|System: PS2, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: IO Interactive||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Eidos||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 20, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Matt Cabral
July 19, 2007 - Long before Sam Fisher donned those slick night-vision goggles and firmly cemented "stealth-action" as a staple genre, Hitman's titular bald-headed, bar-coded Agent 47 was snapping necks and placing hollow points between the eyes of marked men. In fact, when the genre-shaping Splinter Cell debuted in the fall of 2002, the sharp-shooting, sharp-dressed 47 was already starring in his second stealthy title, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. Despite Sam and his high-tech gadgetry stealing much of the "stealth" spotlight, it looks like our favorite gun-for-hire is finally getting his day.
On the heels of last year's successful Hitman: Blood Money, the bald baddie has been immortalized in plastic with his very own action figure , and in an upcoming movie starring Timothy Olyphant-who's currently taking on John McClane at the multiplex as a cyber-terrorist in Live Free or Die Hard. Recognizing the franchise's current cachet, Eidos has released the Hitman: Trilogy, a three-game, four-disc boxed-set packed with endless opportunities to kill creatively. The appropriately black box includes Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, Hitman: Contracts, Hitman: Blood Money and a non-playable preview disc of Eidos' upcoming Kane and Lynch: Dead Men.
Now, before the franchise's faithful following begin salivating at the thought of a special edition-like set or a re-imagined re-release on par with the likes of the recent Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition or Ninja Gaiden Sigma, know that you won't find any extras or enhancements here-these games are exactly the same as they were upon their original release. Save for the Kane and Lynch preview, you're not getting anything new. However, this isn't to say that the Hitman: Trilogy isn't a killer package. On the contrary, three great games for 30 bones is a sweet deal, especially if you've only played one-or none-of these titles before. In fact, if you are among those yet to be whacked by this addictive series, let us fill you in.
As previously mentioned, these games generally fall within the stealth-action genre. You assume the role of a genetically engineered hired gun utilizing a variety of short and long ranged weapons to snuff the life out of powerful and dangerous marks. Each game sees the well-attired assassin traveling exotic locales that ooze with an espionage-like feel that'll instantly be familiar to any fan of the Bond or Bourne films. The open-ended nature of the games allows you to tackle most missions in a variety of ways. Gutsy gamepad assassins can get up close and personal with knives, injectable poisons and-our favorite-the carotid-crushing fiber wire. Or they can make their point from a distance with a slick, high-powered arsenal of real world weaponry complete with scope, silencer, and laser-sight upgrades. Regardless of which death-dealing device is chosen, you'll also need to plan how each mission is executed. Do you quickly run-and-gun from point A to B, leaving a bloody trail of evidence, or do you adopt a more tactical approach, donning disguises along your path, ultimately taking longer but also upholding your "professional" reputation.
Hitman 2: Silent Assassin shows its age a bit with dated visuals and some un-polished gameplay, but generally offers a solid dose of thrills and kills, along with a nice introduction to what the series is all about. Hitman: Contracts, originally released after Silent Assassin, isn't a true sequel as it actually tells a flashback-filled tale that re-imagines many of the missions from the original PC-only game in the series, Hitman: Codename 47. From graphics to gameplay, Contracts has more of an expansion feel to it, delivering an experience that retains both the good and bad elements of Silent Assassin. It does include some new missions, and playing the original Codename 47 content without the control and camera issues that plagued its mouse-and-keyboard debut is a nice touch. Blood Money rounds out the set offering the best of the blood-spilling bunch. Visuals and controls see a substantial upgrade, and a fun notoriety system tracks 47's deadly doings with a newspaper after each mission reporting on the assassin's actions. Blood Money also addresses some of the A.I. frustration factor present in the other games. Hitman titles have always had a bit of an issue with wonky A.I. avatars that either see you when they shouldn't or, conversely, are completely clueless to your whereabouts despite the stinking pile of corpses you left in the stairwell. While this isn't entirely alleviated in Blood Money, it is vastly improved over the previous titles.
All three titles offer solid voice acting complemented by foreign languages when appropriate, and a tension-building score that puts you right in the suspense-filled scenarios. Visuals, although good in Silent Assassin and Contracts, are a bit too last gen. But Blood Money's updated graphics shine with realistic environments and detail laden level design. From pulling off creative kills, utilizing deceptive disguises, covering your tracks, and building a sinister selection of weapons, these games provide smart, fun gameplay packed with open-ended options, most of which result in plenty of occupied body bags. If you're new to the series, then purchasing this bloody box-set is a no-brainer, but if you've already followed 47's corpse-filled career then you'll probably want to shelve your black briefcase until the next sequel.
CCC Freelance Writer