The First Three Hitman Games

As preparation for playing a couple of modern Hitman games in the near future, I’ve decided to transfer my diary sessions of the three first Hitman games which I completed about 20 years ago. This is part of a nostalgic series of the games I played many years ago, but this time it will be adaptations rather than direct transcriptions.

There will be spoilers in these diary sessions.

Hitman: Codename 47

Developer: Io-Interactive | Released: 2000 | Genre: 3PS, Stealth

I completed this game in February 2002. I hesitated before starting it as I had heard it was supposedly very hard, and it was true. The game often had long and complicated missions with no in-game saving of any kind, and it was generally merciless. One mistake and all hell could break lose.

The game was quite original at the time. I had not seen anything quite like it before. Instead of going in guns blazing or just camping with a sniper rifle, I had to research the surroundings of the levels, learn some of the hints for bypassing security and preparing the assassination, then orchestrate an ingenious way of killing the target. And preferably without being detected.

It was a great idea in theory and the game series have always had its stalwart fans. I was never one of them. I quickly disliked the way these games required me to constantly restart and research the same missions over and over, until it was possible to complete it with as little commotion as possible. I never liked having to repeatedly sit through the same sequence in a game, and this game did that in abundance.

Nevertheless, I just had to try out the game. It was the first really big game produced in Denmark, my home country, and it had music by Jesper Kyd, whom I had briefly met at an Amiga demo party. His music was often a bit too minimalistic for my taste, but it was good in this game. It fit nicely.

In the training level, I quickly discovered the oddities of this game compared to other 3PS. Hitman couldn’t jump. I could activate e.g. a door with a separate hotkey or by right-clicking it to bring up a context menu. There was a laptop with status and map, including zoom and move.

The 3D engine was especially impressive. It looked good and had features pretty much no other 3D engine did at the time. Ragdoll animation for enemies dying. Curtains and plants brushing aside as I walked by them. Shadows that faded out depending on the lighting. And it had a lot of details.

As soon as I hit the first mission in a freight elevator in Hong Kong, I immediately felt how hard it could be. It took about half a dozen restarts until I managed to pop a Chinese triad target with my sniper rifle, as he approached in a helicopter, then pop most of the guards on the roof. In the third one, I killed a chauffeur with a piano string, took his clothes, dropped him in a sewer, then killed a target with a car bomb.

Then came a surprisingly long and convoluted mission in Hong Kong, where I had to kill Lee Hong – the leader of a triad organization. I also had to swap a figurine in a safe. There were four safes in the buildings, randomly chosen at mission start. The map was significantly bigger, with lots of buildings and lots of guards. For the longest time I only ever felt like researching, testing, restarting.

There were so many good ideas and cool details in this mission, but put together it made it way longer than the lack of in-game saving justified. I swapped clothes many times. Found an American spy and released him in return for some help. Found out where I could find poison. Dressed as a waiter and poisoned the soup for the leader. Then the bodyguard tasted the soup and the leader escaped into a smaller HQ building. I failed at sniping and was gunned down by the guards.

After having failed at the mission so many times and done about 80-90% of it stealthily, I had enough. I switched on GOD mode, killed the leader up close, ran out of the level with a billion guards shooting at my ass, then escaped in a speedboat. Behold the cheating power of an impatient gamer.

Now came three missions in Columbia. It had nice tall jungle trees and the forest was big enough for a compass to be used. I had to bring an offer to a bloody altar before a jaguar would let me pass. I should have brought a pig, but I popped a soldier and brought his corpse instead. The jaguar was still pleased. Then I blew up a lab. Whenever the soldiers in the area recognized me, I killed one and swapped clothes. The clothes were exactly the same, yet they still didn’t recognize me anymore. 🙄

The missions ended with a boss fight against one cocaine-sniffing Pablo in a mansion. Shooting him was like watching the final showdown in Scarface again. The boss fight was frequently interrupted by cutscenes of him mocking my futile attempts at killing him. Those cutscenes were so annoying.

Cutscenes in the middle of a fight is a really bad design.

The next mission in Budapest was probably the one I liked the most. The hotel had three floors teeming with police and metal detectors, but it also had less deaths and was generally a more relaxed experience. I popped a terrorist in a hotel room and acquired his chemical bomb. What I needed to do to get the bomb escaped my attention, however. A walkthrough mentioned one Fritz. He was mentioned in a letter in the reception, but where was he? Some more information was really lacking here. Killing him was inventive, though. I had to meet him in a sauna, learn that he had a heart condition, then walk outside and turn up the heat. His heart couldn’t take it and he kicked the bucket.

Unfortunately, it was right back to the long and punishing missions again after that. These took place in a dark harbor area with fences, warehouses and train tracks. First I had a dancer distract the driver of a car, so he wouldn’t see me placing a tracker on his car. The target was randomly placed in one out of three warehouses. I had to change a train turnout to make a train crash right through a fence. There was a big problem with Doberman dogs that had the impressive ability of biting without barking at all. One Ivan was not supposed to see the bodies of the guards I killed, but I solved that one by having them follow me somewhere discrete before wasting them.

The mission was often ruthless, with lots of machine guns pumping at me as soon as I was discovered. I understood the need for stealth, but it was so hard to avoid confrontations. I really wished Io-Interactive had balanced this better.

The second harbor mission had less errands, but I still had to avoid a ton of guards and outposts. Just getting through a fence gate was difficult. To make sure none of the guards sounded an alarm, I had to be cunning. I made sure the two patrolling guards was standing in a straight line, so I could shoot them both almost simultaneously, then shoot the guy on the roof. This even had to be repeated for three or four more gates. If anything went wrong, one Boris would trigger a nuclear bomb. Getting Boris was not easy either. I read in a walkthrough that I had to get a car bomb – somewhere past a thousand furious Doberman dogs – then place it on the white limo he typically tried to escape in. At least the countdown on the ship made most minions run away, which gave me less fire fights to get through. And Hitman deactivated the countdown like it was nothing.

I guess he excelled at the course on effective bomb deactivations for hitmen.

I had probably never made this mission without GOD and INVISIBILITY. I used the latter to get back into action after failing, so I didn’t have to do the fence gates the hard way. I still think Lee Hong’s assassination mission was the hardest yet, but this one sure was a close contender.

The fourth and final mission had two levels in an insane asylum. No weapons were allowed, but the doctor I needed to kill was surprisingly easy to do. I used a syringe and then took his clothes. There were sub quests for finding toys and books for the patients, but they seemed to be unnecessary. I even found the American, pumped up on drugs. I used an antidote and he then showed me the cellar through an elevator shaft. I had guessed that earlier, but I couldn’t enter until the American had actually shown me the shaft.

The final level was crazy deathmatch against ten clones, all looking like Hitman himself. Each were released from a glass tube while a voice on the radio claimed they were no. 48 and better. They were indeed really fast and relentless, but as soon as I knew where the mini gun was, I could camp in a tight spot and wait for them to attack me one by one. Not the straightest AI ever. I dragged one of their corpses into a scanner to open a door. If I tried it on myself, I was poisoned to death. An elderly guy claimed to be my creator and I had to kill him fast. Hesitating meant zapping and going back to the rubber cell in the intro.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Hitman: Codename 47
2000 Io-Interactive




Hitman 2: Silent Assassin

Developer: Io-Interactive | Released: 2002 | Genre: 3PS, Stealth

The second one was completed in October 2002, so about half a year later. It had been significantly improved in many areas since the first one, most notably the inclusion of limited in-game saving, much better graphics, a real time map, and a better voice actor for the protagonist.

The in-game saving was limited to a specific amount allowed per mission, depending on the chosen difficulty setting. The easiest difficulty setting offered seven saves, which was usually fitting. At that time, I was craving save anywhere like candy. Thankfully I’ve eased up a lot on that since then.

The 3D engine now offered a bigger draw distance, more polygons, and it was possible to switch between first or third person view. It still had the great shadow system.

Even the tie flapping in the wind was there.

The weapon shop between missions was sort of replaced by a wooden shed in a monastery with weapons acquired in missions. It was also there Hitman got his next mission on a laptop. Doors could now be opened or I could peek through the keyhole. Or it could be lockpicked if necessary. Tapping space enabled a stealthy walk. And there was a threat meter – complete with fading out alertness while hiding.

Thank you for that one, Thief.

A really great upgrade was the local map feature. Powered by satellite surveillance, it was real time for the rooms, floors and areas visited by the protagonist, showing real time icons of friends and foe. These icons even had a line for showing the way the persons faced.

The music was once again by Jesper Kyd. It was atmospheric and as such fit the game quite well, but I was still not always crazy about his style. Something about it felt too simplistic to me. Yet, as the levels went by, it grew on me. There was a little bit of “Blade Runner” about it.

Hitman started in a monastery working as a gardener for Vittorio, a priest. After Vittorio was kidnapped, he tried to get help from his old agency. But they wouldn’t help until he had done some missions for them first. So that’s how the contracts came about again.

It took six sessions to complete the game. I went through the first two missions in the first session. First I fixed a boss in a guarded mansion, using the clothes from a postman I had killed with a fiber wire. I tried sedation at first but he woke up after a few seconds, which wasn’t cool. In a later mission, I learned that holding down the left mouse button prolonged the duration of the sedation.

Anyway, I found golf clubs in the bedroom of the boss and used one to kill the target.

The second mission was in a bigger town area in snowy Russia. After walking through a sewer, I had to pop a general at a meeting in a large building. However, there were four generals so I had to get help from my contact, Diana. I had to wait for Diana supplying me details. He drank, he didn’t smoke, he was bald. etc. The exclusion method pinpointed the right general and I popped him.

When leaving the job, I had to refrain from running or walking too close to enemies or the police or I would arouse suspicion. This turned out to be a common thread in almost the entire game.

Between sessions, I had a habit of visiting the old gaming forum Gone Gold that existed at the time. Here I found the following quote by Flyin’J:

Has anyone else noticed that when you shoot someone with your ballers, the corpse flies about 10 feet? What is the deal with this? It looks almost comical… I’ll shoot some guy, and his body flies super fast backwards against a wall then snaps downwards to the ground… all in like .2 seconds. What happened to the great physics in Hitman 1? It’s almost insulting how stupid deaths look now.

I noticed that too when I shot the boss’ right-hand man. He literally flew to the other side of the room.

In a newsgroup, I also found this quote about the first game, by Daywanderer:

I was very disappointed when I first played it, since all the previews and the like indicated that it’d be a real “assassin simulator”. I read about how you’d stalk your prey, lay plans, get set up and finally pull it all off. But when you start playing, you notice there’s no planning whatsoever. You’re dropped straight into the thick of things with no proper plan, no real indication as to what to do next, no nothing. In fact, during my first time through, I spent half the time just watching what happens in the mission – where people are, what they do and where they go. Then I’d lay a plan and restart.

That has always been a problem with me and this series of games.

I did two more missions in the second session. In the first one, I had to kill both a general and a mafia guy meeting in a park in snowy Russia. Again there was a big sewer system, but none of the exits were too convenient. I could place a bomb on two cars, but one of them was too well guarded. The other one had parked just above a sewer entrance, so I could approach it from below and attach the bomb that way. Then as I popped one of the two targets from a radio tower, the second guy ran scared to his limo. Boom. I ran to my speedboat with three cops shooting at me.

I would soon had to get used to enemies shooting at me while escaping in the end.

The next mission was more complicated but also went well. I even earned two extra save games for being stealthy. A cop was strangled, I took his clothes, and I got into the back of a truck to quarters. I broke a Russian computer in a server room with two silenced shots. That took care of the cameras. Later I found a general beating an American spy. After shooting the general through the witness window, it turned out the spy was the same guy from the first game.

It was actually fun sneaking through the first four missions when everything went well. At this point I felt that the sequel was indeed much more enjoyable than the first one, and that the developers had improved in all the right areas. I was hoping it would continue like this and not get saltier in the later missions.

But in the third session, the second mission of two went south and was quite frustrating.

The first one was okay, though. I had to kill a general and get his suitcase, so I dressed as a waiter and snuck into a small festivity in a big castle. It turned out another hitman was at large. He forced a diplomat into opening a safe. I reloaded and got into position so I could get to the safe first. The general liked to walk around, so I put poison in a glass of champagne and gave it to him. He ran to the toilet and died.

I had a problem with the alertness of the guards in that mission. The guards in a cellar didn’t care about me walking around with a suitcase, but outside, one of them suddenly got all wound up at a large distance. Annoying how the enemy AI fluctuated like this.

The next mission at a specific floor in Japanese mansion was much worse. It had lots of guards dressed in black as well as tougher guards in undershirts sporting tattoos. I got inside by honking the horn in a car wreck to lure a guard away. Now it was my task to kill Hayamoto and put a bug on him, so that his corpse would reveal the location of dad when brought to him. Killing him was easy – I put poison in his food.

The developers sure liked their poison options in this game.

What about planting the bug on the corpse? There were way too many guards in the room with the corpse. I tried sneaking in there but I was always discovered and shot. Finally I gave up and went full action mode. This gave me the nickname of Mass Murderer. That was unsatisfying, so I read a tip in a forum. Turned out I just had to put both the poison and the bug in the food. This solution made a world of difference and easily gave me the nickname Silent Assassin instead. I had totally overlooked that option – my bad.

In the fourth session, I did another two missions. They took place in a dark and snowy Japanese wilderness, with the snow pouring down hard. Just like the missions.

In “Hidden Valley” I basically had to get from one end to another, but a ton of guards made it tough. With some difficulty I snuck into a big underground road tunnel with center pillars. The guards were walking in zig-zag patterns down here. Got in the back of a truck for some of the way, then got out because some guards suddenly wanted to check the cargo.

The developers had really made the guards too alert in this mission. They had eyes in the back of their necks and could hear an ant fart in Copenhagen.

In finally had enough of the raised awareness nonsense and went Rambo. Luckily the guards couldn’t use the ladder I escaped up on. Strangely, I still got zero in aggression and a lot of stealth in the statistics.

It was even worse in the “At The Gates” mission as it downright failed if I was discovered. It felt impossible at first. I was constantly made and shot down, and the guards could often kill me in one shot. This was followed by watching Hitman die in slow motion. Stupid idea, developers. If anyone should die in slow motion, it’s an enemy. Not the protagonist.

Things took a turn for the better after downing a guard with my crossbow and taking his clothes. Now the guards left me alone. I probably should have thought of that earlier. I now had to turn off three generators to kill the power to gates with detectors. Inside a tower, a few ninjas wanted to play with swords, but they were Indiana Jones’ed.

I was constantly sweaty and on the edge. So much so that I didn’t even find time to enjoy the pretty level graphics. Concentrated, on my toes, studying the patrolling patterns of the guards. Unfortunately, the inevitable trial-and-error mentality from the first game still dominated the sequel. In spite of seven handy in-game save slots, I could rarely be sure if I did things the right way, creating a deadlock situation. Going back to an earlier save game to try a completely different route felt more like work.

The alertness of the guards should have been eased up a little, with slightly less guards too.

I could also do with less situations that forced me to improvise on the spot. Sometimes I was sneaking into a room obviously touching some sort of invisible trigger, because suddenly the guard started walking in a different way, or a civilian suddenly arrived. But I digress.

In the fifth session, I did a whopping five missions.

The mission “Shogun Showdown” was a good example of how impossible it was if I didn’t know exactly how to go about it. Hayamoto Senior had to be assassinated in a big castle with seven floors, teeming with guards and ninjas. I had to check all floors first just to get the basic overview. I met the prostitute from the first game, and she gave me a security card in exchange for taking her with me. I never solved that one.

Hayamoto was too well guarded in his section of the castle. A waiter did go in there at times but never brought anything. Instead of trying to find my way in, I found a bomb with a remote control and placed it on a helicopter. Triggering an alarm from the fourth floor killed me enough times for me to try out other things, to no avail. Then I went back to trying the alarm again, and this time it worked.

In “Basement Killing” I arrived in a large center, which was sort of like a bank. There lots of toilets, a fire department area, pizza delivery, sales clerks, and both guards and civilians everywhere. A central back area was guarded by detector beams. Lots of trial-and-error was required again. I sedated a pizza boy then visited a hacker in a cellar. I had to carefully walk around his dropped snacks and strangle him with my fiber wire. I then shot a monitor and tried to flee into an elevator. This was only possible by shooting some guards. I also tried dropping a smoke bomb into the washing shaft. It did indeed make the firemen come running, and I exploited it by taking a fireman suit from the headquarters.

Too bad the guards didn’t like me impersonating a fireman.

There was also one point where the sedated pizza boy woke up and told the guards about me, after which they were really alerted and started looking for me. Typical ruthless gameplay. Eventually I went with shooting the monitor and fleeing into the elevator.

Too many missions ended with me having to run out of them with bullets flying around.

It was more routine in “The Graveyard Shift” though. I had to find the office kitchen and shoot a webcam monitoring the coffee machine. This had an administrator go check it out. I then snuck into his office and grabbed his card. I put a dongle on a server, and fled from one skyscraper to another using a sky bridge. Smashing a window once again had me exit the mission with bullets flying around.

Now it was time for some “James Bond” action. In “The Jacuzzi Job” I arrived outside a skyscraper using an exterior service elevator normally used by window cleaners. Lots of scantily clad babes running around in the luxurious apartment of a playboy. But I had to make no mistake or the babes would easily gun me down. I snuck around outside the skyscraper a lot.

When I looked down at the cars at street level, it looked like an animated texture, but it was still well done. If I dropped, I only fell about 10 meters then died right in the air like that. The developers really should have faded to black instead, as I was falling.

I had to cover up the assassination by stealing some stuff, but there were secured, so I had to blow the fuses. This left the apartment pitch black and I could steal a vase and some money from a safe. After some retries, I figured the easiest way to waste the playboy was to simply run up to his jacuzzi, shoot him with a 9mm gun, then flee out of the elevator a technician had just arrived on. Other methods had me waiting several minutes for the elevator and thus it was not worth the trouble.

Now came several missions in a sandy Arabic village, starting with “Murder at the Bazaar” where a lieutenant and a corporal were the targets. The first target was easily killed with a crossbow. The corporal was not that easy. He went around in an indoor bazaar, checking the shops together with a guard. I snuck down into the bazaar and intermingled with the shopkeepers. It ended up being another one of those where I shot him in the bazaar and ran out of the mission with bullets flying around. It wasn’t easy as the corporal and his guard immediately ran in the opposite direction like cheetahs.

Several times I witnessed the same bug as in Sniper: Path of Vengeance – enemies walking through door openings without first opening the door. Like they were ghosts.

I also found a gameplay idea I really didn’t like. The first time Hitman took out his two guns, he always had to screw on the silencers. But often I didn’t do this until I was in the heat. Looking at Hitman taking his time to screw on the silencers while guards were shooting at him was not awesome. If I had been on the developer team, I would have voted this one down.

Finally the sixth session had seven missions, although a couple of them were surprisingly easy.

The mission “The Motorcade Interception” was short for me, because I got really lucky. I was supposed to crawl up on roof tops and access a specific spot that was hard to get to, then pop a minister passing by in a limo. So a lot of preparation time needed. But as an experiment, I first tried an easily accessible low roof top that had a bad visibility. Still, I aimed and the second I saw the limo passing by, I took the shot. I hit the minister square in the head! Surprised at my own crazy fluke, I practically stumbled down the roof and hid. The guard didn’t even seen me. I dropped the rifle and walked calmly to the exit.

Cough, I meant to do that. Of course I did.

In the “Tunnel Rat” mission, I had to sneak into dilapidated ruins with lots of pathways and guards. Very difficult sneaking around here. At one point I failed to strangle the target in a room because a guard always came walking in. It turned out the solution to this was simple – simply close the door. This was particularly weird since the game normally always closed all doors automatically. The mission was another one of those that I ran out of with bullets flying around.

Now came two missions that Diana claimed would be harder. They both turned out to be easy.

I found a contact in a town in “Temple City Ambush” where I got a wonderful pump gun. Of course I had to go Rambo first, trying it out. Then I reloaded, cleared my throat, and adjusted my tie. Found the American spy (of course drunk) that gave me a task of killing two contract killers and take a snapshot of each.

The next mission “Death of Hannelore” felt even easier. I went into a hospital and killed a female doctor without too much fuss. There were no guards in my way and I reached the speedboat silently.

Now came another mission in a hospital, but it wasn’t too bad either. I dressed up as a surgeon, found a scalpel, and cut a cult leader dead that was made ready for heart surgery. Unfortunately his two colleagues could see I didn’t do it properly. I still walked out cool as a cucumber, and as the guards was grabbing at their guns, the elevator doors closed right in front of them. They were not alerted on the ground floor and I escaped on the speedboat.

The penultimate mission “Return to St. Petersburg” was right back in the level from the beginning of the game. Shooting a target with my sniper rifle didn’t make him fall. That was weird. I shot him some more times. Still nothing. I ran into the building with the target, wondering where all the guards were. It then turned out that the target was a cardboard. In the other end of the floor, I found Hitman clone no. 17 and strangled him. Surviving the trap, I ran into the sewer and from there to the metro.

Now came the last mission, back in the monastery.

The bad guy had dragged Hitman’s friend Vittorio into the church as a hostage. Guards everywhere, both inside and outside, but a briefing from the agency told me I had to kill them anyway. I had no weapons and had to be stealthy to begin with. Again, it ended up with me running to the weapons shed with bullets flying around. The shed was full of the weapons I had earned throughout the game.

I shot a lot of guards with the pump gun. It was great being allowed to go Rambo as part of the mission. It still wasn’t always easy, but sometimes guards froze and could be shot without any reaction. That probably wasn’t working as intended.

The boss was surprisingly easy. Two pump gun shots and it was over. I was only happy I didn’t have to endure a long and arduous boss fight. The priest, Vittorio, gave Hitman a crucifix before dying. Hitman then left the church accepting his destiny.

To be a hitman.

I actually like stealthy games. I loved playing the first three Thief games. And I understand it’s probably harder balancing a good stealth game than a shooter. And for that reason alone, the developers certainly deserve some kudos. Just a shame they never got it entirely right.

After the last session, I found a few good reviewer quotes.

Tony Ellis from GamesRadar wrote:

Despite the multiplicity of options, you never feel that things are being made too easy for you – quite the opposite, in fact. There are always plenty of guards on patrol, you’re rarely in a position to take them out silently, and they can be annoyingly quick on the uptake. All too often the first indication you’ve been spotted is when a stream of bullets from behind pebble-dashes your guts on to the wall in front of you.

I’ve been in that situation myself hundreds of times too – a very accurate description.

He also wrote:

The stealth mode that 47 must slip into in order to get around silently doesn’t help matters. The problem? It. Makes. You. Move. At. This. Speed. We’re sure it’s a very realistic speed for silent, trained-killer type movement, but using it long enough to actually make any reasonable progress is a constant battle between your willpower and the desire to scream out loud, snatch up a biro, and stab yourself to death. Stealthily, of course.

While we’re grumbling, some of the clever solutions to the missions, such as sneaking into the back of a parked truck and getting driven through a security checkpoint, could do with being more obvious. Don’t get us wrong: we like them. They’re inventive and they add welcome variety to the proceedings, but they’re rarely easy to spot. 47 doesn’t go, “Hmm, that truck might be useful for something”, when he sees it, which, while heavy-handed, is how these things are traditionally done.

And finally, Steve Butts from IGN:

There are also some frustrating ambiguities in the mission briefings. In an early mission, you’re told that you can pick up your equipment “near the pier.” What this actually means is “complete across the street from the pier behind a dumpster.” It seems amateurish that your employers aren’t clearer about these things. In any case, this is a game that tests how resourceful you are and how quickly you can adapt to changes in the “plan.”

Having the game offer a few more tips would only have made it better.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Hitman 2: Silent Assassin
2002 Io-Interactive




Hitman: Contracts

Developer: Io-Interactive | Released: 2004 | Genre: 3PS, Stealth

About two years later, in September 2004, I completed the third game. It looked so much like the second game that it felt like an expansion pack. The gameplay, map and the interface had been changed very little since the sequel. It also only had 12 levels, half of which were reworkings from the first game.

The research and restart trial-and-error game design was as appalling as ever. Changing my clothes several times, putting poison in food, killing secluded enemies with my fiber wire, popping the secluded enemies with a silenced gun, and not getting too close to people when running past them.

I wish the game was as easy as I made it sound there.

But I knew it most definitely wouldn’t be, so right off the bat I cheated with a trainer that offered unlimited saves. It made researching the missions a lot more enjoyable, but of course it also made me more daring and experimenting. I was more reckless and tried out different suits more.

Among the few new details, the game now offered tips in the top of the screen here and there. Seems the developers picked up on the want for tips that I also complained about just above. Looking through key holes now had mouse look. The inventory opened with right mouse button showed a 3D ring.

The otherwise excellent map feature didn’t pause the game anymore, so I had to make sure I was hidden first. Briefings had also been nerfed. Now it was just an info window with a few links, a static image, and blurred retro video clips from earlier missions.

The 3D engine now had mirror effects and the drifting snow looked good. Things blurred in the distance, which had me expect the worst from later missions – but it actually worked out quite well.

The music was composed by Jesper Kyd again. You probably know by now that I’m not exactly his greatest fan. I thought he was getting too much attention in forums and reviews compared to how minimalistic his music actually was. Still, I had to admit that, once again, his electronic style fit the game quite well.

I completed the game in four sessions, starting with the first three missions. Out of these, the first “Asylum Aftermath” was reworked. I had just escaped the asylum after having killed my creator, dressed as one of the lunatics in there. I shot a SWAT soldier and used his clothes to escape in a car.

The second mission “The Meat King’s Party” reminded me of the first Blade movie with Wesley Snipes. There was a dance party with bluish light in a slaughterhouse with gutted horses and blood on the walls. I had two targets, the first of which I quickly wired at the toilet. The other, an obese guy resting in bed, was a bit harder. I was only allowed to pass the guards dressed as a kitchen assistant and no guns. I delivered a chicken and the game suggested putting something in it, but I didn’t find anything. Instead I procured a guard suit, walked up to the obese guy, lowered the curtains, and shot him with my silenced gun.

In “The Bjarkov Bomb” the area was bigger. I arrived on a freight plane in a snowy Russian base. Again I had two targets. I put laxative in a soup, and as the first target ran to the toilet, I popped him in there. I also had to plant bombs on a submarine. I found some bombs in a radioactive hall, so I had to wear a protective suit found in a warehouse. The second target was hard to get at. Getting on his ship usually made me, so instead I shot him from a distance. Luckily he often leaned over the railing of the ship.

The second session started with “Beldingford Manor” which was an English mansion with guards wearing caps. I had to kill a dad and his son. I used many of the passages behind secret library doors and even one bathroom mirror. A young girl was taking a bath there, but she was wearing light underwear. We can show the most disgusting murdering methods possible, but nakedness? We can’t have any of that! I got the son by poisoning a whiskey barrel in the cellar, since he was often ordering more whiskey from it. Dad often visited the toilet, so I just got ready there and wired him. Then I walked into the barn and freed the son of the client. I was afraid an escort task would commence, but he just ran out of the premises.

Next was “Rendezvous in Rotterdam” which was a bit more annoying. It had several buildings in the city, all housing tough bikers – and they were not easily fooled by disguises. Too close for more than a second and it was teeming with bikers wielding Magnum guns. I went through a small party with heavy metal playing, going upstairs to kill their biker president. He was easy. I also needed to get hold of photos taken of the client, but even though I found a code for a safe, it only contained money. And as a third objective, I had to waste a spy – no matter if he have been caught or had joined up with them.

I later found the spy, bound to a wall with wires for torturing him with electricity. Sometimes a biker came inside and activated the power for a few seconds. The order was to kill the spy, but he seemed so innocent and his suffering was a little too well made. I still maintained my professionalism and turned on the power. I gathered it would seem the least suspicious. The spy was screaming, shaking and smoking from the contact points on his body. I’ve never felt so bad about killing an “innocent” in a game before.

The third mission this session was the least enjoyable since I couldn’t find a sniper rifle. Also, the bandits on a ship were just as adept at seeing through my disguises as the bikers in the previous mission were. To top that off, the area was enormous. There were three warehouses, a small police station, a ship with cargo space, even a strip bar with hookers for sale in the windows. This was after all Rotterdam. The target, whom had once activated a nuclear bomb, sometimes walked on the exterior gangways on the ship. It made him ripe for sniping from afar, but even though I searched the sewer-like canals, I didn’t find any. An FAQ later revealed that I had overlooked one on the roof of a warehouse.

I had a lot of trouble entering that ship without being discovered. I tried many times and succeeded in the end thanks to unlimited saves. I do understand why the developers wanted to limit them. Having unlimited saves made me more reckless and it did hamstring the game a little. Still, I loved cheating with unlimited saves. I was there to have fun and not be frustrated.

On the ship, the target was really hard to kill. Even though he was always walking around, he constantly had a few guards walk right past him. But if I camped and waited for too long, the police sent in a SWAT team, catching everyone – including Hitman. I finally did get the target by hiding behind a door. As it swung open, I wired him before the guards noticed it.

I could feel I was even less patient regarding the trial-and-error design than I was two years ago. I also didn’t like that it was raining cats and dogs in most of the missions so far. Contrary to the drifting snow, the rain hitting the ground looked bad – like foggy sprites.

The third session, “Traditions of the Trade”, was a reworking of the excellent hotel mission in Budapest from the first game. It was more like a copy rather than an actual reworking. I could even remember some of the things I had to do. The developers did add a few more guards to compensate for the map feature that wasn’t available in the first game. It was also harder to access the swimming pool area – I had to pick the lock and then silently pass a cop. The ending was exactly the same, however.

Turn up the heat of the sauna.

I could finally shoot from afar with a sniper rifle in the “Slaying a Dragon” mission, which was also another reworking. I couldn’t remember much of what I had to do. The developers had changed a lot – more rooms, ladders, cellars, etc. The target was not only an elderly blue lotus contact arriving in a black limo – I also had to kill a whopping six blue lotus guards to avoid witnesses. I started the mission the wrong way. Shot two of the guards, picked the lock of a room and found a red lotus suit, a car bomb, and a remote control. The elderly target and two guards at a table were inaccessible as a lot guards were walking around outside their room. Trying to place the car bomb on the limo had the guards immediately spot and kill me.

After a peek in an FAQ, it started to dawn on me what I did two years ago. I waited for the limo driver to go take a leak, then killed him and got his clothes. I could now plant the car bomb on the limo without being disturbed. As the elderly guy and his two guards got in the car and drove away, I waited until it was right next to two more guards at the edge of the city. This killed two birds with one stone. I then got hold of a sniper rifle and shot the final two guards through some curtains.

The mission ended with me fleeing through pitch dark backrooms. I was actually meant to use night vision goggles here, but I didn’t bother. Using them was clunky. They had a small yellow view and also switched to first person mode. I was thinking the Danish developers probably made the most annoying night vision goggles yet, which was quite a feat. Usually these are always a cool feature in stealthy games.

The final session had three missions – unfortunately two of them made me frustrated.

The fist mission had a long laundry list of things to do, but it was actually easy and quickly done with. There were three targets. As the mission started, the first, a red lotus contact, was walking by himself at the edge of the city, and he was even close to a sewer. Too easy. The other two went inside a Chinese restaurant. I climbed a bamboo scaffolding at the neighbor building. I got really lucky. My sniper rifle bullet killed them both at the same time. Then I placed an amulet from the red lotus contact by their corpses.

Now came “The Lee Hong Assassination” which was yet another reworking from the first game. Again, the surroundings were completely different this time around. I remember the original mission being quite a nuisance, and it was pretty much the same misery here. I traversed so many places in the building at first, but in spite of the many outfits I tried out, I was always discovered in a fraction of a second. Again there was an American spy in the cellar, but getting to him required me to be aggressive.

Again I tried poisoning the soup and give it to Lee Hong, and again his right-hand man had to taste it first. This let to a world of trouble and I had to restart. Using a laxative instead just had the right-hand man rush to the toilet and then he came back later. Eventually I did succeed in getting around the building and inside from another side, then shoot Lee Jong from there. To get a jade figurine, I needed the code for a safe. I remembered something about a prostitute in the first game, and I did indeed find her in a brothel too. I helped her escape by jumping balconies. I really liked how I had to help her up each time. As the girl reached safety, she kissed Hitman just like in the first game and gave him the code.

During this penultimate mission, I got more grumpy about how convoluted it was. I got pissed when I was discovered and shot for the umpteenth time. I was really starting to get tired of this game.

Good thing there was only one more mission left.

The last mission “Hunter and Hunted” was a refreshing change at first. All the cutscenes so far had led up to this. Hitman had killed two targets at an opera, and now the chief of police had tracked him down. He was licking his wounds while big crowds of policemen were gathering outside. I really exploited the unlimited saves here. I often reloaded and tried running somewhere else instead. Soon I had reached a roof from a balcony and then back again, in time for a SWAT team to run past. I tried futile dead ends, like shooting my way out of an elevator at the bottom of the shaft. It never ended well. It got better as I found my way down into a sewer. I had to find and kill the chief, but in my own suit I was killed in seconds on the streets, so I found a lonely cop and got his clothes. Then I ended the chief with my silenced gun.

Now there were three exits, but two of them were swarming with police and SWAT teams. The third was a tempting ambulance, but I didn’t have the means to start it. I tried sneaking out so many times, but I was constantly discovered and killed. I got grumpy again. Finally I switched on GOD mode in the trainer and ran out. But now I had a bad conscience about it. I looked in the FAQ again. I had to wire an ambulance driver in the other end of town to get the key for the ambulance. When I tried this instead, it was totally smooth sailing, like there was nothing to it. No need for GOD mode at all.

The Hitman series has always been unique in the way I have to try other suits, poison food and plan ahead, than actually sneaking around. Both Thief and Splinter Cell were more genuine sneaking games, and that honestly appealed a lot more to me. There was never the same level of experimentation there. Retrying always felt more targeted and intriguing.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Hitman: Contracts
2004 Io-Interactive




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