Hitman HD Trilogy review – 47 always rings thrice in contract killer package

hitman HD trilogy

Jason Bourne, Léon (the French dude, not our associate ed), Tom Cruise in Collateral: fiction is dotted with hardass professional peoplewhackers. Regardless of their touching relationships with potted plants or love of outrunning rozzers in a Mini, though, not one of said murderers can hold a homicidal candle to IO’s chrome-domed killer. After all, real hitmen use roast chickens to off their targets.

Hitman HD Trilogy PS3 review

Now, no one said wet work should be easy, but 47’s newly spruced-up trio of PS2 sequels (the original game misses out as it was only released on PC) make you work that iconic suit off for the perfect hit. Compared to last year’s excellent Absolution, 2002’s Hitman 2: Silent Assassin is less forgiving than Scrooge McDuck during a recession.

Sure, the trademark slaughtering sandboxes are in place and replete with plenty of memorable kills. Just be prepared to get immediately chucked into the deep, drowny end of the pool. We can mostly forgive our assassin’s first sequel for not articulating its mechanics clearly when the showpiece hits are so strong – just wait until you kill a ninja with sushi.

Yet it’s difficult to be so understanding about the incredibly twitchy, near telepathic AI, with one misplaced step/stabbing immediately alerting every guard in a level. While punctuated with moments of bleakly funny brilliance, the haphazard nature of the trilogy opener often scuppers your stealth, meaning Silent Assassin is easily outdone by its successors. Although I’ll admit its clean, angular style scrubs up pretty well in HD more than a decade on.

The middle layer of 47’s death sandwich (with extra murderous mayo) comes in 2004’s Contracts. Wisely ironing out the AI kinks that blighted its predecessor, you’re whisked through a series of flashbacks that let you play through the assassin’s most memorable jobs. These greatest hits take you from an S&M party in an abattoir to a refined English manor where Scotch on the poisoned rocks is the baldy new barman’s speciality. Freed of trying to spin a coherent narrative means Contracts can fling you about the globe, leaving you with 12 sharply memorable missions.

Even better is Blood Money. Despite being more than six years old, 47’s PS2 swansong remains a wonderful, wicked game of thoughtful plotting and occasional incidences of duffing up Big Bird’s courier cousin. Unlike Absolution and its somewhat polarising linear interludes, the best instalment of this threesome gives you nothing but undiluted, ingenious playgrounds of death.

A seedy section of the Big Easy in the grips of Mardi Gras sees you hunting Sesame Street pretenders through hundreds of sauced-up partygoers. A trip down the Mississippi on a paddle steamer has our suited killer offing a posse of hillbillies with everything from silenced pistols to poisoned cake. And who could forget ‘accidentally’ borking a barbecue so a mob boss’ wife gets fatally flame-grilled?

The subversive setups and über-satisfying payoffs that define the series reach a high in Blood Money. At its best, the 2006 masterpiece devolves into a kind of Mouse Trap meta-game of deadly chain reactions. Booting a metal ball down some stairs to make a tiny diver knock a cage on to a plastic rodent is totally the same as swapping an actor’s prop gun for a real one, then sending him out to unwittingly off a fellow thesp, yeah?  It all requires patience and many botched hits, of course, but cracking the coveted Silent Assassin rating proves a constant cerebral thrill. There are many games that let you send men to their makers with a well-placed headshot.

There’s precisely one game that accommodates players who want to rub out a 40-stone Glaswegian with a firearm stuffed inside some poultry. Yes, 47’s animations and shonky plotting have hardly aged gracefully. But when this killer’s aim is still so precise when pulling off thrillingly executed puzzles, I can overlook a couple of wrinkles on that barcode branded bonce.

Our Score

Score: 8