Yul Brynner would be proud.
Playing this game reminded me of Corbid Irvings, a guy I used to know in high school whose greatest ambition was to be a hitman. He watched a lot of action films and had convinced himself that a covert life full of espionage and intrigue was the way for him. There were just a few problems: this guy was big, like 300 pounds big, and 99% of it was good-ol' American fast-food induced blubber. Plus, he was loud, boisterous, not very bright and downright annoying. This guy couldn't sneek up on an empty paper bag, much less catch any trained militia man by surprise.
Luckily, the character you play in Eidos's new espionage driven third-person shooter Hitman: Codename 47 (developed by Io Interactive) is no Corbid Irvings. This guy is sly, sneaky and bald baby...plus, can he carry out a hit!
Hitman is a relatively fresh, stylish new variation on the sneaking man's shooter, and goodness, is it fun. Notice how I didn't use the moronic "thinking man's shooter" terminology. If you're playing video games to make you use your noodle, then I got a magic hair follicle you may be interested in. "I give you good deal."
Hitman is not without its share of faults, the biggest of which is the aggravating control. You can toggle between standard third-person style and…well, the other one (too difficult to explain). Both of these choices are frustrating at best.
The character animation doesn't help much. It's just too jerky. Motion capture would have been good, since this guy moves like a frozen zombie.
Another gripe I have is the demanding system requirements. I have a 700Mhz Athlon, 192 MB of RAM and a Hercules GeForce 2 Ultra card. From the point at which I clicked on my Hitman shortcut to the time I was actually able to click the "play" button took just under a minute and 30 seconds. That sucks! I couldn't believe it.
The villainy of this heinous loading was quickly ebbed when I realized that this first load time (when you initially boot-up the game) is the only instance of that 'waiting-for-your-prom-date-to-finish-her-hair' type feeling. The rest of the game loads quickly and easily.
In fact, while playing Hitman, it will become pleasantly apparent that there is very little loading at all. The areas are huge, and travelling from one room to another is completely seamless. This can be likened to the Resident Evil games on the Playstation. I'm sure everyone is familiar with the opening/closing door screen that pops up every time you go to a new area. Or how about the incessant loading between areas in the Blair Witch trilogy? None of that here. Go through a door and you actually see your character travel to the other side. Cool technology, Io!
Hitman: Codename 47 looks incredible. The textures are detailed and very vibrant, and the areas are completely and realistically furnished. The shadows and persistent light-sourcing are sheer visual delights, as are the way reflective surfaces have been handled. Snatch a guy's clothes and take a look at yourself in a bathroom mirror. You don't want the poor guy's blood to give you away to his constituents, do you?
As the enigmatic Hitman, you must use stealth and tactical problem-solving to enter, execute and exit your assignment while attracting the minimum of attention (this is much easier said than done), but to the maximum effect. After the mission briefing you are given a chance to spend some dough on some cool military firepower. A wise hitman is aware of his settings and must prepare for the hit accordingly.
Firearms range from a plethora of machine-guns, handguns, shotguns and rifles (yes, a sniper rifle is included). When the job calls for stealth, grab some piano wire for strangling those thick-necked goons. If you don't mind the blood, there is also the all-purpose shank, although it is incredibly difficult to kill a guy with one cut. One strike from this blade usually results in an enemy getting cut and you getting shot. I don't even think Huck Finn could convince anyone to agree to that trade.
Most jobs can be accomplished in a number of ways. Since there is no in-game save (which would have really helped), it's often wise to scout out an area and plan a course of attack before you commit to action. Learn the layout of the place and pay attention to the behavior of the residents. This adds greatly to the replayability. So far, I have successfully carried out the assassination of Lee Hong three different ways.
If there are witnesses to your crime, they may sound an alarm or find some other way to alert more guards, which you would then have to contend with. If someone sees you walking down a hallway carrying an implement of death (knife, gun, piano wire, etc.), this too will cause problems. Remember: "The unseen warrior is intangible, like flatulence."
The stealth factor works nicely. How well you perform during each hit directly relates to how much money you receive for that job. A clean-up crew is sent in after each contract has been successfully completed. If there were many witnesses to your underhandedness then they must be silenced, and that costs money - your money! So you want to stay silent but deadly (again, like flatulence).
Which brings me to another of this game's misgivings. Hitman is set in various parts of the East; specifically, Asia. Okay, the guy is 6-plus feet tall. He's Caucasian and bald. He wears black leather gloves and he's got a huge ISBN barcode on the back of his head. I should not be able to put on a coat and hat and fool the locals of into thinking I'm Asian. Somehow Yul Brynner was able to do it, but no one was buying that, either.
It's funny, because minus the stupid Caucasian dressed like an Asian bit, the enemy AI is amazing. Assailants will investigate peculiar sounds and fallen bodies. Seeking cover by ducking around corners and behind garbage cans is also part of their evasive repertoire. The intelligence is artificial, but unlike the senseless goobers in Delta Force: Land Warrior, at least it's present.
Hitman: Codename 47 retails for around 30 bucks - the going price for most Playstation 2 memory cards. While Hitman isn't a perfect game, it's great fun and very nice to look at and more than worth your 3000 pennies. Eidos should just stick with subterfuge-style espionage games. They're certainly on a roll with Deus Ex and now Hitman: Codename 47. I wonder what ever happened to that British chick?