Precision, audacious courage, elegance of execution. If cinema's taught us anything, these are the hallmarks of the successful hired assassin. Sadly, they're also the exact things that are lacking in Hitman: Contracts, which is defined more by mediocrity, repetition and a saddening lack of ambition.
Indeed, rather than the bold new direction we were promised, what we have is a mixture of rehashed missions from previous games, obvious filler and only a scant few levels that recall the series at its best. The stealth dynamics still rely mainly on stripping unconscious men and stealing their clothes, the AI is still laughably forgetful and the characters and plot uninspiring.
On this last point, Contracts is particularly guilty. Much of the game is told through a series of flashbacks as our hero, the cold-blooded 47, passes in and out of consciousness. It may have seemed clever at the time, but the result is a fractured, incoherent structure that feels more like Hitman: The Lost Levels than a proper sequel.
To Kill With Intrugue
Saying all that, the game retains much of the charm of the previous titles. The stealth dynamic is still pleasingly different from the competition, being all about balls-out brashness as you parade around in broad daylight wearing someone else's identity. The tension this creates is very different from lurking around in the shadows, and allows you to feel like even more of a smart-arse when you finally pull the trigger on someone.
There's also a huge degree of freedom available to you, and you can generally accomplish a mission in any number of ways (though there's always a kind of 'ideal path' if you look hard enough). And the various killing techniques you can employ are both numerous and occasionally hilarious.
But in many ways, Hitman's brand of stealth is one that's barely evolved since Goldeneye. Steal the pass-key, hide a few corpses, lay a bomb on a submarine - it's all stuff we've done a hundred times before. Even the outfit-switching idea is starting to wear thin.Worse still, you don't actually have to be stealthy. You can just run through most of the levels mowing people down and the only penalty will be a 'Mass Murderer' rating on your score screen (rather than 'Professional' or the ultimate 'Silent Assassin'). The fact that you can get away with this is symptomatic of the sloppy PC conversion, where the difficulty level hasn't been ramped up to accommodate mouse and keyboard control (see also the crap physics, dodgy animations and awkward inventory system). Sure, it's more fun to do it the stealthy way and get a nice rating, but there should be more incentive to make you want to do this than a few new weapons.
As for the AI, it's embarrassing. While all stealth games are guilty of fudging reality a bit, Hitman borders on ludicrous. You can go on a murderous rampage, then change clothes and lie low for a while, and all the inhabitants of the world simply go back to their business, stepping through mountains of bloody corpses as they go.Clearly, Hitman: Contracts is no Splinter Cell. There's still fun to be had here, but it's tempered by frustration and repetition, and it may only be the frequent and unalloyed pleasure of garrotting people and leaving them naked in a closet that saves this game from being a total disaster.
No sense of adventure
- Reasonably tense and exciting
- Good replay value
- Too many boring missions
- Little sense of plot or progression
- Poor conversion from console