The self-proclaimed—by the developers—'original assassin' has been a rising icon for video gaming since the introductory, PC exclusive instalment—Codename 47—and up until the most recent entry in the series, Absolution. What's next for 47 has yet to be announced, but we've received a nice little treat from Square Enix and IO Interactive to hold us over until then.
The Hitman series, which has sold more than eight million units around the globe (as of March 2011), has garnered one of the largest, most hardcore fan base in the world of video gaming, much of whom take pride in 47's toughened and strategic methodologies of gameplay mechanics. To commemorate 47's mark in the gaming world, the developers have whipped up a charming HD bundle consisting of Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, Hitman: Contracts, and Hitman: Blood Money.
It's not an uncommon sight of previous generation series and standalone games earning themselves an HD collection—including Devil May Cry, Silent Hill, Tomb Raider, and Metal Gear Solid—but that should not suggest that the Hitman series is undeserving of it. Since Codename 47, the Hitman games have set a bar for stealth-based and action games alike and paved the way in innovation and originality, and one would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn't played at least one of the games in the series. With that being said, I personally feel that justice has not been done.
If you're familiar with the Hitman series, then you probably remember how you've manoeuvred through 47's classic adventures. If you haven't, then you're in for quite a treat as a world of possibilities await you. Your target is in seclusion within an FBI monitored suburb: will you pacify an agent, steal his uniform, and push your target down the stairs? How about sneaking in through the side door and slicing his throat with the knife you stole from the kitchen? Your target is a Scottish crime boss relaxing inside of his slaughterhouse/opium lounge: will you surprise him with an attack from the skylight above his bed, or with that gun you smuggled in thanks to a roasted chicken?
You're required to consider your options in earlier Hitman games because unlike Absolution—which offered an altered formula for gameplay—you won't find it an easy task of turning a corner and mowing down enemies with an assault rifle. The focus within Silent Assassin and Contracts is pure stealth; walking instead of running, sneaking instead of blending, ensuring a proper save point before experimenting with an idea. Trial and error is a key component and these games are awkward to experience if you go in with a guns-blazing mindset. However, the admiration for this kind of gameplay should not be mistaken for complacency. There are some aspects about the games that earned complaints and would have done well in this HD collection if they were addressed.
The disguise system featured in Silent Assassin is as pointless as that of Absolution. Sure, you're more than welcome to steal the outfit of that Russian guard you'd just murdered, but I wouldn't walk within four metres of another guard, or your disguise will be rendered useless. If that's the case, then is there really a point to having a disguise system? It helps at a distance considering that enemies can't truly see you aren't one of them at ten or fifteen metres away, but then you're forced to find an entrance other than the one they're guarding and it often times leads you to a completely different section of the area, parallel to where your destination might be. Even with disguises that hide your face, enemies will see through your illusion instantly. One second you’re covered head to toe in a ninja outfit, the next you’re being cut down by gunfire for no apparent reason. How the guards can tell one ninja from another, each with full face wrappings, is anyone’s guess. You’ll never know; you just have to deal with it. It can get frustrating, particularly on the harder difficulty settings with fewer mid-level saves. In Contracts and Blood Money, however, your disguise works as if you're one of those of whom you're dressed and it helps stitch together the cunning and lethality of an assassin. If this sort of thing isn't your cup of tea, then you're better off picking up Blood Money alone for less than half the price of the entire bundle.
The visuals within the Hitman HD Trilogy are clearly improved and much more crisp than before, but it isn't anything special. It is understandable, but while some may claim that expecting a miracle from games this old is silly, I'd advise them to have a look at the Perfect Dark HD port from Nintendo 64 to Xbox 360. Now that is certainly a bonafide miracle.
The Hitman HD Trilogy is nothing shy of a collector's item. Included in the first-run copies is an art book featuring re-imaginings of 47's classic moments by artists around the globe, including Patrick Brown, Justin Hampton and Nathan Bailey. You're also given a redeemable code for the Sniper Challenge, originally offered as an exclusive preorder incentive for Hitman: Absolution, however this version does not unlock anything for the games within the bundle or Absolution itself. If you absolutely must have Silent Assassin, Contracts, and Blood Money in a high-resolution bundle with a list of half-arsed achievements for the former two, this is for you. Otherwise, you can easily view the content within the art book on each of the artists' respective websites or outlets and find all three games within this bundle for about half of the cost combined.