Hitman HD Trilogy Review (PS3)

If there’s one thing that this generation’s tradition of HD remakes and re-releases has taught me, it’s that time and reality certainly isn’t as kind as time and one’s natural memories. Hitman HD Trilogy is a perfect example of that. It’s a strange collection, as it doesn’t hark right back to the frnachise’s origins but instead picks up the three most recent games prior to last year’s all-new sequel - 2002’s Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, 2004’s Hitman: Contracts and 2006’s Hitman: Blood Money.

The original Hitman title is missing, then, but Contracts did include a number of the missions from that game in its original release and does again here. In truth, this ends up being a perfect ‘everything you need to know’ package for Hitman fans, and charts the interesting journey the series has taken, one which has led to the slightly different, slightly simpler experience offered in the most recent title in the series, Absolution.

He has a barcode on the back of his head. How is nobody suspicious?

Silent Assassin is a product of the stealth game boom of the time, and is actually rather similar in some ways to Splinter Cell, another 2002 release. This is old-school stealth, and will certainly be pleasing to those who have found themselves bored with the more simplistic affairs on offer in titles like Assassin’s Creed or Hitman Absolution. The game encourages you to learn enemy patrol routes, plot out diabolical ways to do away with them, and skulk in the shadows for minutes at a time to wait for the perfect moment to strike.

Silent Assassin is a potent reminder of why I fell in love with Hitman in the first place - while the combat controls leave a hell of a lot to be desired, anybody who plays the game the ‘right’ way by making good use of stealth and taking your time to figure out the most silent and creative way to kill your target won’t need to struggle with messy, swimmy combat controls at all. The clue is in the name - play as a truly silent assassin and Hitman 2 is a lot more fun, and arguably still as good as it ever was.

The fact that stealth is the intended gameplay method isn’t really a very good defence for how messy-feeling actual combat is. Should you end up trapped in a scenario where it’s inevitable - it ends up being better to just re-load the mission. The same is true of other core gameplay mechanics, most notably in frustrating enemy AI - sometimes incredibly stupid and at other times so aware of your true identity you have to wonder how they could ever tell.

Agent 47 enjoys a spot of hunting on his day off.

Hitman: Contracts plays much the same as Silent Assassin, but it’s here the shift that would eventually lead to Absolution begins to take place. By 2004, action-based gaming was becoming more and more important - at this point even Splinter Cell had added multiplayer - and Hitman too was catching on.

The result is a game with tighter controls and slightly better implemented combat mechanics - though in truth it’s still pretty messy and a little too similar to Silent Assassin. The key here, again, is to only play ‘true stealth’ - and if you do, this is a better game.

Contracts, made up of a mixture of original missions and Hitman 1 remakes, now feels like a fairly incremental release - especially when compared back-to-back with Silent Assassin on one disc.

Both of these two games are graphically similar, too, and the high definition upgrade only makes the fact they’re a decade old even more obvious. This is simply the same games running at a higher resolution and a consistent frame rate - not dissimilar to the PC versions that have been available for years.

2006’s Hitman: Blood Money rounds off the collection, and is by far and away the best game on the disc. It’s hard to believe now, but Blood Money was actually a current-generation release - while it was on PS2, it also launched as a PS3 title. The version here is closer to the 360 and PC releases, of course, though this game is a fantastic demonstration of how far this generation has come - for Blood Money looks pretty simplistic now.

Luckily, the Peeping Tom minigame was cut.

With that said, this game still plays brilliantly. It’s my personal favourite in the series, and features both serviceable combat controls while retaining the stealth-based gameplay that made the original entries in the series stand out. The mission with the clown and the birthday party is still by far and away my favourite in this game, but this is packed with amazing moments.

Blood Money also features far more options for getting away with each kill, including more ways to make it look like a ‘natural’ or ‘accidental’ fatality - and that’s incredibly satisfying, especially when you get away clean at the end.

While the original model, texture and animation work of these three Hitman titles hasn’t held up all that well, the actual technical work done on this HD collection is solid. There’s widescreen, a higher resolution and undoubtedly a better frame rate than the original titles - and that’s the best you can expect without stretching to be more of a remake than a straight port. Three games in one place for a budget price is pretty good, too.

Top Gaming Moment:  Exploding barbeque! Aww yeah.

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By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Feb 08, 2013
The gameplay of these is solid, but yes the visuals are far, far from acceptable by today's standards. If it is gameplay ONLY that you're after, there's nothing better around....except for "Splinter Cell" perhaps. Having widescreen support is welcome, but the asking price of anywhere between $30 and $60 is not.