Hitman: Contracts Review
Hitman: Contracts delivers some time-tested and sometimes highly entertaining stealth action, which any fan of the genre might as well check out.
As a shooter (both first-person and third-person perspectives are available), Hitman: Contracts can be satisfying. There's a huge variety of authentic weapons to be found and used, and killed foes lie in vivid red pools of blood. But the action just isn't particularly good by today's standards, because the enemy artificial intelligence is, frankly, terrible. Enemies will try to overpower you through sheer numbers, but they won't easily succeed, at least on the normal difficulty setting. You can position yourself at a choke point--say, behind a door--to just keep spraying automatic fire in the general vicinity of your enemies' heads. A very forgiving auto-aim system will make most of your shots hit home, from short- or long-range, and as a result, the bodies will quickly pile high as more and more fools rush to their deaths until none are left. Then you're free to casually complete your mission, unopposed.
The game has some other noticeable issues, which have been inherited from Hitman 2. There are some nice, scripted setups for you to take advantage of, such as when characters nonchalantly walk over to the restroom so that you can strangle them, hide their bodies, and take their clothes for a disguise. But the whole disguise thing still seems rather silly, even though it's one of the main gameplay elements in the Hitman series. The tall and broad-shouldered 47 can wear most anyone's clothes as though they were tailored for him, and the way his previous outfit magically appears in a neatly folded pile may be a hard pill to swallow for those unfamiliar with the Hitman series. The behavior of most characters just isn't very convincing. As you strut in your new threads, characters will just kind of mill about while casting sideways glances at you as you approach them, and they may even attack or panic if you get too close to them. Again, though, there's just no coordination or reason in the characters' actions, so you'll notice in densely populated stages that panicking civilians will just run around--back and forth--like chickens with their heads cut off. And you already know how the gun-toting bad guys fare...
Like its predecessor, Hitman: Contracts provides you with a very helpful tactical map, which you can access at the touch of a button at any time, though the action doesn't pause when you're on the map screen. Apart from the map, though, the game doesn't give you very good feedback about what's going on in your environment. You're supposedly trying to remain hidden and quiet as you sneak around, but there are no real indications of whether or not you're in a character's line of sight or within his or her earshot. There's an onscreen threat indicator, which turns red and starts fluctuating if you've raised suspicion, but it isn't terribly useful except to warn you that you're standing too close to somebody. Besides that, Hitman: Contracts still frequently displays messages to you as though you're omniscient. Suddenly, you're informed that a dead guard's body has been discovered or that guards are now looking for a suspicious man dressed as a chef, and other things of this nature. Presumably, 47 is learning this through the Agency, his mysterious employer who's able to contact him remotely, but these all-too-helpful messages still seem incongruous with the gameplay. At any rate, it's things like these, as well as the artificial intelligence issues, that ideally should have been tweaked in this new game.
As mentioned, Hitman: Contracts isn't much of an improvement from a graphical standpoint, either. In fact, considering it uses the same technology featured in the original Hitman game, it's a miracle it looks as impressive as it does. Many of the environments and ambient lighting effects are believable and great-looking, though the environments aren't very interactive. The original Hitman was the first action game to make ample use of "rag-doll physics," an effect that's recently become very popular, since it presents relatively realistic death animations. As a result, killed characters crumple to the ground in lifeless heaps. But the effect is still exactly the same as ever in Hitman: Contracts and no longer looks as remarkable as it used to. There are a few new effects, such as how gouts of blood spray into the air sometimes when bullets strike their victims. Also, when 47 runs out of health, the entire game temporarily goes into slow motion, while the color fades from the screen as he makes his last stand. The effect is supposed to be dramatic, but, actually, it's just confusing; you'll think you accidentally triggered some new special ability, but in fact, all you did was get yourself killed.
One disappointing aspect of the presentation in Hitman: Contracts is that it's missing Hitman 2's incredibly stylish surveillance videos of all the people you're going after. Here, all you get are static photos and flat text-briefing screens with some voice-over. Also, it's worth noting that the game has an obnoxious number of introductory splash screens--some of which you can skip and some of which you can't--all of which prevent you from getting started (playing) as quickly as you'd probably like.
The highlight of Hitman: Contracts' audio is a musical score by Jesper Kyd, the same composer who delivered the memorable musical score to last year's Freedom Fighters, the last game from the developers of Hitman. The music here is electronic, rife with synthesized bass and heavy percussion, and is much closer to that of the original Hitman than the orchestral score found in Hitman 2. Fortunately, it works extremely well with the game's gritty and stylish settings. It dynamically changes to fit the action and generally adds a layer of suspense and tension to the proceedings that works better than any other element in the game. The rest of the audio is good, and the multilingual voice acting, as mentioned, is a nice touch. Unfortunately, you'll hear some panicking characters repeating their lines way too often, which takes away from the realism. 47's calm voice, meanwhile, fits the character very well.
Hitman: Contracts is available for the PC, Xbox, and PlayStation 2, and each version of the game features the same content and plays to the relative strengths of each respective platform. The PC version is the best overall and offers the richest graphical quality (provided your system meets the relatively modest recommended system requirements) as well as the best controls, thanks to a standard first-person-shooter-style mouse-and-keyboard setup. Loading times are also fastest on the PC, though they're reasonably short on the Xbox and PS2 as well. The ability to save anywhere is present in all three versions of the game, though on the PS2, each save file takes up 500KB on your memory card, which is a pretty big chunk. The console versions of the game control well using a dual-analog setup, but you'd already know that if you played Hitman 2.
The third game in the Hitman series can be thought of as an expansion pack--or a supplement--to the previous game. There isn't much resolution at the end of Hitman: Contracts, so it seems safe to assume that the series is going to continue. Hopefully, then, for his next assignment, 47 will pack a few more tricks up his sleeve. For the time being, though, Hitman: Contracts delivers some time-tested and sometimes highly entertaining stealth action, which any fan of the genre might as well check out.
- Player Reviews: 42
- Game Universe:
- Hitman 2: Silent Assassin (PC, PS2, XBOX, GC),
- Hitman: Contracts (PS2, PC, XBOX),
- Hitman: Blood Money (PS2, XBOX, PC, MOBILE, X360, WEB),
- Hitman: Absolution (X360, PC, PS3),
- Hitman: Codename 47 (PC),
- Hitman: Sniper Challenge (X360, PS3, PC),
- Hitman HD Trilogy (PS3, X360),
- Hitman 2: Silent Assassin HD (PS3)
- Number of Players: