Every week, Retro Game Wednesday reviews a well-aged game available for digital download on Steam.
Title: Hitman: Codename 47
Genre: ‘Thinking Shooter’
Developer: Io Interactive
Release Date: Nov 23, 2000
Price (at time of review): $9.99 ($24.99 with the second and fourth games)
Your job probably sucks. You wish you didn’t have to go to an office or work retail just to make ends meet. Why, why, why can’t it be possible to make easy money doing something cool? Like, you could write video game articles for a website… but not everyone is qualified or devilishly handsome enough to do that job. What about being a contract killer? They make lots of money and all they have to do is shoot people a bit. That doesn’t sound very hard at all.
You can even try it out!
You’ve been engineered and trained to be the ultimate killing machine, which is good, because the game isn’t called ‘Brain Surgeon: Codename 47’. You take jobs, and you murder people with guns, knives and piano wire, all of which are things a brain surgeon does not usually do.
- Well written story slowly comes together over the course of several chapters of seemingly unrelated assignments.
- Level design forces lateral thinking and infiltration tactics – there’s more than one way to kill most of your targets.
- Of course, if you’re really dedicated, you can just Terminator your way through most missions – but even this requires a degree of planning to ensure your target doesn’t escape.
- Also if you kill too many civilians or unrelated people, the Agency will get cross with you and dock your pay like jerks.
- The areas you play in are very distinct – Hong Kong looks different from South America looks different from Europe.
- Graphics and sound are adequate – cutscenes are fully voice acted, but in-game NPCs will frequently re-use voice clips. The graphics are typical of the 1999-2000 time period.
- There’s really not much warning when you’re going into ‘restricted areas’ and everyone will shoot you directly in the face if you do and you’re not in the right disguise.
- Money can be tight in the early missions – you won’t be able to afford all the toys unless you’ve done very well for yourself.
- There are occasional missions that, with most routes, involve rather more shooting than the rest. If you have been playing the stealthy and subtle way, you’re probably going to get ruined because you won’t be prepared.
- Luckily, on lower difficulties each level provides you with a couple of ‘continues’ that allow you to respawn at the beginning of the level (but with your progress/guards killed intact).
- Don’t use them unless you have to – it breaks the illusion of setting up the perfect
The later games were more refined, but this is the one that started it all, and in my book it’s second only to Blood Money in the series. Incidentally, for $24.99 you can get this game, Hitman 2, and Hitman: Blood Money. I haven’t yet played 2, but Blood Money is everything this game does right done modern. I’d say it’s well worth the money. Even if you’re only buying this one, it’s worth ten bucks in my opinion, just because it’s so different from anything else out there. 7/10
There are shooters that are about killing everything in sight, plain and simple. Then there are shooters that really aren’t designed with the expectation that you’ll ever fire a shot on most of their missions. Hitman: Codename 47 is one of those.
Fortunately it never manages to be boring, although it easily could. It calls itself a ‘thinking shooter’ and without the level design to back it up, it could easily be the kind of game that falls flat. But even the first mission – a simple rooftop sniping – requires thought. There are three buildings you could use as your vantage point, but only one offers the perfect view of your target in the limited time you have to act. You have to make the correct choices.
And that’s true for the rest of the game – it’s all about the correct choices. You need to find the correct disguise, hide the bodies you leave behind in the correct place so they won’t be found, and choose the correct moment and method for your assassination.
You have lots of methods at your disposal – the game allows the use of all manner of firearms, some automatic. If you’re less of a machine-gun wielding psychopath and more of a calculating contract killer, there are various silent options – silenced pistols, knives, and the classic piano wires. You’ll also get a chance to make use of car bombs and poison, if you so choose.
But for the most part, as long as you carry out your objectives, the game doesn’t care how precisely you go about it. You’re free to explore the areas you’re put in and find the best method and moment you can to strike.
And if that means waiting a few minutes to line up the perfect shot, well, you’re the world’s best assassin.
You can wait.
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