Developers: IO Interactive
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Plot: Agent 47 is a professional hitman employed by an agency to kill wealthy and decadent criminals. However, what secrets from his past will come back to haunt him?
Some of the most beloved current video games can be traced back to an earlier starting point in the annals of gaming history. As Hitman’s 2016 release goes down with admiration, some might be tempted to drag out the game that started it all, Codename 47. Nostalgia gaming can either go one of two ways. The best case scenario is that it rekindles the reason you fell in love with the game. The worst case scenario is that those fond memories were simply that: memories. Some games cannot live up to their past glories. Sadly, Hitman: Codename 47 is one of those games.
It is a crying shame playing through this game once again, because you can constantly see what the game is trying to do with itself. You are given four three-part stories, usually revolving some nasty criminal you are being assigned to take out. While the maps can seem strangely linear, there are actually multiple ways of accomplishing any task put out in front of you. Do you want to go in guns blazing, treating the game like a third person shooter and killing the boss waiting for you at the end? Or do you want to see if you have the option of planting a car bomb in the target’s getaway vehicle before raising the alarm? Perhaps you can catch him in the sauna and raise the thermostat up higher than his weak heart can take? One amusing moment gives you the ability to kill off one of the main bosses before you have even taken your first step in one of the missions, given that you’ve set up the kill two levels in advance. It’s that kind of ingenuity that echoes the newer Hitman games, where you are encouraged to not move with the current of the mission and try to work out your own way of accomplishing the task. The one clever piece of gameplay that truly encourages this is the money system. Each contract comes with a wage. However, this wage can be deducted from if the mission doesn’t go smoothly. For example, if you do decide to simply shoot everyone up, the Agency will deduct from the pay to send in cleaners to hide evidence of your involvement. Complete a mission using stealth and you take the lion’s share of the cash. You also have to buy the weapons and tools you wish to use for each mission with your pay. Therefore, in order to earn the most money by the end of the game, you have to use ammo and weapons sparingly. Sure, it might be cool to purchase the heavy duty sniper rifle, but if you were to complete a mission with only your knife, you will only lose fifty dollars from the final figure. The downside is that the money doesn’t really do anything. There is no open world mission where you can slowly build up a side project or unlock cool new costumes. The money simply acts as a high score, numbers you can share with your friends when you put the game down and see who completed the game earning the most money. It encourages you to go back and try to get past that tricky level with only your deadly piano wire.
So the layout of the game is there and worth nodding with approval at. However, the delivery is unbelievably messy. Stuff like the poor graphics and dreadful voice acting you take on the chin, as you do with any video game this dated. However, sometimes the game mechanics just totally drop the ball. You can walk into an enemy building and find a door with a guard. To get through that door, you have to kill the guard, but, of course, you want to do it stealthily, with your knife, from behind. Therefore, you literally push past the guard, squeeze into the tiny gap between him and the door, so you are directly behind him, and slice his throat open. He does not ever get suspicious of the bald-headed man tucking himself up against the wall, by the door he is meant to be guarding. And if another enemy walks in on the dead body, as long as you are in a disguise and a few steps away from the corpse, he won’t open fire, assuming the killer must be somewhere else. There is another moment in the game where a guard will tell you to move away from a secure location, but as soon as the cut-scene ends, you are free to walk right past him without reprisal. It is hard to quite enjoy being a master of stealth when the enemy AI is making it difficult to actually get caught. Other moments are even worse, because they have actually been planned to happen, due to some poor decision that usually only happens with games this early. Whole missions don’t even involve killing a target, but getting past a mythical Jaguar guarding a tunnel. A whole segment of the game feels like we have just been ripped out of the Hitman series and dumped rudely in another series. Other moments are poor attempts at comedy. Hitman is best played dark and foreboding, as you wrestle with the underground world of killing. Then suddenly the writers will try and make you laugh, pulling you right out of the atmosphere. Confront a Columbian drug-lord in his office and the resulting boss fight is embarrassingly awkward, tonally jumping into a spoof of the Hitman series. On top of that, the levels are simply too short. The length comes from trying to figure out what to do, but when you are confident with your plan of attack, each mission can be soldiered through in just over ten minutes. In means that the whole game can be wrapped up in a few hours, a rushed forgettable experience, best summarised with a final level that aims for shocking, but is too brief to really sink home. An anti-climatic revisit to the past.
Final Verdict: It is nice to see the wheels in motion even if these early days, but there are far too many teething problems to call this game an enjoyable experience.