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Hitman HD Trilogy PS3 Review

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Hitman HD Trilogy

Hitman HD Trilogy

Image © Square-Enix
Before we look forward to the launch of the PS4, perhaps we should once again appreciate a series that really drove the success of the PS2 with the release of Square-Enix's "Hitman HD Trilogy" for PS3. "Hitman 2: Silent Assassin" (2002), "Hitman: Contracts" (2004), and "Hitman: Blood Money" (2006) helped propel Agent 47 into the gaming hall of fame, to the degree that the legendary assassin even warranted a Hollywood adaptation. What attracted players to these games? How have they held up? And what can they tell us about both what gaming was like in the '00s and where it's going in the '10s?

Game Details

  • Publisher: Square-Enix
  • Developer: IO Interactive
  • ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
  • Genre: Stealth/Action
  • Release Date: January 29, 2013
  • Pros: Historically Landmark Games, Bang For Your Buck
  • Cons: Dated Mechanics/Gameplay, Lack of New Material

All three of the "Hitman" games released for the PS2 have been uprgaded with HD graphics and trophies. As with a number of HD collection releases like the recent Sony remasterings of "Ratchet & Clank," "Metal Gear Solid," and "Devil May Cry," the games themselves haven't really been altered, and that aspect of these titles holds them back more than a traditional '00s platformer. What I mean is that the mechanics of games like "Silent Assassin" and "Contracts" feel so dated now that they are actually difficult to get through, even for fans of this series. The clunky motion controls, the overly precise action cues in which you have to be in a very specific point, the horrendous camera angles -- we overlooked these things when the narrative strength and refreshing approach to gameplay turned this franchise into a phenomenon in the '00s but they stand out in today's gaming world in ways that most HD collections do not. To be blunt -- "Silent Assassin" and "Contracts" simply aren't good. Play "Blood Money" and definitely play "Hitman: Absolution," one of the best games of 2012, but use the other two releases here as history and background more than entertainment.

Gameplay

Hitman HD Trilogy

Hitman HD Trilogy

Image © Square-Enix

The gameplay in all three games is similar although it is finetuned and upgraded as it goes along. You play Agent 47, a biogenetically engineered assassin, who is given contracts to kill. The breakthrough aspect of these games was in the player pliability. You didn't just go from point A to point B. You had the freedom to choose how to accomplish your assignment and that was revolutionary in a time when we were still accustomed to linear gaming. Now, it seems like a no-brainer. And when one considers the authorship in a game like "Absolution," titles like "Silent Assassin" and "Contracts" feel downright restrictive.

Released in 2002, "Hitman 2: Silent Assassin" was the first console game in the series (and is why the first game, "Hitman: Codename 47," isn't included here...it was PC-only) and it includes so many of the hallmarks of the franchise including mission ranking based on your creativity and stealth, disguise usage, international locations, and a HUD that indicates how much the people in Agent 47's environment suspect him. "Hitman: Contracts" hit in 2004 and was more of a remaster itself given the fact that the game features four missions from "Codename 47." Easily the best game in this series pre-"Absolution," "Blood Money," which was also released for the Xbox 360, was a critical and commercial smash. It feels the least-dated of the three games in the "Trilogy" by some stretch.

Graphics & Sound

Firing up a game in the "Hitman HD Trilogy" like "Silent Assassin" only reminds one how far this franchise and gaming visuals in general have come. It's only ten years between "Silent Assassin" and "Absolution" but they look as drastically different as hand-drawn animation and 3-D CGI. It's jarring. "Silent Assassin" and "Contracts" both look downright awful with wooden character movement, stupid camera angles, and thin environments. "Blood Money" fare better but still looks surprisingly dated. Some of the voice work is remarkably annoying as well with the same audio clips repeated.

Overall

Hitman HD Trilogy

Hitman HD Trilogy

Image © Square-Enix
You must play "Hitman: Absolution," one of the best games of the last couple of years. It's great. After that, if you want to see how we got there, go back and check out "Hitman HD Trilogy" but do so as a window into the history of gaming more than anything else. IO Interactive and Square-Enix masterfully took what worked about these games and discarded what didn't when they made "Absolution." If anything, "Hitman HD Trilogy" should make you appreciate "Hitman: Absolution" even more.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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