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Hitman review

By Sergio Magdaleno

There are a lot of different great FPS games out there today, and at a glance the Hitman games could be taken as just another ordinary series. It wasn't the first of its kind, and its not going to be the last, but the gameplay experience as well as the story and the appeal of the main character make it original, cool and different.

Hitman: Codename 47

It starts in a prison; you are trapped and need to escape. The prison also serves as the training level, so it's not really difficult. After a successful escape the screen goes dark and there you are, some years later, working on another assignment.

Dressed in a black suit with a red interior, black leather gloves, black tie, and white shirt, the main character is a bald white man with a serial code tattooed to the back of his head. He's a hired assassin and his employer is known only as the Agency. Instead of a name he has a number: 47.

47 doesn't know a lot about himself, but he knows that he is an efficient killing machine. The game involves 47 receiving targets along with a promise of a reward from the Agency, and that's where the fun starts.

The reward money is needed -- after all, 47 needs weapons and bullets as well as a retirement fund for when he gets older. You can get weapons from the Agency as well as from the black market.

But the money doesn't make a difference to 47; his troubled past compels him to find out about himself, and the things he learns are far more important than any monetary reward.

The game is played with the normal WASD control and the mouse, just as in other FPS games like Unreal Torunament.

The first time I played Hitman I was baffled. Dressed to shoot everything in front of me, I started killing the wrong people and bringing attention to myself, and my mission failed without me really understanding why. The second time around I started paying attention to the information the Agency gives you. There's a story there and you have to become familiar with it to succeed, and there are also some maps that you will need in order to find your target as well as make your escape.

Once all of the information is considered, you start to walk more carefully, not showing your guns or intentions. Stealth is your friend and as 47 you'll have to know how to blend in with the scenery.

I killed my first target silently with piano wire. He struggled, but he was no match for 47's abilities -- he didn't even have a chance. The way he moved, trying to get some air was a little too real for me, I think, but it reminded me that I'm into a brand new kind of game.

So after I was done with him I started walking again, confident that I'd finished my mission, but just at the last moment a man walking by discovered the body. He wasn't even a bad guy -- just a normal citizen that found a dead body on the street, and of course he started screaming and that was the end of me.

So taking care of them silently is not enough, and being careful of other bad guys is not enough -- you have to be sure nobody sees you and nobody finds the body.

Screenshot: Hitman 1: 47 checking out his next target

So Hitman is more than just shooting bad guys -- you have to know when to start a fight and when not to, you have to think about how to get to your target and kill him, and after the hit you have to look around for drains and dark places to dump the bodies.

The locations and levels are as follow:

Hong Kong
  • Kowloon Triads in Gang War
  • Ambush at the Wang Fou Restaurant
  • Massacre at the Cheung Chau Fish Restaurant
  • The Lee Hong Assassination
  • Finding the U'wa Tribe
  • The Jungle God
  • Say Hello To My Little Friend
  • Traditions of the Trade
  • Gunrunner's Paradise
International Waters
  • Plutonium Runs Loose
The Asylum
  • The Setup
  • Meet Your Brother

Some of the levels are pure joy. The one in Budapest (Traditions of the Trade) takes place in a big hotel, and the attention to detail (both in the story and in the scenery) is incredible. The pool and the sauna where the target is resting are spectacularly rendered, and if the "Do not Disturb" sign isn't on the door you can't complete your mission. It's these kinds of little details that really draws the player into the game and make it challenging and fun.

Screenshot: Hitman 1: 47 enjoying the nice pool

The Hitman: Codename 47 is a self-discovery trip; little by little you learn about yourself and who and what you really are. As it turns out, the answer is not very pleasant -- your character is not a good person after all. He delves in the underworld, deals with illegal arms dealers, prostitutes, assassins, the mafia, cowards, drug dealers, the Agency and the black market.

Screenshot: Hitman 1: Good old 47 doing community service

The last level (Meet your brother) shows you some of your hitman clones. They are fast, accurate and deadly, but the difficulty level is somewhat watered down for the clones so they're not as hard as you might think. Despite their slight inferiority, simply shooting at them is not the answer -- you need some kind of strategy to defeat them.

That's really what separates the Hitman games from the other first-person shooters; you always have to use strategy to solve a problem or complete a mission. This is not easy and in some scenarios you can just start blasting at everybody, and if you have enough skill and weapons you can make it, but that's not the goal of the game. The real challenge is to use stealth and kill your enemies as close as you possibly can, preferably with a silent weapon like a knife or the fiber wire (a.k.a. piano wire).

The AI is not exactly flawless; in some levels it is not good at all, but it's a lot more demanding than other games. The story is linear and you can't change the way it develops, but how you solve every chapter and get to your target is a different story. Depending on the choices you make, you will either walk out calmly with no worries or run for your life with both guns firing searching for your escape vehicle.

Hitman 2: Silent Assassin

A wolf dressed as man, hunting down men dressed as wolves.

Well, the improvements over the first game are quite obvious and the music is fantastic. This game is huge; like its prequel, there a lot of options and many different ways of finishing the levels. The game engine was improved and the story is just as interesting as before. The score is played by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, adding a sort of finishing touch to get you totally into the game.

Screenshot: Hitman 2: Lets see, a professional killer with big guns against two guys with sticks

47 may be a genetic conjunction, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't feel some remorse. After the previous -- and violent -- chapter of his life, 47 decides to retire. He seeks counsel from and befriends a priest in Sicily, where he works as a gardener. A lot of his money helped the construction of the church and he is still fighting the demons of the past.

One day you are working in the garden -- looking somewhat less cool in your gardener clothes than your hitman suit -- when your friend is taken hostage by the mafia (who else could it be? -- you're in Sicily!).

Screenshot: Hitman 2: Maybe clothes really do make the man

You try to stop them, but fail... so there's only one option for 47: call the Agency and ask for help. He doesn't need backup, he only needs information.

Information is not free with the Agency; they will feed him information about the whereabouts of his friend, but he will need to do some jobs for them. They agree and that's where the story begins.

Screenshot: Hitman 2: Sunday, all dressed up and nobody to kill

The locations and levels are as follows:

  • The Gontranno Sanctuary
  • Anathema
St. Petersburg
  • St. Petersburg Stakeout
  • Kirov Park Meeting
  • Tube way Torpedo
  • Invitation To A Party
  • Tracking Hayamoto
  • Hidden valley
  • At the Gates
  • Shogun Showdown
  • Basement Killing
  • The Graveyard shift
  • The Jacuzzi job
  • Murder at the bazaar
  • Motorcade Interception
  • Tunnel Rat
  • Temple City Ambush
  • The death of Hannelore
  • Terminal Hospitality
The last chapter
  • Back to St. Petersburg
  • Back to Gontranno

It all ends where it starts; the journey is a long one as I said before, but everything ends at the beginning. The images that Hitman 2 brings to life during the whole game is a great background to the dirty and obscure world 47 lives in. He endures all of this because of a friend, but once again he was double crossed, and if you know 47 by now, he will not stand for it. With his usual coldness and efficiency he will eliminate the problem -- after all it's just another hit.

Screenshot: Hitman 2: This is the only way to see Japan according to 47

Because of all the improvements to the game engine and the AI, the game controls are more complicated (for example, every time you get to a door you can look through the keyhole, shoot through the keyhole or just open the door). This is different than the original game, and when you are running for your life all of those extra options are not particularly desirable, so you have to plan a little better.

Hitman 2 also gives you the option of playing in first or third-person perspective, which helps when using the piano wire.

Screenshot: Hitman 2: A happy couple enjoying a Jacuzzi and 47 behind the door, what could happen next?

What kind of hitman are you? Hitman 2 will help you find out, and there are really only two types: a stealthy assassin or an aggressive killer.

The game has a lot of options, making it hard to find all of the little secret weapons and the bonus targets, but overall it's fun and challenging to try to figure everything out.

Hitman: Contracts

When you kill for money, there are no rules.

April 21, 2004 seems to be the date we all have been waiting for, and by "all" I mean me and the rest of the Hitman fans out there.

Once again Eidos improved a good product and some of the screenshots look great. There are some new and interesting locations, and apparently the main goal of the game once again is to find in you the perfect killer.

Speaking of the locations, the game website doesn't disclose all of them (only Rumania) but if you read the story link some other names like England appear.

The wait has been long -- lets all hope that the game delivers as well as the last two have, and we can enjoy another big game where stealth and strategy are a must.

The Hitman Series

Game Type First-person shooter/strategy
Manufacturer Eidos Interactive
Operating Systems Supported Windows 98/ME/XP
License Proprietary, heavily restrictive
ESRB Rating M (mature)
Price (retail) Available separately for US$19.99 each. Click here to buy Hitman or Hitman 2 or you can preorder Hitman: Contracts
Demo Hitman 1 demo, Hitman 2 demo, Hitman: Contracts does not currently have a demo available for download>
Screen Shot See article for screen shots
Recommended System

Varies for each game. Click here for Hitman 1 requirements and here for Hitman 2 requirements. Hitman: Contracts does not yet list system requirements.

Product website Hitman 1 site, Hitman 2 site, Hitman: Contracts site (requires proprietary Flash plugin)