The Agent 47 You Know But With Added Head Polish
Hitman HD Trilogy comprises 3 classic Hitman games into one affordable package hot on the heels of last year's epic comeback for Agent 47, Hitman: Absolution. Whilst the first game isn't present (it was a PC exclusive and many missions are carried over to Contracts) we see both Silent Assassin and Contracts given the HD treatment for the first time whilst Blood Money is the same version we already saw released for current consoles. So how have the games aged and how have they been improved? It wouldn't be fair to judge without talking about each game individually so let's start with the oldest game in this trilogy, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin.
Even compared to its modern counterparts it still reigns supreme
Silent Assassin is over ten years old and unfortunately it is starting to feel it. By no means unplayable but pulling off the perfect run can be made unintentionally harder when the gameplay decides to let you down at the worst possible time. Sometimes 47 won't equip the item you wanted straight away or sometimes the enemy AI decides to just kill you when you seemingly did nothing wrong. It can be very frustrating and can make you lose concentration which is the last thing you want when playing this game.
When the game does work though it is still incredibly satisfying when your master plan comes together and you kill your target and leave without a trace. The game doesn't hold your hand in the slightest, and will punish you for the smallest mistake, but that is part of being a master Hitman. When I say this game is hard, I mean it. If you play this game on the hardest difficulty setting and manage to get a silent assassin rank on every level, you should probably think about a new career in assassinations. Prepare to reload your saves a lot whilst playing as trial and error plays a huge part.
Loading saves are also very quick which is helpful and overall the game runs very well. I had no frame rate issues and only one instance of texture popping when a exit gate disappeared so I had to reload my save. The HD treatment is the main reason for this release and it was worth it. The graphics are very nice and it doesn't look like a decade old game at all. Shame the same can't be said about the gameplay.
It is incredibly satisfying when your master plan comes together
Probably what stood out the most for me whilst playing through this game's entirety was the soundtrack. Like any good film or videogame soundtrack it should stand the test of time and Jesper Kyd's score is still as brilliant as it was the day it was made. Even compared to its modern counterparts it still reigns supreme and really is the perfect backdrop to a fine game.
The game is a fairly long length with loads of environments to explore and targets to take down in what could take 10-15 hours to fully master. You can also try and collect all the weapons for your safe house which overall provides lots of hours of replay-ability and this is only a third of the package. I enjoyed Silent Assassin overall but did really have to fight against the gameplay and controls in some places. It was however very nice to revisit the first console outing for Agent 47 to really see how far he has come. Let's see how Contracts fairs next.
Quite surprisingly Contracts doesn't look as good as Silent Assassin which is odd seeing as its the newer game. Contracts uses CG cinematics for cut scenes unlike the previous game which just uses in game footage for cut scenes. These CG cinematics obviously haven't been updated in the slightest and look pretty bad actually. It would be hard to update these but it does look rather amateurish going from a respectable looking game whilst playing to watching very bad cut scenes.
There are also a few presentation changes from the previous game which I'm not a fan of. For some reason the font size is very small on the menus which makes it hard to read and the map is harder to make sense of with the layouts of enemies and points of interests seemingly more cluttered. They also took out the compass which is a small thing but I liked it in the previous game and seems odd to just remove the feature.
Really a lot of the things I said about Silent Assassin apply here to Contracts as not much has changed between the two games. Apart from the small cosmetic changes I mentioned the gameplay is almost identical, the in-game visuals are exactly the same and the mission structure also hasn't changed. I found this game slightly easier but I'm not sure if this is just due to playing the previous game for a while before starting this one or whether the difficulty overall is lower.
This game also felt shorter than the previous one with only 12 levels it could easily be completed in 6-8 hours especially if you know what you are doing. I actually preferred Silent Assassin as the levels felt more unique whereas Contracts just felt like more of the same rather than an actual fully fledged sequel. Not that it's a bad game just that it doesn't improve upon anything from the previous title.
And finally we come to Blood Money which is considered by many to be the best Hitman game to date. So how does it hold up? Visually the game is definitely a step up from the previous two titles. Whilst the previous games looked nice with the HD polish some backgrounds seemed plain and devoid of any detail. This game was built for HD and you can tell. The cut scenes look good, way better than Contracts, and in-game visuals really pop with detail.
Hiding in a huge crowd whilst stalking a target can provide the perfect cover
The gameplay has also been changed a lot compare to the previous games which saw almost no improvement between releases. The controls are streamlined by showing what certain buttons will do at anytime on the corner of your screen and changing weapons will pause the game which no longer means scrambling to equip a gun whilst being shot at. Shooting and fighting mechanics have seen a drastic improvement which means the game is more forgiving when you do get noticed and if you want to partake in a firefight. I personally don't think you should play the game this way but having the option for people who do is always appreciated.
The amount of people that can be present on screen at one time has been dramatically improved which adds interesting dynamics to the gameplay. Hiding in a huge crowd whilst stalking a target can provide the perfect cover and makes the game feel more alive than ever before. The introduction of being able to hide bodies in dumpsters as well as the nice ‘24’ inspired window that comes up to show you any interesting developments elsewhere on the map are both nice additions that really add to the overall feel of the game.
The structure of the games is almost unchanged throughout all three where you are given a list of targets to take down, choose your weapons and then are set free to achieve the objective by any way you see fit. It may sound boring but once you see just how many ways there are to kill your targets and how different each location is the format rarely becomes stale.
Unlike in the newest installment, Absolution, the storylines in the first two games is very loose indeed and just a way to set up why 47 is doing what he does. Silent Assassin has a good story whilst Contracts is basically just a series of hits told via flashbacks. These games are all about completing different assignments because you have been hired to do so, and don't need a story to keep you interested. Blood Money introduces a great story in a Hitman game for the first time which starts off interesting and culminates into one of the best game endings of all time. It's worth playing all the way through just to see it.
If Absolution was your first experience of Hitman and you were left wanting more this is the perfect opportunity to play these classic titles for the first time. Or if you didn't like Absolution as it felt too easy compared to previous titles then pick this up collection to revisit the hardcore Hitman games of the past. Overall the amount of content and hours of entertainment you get with this package is great value for money even if you only play one of the games, let alone all three. Some parts are starting to show their age but for the most part Hitman is as relevant today as it has ever been. Long live Agent 47.