COLUMN: Aaron’s Backstage Pass: Hitman HD Trilogy Review

Updated: 02/04/2013 11:17 AM KSTP.com By: Aaron Chalich

Last year Square Enix released the game “Hitman: Absolution” and it was one of my favorite games of 2012 for the PS3. Not too long after that it was announced that Square Enix was going to release a collector’s edition of three previous “Hitman” games remastered and in HD.

So when I received my review copy of “Hitman: HD Trilogy” for the PS3, I was very excited and I could not wait to play the classic games again. 

The three games that are included in the collection are: “Hitman 2: Silent Assassin,” Hitman: Contracts” and “Hitman: Blood Money, plus the game is packaged with a code that you can redeem for another “Hitman” game called “Hitman: Sniper Challenge.”

Trophies were also added to each game in the collection and I love trophies. I feel it gives the game more of a replay value and it is a lot of fun to go back and replay missions to try and get them by accomplishing different things you didn’t do on your first play through.

The reason that I like the “Hitman” games so much is that you can play each mission differently and you are given many options. You can play the mission where you are stealthy and go unnoticed or you can play the mission like a shooter and go in firing your guns.

The games look great and I really enjoyed playing them a lot. For my review I want to break down each game and talk about them individually.

Hitman 2:  Silent Assassin

Your character is named Agent 47 and he is a very deadly assassin. “Hitman 2” starts out with Agent 47 quitting his deadly profession and taking a job in Sicily as a gardener at a church. One of his best friends is a priest named Father Vittorio and that is who Agent 47 works for now. Father Vittorio is kidnapped and it is now up to Agent 47 to go and rescue him.

“Hitman 2: Silent Assassin” came out in 2002 for the PS2 and was also released on the Nintendo GameCube in 2003. The graphics look pretty good on the PS3 considering that the game was created for the PS2 and Nintendo GameCube.

I thought that the controls were very simple to learn. There is a tutorial at the beginning of the game that shows you how to control Agent 47 and how to use all of his weapons. It did take me a little while to get used to doing specific things in the game and to switch weapons.

When you come across something that you can interact with a menu appears in the upper left corner by your health meter. It shows you what you can do in that situation. For example if you assassinate a guard, you can take his weapon, take his clothes, or drag his body.

You move the directional pad up and down to select your option and then you press the “x” button. During the game, if you push the square button a menu will appear on the upper right of the screen and that is where you can select your weapons. You can scroll through them and then when you find the one you want to use you press the “X” button. 

At the beginning of every mission you are briefed on what your assignment is. You can watch a video clip of the person you need to assassinate if there is one available, look at photos, or view the map of the area you are going into.

You also get to choose which weapons you want to bring with you on the mission. There is a list of weapons on your left and you select them by pushing the “x” button when they are highlighted. 

You can only bring a certain amount of weapons with you so you must think about what would be the best weapons for the job. As you pick up and find different weapons in your missions, they are added to your list of weapons and you can use them in later missions.

There are many different missions that you get to play and each one has multiple objectives that you must do. You can pause the game at any time and see what the objectives are, plus you can see a map that shows you where you need to go to complete the objective. One thing that I really liked was that the objectives could change depending on what you did in the mission. 

Another thing that I liked in “Hitman 2: Silent Assassin” was that you communicated with a person named Diana through an earpiece. She is the person that briefs you on your missions and during the mission she also updates you on what you need to do and what is going on. Diana and you both worked for the same Agency, so that is why you can communicate with her.

At the end of every mission you are ranked depending on how you played level. If you made it through the level and were not noticed by any one you are given a rank. If you played the level as a shooter you are given a rank. Your goal is to play the game in stealth mode and not be seen. If you do this you are rewarded with more weapons that you can use.

In each mission there are multiple guards and people walking around. If you assassinate someone you can change into their clothes and try to fool the guards or people. You must also hide the body of the person you just assassinated in a place where it will not be discovered, because if other guards or someone finds it your cover will be blown. 

There is also another meter that is located in the upper corner by your health and this shows how well you are going through the mission without being detected. This meter is featured in all of the “Hitman” games and when guards witness you executing someone or if they find a body the meter rises.

I really liked that in each level you really had to think of the best strategy to complete it. For example, in one of the first missions there is a person delivering flowers. You can sneak up behind him, knock him out, change into his clothes, take the flowers and fool the guards to get into a mansion where your first target is located.

I really liked “Hitman 2: Silent Assassin” a lot and thought that it was still a lot of fun to play after all of these years.

Hitman: Contracts

It has also been a long time since I played “Hitman: Contracts. It was originally released in 2004 for the PS2 and XBOX. I really enjoyed it back then and it was great playing it again now.

“Hitman: Contracts” starts out with Agent 47 being critically wounded  and going back to his hotel room. There he collapses and becomes unconscious. He then has flashbacks of previous assassinations that he has done. Each mission is based on Agent 47’s flashbacks.

I really thought that the graphics were really good. They looked sharp and you can tell that they have been remastered.

I thought that the controls were also pretty good. They were pretty much the same as in “Hitman 2.” One nice thing is that before you play the game, you can select a training option on the main menu. There you can go through multiple tutorials on how to control Agent 47 and you learn how to react in certain situations. 

I thought that this was very helpful for people who have never played “Hitman” before and also for people like me who were a little rusty with the controls.

In “Hitman: Contracts” you use the “X” button a lot, because once again you use it to select what you want to do when you come to a certain object.

For example, if you come upon a door, a menu will pop up on the lower left and you can select either “open the door”, or “look through the keyhole.” Then you move the cursor down to your choice and push “x.” I also really liked this a lot, because when the menu popped up, you knew you needed to or could do something in the area you were standing in.

Just like every “Hitman” game you can play the missions however you want to. You can sneak through the level by silently taking out people and changing into their clothes or you can just run through the mission shooting everything in sight. I personally like to be unseen when I do the missions, because it makes me think about what I should do to get around certain people without being detected. 

There are ton of weapons that you can use once again for your assassinations and you find them as you are playing through the game. You can change weapons by going into a menu and selecting them. 

I really liked playing “Hitman: Contracts” again. It’s a very challenging game and it’s a lot of fun.  The graphics look great and I think it’s a very enjoyable game. 

Hitman: Blood Money

Once again it has been years since I have played “Hitman: Blood Money.” It came out back in 2006 for the PS2 and XBOX and it was a lot of fun. After all of these years, it is still a lot of fun to play.  I do have to say I think that “Blood Money” is one of the most challenging games of the series to play.

A journalist is called to a former FBI Director’s house to talk about something that has happened at the White House. When the journalist gets to the house he learns that the former FBI Director doesn’t want to talk about the White House, but about Agent 47. Every mission in the game revolves around flashbacks of some of Agent 47’s assassinations. You learn that the FBI Director is making things up and after a while you also learn that two other assassins are looking for Agent 47.

Now Agent 47 has to try and stop them.

I really liked the story a lot and thought that it flowed really well and it kept your interest. The graphics also looked great and the people that worked on re-mastering the graphics did a phenomenal job. The cut scenes looked great and they were very exciting to watch.

I did have a little trouble with learning the controls of the game. The first level is a training level that gets you ready for the main game. It tells you what you need to do, but it doesn’t tell you what buttons to push.

I had to go into the control menu and I also had to look in the instruction book that came with the game. For instance, in the first mission, you have to distract two guards by throwing a coin. I knew how to get the coin in my hand, but I didn’t know how to throw it. I kept dropping it. I eventually figured out that you had to push the “L3” button to throw. It is nice and very helpful that the instruction booklet has a layout of the controls for all three Hitman games.

Once again the action select system is back. I do like this because you know you need to do something when you come to an item, door or a certain situation. There is a menu located at the top left of the screen that shows you what button to push for different actions. Then when you need to do something an action will appear by that button so you know what button you need to push to do that action. 

For example, if you knock out a guard and want to change clothes, the words “change clothes” will appear by the “O” buttons. So you know that’s the button you need to push to do that action. I thought that this was nice and very helpful.

One new feature in “Hitman: Blood Money” is that you can now upgrade your weapons between missions. As you are getting briefed on what you need to do from Diana, you can go into a menu and buy different upgrades for your guns or equipment.

You get money after every mission and you can spend it on the upgrades. I really thought this was cool,  because you can make your weapons better and will give you an edge in the upcoming mission.
My favorite thing about “Hitman: Blood Money” is that now you can make all of your hits look like accidents. You can mess with things and cause them to explode or you can push someone off of a balcony to make it look like an accident. I really liked this a lot because I felt it added a lot to the game and made things more interesting than just shooting your target.

It seems that you have to be stealthier in “Hitman: Blood Money.” I tried going in several mission with my guns blazing, only to get killed because guard kept coming and coming.  However, when I play a mission in more of a stealth mode, I did better.
I really liked “Hitman: Blood Money” a lot.  The graphics and story were great. The new features like the upgrade system and the way you could make hits look like an accident just added to the game.

Hitman: Sniper Challenge

“Hitman: Sniper Challenge” was a pre-order bonus if you reserved “Hitman: Absolution.” I am really glad that this was included in the collection.

You play as Agent 47 and your mission is to assassinate a person by the name of Richard Strong.  You have to take him out within fifteen minutes. You are located on a building across from his penthouse equipped with a sniper rifle and you must silently take out Richard and his guards without being detected.

There is only one mission and your goal is to try and score as many points as you can by eliminating guards. If you are detected Richard will run to his helicopter and escape. If he does this the game is over and you lose. If you manage to assassinate him, all of the guards start escaping. 

Once all of the guards escape the game is also over, but it is considered a win. 

You gain points with every guard you assassinate. If you get a head shot that’s worth more points.  You can also shoot certain things in the game that will multiply your point total at the end of the mission. If you score enough points you can unlock different weapons and things that can be used in “Hitman Absolution.” I thought that this was great and it made people want to play it because you can unlock some pretty cool items to use in “Hitman: Absolution.”

There are trophies that you can get in the game by shooting certain things and these are also the multipliers. For instance there are three rubber ducks hidden in the level. If you find and shoot all three you get a trophy, plus it counts a multiplier towards your points at the end of the mission.

There are tons of things hidden in the level that you must find and I thought that was a lot of fun.  I really liked the fact that you had to hunt and search for different things.

I thought that the graphics were great and that the controls were extremely simple to learn. You basically just had a sniper rifle and you just zoom in and out with the scope and shoot. I also liked that there were a bunch of hidden secrets and that you had to try and eliminate each guard in a certain way so you wouldn’t get detected.

“Hitman: Sniper Challenge” is a pretty simple game, but I think a lot of people will have fun with it.
Overall I thought that Square Enix’s “Hitman HD Trilogy” was awesome and amazing. The “Hitman” games that are included in this remastered collection look great. The games are all fun to play and are very graphic. The game is rated “M” for the violence, nudity and strong language. I know that fans of the “Hitman” series are going to love going back and playing all of the classic games again in HD. I know that I really enjoyed this collection a lot.

*“The copy was provided by Square Enix for review purposes”

Aaron Chalich is a columnist for KSTP.com blogging about the latest entertainment news.