By owl_of_minerva 9 Comments
Anyway, to get to the game itself, the gameplay concepts were, for the time, quite novel and well-executed. Thief had been released two years prior, but Hitman wasn't a mere retread of that brilliant game. One of its defining mechanics was the ability to change one's appearance, namely to open up otherwise inaccessible areas, perform a role that allows you to pull off the hit, lose pursuers if discovered, or fit in with patrolling goons. It's a great concept and executed quite well. As a result, most missions can accordingly be accomplished stealthily, with little or no loss of life. The game stresses the importance of this, posing heavy penalties for indiscriminate mayhem or dying (ie. using a continue). If you're too unsubtle the Agency may even decide to terminate you. Another key aspect was monitoring guard routes in order to avoid detection or time kills when out of sight. Although not perfect, the AI was impressive for the era and punished sloppy execution. Bodies had to be kept hidden, weapons kept out of sight unless appropriate, etc.
However, Codename 47 is also an action game, and missions that involve a lot of combat are by far the weakest. The guns are laggy, weak, and often inaccurate, Hitman takes a lot of damage, and they don't fit in well with the concept of the game. It makes for a schizophrenic play experience. By far the worst offenders are the missions "Say Hello to My Little Friend" and "Plutonium Runs Loose", which are the longest and most challenging. "Say Hello" has you take out a drug leader surrounded by virtually an entire company of troops, some stationed in watchtowers, as well as multiple objectives that require you to not only alarm every soldier in the base but perform a Benny Hill impersonation twice as you try to avoid the hail of machine-gun fire. "Plutonium Runs Loose" is similar, in that it has a lot of enemies, but you also have to ensure that you're relatively stealthy and thorough in killing everyone otherwise the target will be alerted, activate a nuke, and run to his limo to escape. Fucking asshole. Although the gunplay might have been acceptable for the time, it hasn't aged well, and shows up as the weak link in the original's design.
I also found that the game's presentation holds up relatively well from a design standpoint. The visuals are atmospheric and the music is pretty good. There's a storyline in there, but it's pretty haphazardly told and forgettable. Something about cloning and creating the perfect killer, the standard paranoia concerning genetic manipulation. Anyway, despite its missteps I found replaying the first Hitman to be a highly enjoyable and nostalgic experience, and definitely one of the more seminal games in the stealth-action genre. Hitman 2 and Blood Money are definitely next on the list to play.
So, what were your experiences with the Hitman series, and how do you rate the first? What do you want to see out of the fifth game?