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Game Profile
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
Xbox
PUBLISHER:
Eidos Interactive
DEVELOPER:
IO Interactive
GENRE: Action
PLAYERS:   1
RELEASE DATE:
April 21, 2004
ESRB RATING:
Mature
IN THE SERIES
Hitman

Hitman 5

Hitman: Blood Money

Hitman: Blood Money

Hitman: Blood Money

More in this Series
 Written by Leigh Culpin  on March 16, 2004

First Impressions: A Hitman who takes on contracts? No way!


For many an age the concept of the anti-hero has been a captivating one for a large part of our entertainment based societies, and gamers are no different. Playing the role of the bad guy is fun easily as often as not, and the Hitman series used this intrigue to its advantage by giving us a somewhat silent but rather deadly character to control in Agent 47. The first game was visually pleasing and rather well designed despite some serious control issues, and the second game of the series took the formula from the first and made a game ten times better. The latest game in the series, Contracts, looks to up the ante once again and it should be one hell of a ride.


For a series about getting paid to kill people there's actually quite a bit of story depth, giving a reason for the mission variety as well as compelling the user to complete the games. For those unfamiliar with the series (where have you been?) you take control of a hired assassin (Codename 47 as told in the first game's title) who happens to be somewhat enhanced, though not unique. As the story unfolds we begin gradually understanding more about this somewhat twisted game star, but the real draw of the series is really more in the gameplay than anywhere else ? it's somewhat pleasantly open-ended. You can do things the quick way (well, it is sometimes) by killing everyone in the vicinity of your objective with weapons and explosives, or you can sneak in, plant some sort of trap (poisoned food, a car bomb, etc) and sneak out again. The ability to use various disguises, weaponry and tactics make for a load of replay value as well as an excellent feeling of flexibility not found in many games, even today.


Having said that, stealth has always been somewhat more viable in the past and will be so in the future. New AI implementations mean that enemies work in squads and are more deadly and numerous than ever, meaning that blowing baddies away from start to finish of a level isn't necessarily such a good idea. The games have always done a great job of staying away from the cut and dry shooter formula, and I doubt that will stop now. If you consider Io Interactive's attitude that games should be mentally challenging as well as entertaining -- meaning that some of the missions will present you with the option of solving problems through sheer guile in the event that you don't want to do it one of the more obvious ways.


Contracts actually presents you with missions that are flashbacks of 47's past, possibly in an attempt to add some more depth to the character. Storyline aside, the levels will be bigger and badder than ever and certainly look as gorgeous as anyone could've hoped, if not darker than in the previous installments ? the team's decided to go with a darker and drearier look, something reminiscent of a gothic or noir style film perhaps. Personally I find such styles intriguing to say the least, and it looks as if the moodiness of the series will be taken up another notch thanks to this visual consideration.


As if the game concept wasn't disturbing enough for some gamers as-is, there's now around 30 weapons at your disposal in addition to stealth attacks, which will complement the environments (such as a Russian base and an S&M club/slaughterhouse and who knows what else, but guaranteed they'll all be dark and many disturbing). As is becoming customary with open-ended gameplay (such as Deus Ex: The Invisible War) the environments will now be interactive and enemies will notice things like your shadow and sounds you make, so being stealthy won't be quite as easy as it has in the past. Additionally, the Io team has built a new Hitman engine, and judging by the lighting effects, the fact that cloth and environment interact in real time with you, enemies and other objects it would seem that the work put in is going to be easily worth the end result.

Final Thoughts
As sick as some parts of this game may end up being (it isn't going to be for the faint of heart, I can say that with absolute certainty) I eagerly await it as I eagerly awaited the second game of the series. If you haven't tried the first two yet I strongly suggest picking them up before Contracts comes out next month, so you can more fully invest yourself into the role of one of gaming's best-known cold-blooded killers.


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