Alistair has just ordered his whiskey. I know this because I can hear the footsteps that follow the door creaking open. Hurried, consistent, regimented. The footfall of a loyal butler. I'm stood in the wine cellar, patrolling slowly. I see the butler through the bars as he pours the whiskey, the perfect amount. I don't make eye contact, as he leaves I slip back out into the hallway and make my way upstairs, reaching the rear staircase to head to the first floor before Alistair takes his first sip, convulses, collapses, dies. I know chaos has broken out on the ground floor, upstairs I'm just a guard, looking for my next target.
Hitman: Contracts. Ostensibly a series of jobs from Agent 47’s past. Each mission a large playground for you to explore. Seeking creative ways to kill, like pouring gasoline down a chimney onto a lit fire or giving a man laxatives so you can garrotte him in the toilet. Or you can use disguises and your trusty Silenced Silver Baller. Or, if you're feeling bloodthirsty, the all guns blazing approach works and, if you're health hits zero, just score some headshots for a second wind before you die. Contracts ups the ante from Hitman: Silent Assassin by making you feel like a true angel of death.
|The Angel of Death is bald.|
Contracts takes you to meat warehouses, country estates, naval bases, biker hangouts - you see a bit of everything but always the seedy underside. The levels are large and well designed, there are always multiple ways to complete objectives dependent on your play style and this, coupled with the grading system makes each level hugely replayable. It's also great to see how other people handle a mission as often times they would have done it differently to you.
The stealth is largely reliant on disguises and your ability to hide bodies though it is a shame you can't do more than simply drag a body, it would have been great to be able to put them in containers or drop them over ledges. Also the only real stealth mechanic outside of disguises is a basic crouch. There is no cover system and the movement controls are a little clunky so even walking can be hard without suddenly bursting into a sprint. This can make blending in pretty hard. Of course the other option is to go all guns blazing but you will have to rely on the poor enemy AI - wait for them to run round a corner and, whilst they slowly turn to face you - gun them down because the shooting controls are also pretty clunky. Sadly all of this spills into the graphics as well, 47’s movements are a far cry from being natural Just stand still on the spot and look around, you'll see what I mean by the impossible way he turns.
|What a lovely red tie.|
Fortunately the game’s music fares much better with an absolutely stellar soundtrack courtesy of legendary composer Jesper Kyd. The electronics and ambience suit the game wonderfully and are a real compliment to the story and world design.
Hitman: Contracts is a technically flawed game that has not aged well but it is still great fun and great value for money. If you enjoy freedom, replayability and stealth then I'd highly recommend giving this a shot. It isn't the best Hitman but it is a close second.