Genre : Action
Developer: IO Interactive
Release Date: April 20, 2004
Agent 47 is dying slowly, from a gunshot wound to the stomach, as he staggers into a hotel room in Paris. Dizzy from painkillers, he pulls himself up to a sitting position, and everything he sees reminds him of something. Before long, he’s reliving an old job in a Romanian asylum, with a dead man at his feet, a SWAT team beating the doors down, and sprawled corpses everywhere that look exactly like him.
The game doesn’t have as much structure as Silent Assassin did. As 47 hallucinates, you’ll pass eerily from place to place, conducting missions from earlier in 47’s career. It’s not wildly dissimilar to past games; once again, you can use disguises and stealth to get you close to a target before taking them out, or pull out 47’s twin Silverballer pistols and just kill every son of a bitch within half a mile.
If you play Contracts like that, you’ll probably find it a little too easy. Even though the game likes to spawn small platoons of new guards whenever you trip an alarm, they’ll still go down like tenpins if you lay hands on an automatic weapon.
For a real challenge, you’ll have to figure out how best to accomplish your objectives without being noticed. You are, after all, an assassin; the term connotates a certain amount of discretion. Anybody can walk into a building and start shooting like Chow Yun-Fat, but not just anyone can sneak into a fetish club, steal a waiter’s uniform, use it to reach an opium den, and silently garote the criminal mastermind (and greasy lump of flesh) who calls himself the “Meat King,” all without alerting a single one of the people who’re enjoying a nice, leisurely fetish party all around him.
If the preceding lines fill you with a vague sense of déjà vu, that shouldn’t be surprising. Hitman: Contracts is something of an expansion-pack sequel; not much has changed since Silent Assassin. Contracts looks better, with cleaner polys and better sound; further, there are more weapons to collect, more weapons to wield (I’m a particularly big fan of the meathook, and the attendant “hoisting” stealth kill, although the new syringe is nice too; it’s a weird feeling, standing behind an unknowing victim, sorting through my arsenal, internally debating just how I’m going to kill him), and the whole thing has a hallucinogenic feel to it that’s wholly absent from the first two games.
Further, it doesn’t reward experimentation, or acting on the fly. Geson was exaggerating somewhat, in his preview of the PS2 version, when he said that you’ll need to do things perfectly, or not do them at all; however, I found that unless I had a very good plan, and was able to act upon it quickly and effortlessly, I was going to be deluged with gun-wielding mooks within the next few seconds. Nowhere is this clearer than in the training level, where the discovery of an unattended body will instantly result in the sudden appearance of what would appear to be the population of a small Latin American nation, equipped with machine guns and looking to kick your face in.
In between armies besieging me, I did find that Hitman: Contracts afforded me the same bizarrely cerebral experience that the previous games did, with open-ended, intricate levels that reward exploration, wit, and forethought. It’s a shooter, yes, but it’s not a twitch game, and I find that admirable. Hitman: Contracts will be in stores on April 20th.
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