Hitman: Contracts – Agent 47 Returns

The mature rating isn’t there just for show. Hitman: Contracts is a game intended for a mature audience. Whether you are a devoted fan who has been following the adventures of Agent 47 since the beginning or just a newcomer, this game will satisfy even the most deviant of gamers. This is the third installment of the now successful Hitman series.

The majority of the missions are triggered by brief flashbacks presented in excellent quality via cut scenes. It is almost safe to say that if you have not played the first game (Hitman: Codename 47), you are in for a treat. Multiple missions are just a rehash of assignments found in the very first game. The developers were either lazy or just thought that this would be the perfect occasion to re-explain everything for those who are unfamiliar with the game.

Although a clever technique, it has not pleased too many fans. Despite the fact that this is a good game, this is not the only flaw. The term “flaw” may not be the best way to explain this; let’s just say that this game is surprisingly similar to Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. The animations are all the same, the awkward “skating” movements are back, and there are some minor clipping issues.

Although this all might seem like an expansion to the second game, it has been confirmed that this is a brand new game. Albeit the few errors, there are memorable moments and you will not regret playing this game. It has been released on all platforms but the best experience will be found on the PC.

Not only are the graphics sharper on the PC version, but the mouse/keyboard combination works out really well. A new addition to this game is the ability to go into first person mode. This is a nice touch since it adds to the versatility of the game. Gamers will be able to play the entire game in either first or third person. (They can even mix and match if they wish.)

The system requirements aren’t too demanding and almost any machine can run the game. Even on the lowest settings, the game still looks impressive. Although [re]playing missions you (may) have already played in the first game might seem like a chore, the brand new implementations to the graphical engine are a sight for sore eyes. What stand out the most are the weather effects. Every mission is played during the night and only a few actually have nice weather.

The rest of the levels contain rain, snow, etc. Surprisingly, none of these effects slow the game down. The only time where the game slightly slows down is when you are facing multiple enemies on the screen or are experiencing the after-smoke effects following multiple gunshots. The special effects have been totally redone for this game. The weather conditions are perfectly done and every gun has a different sound and muzzle flash. The smoke lingers after each shot which adds to the authenticity of the game. Smaller calibers have less smoke while shotguns and rifles have a lot more smoke. Its little details like this that make the game seem so realistic.

The artificial intelligence is fairly decent although there are numerous times where the enemies will just blindly walk into your gunfire. Whether this is because they do not see you as a threat or are just plain stupid is still questionable. Enemies like the police or SWAT will work together to flush you out of areas when you are hiding. If shot at, they will run for cover and shoot every now and then. Not all enemies react the same though.

Tougher enemies will seem braver while weaker enemies will stay behind cover and shoot out of fear. Although not mentioned on the game, there seems to be a level of fear for each character. For instance, you have the ability to shoot weapons out of the hands of your enemies. When this happens, the weaker enemies will run away, while the tougher ones will attempt to pick their weapons up.

You have the ability to disguise yourself. The second Hitman game had issues where enemies could see through your disguises whether you acted suspicious or not. This was rectified in this version. In Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, getting too close to an enemy or running would often trigger an alarm and your cover would be blown. In Hitman: Contracts, you can now run and even bump into characters, and nothing will happen.

As long as you don’t openly kill anyone or point your gun at them, they will act normal around you. There are certain exceptions. For instance, if you kill a Chinese chef and wear his clothes, you will not be able to use that as cover around the second chef or even the waiter around the restaurant because you either don’t look Chinese or do not look familiar. Once again, the level of authenticity in this game is so realistic and there are so many little details around the game that you will never see everything once.

This game has impressive physics. Ragdoll physics to be precise. Every single “human” character has a physics system. I say human because there are numerous animals found throughout the game as well, such as dogs, horses, etc. These animals do not have ragdoll physics which is a shame because every time you kill an animal, that animal will just roll over on its side, no matter where.

So say you are on the edge of a cliff or a table, their head might be protruding off the edge in a stiff manner, instead of being limp. This is unacceptable. A professional never leaves a trail. That’s why you have the ability to drag corpses or unconscious bodies around, throughout the level. You cannot stick bodies in dumpsters or even lockers (like in Metal Gear Solid) which is disheartening but you can leave them behind anything which may conceal their bodies.

There are many weapons for you to utilize and every single one of them is different. There are even a few special weapons you can gain on specific missions. After each mission, whatever weapon you have on you is kept in a specific inventory you can use the second time you play the game. After the first time you have beaten the game, you have the ability to replay any mission with any weapons you want. This is why this game has such a high replay value. Not only are there multiple paths to each objective, but you can use any weapon you want for each mission the second time around. One of these special weapons you can obtain only during a mission is a Chinese “Poison” Sword.

This sword is very powerful and it will take down most enemies in two swings. Fire arms and swords are not the only weapons available. Other items such as pool cues can be used as weapons. Although there are no baseball bats or golf clubs in this version, (Hitman 2: Silent Assassin) there are plenty of other weapons that are just as fine. There is even a training option offered on the main menu where you can go shoot targets with the weapons you currently own, try to sneak past guards, or go through a shooting course. You will never get all the weapons playing a mission once. Going back at least three times will let you get the majority of the weapons. Go in every room, and look everywhere, you never know what you will find.

The cut scenes are nicely rendered and the sound effects are superb. Although Agent 47’s footsteps are not heard at all times, everything else works fine. From the muffled voices of your enemies through doors, to the sound of lighting during a storm in downtown China. This game is all about sneaking around and acting professional. (Although you can still kill everything that moves if you wish.) You have the ability to look through keyholes to see what is ahead and if you are playing on Normal, (the easiest mode) your map will tell you where everyone is and will even pinpoint important locations for you with exclamation points. If you are near a door, you can even lean into the door to hear who is on the other side.

When you shoot someone, you will not be able to see a wound. This does not mean that there is a lack of blood in the game. In fact, there is a lot of blood. There are new blood animations that were not present in the past versions of the game. For example, if you shoot someone in the head from behind, their brains will splatter against the wall in front of them and slowly ooze down. There is also the complimentary pool of blood underneath all fresh corpses which cannot be cleaned but still appears invisible in the eyes of enemies.

The locations are diverse. From an asylum to a restaurant in China, you will be traveling to both beautiful and weird locations. One particular mission that stands out the most is The Meat King’s Party. In this mission, a girl has been kidnapped and you are assigned to go rescue her while at the same time eliminating two targets. This so-called party is full of bizarre individuals. Gimps wearing rubber masks with red rubber balls in their mouths and whores sporting similar clad. You will even encounter the Meat King’s brother who is totally insane. The Meat King himself is a strange character. This mission will be one of your more memorable ones.

The soundtrack to the game is excellent, it is rich and tense. Jesper Kyd has been composing for the Hitman franchise since the beginning and each soundtrack is great. With a brilliant mix of industrial, techno, ambient, and soft music; each track will keep you on the edge of your seat. You may not even realize it while you are playing because every single track fits so nicely.
Hitman: Contracts may seem like a cheap imitation the first time around but as you play it, you will learn to love it. It is quite unique in its own style and every single “main” character in the game is different in every sense of the word. Each mission is different with its own respective weather effects. Whether you are stealthy or just enjoy shooting everything that moves, this game is for you either way and you will not get bored with it anytime soon.

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