Whatever you thought of last year's Hitman Absolution, you definitely thought something. Io's latest game is one of the most divisive in recent memory, not for being bad, but for being different. Absolution broke away from the series roots to deliver a different kind of murder, and this HD collection gives us a chance to remind ourselves what was lost.
In a way, the titles on offer here tell a heartwarming coming-of-age tale in which an awkward, gangly series about killing people matures into an assured, confident series about killing people, as Hitman finds itself over three games.
Silent Assassin, the earliest game in the collection, is an often clunky mixture of fantastic levels and terrible ones, at its worst during a overlong slog through a snowy wasteland patrolled by snipers yet at its best during the levels which would define the Hitman formula: the Sicilian hit Anathema, the black-humoured Basement Killing, and the sniper's fantasy Kirov Park Meeting. Be warned, however, that Silent Assassin can be infuriating, reliant on trial and error and constantly undone by omniscient (or immensely stupid) AI.
Contracts, its underrated follow-up, is a more user friendly experience, with an improved interface and more forgiving (though still unpredictable) NPC behaviours. It's all a bit moody, however, stuffed with levels that are invariably dark and stormy, but it does contain gaming's most perfect assassination mission in Traditions Of The Trade, a complex stalk through a decrepit hotel that offers multiple approaches.
- Connect your Xbox 360 using a component video cable
- Set the switch on the cable to "TV"
- Switch your Xbox 360 on
- Go to your Xbox display settings and select PAL-60
- On the component cable switch from TV to HD-TV
- Switch off your Xbox 360
- Connect your Xbox 360 using an HDMI cable (if you use one)
And then there's Blood Money, IO's finest moment. This is the game Silent Assassin and Contracts were working towards, a macabre puzzler with rich, densely packed yet open levels and AI that was finally forgiving enough to make the experience work. We barely have room to explain what makes Blood Money so interesting here, but it's a game about studying behaviours and exploiting them, as well as one that lets you turn 47 into a murderous clown.
It's a mixed assortment on the technical front too, with unfixed glitches and graphical errors that we remember falling foul of back in 2002. Blood Money is also a straight reprint of the 2006 code, which means it still suffers from an irritating refresh rate display problem on certain TVs - you'll find a workaround to the right.
If you've only played Absolution, these games will come as a surprise. They're more sandboxy, less handholdy experiences. They lack polish, perhaps, but between them they chronicle the invention of a genre, before it was left behind.
Generous package of nasty murdering fun
- Three classic assassin games in one
- More sandboxy than Absolution
- Blood Money is a classic
- Unpredictable AI
- Contracts and Silent Assassin show their age