PREVIEWSPillars of Eternity Preview
For Obsidian's crowdfunded love letter to Infinity Engine games like Icewind Dale and Baldur's Gate, I was impressed by its willingness to pull back the curtain and let me see the machinery behind it.
We've all been there. Everyone remembers that mission. You and your partner are climbing up the mountains in the snow, striving to pull some slick clandestine operation about getting some intel on a bad guy, or something similar (because let's face...
Hitman: Contracts is.. I think the third instalment in the Hitman series, the next after Hitman: Silent Assassin, developed by Eidos. You once again play as the legendary hitman, Codename Agent 47. The story is quite odd, as it seems that 47 has been shot and has returned to his hideout, and as he is attempting to recover he is having multiple flashbacks regarding previous missions/hits. I've never played the original Hitman: Codename 47, but I heard that these flashbacks (the levels/missions you play in Hitman: Contracts) are really just recreated levels from the first game. If this is the case, then the experience may be dull to some veteran players of the Hitman series.
The Hitman series has always been of the stealth genre, however not 'sneak and be hidden' such as Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell, but more of infiltration and blending in with the enemy, by wearing the clothing of fallen enemies as a disguise, or people/civillians for that matter. Each mission sees 47 completing certain objectives while also most likely taking out at least one target. Completing these objectives can be quite difficult, because as 47 you must get close to your targets and objections while in your chosen disguises, you must avoid suspiscion from other enemies and NPCs, and you got to get the job done as quickly as possible, with little of a mess.
Clean hits can be quite difficult, usually in each mission there are ways to assassinate your hits by means of silence, to make it look as if it was an accident. This can be done in various ways depending on the mission, such as poisoning a man's ordered whiskey with rat poison, forcing a man to go to the bathroom and be away from his guards, with a little help from your friend Mr Laxative, or simply blowing them up from afar with a bomb.
The game does have replay value, as at the end of each mission you are graded with a ranking, which can be from mass murderer (if you choose your guns, over stealth) to silent assassin (pure stealth). By completing missions with the silent assassin ranking, you can unlock new weapons and items to be used in that level, which is pretty good if you wanna play again. Unfortunately though, the game can be quite easy if you do decide to run around guns blazing, but for those kind of players, it can be very difficult regardless.
The voice acting is top notch, especially 47, who sounds very dark and cool about what he does at all times (except of course, when you're getting shot). The game was made back in 2004, and it now being 2006, the graphics are still quite nice. The environments and character models all look relatively good, however the animation looks quite dodgy, when 47 runs it's as if his joints are frozen, or something. Climbing up ladders also looks quite amusing. The enemy A.I can, at times be completly and utterly appauling. I remember while I was playing, I was hiding behind this wall, and this cop somehow magically saw me (he was.. behind the wall) and started shooting at me, funnily enough, his bullets were hitting this almighty mystical wall. I'm also not fond of the fact that some enemies become -very- easily suspiscous of you. In the mission 'The seafood massacre', if you open the door to the kitchen (whie disguised as the chef) to the restuarant, the cop on the inside instantly stands up and -walks right up to you- in the damn kitchen.
While the game does suffer these faults, Hitman: Contracts is still a decent piece to check out. Although considered short with roughly ten or so hours of total gameplay, it's got plenty of replay value for the hardcore players who just want to get 'silent assassin' for every level. If you haven't played any of the previous Hitman games, this is a good place to start - or, you could spend a bit more money and get the latest Hitman: Blood Money.. I'm waiting on that one myself.