Hitman: Contracts
by Polly

And Eidos said, "Let there be more Hitman." Then IO Interactive was all like, "Okay dude, we can do that." And there was great joy in the land, for our children were sociopathic killers waiting for their next injection of that sweet polygonal pixelante goodness.

Yes, once again Agent 47 is back for more stealth action, contract killing goodness. And this time he's brought a friend with him... Well not really, but I'm seriously running out of ways to introduce these fucking games, gimme a break.

Contracts' opening cinematic throws you right into the midst of a mystery as we see a wounded Agent 47 bleeding profusely as he stumbles into his apartment collapsing to the floor. "He knew me...He recognized me...He was expecting me..." Our "hero's" words stop there as he lay on the ground near death's door as we get sucked into a series of flashbacks piecing together small pieces of Mr. 47's past and slowly unravelling to the player what's happened to put him into this dire state of affairs.

The game's plot weaves in and out of reality. We witness a mysterious man coming into 47's apartment to quickly patch him up as the scene slowly begins to transition to images, places, and missions from 47's past. I really enjoyed how smooth and sometimes completely surprising the transitions were from reality into 47's mind. Sure, it's a bit cheesy, but it's done with enough cheese to still be pretty slick.

Hitman: Contracts is a much darker game than the previous two. Very deserving of its "M" rating, not only for the in-game violence, but the oftentimes disturbing imagery you'll retularly witness as the game progresses. If images of a woman dangling dead from a meat hook being carved up by a deranged psychopath in a diaper aren't things you're comfortable with seeing, you may serioulsy wanna have a barf bag handy.

Contracts' graphics don't really seem that much better than Hitman 2's to be quite honest. In fact, a few areas come off as downright boring and uninspired, which was quite a letdown given Hitman 2's lush environments. IO clearly wanted to show off their spiffied up engine's weather effects capability. It appears that Agent 47 is clearly only happy when it rains as almost every mission in the game is marred with terrible blizzards and torrential downpours. The weather effects DO look nice, no doubt, but the game really wouldn't have suffered a bit had there been a little more nice weather. I can appreciate how the damp and dank environments being recalled by 47 might be a neat artistic direction they wanted to go with the game to push that dark edge, but I feel that to many people it'll go unappreciated since it does feel a bit overdone.

Sound effects are right on par with Hitman 2 in terms of crispness and realism. They get the job done very well and are, once again, quite gratifying. The soundtrack by Jesper Kyd, while still very good, doesn't quite have the oomph that previous games had. It's often too ambient and at times doesn't feel quite as in touch with the game as Hitman 2's. Environmental effects like the howling of the wind and rain beating against the ground really draw the best out of the environments and the blood curdling scream in the opening cinematic, which follows a very well done slowed down gunshot, is absolutely God damn terrifying. So, for what they may have lost in graphics, I think they made up for with the overall audio package of the game.

Contracts doesn't play all that differently from Hitman 2. In fact, once again it appears that IO listened to their fanbase and addressed issues players had with the previous game. Sneaking is once again useful and is often required for you to make a truly silent kill or follow a guard into a room while sneaking and into a door on the other side of the room. You also don't have to walk everywhere you go to keep from blowing your cover. The AI's problems from Hitman 2 have almost all completely been erased. If you fuck around enough you WILL get spotted, and sometimes running DOES make you seem suspicious. For the most part, however, the AI is a lot more forgiving this time around and it makes for a bit more of a relaxed gameplay experience. It also makes the game much easier than the previous installments as well, which is why Contracts' probably isn't at the top of a lot of Hitman fans' lists. And for once, there's not one set of missions that can almost completely ruin the game because they just don't fit in or are way too fucking hard.

For the most part, Contracts rehashes a lot of material. There are some original missions in the game, but for the most part, if you've played the first Hitman game you've probably seen a lot of these missions before. A whopping 8 of the missions are remakes from Codename 47, and though they've all been given a very nice facelift and altered a bit so that they're still a bit of a challenge, it's hard to escape that feeling of "sameyness." I suspect the purpose of this entire game was to remake the original Hitman, because it never saw release on consoles and IO wanted to get everyone caught up. (Eidos wanted teh moneys too!) I don't really mind the fact that there are remakes, in fact I think the remakes were handled very respectably, but they're still remakes and don't really add much new stuff to the Hitman storyline.

Another problem with this game is that weapons feel useless. Pretty much every mission can be completed with only a Syringe and Fibre Wire. There's not much room for gunplay at all. Another bummer is that there's absolutely no good level design going on to make use of the Sniper Rifles you're given, unlike Hitman 2, which could prove to be a Sniper's Paradise on some missions. The levels in the game are all large and quite nice (Beldingford Manor being a highlight), but they don't really feel as thought out for all styles of gameplay like Hitman 2. It's not that I don't like the silent assassin style of gameplay, but I was left with a feeling of "Why bother?" most of the time when it came to using weapons. They mostly feel like they're only there to be fucked around with. Minigun is pretty fucking fun though. Slaughter Salad! Yum!

Contracts is a pretty fun game to play through, but I don't really see it as the Hitman game most people would wanna come back to. It's a bit on the short side, there's not much new, and it's not much of a challenge. It really should have been marketed more as an expansion pack than a full game. I would recommend it as a starting point for those who want to play the Hitman games and not have to play to absolute perfection to get enjoyment out of it, then possibly move onto the others in the series.

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