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Hitman HD Trilogy (Xbox 360) artwork

Hitman HD Trilogy (Xbox 360) review

"As someone still green to the series, this collection will be viewed as quite the catch... until you start playing Hitman 2."

So, you just had your fill of Hitman: Absolution, enjoyed the experience, and now you're curious about the rest of this stealth series. "What? This was your first Hitman?!" Is this really a surprise, though? The last title, Blood Money, came out a whopping six years prior, which is, like, comparable to dog years. Well, if you don't want to go through the hassle of purchasing these games separately, on older consoles, or download on your PC, you're in luck. Two months following Absolution's launch, IO Interactive and/or Square Enix have decided to get in on the HD collection craze, releasing Hitman HD Trilogy in early 2013, featuring Hitman 2, Contracts (3), and Blood Money (4). While Blood Money is virtually unchanged from its 2006 version, besides a new disc cover, 2 and 3 have been conveniently remastered to look more presentable and sharper on those new-fangled HD screens, along with a set of mundane and obvious achievements.

As someone still green to the series, this collection will be viewed as quite the catch... until you start playing Hitman 2. I wish I can use the excuse that it has aged poorly, but the truth is, it's never been that great to begin with. For a game whose main goal is for you to be as stealthy as possible, especially with a subtitle of Silent Assassin, irritations cloud that objective. The majority of the stages, spanning "exotic", James Bond-esque areas like India, Russia, and Japan, are either waayyy too open or crawling with NPCs looking in every direction. Doesn't help that some characters have multiple scripted routes that get picked at random at the start of levels. This makes it extremely hard and time-consuming to accomplish anything without being discovered.

Bunch that with unpredictable AI behavior, and this becomes draining to stealth lovers. There will be times when, if you get spotted by one person, nearly every guard in the surrounding areas zone in on your location. Hell, accidentally shoot a wall with a silenced gun, no thanks to the odd, inaccurate aiming cursor, and people just know and flip out. The glitchy nature of the AI is at its worst in one of the series' most horribly-designed missions: Hidden Valley. This stage requires you to pass a legion of ninjas on patrol in a snowy set of mountains, which sounds like its dense weather conditions will give you the leg up. Strangely, guards still manage to spot you from absurd distances and demand identification, while you're disguised, and horrifyingly, by random, there's one ninja that can be killed by a truck... and it's still going to be your fault. The best way I can describe Hitman 2's awkward mechanics is, it's like you're playing an action release that's trying to be a stealth game, and stumbles at the attempt.

Now, the reason this particular game holds some major nostalgia factor for fans is because of its refreshing approach to the stealth genre. When people think of stealth titles during the early 2000s, Metal Gear and Splinter Cell come to mind with their rules involving hiding in the shadows, not being found, and refrain from killing certain NPCs, usually civilians. Hitman 2 threw these concepts out the window, however, as you're in control of a contract killer, Agent 47, that'll do anything to get the job done, and it truly applies in-game; hide in plain sight using a uniform you took off a dead guard, fill a civilian with bullets who caught you in said act, and, if needed, massacre everyone when your cover is completely blown, with no fear of the game coming to a sudden stop, forcing a restart. The music, composed by Jesper Kyd, who was with the series for the first four games, is quite the eargasm, as well, due to wonderful orchestrated pieces. It's these moments that have cemented fond memories for some, and, speaking as one of those people, have unfortunately blown the game up as being more than what it actually is.

Thankfully, with the release of Contracts, serious improvements were made, almost to the point that it can be viewed as a "reset" of sorts that future titles would build upon. Funnily enough, all the devs had to do was fine tune what's already presented in previous Hitmans, and having these issues fixed make it feel like you're playing an entirely different style! For the first time in the series, you genuinely feel like a Silent Assassin who comes in and out of scenarios without causing a huge commotion to those going about their business. And this is thanks in no small part to more logical AI behavior that can't sense a murder 20 miles away, well-designed levels with better NPC placements and scripted routes, and the ability to control your character more accurately when it comes to sneaky kills. In the end, they all mend together to present this air of guilty pleasure as you vy to complete missions without raising a hair of suspicion. It's like you're controlling a violent Batman who uses guns and have no qualms about killing.

Contracts doesn't escape criticism in spite of its strides, however. The AI, while more refined, still has some odd instances of screwing you over. For example, causing a distraction to get specific characters away from guarded entrances can be tricky sometimes. Simply by walking near the person running towards the distraction can reset their route, dashing your hopes of entering a certain spot. Another complaint by some is how half the missions are remade levels from Codename 47, the first title in the franchise. As someone who's played that game, I actually like it, as I'm able to enjoy the missions this time without the original's hokey control system. Though, I do think the devs overdid it by including every single Chinatown level. These small flaws can be forgiven, since the game makes the first two installments seem like relics with its upgraded mechanics. That, and Contracts is notable for being the most risque Hitman title, overflowing with raunchy and disturbing scenes that can still shock to this day. It's a stark contrast to the typical "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" dark humor the series is known for.

While Contracts receives credit for revamping the play mechanics and focus, Blood Money is looked up in high regard by many as the crowning achievement of the series. With this title, AI issues are basically non-existent concerning bizarre reactions, along with a more flexible assassin equipped with a variation of new moves under his belt, like disarming guards, meleeing, and concealing bodies in containers, the latter a much-welcomed addition. IO Interactive also gets major props for designing missions that are so open to a wide range of ways for completion, including various things to climb, windows and backdoors to enter, and tons of items and disguises at your disposal. They are made in such a way where you can kill a target within minutes or intentionally drag it out for hours, just because. Thanks to its excellent replay value, you can continually come back to stages and challenge yourself in new ways, either by limiting your use of weapons, or just let off steam by causing panic and mass destruction.

Blood Money is also impressive in that each of its missions are completely different, always putting you in spanking-new locations. Whether you're sent to a villa with an underground drug lab in the jungles, a theater with actual rehearsals and periodic breaks, or a Mardi Gras parade, the game refuses to give in to repetition. It's quite the opposite of its predecessors, where some settings are reused, and others acting as an immediate continuation of previous stages, like Hitman 2's Japanese snow levels and Contracts' Chinatown ones. Shoot, even Absolution falls in line with the older games' method of progression, which makes Blood Money one of a kind in that sense.

Hitman 2 will serve to be a pain in the butt for those playing it the first time, but the collection is worth getting to experience the other two games. Blood Money has aged really well thanks to solid play mechanics, though I'm more surprised with how nicely Contracts has held up, even with its odd AI quirks. Revisiting, I ended up replaying several missions countless times, especially the shipyard level, which I originally loathed all those years ago. I guess I didn't appreciate its complexity back then. Worth mentioning, too, are the extras included in this HD pack: a casing that doubles as an art book with differing interpretations of Agent 47, as well as a Sniper Challenge download code, which originated as a pre-order bonus for Absolution. Considering Sniper Challenge is just one mission where you're in a fixed position overlooking a rooftop, I wasn't expecting much. To my delight, however, it punched me in the face with its replayability, tasking me to snipe every guard, in various, silly ways, without the others letting on. If IO Interactive wanted, they can get away with turning this concept into a full-fledged game, or at least a very addicting extra mode in a future sequel.

While it would've been a neat bonus to have the first game, Codename 47, I won't lose sleep over its exclusion. Like Hitman 2, the game has its share of gameplay issues that make it an aching journey to finish. It's like how having Street Fighter 1 in a collection would be more a novelty than a blast, since... well, it sucks. While I have no right to tell you how to play this compilation, I strongly recommend not putting much effort into Hitman 2; it's a problematic game with a lot of levels, so just shoot your way to the goal whenever your cover is blown, since restarting a mission or loading a save is just not worth the effort. This will give you the opportunity to lend more time and attention to the other three, more deserving titles. And yes, I'm seriously counting Sniper Challenge as the third, as this 15-minute demo has given me more happiness than the entirety of Hitman 2.

Note: this is based on the supposed "Premium Edition" of the collection. If a "standard" collection takes its place that excludes extras, specifically Sniper Challenge, consider taking off a point from the overall rating.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (February 25, 2013)

Even after reviewing all these Double Dragon games, it's crazy to think there's still a ton of games left to review due to varying interpretations.


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