Game: Hitman HD Trilogy
Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix
Available on: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
Reviewed on: PlayStation 3
There are only really two stealth franchises when it comes to the world of video games; the first is Metal Gear Solid and the second is the dark and hidden world of Agent 47 contained within the Hitman series. There have been five games over the years, some of them changing fundamental gameplay mechanics, but the main core of the gameplay has always been exactly the same; you’re given a target and a variety of different ways to take out that target.
With the recent release of Hitman: Absolution, Square-Enix saw fit to task IO Interactive with remastering and re-releasing some of the more popular games in the series. Hitman HD Trilogy contains the second game in the series (Hitman 2: Silent Assassin), the third game (Hitman: Contracts) and the title which is arguably the best of the bunch, Hitman: Blood Money.
STORY: Almost everyone knows the story of Agent 47 by now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a treat to get to revisit some of the more iconic moments in the series’ history. The stories through all of the games – especially Hitman: Blood Money, with that ending – have been one of the drawing points of the games since the very first title, and IO Interactive have done nothing to taint that in any way. I’m sure there was the temptation to go into some of the old dialogue and scripts and make something sound a little better than it did the first time around but none of that has been done. Aside from the HD remaster, everything has been left alone.
If narrative is the reason you play Hitman games, and you’re interested in revisiting these earlier titles just to re-experience the earlier stories in the franchise, then you’re not going to come away disappointed. They don’t have the same punch that they did back in the early naughties, with plenty more cinematic games hitting our shelves every single year, but they’re still stories worth experiencing, no matter how many times you’ve been here before.
GRAPHICS: Since this is a high-def remastering of games that are over ten years old, there are certain things that we can expect, and others that we probably wouldn’t. The multitude of textures across the three games have been re-rendered lovingly in HD, but few of the models have had the same care and attention lavished upon them. We’re not going to get a Hitman 2: Silent Assassin with the same glorious graphics of Hitman: Absolution, but IO Interactive have done a damn fine job across all three of the titles of bringing them into the modern age.
All of the cutscenes you’ll see in the games, while they’re not up to the standard that we’re almost spoiled with these days, are now in the widescreen format which they wouldn’t have been in when the games first hit shelves (with the exception of Hitman: Blood Money, of course). The third game in the series still looks the best of the bunch, as people would expect, but that doesn’t mean that the first two look shoddy, and the inclusion of the Hitman: Sniper Challenge – the pre-order DLC from Hitman: Absolution – just reminds people how far the games have come over the past decade.
SOUND: The sound design has always been something that’s done extremely well in Hitman games, and that’s the case all through the HD Collection. From the score by Jesper Kyd through to the now iconic use of David Bateson as the voice of Agent 47, players’ ears are going to be treated from the moment the first game starts to the moment when the end credits roll in the final title. That said, despite the amazing soundtrack and vocal talent, the way the music is presented can leave a lot to be desired in some places, sometimes sounding a little bit tinny and dated, but the rest of the time – and by “rest” I mean 95% of the time – the sound is excellently done.
GAMEPLAY: Gameplay is more or less the same across all three games in the collection, with the emphasis placed more on stealth and less on simply getting to the end. The first game in the collection, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, puts the player in a certain locale and charges them with performing various tasks. This first selection feel a little bit more brutal than the others, with the A.I. often seeing you when you’re totally out of sight. This is more than likely due to what would be terrible artificial intelligence by today’s standards, but was rather revolutionary in its time; still, with all the things we’re used to in more modern titles, it’s still difficult at times to slip back into those old ways and get through the game without messing up on each and every mission.
The save system that everyone remembers from the classic Hitman games is still present in the HD Trilogy. Each level will be assigned a certain number of saves and each time the player uses one of those saves their score at the end of the assignment will be lowered. The aim is, of course, to get from the start of the mission all the way through to the end and take out the target without being seen and without using a single save. There are ways of doing that, usually involving memorising the patrolling habits of the guards that you could set your watch to, but I’ve never been patient enough to do that. I usually sneak until I’m spotted, then attempt to salvage the situation as best I can, often ending the level with a score that’s about halfway between stealthy and aggressive. The charm of the Hitman games is that you can do that – you don’t have to do everything stealthily; in fact, there’re only a few times in the games when being spotted is absolutely the end of the level. You play the level exactly how you want to and that’s what people love about the franchise.
The third game in the collection, Hitman: Blood Money, is by far the best of the bunch. The missions are more open-ended, there are more options with which to take down each of the targets and the visuals and storytelling are second to none when it comes to the franchise. Still, the core gameplay is the same and if you’ve played through the HD Trilogy in order – and you absolutely should, even though it’s not necessary – then by the time you’ve gotten around to the third game, you’ll be well aware that you’re in for a treat. Just don’t start with it – that’s like starting with the original three Star Wars films and knowing you’ve got to watch the prequels eventually. Do yourself a favour and save the best for last.
LONGEVITY: Similarly to the first time the games were released, there’s not much to keep players coming back for repeat playthroughs. Once you’ve gotten to the end of the game that’s pretty much all you’re going to get from it. However, with the Hitman HD Trilogy, players are getting three games of a rather significant length. Add to that the Hitman: Sniper Challenge that players can constantly replay for a better and better score, and you’re left with a game that’s selling for a budget price (RRP: £20) and lasting for around thirty hours. Not too shabby.
VERDICT: While the HD Collection has been masterfully put together by IO Interactive, there’s no dismissing the fact that games have come a long way over the last ten years. The controls in the first and second games in the series feel much looser than Hitman: Blood Money and, while that’s something you can get used to over the eight or so hours that it’ll take to complete it, it’s still a memory from a bygone era that we didn’t really need to see back in players’ hands. Fans of the Hitman franchise would relish the opportunity to play the games that they loved in high definition; however, fans that were turned on to the franchise by the release of Hitman: Absolution should be warned that the series has come a long way. There’s a huge difference between Silent Assassin and Absolution, and it’s not necessarily going to be a difference that everyone enjoys.