costumes, weapons, or other items that will aid 47 in successfully completing his current mission. Though the cut-scenes still look like they were rendered on last-generation hardware, the overall product is a game that is still as deep as it is wide, but much more pleasant than its predecessor to play.
Hitman: Blood Money rounds out the trilogy. Originally released on both last-generation hardware and the Xbox 360, you aren’t likely to see quite as big a leap from Contracts to Blood Money in terms of improvements to the franchise as there were from Hitman 2 to Contracts, there are certainly still a few impactful changes that players will appreciate. One of the first things players may notice is the first-time addition of a “Rookie” difficulty, which affords players as many saves per mission as they want, among other accommodations to make the game easier for the casual or first-time player to pick up. Guards will now often stop to give you a once over, often giving you time to disarm them before they call over their buddies. Breaking down missions by offering the results up as a newspaper article is also a fantastic improvement and a really fun way to see how you stacked up on your latest mission.
Though it’s not technically part of the HD Trilogy, the Hitman Absolution Sniper Challenge that was originally released as a pre-order bonus for Hitman: Absolution is included as well. This gives players the task of taking out a mark and several of his bodyguards as quickly and efficiently as possible, giving players a score and bragging rights with friends. It’s an excellent addition to the collection, and for players interested in moving on to Absolution, it will get them started with a few extra goodies.
Silent Assassin is easily the roughest looking game in the trilogy, but even having said that, the game looks fantastic in high definition. The textures and detail are a bit lacking, but we are talking about software that was originally released in 2002. Contracts offers a substantial improvement in both texture and polygon count, so much so that it’s nearly boggling that the original games were only released two years apart.
Contracts looks right at home alongside Blood Money. That said, Blood Money was actually released with the Xbox 360 as one of its platforms. Even still, the game looks crisp and uses colors very well.
Jesper Kyd really knows what he’s doing when it comes to video game soundtracks. His name is associated with a bevy of game franchises dating back to 1990 including the likes of Assassin’s Creed, Borderlands, and of course, the Hitman franchise. The music for each game does a great job setting mood and conveying emotion. All three are available on iTunes and through other outlets and are well worth looking into.
Overall, the Hitman HD Trilogy is an excellent purchase and anyone who likes stealth action games would be doing themselves a disservice to pass it by. While Hitman 2: Silent Assassins shows its age, it’s still a great game, and it’s companions in Contracts and Blood Money are both top notch experiences as well. The upgrade to high definition was a move well earned by a highly loved franchise and it has been done well for the collection. The tracks by Jesper Kyd are also perfectly in line with the missions 47 is carrying out. Though it has a few bugs and flaws that have lived through the last decade, that shouldn’t deter anyone from enjoying such a great experience. If you have a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, the $40 for this excellent collection is money well spent.
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.