Before there was Sam Fisher, there was Agent 47, the cool-as-ice and fatally unfriendly hitman in the Eidos’ games of the same name. While Sam Fisher of Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell has all the cool gymnastic moves and can get all sneaky-sneaky on the bad guys, Agent 47 has firepower and a very bad attitude. In Hitman: Contracts, Agent 47 has returned, and he’s ready to unload a round or two into anyone who tells him he’s got to sneak around a mission like some scared little girl.
If you’ve never played any of the Hitman titles before, you’re going to find that Contracts is decidedly different from the standard stealth title. While you might never draw a gun in many levels of Splinter Cell or Metal Gear Solid, you can unleash as much lead as you want in Contracts. The gameplay is very open, meaning you can be the super stealthy guy who likes to sneak past guards disguised as the local butcher, or you can pop out the AUG machine gun and rip your way through waves of targets. Or if you’re really feeling up for some interesting gameplay, try it both ways, using a mix of stealth and steel to make your way through the missions. The really exceptional part of the gameplay is the fact that neither element is sacrificed in favor of the other, it’s just as fun to play the stealth card as it is to blast your way through the levels.
The level design is built around the open gameplay style, so there’s none of this “you must sneak past 10 guards, then inject the poison into Dr. HooverHead” nonsense. Nope, you just get a basic mission such as “Kill Mr. X” and it’s up to you as to how you want to complete it.
For the stealth fans, there’s plenty of ways to get the job done. Two very popular methods being slipping through the shadows unnoticed, or knocking out an NPC, stealing his clothes and sneaking past the guards in disguise. Those are just a few of the options, but they’re probably the two most enjoyable.
For run and gun fans, well, there are plenty of weapons to make your day. If it throws lead at high velocity, it’s in the game. On top of that, there’s the ever so fun stun gun, which may not generate significant splatter for those bloodthirsty gamers out there, but it’s tons of fun to use.
So what could go wrong with gameplay this open and enjoyable? Well, the very questionable AI is the key issue. Most of the time, guards will run right into a hail of gunfire. Rarely will they seek cover, and even more rarely, will they ever get in a good shot of their own. Many a time I strolled into a crowd of a half-dozen baddies, only to lay waste to them all without suffering so much as a scratch to Agent 47.
This makes things just a bit too easy. And while it might be fun to play the game again using the opposite style than you did the first time around, the fact that the levels are pretty linear hinders the replay value. Sure the guards may be set to different patterns, but they all will respond the same way to your attacks, and the objectives never change. Some unlockables really wouldn’t have hurt this game.
The production values for Hitman: Contracts aren’t as solid as they should have been, but still score well. Sometimes the visuals can be very chunky or the character motion gets squirrelly. Other times, you’ll find yourself amazed with texture details such as blood splatters on walls, the tiles of a staircase and the intricacy of the stitching on an S&M bondage mask. The voice acting is not quite top-shelf, but it’s pretty darned good to say the least. No droning voices to annoy you, and each character sounds as you’d expect them to in this cinematic world. The music and sound do a great job at pleasing the ears, with the soundtrack switching from gloomy to up-tempo depending on the situation at hand.
In the end, Hitman: Contracts is a good game. It’s no award winner, but it’s still a good bit of fun, especially for guys like me, who find Sam Fisher’s constant creeping around a little too wimpy for our tastes. Every now and then, you need to draw some blood, a lot of it, and that’s just what Hitman: Contracts gives you, buckets of blood and fun. A few questionable issues with AI and replay aside, it’s a good purchase for stealth-action fans who want to see some action in with their stealth.
- Gameplay: 8.5
- Graphics: 7.8
- Sound: 7.8
- Replay: 7
- Overall: 8
- Good solid stealthy shooting fun.
— Craig Falstaff