Looking back at the Hitman series
With the upcoming release of Hitman 2, it’s never been a better time to look back at the series as a whole and how things have changed in the last 18 years.
Hitman Codename 47 was something of a revelation at the turn of the millennium. We had already seen stealth games before in the form of the Metal Gear franchise, but Codename 47 felt different. The way in which you could steal the clothes of your victims truly made you feel as though you were part of the game. The game was also one of the early pioneers when it comes to ragdoll physics which did have an overall effect on how bodies moved around the map when being dragged.
Granted, the AI at times could be a bit flaky. Bearing in mind though that this was released in 2000 and the AI was having to juggle a lot of different elements in an open world environment, it’s no wonder that it would struggle at times. It could also be extremely difficult in places, in particularly the mission in Cambodia. Still, it was a great experiment for IO Interactive (IOI). It launched the series that we’re still playing today.
A sequel beckons
Of course, with the popularity of Codename 47, it was inevitable that a sequel would be released. This is exactly what happened in the form of Silent Assassin. SA was and still is one of the most fondly remembered games in the series. Not only did it add a greater story mode to the game as a whole, but the whole game felt a lot tighter and much more immersive.
One of the aspects carried onto later games in the series is that of having a compromised disguise. If it was the case that the player got caught doing something in disguise, they wouldn’t be able to walk around freely again wearing this.
In comparison to other stealth games at the time, namely Splinter Cell, the two games feel completely different. Granted, one was open world and the other was linear and there were different restrictions in each game. However, whilst Splinter Cell is truly a great game in its own right, SA was much more rewarding.
A key contributing factor in how rewarding SA was the post mission rating that you received. Based on how well you executed (heh) the mission, you could receive a ranking of Silent Assassin (the best ranking), all the way down to Mass Murderer which basically meant that you didn’t discriminate in your mission and took out everyone. In fact, this very approach to missions later become popular in the YouTube community which we’ll discuss later.
An even more interesting fact about SA is that it was released on the Nintendo Gamecube. Nintendo have always been thought of as a family friendly company, so the release of a Hitman game was one hell of a shock to many.
As mentioned above, Codename 47 was a great game, but far from perfect. In order to rectify this IOI released Contracts. This could be thought of as a remastered version of the original game, with Agent 47 reliving his previous missions from the first game. Not all missions made the cut and some did undergo heavy modification. All in all though, Contracts really was the game that many felt IOI wanted to make when they made Codename 47.
It felt much more refined and articulate game than the original, although it was lacking some of the magic seen in Silent Assassin.
Blood Money is involved
Even though it was released more than a decade ago, Blood Money is still regarded by many as one of, if not the best Hitman game. It took everything from the past three games and refined it greatly, including the story mode. The missions that you were a part of felt incredibly immersive and extremely well put together. There isn’t a single mission in Blood Money that feels as though it was made in a rush or put together haphazardly.
Of course, everything was customisable in terms of the loadouts you could take along with you, as well as being able to upgrade your weapons. The final (sort of) showdown at the Whitehouse is still one of the best final missions in the game. Curiously, as the credits are rolling you can actually wake up Agent 47 from his coma to reveal the true final mission which is pretty brutal and demands that you eliminate everyone to finish the level.
A new approach to a tried and tested method
After the truly stellar Blood Money, many wondered how IOI could top it. The next instalment came under the guise of Absolution. It took a lot of the excellent features of the previous games in the series and expanded upon it. One area that is a bit controversial is the partial linearity of it. However, it did add a pretty great twist to an already stellar franchise.
The story in Absolution was by and far the best in the series to date. It took the best parts of the stealth genre and added in just enough over the top bonkers action moments to appeal to the masses.
There’s one mission in particular with a group of Nuns, but they’re far from the type you would usually see. That mission alone is worth the admission price of the game. Another area that Absolution broke the mould with was the Contracts mode. This was a way that you could create a contract on a map against any of the NPCs. This greatly increased the play time for many, although sadly the servers for this mode have now been shut down.
Still, Absolution was, and still is, a truly fantastic game in the franchise.
Episodic content, the way forward?
Moving on, 2016 saw the release of Hitman. For the first time, the missions were released as episodes, rather than having them all available right away. This was actually a pretty unique way to play the game.
In order to keep players happy whilst they waited for the next mission, IOI developed the game in such a way that there are numerous challenges included in each mission. The way in which you took out your targets varied each time, and it added an extra element to the speedrunning community. YouTube stars like BigMooney06 and CJ are still making videos about Hitman two years on. BigMooney in particular has popularised the ‘kill everyone’ challenge which many others have tried to emulate.
In addition to the base game and missions that came each month, IOI also gave away free mission packs including new takes on the Sapienza, Marrakesh and Paris levels.
Of course, the Contracts mode from Absolution also made a re-appearance and thankfully the servers are still online for it and it’s a fun way to pick up the game for a quick half hour play.
Added to this though is the premiere of the Elusive Target mode. This mode is pretty straightforward but also extremely tough. As the name suggests, you’ve got a target that you need to take out. The difference between this and the other missions however is that you only get one shot at this. If you fail, then you’ll never get to have another chance at it. This really does add in a great degree of pressure when playing these missions, but it’s also extremely rewarding when you do get your target to take a dirt nap.
It’s not long to go now until Hitman 2 is released. In fact, the first elusive target has already been unveiled. In a brilliant advert, Sean Bean has been revealed as Agent 47’s first target in Elusive Target mode. This is actually pretty brilliant. A lot of people will fondly remember offing Sean Bean in GoldenEye on the Nintendo 64, so to be able to do it again on modern hardware will be a welcome addition. Whilst the episodic
Hitman 2 is available to pre-order now on Amazon, as well as the Humble Bundle for PC.
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