Playing the role of an assassin is no longer a rarity in gaming, but no one does the experience quite like IO interactive. Forget the charisma of Ezio Auditore – Agent 47 is an emotionless, stone-cold killer who’s ability to murder without batting an eyelid makes him the very best. Hitman: HD Trilogy is this assassins’ blood-stained legacy.
Consisting of Hitman 2: Silent Assassin (which borrowed from the franchises’ PC only first game), Hitman: Contracts and Hitman: Blood Money, this new HD collection provides the perfect way of one of last generation’s most popular franchises. Interestingly, Hitman: Blood Money is technically a current generation title – it was released on the Xbox 360 alongside the previous generation hardware in 2006 – but did not feature on the PlayStation 3.
Often colourful 3D platformers such as Sly Cooper or Ratchet & Clank benefit from HD remakes and come out the other side looking suitably gorgeous, but action games tend to fair a lot worse and Hitman: HD Trilogy is a good example of this. All three titles look even more dated that I expected. Hitman 2: Silent Assassin and Hitman Contracts don’t appear to have any significant graphical overhaul, while Hitman: Blood Money remains untouched. Some bland, undetailed environments are brought out, but while this is forgivable considering these games the lacked a coherent, interesting art style; the artistic tone doesn’t quite fit the personality of Agent 47 himself, with this evident flaw rearing its ugly head out upon revisiting the games on the disc.
Look past the less than impressive individuals and there is a certain genius to admire in IO Interactive’s level design. Each game is all about separate, stand-alone missions. Unlike certain assassin based titles, you really have to think about how you’re going to execute your target. The sheer variety of ways you can approach each level is admirable, being consistent across all three games.
The fact that is still noticeable today is admirable, but it isn’t an exaggeration to say action games have somewhat moved on since the Hitman series’ heyday. Even the supposedly current-gen Hitman: Blood Money feels dated in the way it controls, although it does seem like problems with using firearms are somewhat deliberate in order to encourage the player to use a stealthier approach.
What is apparent is that the gameplay takes inspiration from adventure/puzzle games as they force the player to deliberate how they’re going to approach each level. It’s from this that it becomes evident Hitman is a classic series that deserves its HD glory, even if a better job could have been done in bringing Agent 47’s older exploits into the current generation.
All three titles are on par with each other, which doesn’t shed Hitman: Blood Money in a particularly good light. In fact, I’d go as far to say playing through Hitman: HD Trilogy is more about taking each mission as it comes than noticing any significant difference across each title. Thankfully IO created a very good formula and intelligently chose to stick with it, but considering what you’re paying for it would have been nice to have a little more variety.
The purpose of these ‘HD Trilogy’ releases tends to be to give those that missed out on a particular franchise the chance to catch up with some of the luxuries of modern hardware. With this in mind, Hitman: HD Trilogy doesn’t really provide a great amount of value. The three games feel dated when viewed with fresh, modern eyes; meaning it can probably only be fully admired by those who enjoyed the titles when they were first unleashed upon the world.
The controls are also extremely stiff and, as someone now used to streamlined modern-day action games, were difficult to use. Things like accessing the inventory or using weapons is extremely complicated. I acknowledge Hitman is a tactical experience, but this just came across as dated design which ultimately really detracted from the overall experience. Yes, I can practically hear you cry that it’s unfair to make these complaints about a game as old as Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, but these one excellent experiences haven’t stood the test of time.
For all the complaints there are to be made, taking each Hitman title as a puzzle game and figuring out how to take your target can be enjoyable, even if putting together the pieces feels awkward. Musical scores make tight situations particularly tense and you do feel a sense of progression in the game when you figure out how to complete part of a level. Sadly, although the brilliance of this series shines through, it’s age is what’s most notable.
It would be wrong of me to say I didn’t enjoy my time with the Hitman: HD Trilogy. Re-visiting Agent 47’s earlier titles did give me a chance to fully admire the excellence of the franchise’s library, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I would struggle to recommend you go out and pick this one up. Hitman is one of gaming’s real classic franchises and that’s evident upon experiencing these three excellent titles again. Alas, the truth is that time hasn’t been kind to them and this package feels a lot more like a re-release than an ‘HD remake’. It comes across as lazy development and whilst there is evident value in the package, it simply doesn’t offer enough.