Danish developer IO Interactive had created a memorable character with the original Hitman but it wasn’t until the sequel we saw the true excellence this game was hiding. Given that Hitman 2 was such a huge improvement on the original, it’s extremely disappointing that Hitman: Contracts is just basically the same game. It’s so close to being a copy, replete with everything that was good and everything that wasn’t so good about the 2002 game–only it’s now 2004, and overlooked flaws in 2002 are now more easily seen and less forgiving by players. Nevertheless, Hitman: Contracts still features some tense and exciting stealth action gameplay, as well as a good sense of style and some interesting, open-ended missions.
I want a new Hitman action title
…better espionage gameplay
a solid resolution
Most of Contracts takes place as a series of flashbacks. The assassin known only as 47 has sustained a serious injury and is close to death. What may be his final memories are only of his past jobs–brutal, high-risk assignments–which, incidentally, are reminiscent of missions from the first Hitman game. The original Hitman: Codename 47 was released on the PC back in 2000, and it suffered from serious issues with the controls and overall design. So in a way, it’s nice to get to play some of these old missions as they probably should have been played the first time around. On the other hand, players who have played all the previous Hitman game may feel like they have cheated by just playing the same missions from the past. Anyway, close to half of the missions in Contracts are completely original, whereas many of the later missions are “remixes” of levels from the 2000 game, including that game’s early missions, which took place in Hong Kong. Additionally, there are later missions, such as one in which 47 must eliminate two brothers who are up to no good at an international gathering in a posh hotel, and another one in which he must disrupt a Russian arms deal that is going down aboard a ship.
The new missions are certainly diverse and are quite interesting, offering plenty of opportunity–in the classic tradition of the Hitman series–for you to craftily make your way to your target to take him out, undetected, via some elaborate scheme (which typically involves the use of lots of disguises taken from killed or unconscious characters, as well as the use of poisons or poison substitutes). However, there are also ample opportunities to instinctively shoot anything that moves, if the aforementioned strategy fails.
The third game in the Hitman series can be thought of as an expansion pack to the previous game. There isn’t much resolution at the end of Hitman: Contracts, so it seems safe to assume that the series is going to continue in a better form.