Hitman: Codename 47
It was a bit of a graphical mess when it came out and the engine glitches are all the more apparent two years on - but there's still something deeply alluring about this amoral, hard-as-nails assassin simulation. It's not exactly realistic - no one bats an eyelid at the piss-poor disguises that somehow turn a bald white killer into a Chinaman - and the controls are often clunky and uncomfortable. But it's amazing that this is still the best, some might say the only, representation of a fascinating profession one would think was tailor-made for games.
The sequel ballsed it up completely by turning it into another save-the-world-from-terrorists cliche, but in this first outing you really are a cold-blooded killer garroting and sniping your way through levels to eliminate your target for money.
The story side of the game (where you discover your origin and the meaning of the number 47) is best ignored as it detracts from the real-world feel of it all, and turns it away from the likes of Leon and Grosse Pointe Blank to more hackneyed game-fare. The jungle levels suck too, but if you can find a cheat that lets you ignore those, there is a disturbing and original game to discover, even if it did fail to inspire other brave attempts at the genre.
Download Hitman: Codename 47
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Eidos' answer to Metal Gear Solid
Talking to Eidos at ECTS, it was clear that they are planning big things for Hitman. Cited as a mixture of Rainbow Six and Spec Ops, it is a third-person action game of espionage and assassination. Not like Rainbow Six or Spec Ops at all, then - rather a PC tribute to the PlayStation's Metal Gear Solid. Or Thief, with guns.
Such throwaway comparisons are unfair, of course. Hitman at least looks immediately better than both, and with real-world settings and 3D-accelerated graphics, it should do well on the back of the current trend for realistic military action games.
Based across 20 locations, the game puts you in control of the eponymous assassin. At the beck and call of a mysterious underground agency, missions will involve sneaking around and killing a fair few of the 80 individual characters.
More than a simple waste 'em up, however, the game features a back story where the player finds himself covering up the illicit tracks of a mad genetic scientist. Already the AI seems more than capable, with guards acting on both sight and sound. Unfortunately, we have no idea how long we'll have to wait for the final product.
What a life, eh? Lounging around on roofs, popping off heads of state with high-powered sniper rifles; waltzing into media tycoons' mansions and pumping them full of bullets while hysterical blood-splattered children run screaming for the door... The sheer joy and thrill of being a world-class hitman is unparalleled.
And guess what? Eidos are about to open the door of debauchery by allowing us to live out these evil fantasies for ourselves in a new third person perspective action/adventure.
Oh yes, The Daily Mail and other truth-and-justice-seeking tabloids will have a field day. Obviously, as far as we're concerned, the purely fictional world of the video game can be as twisted as it likes, and indeed, the gore content of Hitman appears to be adequate for the most devout Lee Harvey Oswald acolyte.
Of course, sensationalism and blood are often all you need to sell a game, and The Mail and The Mirror can kick up as much 'sick and evil' dirt as they like - any publicity is good publicity. But what gamers really want to know is: will it actually be any good? Well, on the premise that what we've seen is a cross between Thief: The Dark Project and Rainbow Six, the signs seem to indicate that it's going to be everything we could have hoped for.
There are more than 20 real-life locations to explore, with realistic architecture and accurately digitised environmental sounds, such as the distant rumble of cars on a nearby motorway, or the delicate sounds of children playing downstairs.
Listen Very Carefully
All this acoustic flamboyance is not just for show, either. Like Thief, you have to carefully ascertain whether the room you're about to enter is actually empty, or packed full of trigger-happy security guards who've already sussed your own clumsy approach.
However, unlike Thief, you don't have to rely on arrows to do the dirty deed. A whole lethal range of shooters is available to you, and once the storyline begins to reveal the true reason behind your antisocial behaviour, you'll find even bigger and messier weapons at your disposal.
Developer 10 has promised 'a major twist in the plot'. We already know that part of the progressive story revolves around 'revolutionary genetic experiments', so the chances are the whole thing's going to kick off into a kind of Resident Evil zombie/horror-affair.
Artificial intelligence will also be one of Hitman's strong points. 10 have revealed that instead of simply having drone enemies, your foes will see, hear, speak and interact fully with their environment. They'll pick up vases, bottles, chairs and anything else that can hurt a man, or seriously hinder his progress. Hell, they'll even converse with other unsavoury characters to co-ordinate ambushes and similar devious traps. Clever, very clever indeed.
Look out for more very soon, and in the meantime don't forget to watch Luc Besson's brilliant film Leon. Now that's a hitman...
I've said it before and I'll no doubt say it again, a good musical score is worth its weight in gold. Hitman has some of the best tunes I've heard all year - I've been humming the main theme music for weeks now. Each level's music has its own unique identity, straying free of cliche but dynamically altering to suit the on-screen action as needed.
It's amazing how often this side of game development is just taken for granted by most people. So when a score manages to jump out and actually grab your attention, to hang around and enhance the overall atmosphere of the game rather than just fade away into the background, it deserves applause. Simon Holm, 10 Interactive's music man, take a bow.
But it would be for nought if the rest of the game didn't match up to it Luckily, Hitman is easily one of the most absorbingly engrossing games to arrive for a long time. True, the controls take a little getting used to at first.
And yes, the lack of any midgame save options (aside from the strange credit/fixed-point system that restarts you in odd locations but doesn't actually save the game) is more annoying than trying to think of humourous metaphors at three o'clock in the morning. It's just fortunate for both 10 and the game itself that Hitman has enough of that 'just one more go' spirit to balance out the frustration caused by being constantly forced to have that 'one more go'.
As the name suggests, you're playing the role of '47', a mysterious figure with no past who wakes one morning to find himself strapped to a table and told he's an assassin. After that (and a brief training session with a far too easily pleased instructor - "You've opened a door! Very good, you're the best we've had for a long time!"), you're thrown into the murky world of organised crime, taking out mob bosses, triad leaders and countless thugs and ne'er-do-wells in Hong Kong, Columbia, Budapest and Rotterdam.
It's the way each level is structured that keeps you coming back, time after time, death after death. Missions are always more than just 'kill the target' affairs (although they do make up the meat of the game), and it's usually left up to you as to how you go about it. Snipe from a distant rooftop or sneak up behind with a knife to the throat -whatever you think is best.
Disguises play an important role, and there is nothing quite as classy as initiating a gunfight, switching clothes, then strolling casually away while bodyguards and henchmen run around like headless chickens trying to figure out what's going on.
Start All Over Again
If Hitman does have a problem, it's that it does such a fine job of creating an engrossing atmosphere that you start wanting to go beyond the limits of the technology on offer. An example to back up that rather convoluted claim would be during an early hit involving a meeting between gang bosses in a park, a patrolling helicopter and a sniper rifle. Essentially, you're expected to take a position on a nearby rooftop and kill the target during the meet. Unfortunately, this does leave you rather open to fire from the chopper. Real-life sniper friends of mine assure me that the preferred location for taking the shot would be from within a top-floor window rather than leaving yourself vulnerable on the outside. But making every building in the game accessible would probably be asking too much of both the programmers and the current levels of PC hardware. That sort of thing.
Apart from that there are all the usual niggles that accompany modern action-shooters. For example, limited variety in NPC modelling, giving the impression that the criminal underworld has made more progress in the world of human cloning than the world's scientific community ever could. An occasional lack of polish in cut-scene triggering means that sometimes a raging gunfight will suddenly pause as a moment of illogical exposition takes place.
The third-person, behind-the-head camera view also hinders you from time to time, blocking targets or forcing you to worry about viewing angles rather than gameplay.
Oh, there is one other thing. It's a minor point really and I don't know why I'm even bothering to bring it up, but, well, the thing is, Hitman is perhaps the first game in history to actually make me feel a bit uneasy about my actions. I'm not talking about being scared or anything. Hell, games scare me all the time.
I can't play Half-Life for more than 15 minutes at a time before breaking out in a sweat and reaching for the disposable nappies. No, scared is one thing. Morally disturbed is quite another.
Now I'm no prude. I laughed my way through Kingpin, hooted and hollered at Carmageddon and grinned with glee at Grand Theft Auto. But there's something not quite right about silently approaching a security guard from behind and garrotting him with a piece of razor wire, his limbs flailing in a macabre dance of death, then dragging his corpse out of sight and moving on to the next victim. Especially when the guard isn't your target but just an obstacle along the way.
Still, Hitman more than makes up in style for what it lacks in moral integrity. It's the first game in recent history to recreate all the violent beauty of Luc Besson's Leon. If DeusEx is pure Hollywood excess, Hitman is modern French cinema at its finest (that's a good thing, by the way). I haven't come across a game this addictively playable since Hidden & Dangerous.
On the plus side, Hitman isn't nearly as bugged. And it's far cooler. In fact, it would be fair to say there hasn't been a cooler central game character in years. For that reason alone it's worth your 30 quid.
With outstanding graphics and realistic effects, Eidos Interactive takes you into the seedy world of death-for-hire. You’ll go from basic hitman training to Hong Kong, where you’ll start a gang war and finish off one of the gang’s big men. Then you're off to Columbia where you’ll rid the world of a drug lord and his lab. You’ll save the world’s leaders from a bombing in Budapest and in Rotterdam you’ll stop a gunrunner. All in all, these four scenarios amount to 12 separate missions. The number of missions is smaller than was originally promised and there has been a lot of griping on discussion boards about the relatively small number of missions and the game's occasional bugginess. But overall, it’s a good, difficult game with amazing graphics and smart little details.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
This game takes more tact and guile than charge-ahead craziness. What I liked most about Hitman’s level-completion requirements is that it doesn’t stoop to the occasional step1-step2-step3 stupidity of some of the fantasy console games out there (e.g. first you have to grab the chalice and then you fill your water jug half-full before jumping into the lava while hitting the A-X key combination, which will give you superpowers, or whatever). Instead, you simply have goals you need to accomplish before you can get paid. Your employer doesn’t care how or in what order you do them, just that you get them done.
Most disappointing for me, gameplay-wise, was the lack of a clear storyline ala Command & Conquer, where your "boss" would tell you how and why this mission needs to be accomplished. The technology for nice video cut-scenes between missions has been there for a long time and I think that extra bit of interactivity seems a natural fit in this sort of game, and it would have made Hitman a much better game. Instead, all we get before a mission is a "Laptop" interface with some textual details, surveillance photos, and a map of the area. In fact, Hitman only uses 304 MB on the CD-ROM. Combine the sparse cut-aways with the small number of missions, and it seems Eidos may have rushed this out the door to hit a launch target, instead of making a better game and using that other 346 MB of potential.
With more and more options and movements available to your player in today’s single-person shoot-em-ups, it seemed inevitable that I’d eventually have to get away from my preferred controls -- spanning the evolution from Doom to Quake to Half-Life -- using the directional arrows and the mouse for movement, with Ctrl for jump, Shift for strafe, etc…. But Hitman, with its "Sneak Mode" and directional leaning to peek around corners, has made it necessary for me to learn to finally use the 10-key keypad. Note that the keys are still customizable, so you can use your preferred system, but with the more complex controls it might be time to move on, if you haven’t already.
The graphics in Hitman are exceptional. When dressed in your hitman gear (black suit, tie... you know, hitman clothes), you get suspicious stares from everyone and their heads turn with you as they crane their necks, watching you as you pass. Plants move as you brush by them and if you blow out the tanks in the Hong Kong restaurant, you’ll see tasty-looking lobsters writhing on the ground. Human movements are also very smooth and realistic.
The background soundtrack is quite good and especially appropriate. I couldn’t imagine any music more suitable for stealthily gunning down the bad guys. Voices are good, but each type of person has the same exact vocabulary. For example, waiters only have one audio track: "Have mercy!" Also on the Hong Kong level, Red Dragon Guards say a few different things, but all with exactly the same voice. Again, it would have been more interesting to record a couple more voices and use some more of that empty disk space.
Minimum: Pentium II-300, 64MB RAM, 400MB disk space, 8X CD-ROM, and a 3D-accelerated video card with 12MB VRAM.
Reviewed On: Pentium III 667, Win98, 96MB RAM, 20GB HD, 3DFX Voodoo3 3000 (16MB), Creative Labs Soundblaster AWE 64, and a 24x CD-ROM.
Room For Improvement
As previously noted, there has been a lot of talk about this game on discussion boards, where people complained about how easy it was to finish, so that their thirty-five or forty bucks gave them only three or four hours of gameplay. The lack of a "Save Game" feature is also a big complaint, but is possibly one of the things thrown in (or left out, rather) to extend the entertainment life of the game. I can say that after about ten hours of play, I’m still quite a ways from finishing the game and that is probably due to not being able to save my gameplay. Whether that’s good or bad is for you to decide. I also experienced quite a few bugs (strange graphical glitches, game crashes) until I installed the patch. With this sort of concept, it’s hard to consider what a multiplayer version would look like, but something creative might have satisfied more people and extended their entertainment dollar.
Though far from an instant classic, Hitman is a decent (and bloody gruesome) game, that makes the most of graphical quality while not being tremendously complex, story-wise. Perhaps this will be repaired with freely downloadable mission packs, but it’s a better bet that you’ll have to pay another twenty bucks for more missions. If you’re the sort to power through a mission-oriented game like this in one restless night, and that’s worth the money for you, then get it. But if you’re looking for a long-lasting thrill or something so addictive that will make you go days without sleep or food, then you should probably look elsewhere.