Hitman: Codename 47
by Polly



Hitman: Codename 47 is the first in a series of severly overlooked and underrated games that bring you into the world of a professional contract killer named simply "47." The series has become widely known as "the thinking man's shooter" and for very good reasons. It's not often you're going to be running into many places armed to the teeth and Rambo'ing your way out and live to tell the tale. That's not to say that it isn't possible, but it's certainly not the smartest approach. The Hitman games want you to think out of the box a little. You pick your load out, find your mark, dispose of him any way you see fit, and hopefully strut your happy little bad ass bald self out of the place like you were there to take a piss and nothing more. And there's a really awesome satisfaction you get when you finally put together a method that works flawlessly.

As the game begins, you awaken in what appears to be a mental asylum and you're guided through the place by an unknown voice who gives you all the tools you need to make your escape. Once he's escaped, we catch up with Agent 47 one year later, in Hong Kong getting ready to perform a routine hit for a client of unknown origin. As the game progresses, 47 learns that the hits he's making may not be as routine as he'd thought. And as he digs deeper, he begins learning more and more about what's going on around him, and a bit about his own origins through between-mission cutscenes and letters found on various marks. The story's not any kind of literature that's gonna set the world ablaze with its striking originality, but it gets the job done and helps to lay the foundation for the rest of the series and builds a background for 47 himself.

Hitman: Codename 47 was released in late 2000 and sadly it does show its age in a large number of ways. Instantly, you're going to notice that the game looks really washed out and way too damn dark. There's no way to adjust the contrast in-game either, so you're really stuck with what you've got and the rainforest missions of the game really make this stand out the most. This game doesn't look bad per-se, and it probably looked pretty good for the time it came out, but the washed out and blurry textures of your environments are really ugly today. Another thing that bothered me was that a lot of missions take place in the same country and even though you may be in a different part of that country or a different city, the surroundings and textures all repeat giving them a little bit more of a cut and paste feeling than I felt comfortable with.

In-game character models do look decent however and the game does sport some cool little graphical features for the time. Civillians and enemies alike have a tendency to focus their attention on 47 by turning their heads as he approaches or walks past them while they continue on their way. A cool little effect that helps give the game a little life. Characters are decently animated. Enough to look alive, but when combat sets in you won't be seeing much other than a couple jerky steps to the left or right.

The music and sound effects are very nicely done. The soundtrack, provided by Jesper Kyd (A full-time staple to the series) is very moody and never intrusive. All selections fit the surroundings and mood perfectly whether you're shooting it out with a coked-up Columbian drug lord or sneaking through the dank basement of a Hong Kong hotel. Sound effects are also nicely done with each weapon having its own distinct firing sound. They're clean, crisp, and loud just like guns should be. What do you want me to say? The voice acting is pretty bad, to be honest. Even Agent 47 sounds very uncomfortable in his role and accents for foreign characters are completely overdone and stereotypical.

Now we come to the gameplay and it's a mixed bag of all kinds of good and bad. By default, you play the game in third-person perspective with the camera hovering right behind Mr. 47's big bald barcoded head. It's TOO damn close to his head. So close that you really don't see anything BUT 47's head, so animations like jumping from one ledge to another, assembling your sniper rifle, or climing ladders look really strange when viewed this way. The 2nd view is a sort of Resident Evil-ish camera and whoever fucking thought this would be good or even remotely helpful or interesting should have their balls removed and plugged into their ears just for shits and giggles.

Once you come to terms with CRANIUM CAM it's time to struggle with the controls a bit. The default controls are a fucking joke. I don't know what they were smoking when they were writing the config file for this game and just banged their head onto the keyboard for key assignments. It's completely uncomfortable and unorthadox and makes little sense. If you can play this way, then kudos to you, my friend, but give me my fucking WASD setup any day. You can select a WASD default, but it still needs a hell of a lot of tweaking to become remotely comfortable.

Once you're inserted into each mission it's a good idea to take in your surroundings using your butt fugly map. It's too damn small and too vague to be of much use and magnifying and scrolling it is way more complicated than it should be. Thankfully though, most areas are small enough so that 5-10 minutes in you'll have a pretty good idea of where everything's at.

Once you're familliar with your surroundings it's time to devise a method of eliminating your target. 47 has a lot of tactics at his disposal, but by far the most useful is killing someone and taking their clothes to blend in. Make sure you hide those bodies too, because the AI patrols WILL find them and you'll be under immediate suspicion. Agent 47 loves to play dress up, which is a shame cause he has such a nice suit. Once you're disguised figuring out what to do next can be tricky. Having an enemy disguise isn't always a guarantee that you won't be detected, so changing clothes often will definitely fit into your strategy at some point.

Sniping out targets, strangling them with piano wire, and slitting their throats are all quite easily done, it's just figuring out how to get close enough to your target to do so that may cause the problem. It's all or nothing in the world of Hitman: Codename 47. There are no in-level saves, so if you fuck the mission up, your happy ass is going back to the drawing board to try and plan a different approach. You CAN continue a limited number of times after you've died, but by then you've already fucked the mission beyond repair and enemies are still going to know who you are so it's best to just reset anyway. This trial and error approach may turn off some gamers as the difficulty is quite high and you'll be re-doing a mission quite a bit before you get it right.

Later in the game, the controls come back to bite you in the ass once again, though and really come close to ruining what fun you were having. For whatever dumb-fuck reason, the developers thought it a great idea to only let 47 run forward. Surely if any of you twits have played ANY kind of tense shooter, you KNOW that you need the ability to react quickly and move in all directions. IO Interactive didn't really see the need. So when shit hits the fan around halfway through the game and you absolutely HAVE to shoot your way out of a situation, the controls come and fuck you right in the ass leaving poor little 47 bullet-ridden and on his back faster than a $2 hooker. Selecting weapons is needlessly difficult and there's just no way to do it quickly when you're in a situation and getting your ass pelted with lead. Seriously, run and gun does NOT WORK for this game. Clearing these missions feels way too much like dumb luck and almost completely ruined the game for me. Seriously, I've been shredded from 100% Health and 100% Armor to nothing in less than 2 seconds. Thankfully by the 3/4 mark the game has shifted back to the silent assassin-type gameplay and it manages to end on a good note. But FUCK THOSE COLUMBIAN MISSIONS. FUCK THEM IN THEIR FUCKING DIRTY CRACK-WHORE ASS!

Hitman: Codename 47 brought a lot of really cool ideas to the table and helped build the foundation for a very solid series. Unfortunately, that's about all it did. Only about half of the ideas are executed properly. When it's good it's really good, and when it's bad it'll almost kill the experience if you're not persistent enough. Still, I can recommend this game to anyone looking for something a smidge different than the norm, but I'd honestly suggest playing later installments of the series before judging the whole series from just this game.






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