Hitman Video Game Series Overview by AutumnBF
The Hitman game series can be divided up into two unique groupings, the main game series, and the spin-off games. There is also the movie and some books to be considered, but for our purposes here, it is the games that we want to focus upon.
The Main Game Series
Hitman: Codename 47 (23 Nov 2000) PC
Hitman 2: Silent Assassin (20 Oct 2002) PC, PS2, Xbox, GameCube, OnLive
Hitman: Contracts (20 Apr 2004) PC, PS2, Xbox
Hitman: Blood Money (30 May 2006) PC, PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360, OnLive
Hitman: Absolution (20 Nov 2012) PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Hitman: HD Trilogy (29 Jan 2013 – Hitman 2 / Contracts / Blood Money)
The Spin-Off Games
Hitman: Christmas (4 Dec 2002 – Flash)
A novelty game that presents a cartoon-like event in which Agent 47 must do battle with evil elves at Santa's Workshop, Hitman: Christmas is more of a tongue-in-cheek parody of the games than it is a member of the series or spin-offs.
Hitman: Vegas (23 Nov 2007 – Mobile)
Released as a mobile title intended as a promotional vehicle for Hitman: Blood Money, the game presents players with a stealth-focused treatment that closely follows the events in the main game, giving players a taste of what is to come.
Hitman: Sniper Challenge (1 Aug 2012 – Absolution)
A mini-game that consists of a series of challenges that are built around a single contract that is fully completed from a sniper nest on a building across the street from the one at which the target will be attending a party, Sniper Challenge was created as a stand-alone mini-game that was given away free to gamers who pre-order Hitman: Absolution from participating retailers. In the USA that meant GameStop.
The Hitman Main Game Series
The story of Agent 47 began with the events in Hitman: Codename 47 and unfolds throughout the sequels, the most recent being the fifth title in the main game series, Hitman: Absolution, representing an approach that defies the traditional three-game arc that is traditionally used as the structure for modern video games.
While each of the five titles presents as a stand-alone story – the player does not necessarily have to have played any of the previous titles in order to find their place in and enjoy the current title – having experienced any of the previous games in the series will certainly add to the entertainment quality and experience for the current title (whichever one that ends up being for you).
The Hitman series of video games is justifiably celebrated for a number of reasons, some of which are positive, and some negative. It has frequently been held up as an example of what is wrong with the world of the modern video game, particularly with respect to gratuitous and graphic violence, and the case can easily be made that the violence in the Hitman games, and in particular the detailed and very graphic violence during executions and assassinations, qualified as extreme examples of video game violence.
Having said that it should also be pointed out that the developers have taken great care to faithfully observe the canon and the character of Agent 47, who is in his own right something of a tragic story that illustrates the cruelty of man when he follows the philosophy that the ends justifies the means, just as it is fitting that the culmination of this morality play, at various points throughout the story, have illustrated how one can end up hoisted upon one's own petard without even really trying!
Despite the fact that Agent 47 is every bit the genetically-enhanced manufactured person that he is held out to be, both in the original research records of Dr. Otto Ort-Meyer and the official files that are maintained by the ICA, bearing out the notion that if he is anything, Agent 47 is actually the anti-hero, because while the vast majority of the targets that he has been assigned to kill - and who he assassinates with considerable efficiency - truly are people who deserve death, the reality is that no moral concerns play a role in his decision to fulfill the contract that has been placed on their life, and when it is required Agent 47 has no reservations about taking out what he considers to be acceptable peripheral targets if doing so facilitates gaining access to and terminating his primary target.
While the paragraph above coldly defines who and what Agent 47 is, it does not reveal the literal growth and development of both his awareness of morality and how his own personal morality has begun to form and develop throughout the stories being told by the games. In the end as Agent 47 begins to expand his personal morality and life philosophy that has become the story..
Hitman: Codename 47
The events in Codename 47 start, naturally enough, at the beginning – or specifically at the beginning of Agent 47's life and to some extent, personal nightmare. After he escapes from the secret Genetic Research Lab in the bowels of a hospital for deranged people that is run by Dr. Otto Ort-Meyer, Subject 47 becomes Agent 47, taking a position with a covert agency called The Agency, whose proper name is The International Contract Agency (ICA).
Agent 47 is not aware of the undercurrents of the subplot surrounding his assignments, as he sets out with the assistance of his Agency Handler Diana Burnwood (who in the first game is little more than a faceless, voiceless entity at the other end of a text message trail) he sets out to assassinate a very bad man named Lee Hong who, he will only learn years later, not only played a major role in his creation, but also contributed some of the genetic materials that were used to make him.
Following his clever manipulation of the Triads to get at and execute Hong, Agent 47 finds himself headed into the Jungles of South America to go after his next target, Cartel Leader Pablo Ochoa, who also happened to play a significant role in his creation and was also one of the men whose genetic material was used to create 47.
This theme is carried out repeatedly, as Agent 47 completed the contract to assassinate terrorist Franz Fuchs, and arms dealer Boris Jegorov, and while 47 is carrying out this fourth contract the details behind who ordered all four hits have been uncovered, throwing the ICA into turmoil as it is revealed that the four assassinations were all ordered by the same powerful and influential client, which is a direct violation of ICA Policy. What is worse, the client in question uses all of his influence to see to it that the ICA's star Assassin, Agent 47, carries out the fifth and final contract that was ordered, which is the assassination of Dr. Odon Kovacs, a researcher at a mental hospital in Romania.
In the process of setting up the mission and infiltrating the hospital Agent 47 begins to uncover repressed memories of his past – a past that he was until that point largely unaware of due partly to trauma and partly to a collection of drugs and mind/memory conditioning that was designed to cause him to forget the details.
While 47 confronts Dr. Kovacs and large chunks of repressed memories return, unbeknownst to either Kovacs or 47 the local authorities in the form of the regional Special Weapons and Tactics Team of the National Police have been made aware of Agent 47's presence at the facility, and tipped off that he was there to assassinate one or more of the staff, and they have established a perimeter around the facility with the intentions of going in and capturing or killing Agent 47!
While these events are unfolding, a guilty Kovacs is busy spilling the beans to Agent 47, revealing the role that Dr. Ort-Meyer played not only in his current situation but also in his origins and to some extent the events that have happened to him since his escape from the facility. But it is the long series of experiments that took place at the facility that interest 47, as does his rapidly returning memories of the same!
After completing the contract that he was dispatched to the facitlity to undertake, Agent 47 discovers the drugged and captured form of CIA Agent Carlton Smith, who is sometimes a freelancer for the ICA and who has been held in a drugged state in the mental hospital to prevent him from interfering with Ort-Meyer's plans. Grateful for the rescue by Agent 47, Smith reveals the existence of a secret tunnel that leads from the psychiatric care facility to the secret genetics research lab deep in the earth below it, and Agent 47 proceeds through that passage, bypassing the National SWAT forces, for what we can only interpret as a date with destiny!
Hitman 2: Silent Assassin
This is the game that is very likely most familiar to the widest percentage of gamers largely due to the fact that it is the first game in the Hitman series that was available on gaming consoles (as opposed to exclusively on Windows PC, which Codename 47 was restricted to). The simple facts are that while Windows PC is a popular gaming platform then and now, a far greater number and percentage of gamers do their gaming on console as opposed to PC, and as significant a number prefer it that way. As a result of this many gamers will have come to the Hitman series with Hitman 2: Silent Assassin being their first taste of the games and of Agent 47.
Following the events of Codename 47, Agent 47 has retreated to the relative safety of the former Jesuit Monastery that now functions as the regional Catholic Church at which Father Emilio Vittorio is the resident priest. The initial sanctuary used by 47 in the year prior to joining the ICA, the church is more fully represented by the presence of Father Vittorio, who is arguably one of only two friends that Agent 47 has (and the only one for which Agent 47 he has publicly acknowledged the friendship), 47 finds himself emotionally devastated and morally in a state of confusion as he attempts to work out his feelings about what he did as a career and how he will rationalize those choices for the future. His friend Father Vittorio in addition to filling the role of non-judgmental friend also plays the role of spiritual guide and role model...
Taking on the role of Gardner and general fix-it man (47 does not need money as he has plenty of that from his former jobs) Subject 47 is making progress towards resolving his personal issues when he discovers that his friend Father Vittorio has been kidnapped by party or parties unknown, forcing Subject 47 to resume the mantle of Agent 47 as he goes in search of his friend and a bit of payback...
Obtaining the help that he requires from the ICA means that 47 must resume his duties with and for The Agency, who dispatch him on contracts to Afghanistan, India, Japan, Malaysia, and Russia, with Agent 47 eventually uncovering the identities of the men who have Father Vittorio and the man who gave the order to kidnap him. Agent 47 then rescues his friend, while dealing in a bit of manifest justice along the way!
The story that unfolds begins to appear easy to get a handle on, as Agent 47 undertakes a logical and predictable series of seemingly unrelated contracts but, by the time we arrive at a point very near the end the truth about these contracts begins to emerge, as does the truth about the kidnapping of Father Vittorio and how and why that relates to us. As the story reaches its crescendo it culminates in Agent 47 finally coming to terms with the questions that have been holding him back since the events at the end of the previous game, and we find that Subject 47 has made his decision – it is time to be Agent 47 permanently!
In addition to providing a great deal of background information about 47 and the ICA that players did not previously possess, Silent Assassin introduced some very important changes to the primary game play elements that would be retained as the basic elements of the series from that point forward. These changes basically set the stage for the series and helped to establish is popularity, making game play from title to title a relatively predictable experience at least with respect to controlling Agent 47 and building upon the expectations of what his basic capabilities and weapons systems would be and be like...
These changes and additions to the game included (but were not limited to) the following:
Active Overwatch: In the previous game 47's Handler was largely present only to assign contracts to him and provide initial mission briefing, and limited support services as needed, between missions. With the new encrypted live satellite-assisted ICA Commlinks, Diana is available whenever she is needed and, when she is providing Overwatch via satellite or tapped into the security camera systems she can provide active intelligence assistance and help Agent 47 keep track of targets.
Anesthetic: A new non-lethal option for tactical use in the field, the Anesthetic allows Agent 47 to initiate a takedown that does not automatically result in death, and permits Agent 47 to dispose of the the incapacitated body through hiding it in much the same manner that he would hide a dead body (though this strategy only applies to use of crates and other containers, as dropping an incapacitated target out of a window or into water will result in death).
Binoculars: Previously an item that Agent 47 would need to pay for access to at the start of a mission, the Binoculars are now standard equipment in his kit list, and are part of the standard kit with which he begins all missions.
Digital Compass and GPS: Previously an item that Agent 47 would need to pay for access to at the start of a mission, the Digital Compass and GPS are now standard equipment in his kit list, and are part of the standard kit with which he begins all missions. This is an incredibly useful and important element of Agent 47's kit as, when it is combined with the new satellite-assisted Smart Mapping tech it permits Agent 47 to retain a tactical sense of his surroundings and the various entities, both enemy and non-enemy, that are present in it.
Dual-Wielded Silverballers: In addition to the Silverballer now being standard kit for Agent 47 (previously they had to be purchased for each mission in order to be used) the new dual-wielding system allows Agent 47 to draw and use both of his matched pair of Silverballers both strategically and tactically. Cool that!
Fiber Wire Garrote: Previously an item that Agent 47 would need to pay for access to at the start of a mission, the Fiber Wire Garrote is now standard equipment in his kit list, and are part of the standard kit with which he begins all missions. This is significant for several reasons, not the least of which is that Agent 47 is expert in the use of the Fiber Wire Garrote and, when dropped into a situation in which sneaking in traditional weapons is problematic, provides 47 with an offensive weapon that can be used both to take out targets and to assist in acquiring additional weapons as a by-product of its employment.
Intelligent Map System: The Intelligent Mapping System is combined with the standard Digital Compass and GPS kit to create an incredibly useful and important element of Agent 47's kit, permiting Agent 47 to retain a tactical sense of his surroundings and the various entities, both enemy and non-enemy, that are present in it, as well as maintain awareness of routes both ahead and for strategic retreat should that become necessary.
Lockpicks: While previously it was possible to pick a lock if the story called for that, the addition of Lockpicks in the optional kit for Agent 47 means that in the future no locked door or drawer is necessarily at the mercy of the story! The lockpicks available as part of the kit in the game include an automatic lock picking gun, and isn't that wicked?
New and Expanded Movement and View System: What is without question the most significant game play improvement is the new and expanded movement system, which in addition to the ability to crouch and take tactical cover behind objects both to hide and reduce presentation of body/body parts to fire, but also includes the ability to run backwards, to peek around corners, and to look through the lock opening in the escutcheon found on doors. Another feature to the expanded view system is First-Person viewing perspectives, which replace the free-view from the previous game and permit a more tactical perspective that better reflects Agent 47's position in the world.
Non-Lethal Tactics: In addition to kit-specific non-lethal capabilities provided by Anesthetics, Agent 47 now has the option of utilizing a variety of non-lethal takedowns including knock-out moves using weapons (such as a pistol butt), and choke holds that result in rendering the target unconscious but not dead.
Silenced Weapons as Standard Equipment: One of what is perhaps the most significant improvement among the new game play features is the inclusion of Silenced Weapons among the active TOE (Table of Equipment) from The Agency, with both the ICA offering silenced kit in drops as well as sound-suppressed weapons now being found on enemies.
Weapon Carry-Over: This new system permits Agent 47 to retain weapons that are picked up from enemies, including carrying over their use to the next mission as well as adding them to his personal armory. This was the genesis for what would become the Weapon Collection System in later titles and a very important change in the role that weapons played individually in the game!
Mission Rating System: The new Mission Rating System provides an objective assessment for both performance and meeting primary and optional objectives, assigning an easy to grasp rating assessment to his performance while also helping 47 keep track of bonus payments. In addition to the obvious benefits associated with that, the new Rating System establishes an additional bonus incentive in the games in that achieving the Silent Assassin rating in a mission will, thanks to this new Rating System, result in the unlocking and assignment of a new weapon as a result.
Statistical Analysis Capability: In addition to the new Rating Assessment Agent 47 is now offered a full Statistical Analysis of his mission performance which is displayed at the end of each mission and can provide the player with a focus upon what elements need to be improved should they choose to replay a mission - or I should say WHEN they choose to replay a mission in order to seek a better rating.
Game Play and Procedural Alterations
In addition to the features detailed above there have been significant changes made both to game play and procedures – gamers who began playing with Silent Assassin will not see these as quite as important as gamers who started with Codename 47 because they presume that these were always how the game worked, but hey, such is life!
The addition of the arsenal or weapon collection system has replaced the shop system for weapon management in the game.
Gamers who played Codename 47 will note that the automatic dual-weapons stance that was previously dominant in the game that caused the player to hold a weapon in each hand whenever they picked uyp an enemy-dropped weapon while already armed with their own weapon will note that the default system is not to change weapons instead.
The direct sequel to Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, Contracts presents as an almost entirely new game feel for veterans largely due to the considerable efforts that were taken by the development team to render the game less intimidating and thus easy to begin playing for gamers who were just coming to the series, with a considerable effort being spent to fill the player in on past events without that process feeling like an entire level of catch-up.
The bulk of the newly adopted game play system having been added via Silent Assassin is present in Contracts, but the process of casting the new die by which game play is largely accomplished meant that the developers could focus on some entirely new and previously untapped areas, and this became what most fans of the series consider to be the Creative Kill System – basically an emphasis upon allowing the player to choose their own solution to the actual assassination of the targets (within reason).
This is all rather important due to the fact that much of the game play in Contracts is a retelling of the story in Codename 47 (which you will recall we pointed out had not been available on console but on PC only). It is clear that much of the justification for the approach that was used in Contracts has everything to do with the fact that, for most gamers who are fans of the series, their association with it begins not with Codename 47, but with Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. And that makes what really amounts to the remastered retelling of the events of Codename 47 OK.
The game starts with the events immediately following the Curtains Down Mission from Blood Money, with Agent 47 having departed the Opera House after killing Delahunt and Alvaro D'Alvade – bearing in mind that when we played this mission in Blood Money for us it ended as soon as we hit the front doors of the Opera House and departed the Mission, whereas this mission in Contracts picks up where it left off in Blood Money with Agent 47 in the streets outside of the Opera House, which is a new perspective for us.
As Agent 47 makes his escape he is confronted by a police officer, who shoots him in the back. Agent 47 manages to get away and reach his hotel, where he falls into a fever-addled condition in which he replays many of his previous missions in his head as delusions. The blurry take on the events makes use of the new game play system that was not present in Codename 47 having been introduced in Silent Assassin, and also makes use of the new Creative Kill System that is introduced in this title.
The Creative Kill System basically allows the player to select from a variety of conditions the manner in which they will carry out the assassinations, with this much broader set of options meaning that Agent 47 (you) will be replaying the contracts from Codename 47 with a much different approach. So while these are mostly familiar missions for gamers who played the original title, the new game play system combined with the Creative Kill system means that even for veteran players it is an all new ballgame. For gamers just coming to the series, and for gamers who came to the series via Silent Assassin, this is again all new and intensely fun game play.
One of the very interesting elements for this sequel is the clever way that they used the flashback sequences to fill in a lot of information about the backstory in the game, providing additional details about 47 and his story that we did not receive in the original versions of the missions that are being played out.
The end results for Contracts is a story that is mapped out from previously familiar content as well as all new content, and that is held together by a desperate set of challenges and a situation that on the face of it appears to be hopeless, even to Agent 47! Fortunately for him in the midst of the worse of the hallucinations a surgeon who was dispatched by The Agency appears in his room and undertakes the necessary surgery to save his life, leaving 47 to mend having successfully completed the procedures. Unfortunately as 47 sits in the chair in his room busy healing, the French National Police Anti-Terrorism Squad sets up a perimeter outside, and having surrounded the building and thus guaranteed that 47 cannot escape, proceeds to assault the building!
In the end Agent 47 does the thing that he does the best – he escapes from a seemingly hopeless situation – and along the way he assassinates the police officer who presents a serious threat to him because the officer in question has figured out not just who – but what – Agent 47 is! Having accomplished all of this and then commandeering an ambulance and making for the airport, we catch up with Agent 47 on the plane, where he meets up with his Handler, Diana Burnwood, with the closing conversation between them setting the stage for the next game in the series, Blood Money.
Hitman: Blood Money
The closing minutes of the previous game in the series, Hitman: Contracts, makes it clear to the player that there is some shadowy organization out to dismantle and destroy The Agency, and it is with that understanding that we pick up the story of the Hitman saga!
As you might have guessed from the previous game description, part of the events in it actually take place during the events of Blood Money, as we sort of jump forward and backward in time. The reasons for that are not really important, what is important is that by playing through the combination of ancient history and new content in the previous game, players and fans of the series who started their relationship with Agent 47 in Hitman 2: Silent Assassin are now on an even footing with the game, having caught up not only with the lore and backstory, but have obtained a deeper understanding of who Agent 47 is and why he views the world the way that he does.
Before we get to the story in Blood Money, let's address the changes to the game and game play that are introduced in this newest entry in the series. And yes, there are changes, but by now and assuming you have played the previous titles in the series, you should be expecting that!
Hitman 2: Silent Assassin introduced the game play system to gamers, while Hitman: Contracts introduced the Creative Kill System. In Hitman: Blood Money we are introduced to an expanded series of game play actions that serve to make playing as Agent 47 a bit more realistic, starting with the new melee combat system, which includes hand-to-hand combat (for the first time), the ability to disarm an opponent, and the ability to take a hostage and use them as a human shield while at the same time using a pistol as a defensive weapon!
You may think that you have always been able to do that, but you have not. It really is odd that, due to the personal nature of the player's relationship with Agent 47 it often feels like we did things – and could do things – that clearly we did not and could not. But that is the nature of this sort of game, a game that often has the player juxtaposing their imagination of Agent 47 with the reality of him in the game world.
While the last game introduced the option of using the environment to trigger assassinations that could be misconstrued as accidents, the ability to set up an assassination as an accident is formally introduced into the game in Blood Money, which also adds the new feature of distraction and misdirection, introducing the coin and other thrown items as part of that new system. Finally Blood Money adds a new “Notoriety” system to the world of Agent 47 that contributes not simply to the success or failure levels at the end of a mission, but how much attention Agent 47 draws to himself in the process of playing through a mission in the game!
The new Notoriety System includes being observed acting strangely or completing actions that are automatically suspicious, with negative consequences being actively applied due to actions being observed by an NPC who is present in that environment, and also having a security camera witness the same events. A selection of the events that have a negative impact and increase Notoriety include being seen with a weapon drawn, being seen near or touching a dead body, attacking an NPC or being seen attacking an NPC, and performing suspicious actions such as picking a lock or sabotaging a fuse box – these are not all of the actions that have a negative impact on Notoriety but they are examples that should provide a good idea of what that entails.
Managing Notoriety becomes an operative element of game play, and it becomes an additional expense as well, costing the player as, at the end of each mission just before the final summary they have the option of bribing witnesses to remove some or even all of the Notoriety that was attracted during the mission, the idea being that keeping the Notoriety as low as possible at the end of each mission has become a very desirable part of the outcome.
Blood Money begins with a seemingly unrelated Contract whose basic goals not only serve as what amounts to a tutorial mission that nicely focuses the veteran player's attention on the new features, while allowing gamers who are new to the Hitman series the fluid opportunity to acclimate to the specialized weapons and custom kit that makes Agent 47 one of the more challenging – and intersting – characters in the world of the modern stealth-action video game!
The weapon collection system is not only operative here, but is emphasized to the point that the player will want to take whatever steps are required to, for example, place in the ICA storage chest (and thus retain after the mission) the special weapons that are available in the mission.
We know from the end of the previous game that some new shadowy organization is targeting the ICA and its people, and as Agent 47 works his way through the missions more and more information about this organization is uncovered, but as the clues begin to stack up and the organization in question is revealed to be that of former FBI Director, Alexander “Jack” Leland Cayne, which is called “The Franchise,” it is clear that it is much more powerful than previously thought.
As 47 works his way towards uncovering the heads of The Franchise it soon develops that he was too late; the ICA has been dismantled and its officers and operatives all killed save for Agent 47 and his handler, Diana Burnwood, and Diana announces that she is closing down The Agency, and she offers to split the money that remains in its coffers with Agent 47 if he will complete the final contract and kill the killers who are coming for them!
After 47 completes that last assignment and just when it looks as if they are in the clear, 47 is approached by an old acquaintance – Agent Smith – who spins a tale that, even if it is only half true, poses a clear danger not just to 47 and Diana, but to the nation! Smith convinces 47 to take on the contract to prevent the assassination of the President of the United Stats, and that takes 47 to the Whitehouse, where he confronts a pair of very bad and very twisted enemies – an assassin named Mark Parchezzi III, and the Vice President himself, Daniel Morris, both of whom are connected in one way or another to The Franchise through its parent organization, which has it own agenda that urgently requires the death of the President.
After 47 accomplishes this impromptu contract with stunning success, he is visited by Diana Burnwood, who begins to explain that she has a plan but then betrays 47, injecting him with a poison, and then seemingly confirming her betrayal as she reports her success in taking 47 out. It is at this point that the events in the game have come full-circle through time, and the here-and-now timeline rejoins the narrative, with Cayne and the reporter present at what is meant to be Agent 47's memorial service which is to be quickly followed by his cremation, which will destroy any recoverable clone DNA thus securing the process of Cayne and his associates at The Franchise!
As Cayne gloats, passing the reporter a copy of the edited security camera footage from the Whitehouse, Diana Burnwood places 47's Silverballers on his chest and, having applied the special lipstick, kisses him one last time – one first time? Actually that would be the first time that she has ever kissed him as far as we know... Well, anyway she kisses him, delivering the antidote to the drug that mimics death, and Agent 47 has a final go, taking out the head of The Franchise and its officers in one go! Well done 47!
The Epilogue plays out the, with Mister 47 walking off into the sunset, and later Diana Burnwood is seen on the phone, the conversation clearly suggesting that she has re-opened The Agency, but that Mister 47 is no longer part of it...
This brings us full-circle and at the front door of the next title in the Hitman series, Hitman: Absolution and prepared you to pick up the Silverballers and do what comes naturally!