Hitman: Codename 47 is the game that started a whole franchise and presented one of games' most recognizable characters: Agent 47. This game has great ideas impaired by technical limitations, both from the technology of the time and the budget, but counters it by having fun gameplay and a flawless story.
It is amazing how intelligent games were back then, detailing storylines and interesting characters displayed with an easy-to-follow presentation. At the beginning of every mission you go to a briefing where you learn about your target and the details surrounding the hit you are going to perform. This is presented all in text and all you have to do is read it. One of the most interesting aspects of the game is the video of the target filmed by an ICA agent – which gives us an idea of how organized the Agency is.
After the briefing you have the mission map and the equipment list of what you want to bring with you in order to complete your mission. So read the briefing, study the map and pay attention to your surroundings – patrolling paths, NPCs you can talk to, different entry points etc. The game almost always gives you several different courses of action, but it is much more linear than its sequels. There is always one strategy that was clearly the one intended by the developers and level designers; if you are having a very hard time in a mission, or if you take much longer than 10 minutes, chances are you're on the wrong track. Missions take around 5-10 minutes to complete, provided you know what you have to do. You might be able to complete missions in a different way, but it will usually be a much, much harder way.
Hitman: Codename 47 is a stealth game and, therefore, discourages shootouts – but they do happen as part of some missions. This one is a feature I like, even if the moving and shooting mechanics are clanky, as killing a few guards shows how heavily protected your targets are. You have to do that in the Ochoa mission and the Rotterdam missions; and I dread how this feature was abondened in later games. Agent 47 was cloned through the DNA of his French Foreign Legion fathers not to be just an assassin, but to be the perfect soldier; so he knows how to handle himself in a firefight.
This game also has some great details, such as the greatest voice line ever uttered in a video game: "I need to use the BATHroom".
You have to chat with NPCs in order to gather intel, so pay attention. Some voice dialog are weird and somewhat funny, but Lei Ling's best voice is in this version. You will mostly hear “He’s packing!” and “This guys is loaded!” at first, but dialogue such as Ort-Meyer's provide needed context.
The most enduring feature of the Hitman series is the collective of creative kills and approaches, and many of those came from movies (as the game itself). The hit on the Chief of Police took the idea of planting the pistol in the bathroom from the God Father. Ochoa's character is taken from Al Pacino's Tony Montana (Scarface) but the mission looks really based in Sniper (1993) – the targets in both game and movie are called Ochoa – and the soldiers really look like a South American drug army.
Ochoa is the most wronged of the fathers in the series: Colombia has a more military feel, already opening with 47 looking like a jungle warrior king in the loading screen and then rappeling into the middle of the jungle by helicopter. Plus exotic natives, leaf physics and Ochoa's threats during the gunfight – that are hilarious. With all 5 fathers having served in Indochina, the jungle setting is a nice touch and should have been remade (albeit smaller and self-contained in one mission).
Given this game was first conceived as a Chinese mobster action game, it is no surprise the Hong Kong missions are so memorable. The presentation screen of Lee Hong, the Lei Ling character arc, saving Agent Smith, and getting the jade figurine.
While people make some constructive complaints, some of them are not – like not having a command for dropping a body, even though all you need to do is hit the right mouse button, something I got right the first time I played (back in the day).
This game is not hard if you're well informed but it's punishing; its main flaw being the faulty AI, with an awereness problem and very thick skin. The guards' AI has only two modes – idle and combat – and sometimes they simply "know" 47 is bad news. Nowhere in this game is this more evident than in Ochoa's hit, with guards attacking you for no reason, and that's why so many people hate it.
Add to that the poor knife mechanic where you can easily slit someone's throat with it, but if he moves you go into a thrust mode. One or two strikes is something you can do before being shot, but needing 4-6 stabs to kill a target is simply too much.
Another complaint about the Colombian missions is the "bad design" of the enemy camp, where you need to run all over the other side of the fence to enter the camp; but this is misplaced, as the design both serves to show you the size of the camp with its many guard patrols, showing how well-guarded the drug lord is, and also because you sneaked from behind said camp.
The main strengths of this game are the story and the atmosphere. The soundtrack made by Jesper Kyd is simply amazing and conveys a perfect immersion to the different settings – action, suspense, fear. My favorites are the Hong Kong and Colombian settings, with their exotic themes. Maps are quite big and populated. The henchmen in each mission are also expertly done and genuine: they range from Chinese Triad members to Colombian drug soldiers, biker gangsters and masked gunrunners. The NPCs are also diverse, with bartenders, hotel staff and sex workers. The presentation is near flawless with unique signature kills and different approaches to make the perfect hit, giving Agent 47 a solid entry into the assassination business.
I wrote this review on Steam, if you like it give it a thumbs up there.
A compact guide (by Anamon), the best guide out there.
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