It’s rare when you find games with incredibly dark subject matter. It’s even rarer when you find an entire series that is bleak and violent. Eidos and IO Interactive’s Hitman series manages to fit this bill nicely. As the title suggests, players are cast as a secretive assassin who carries out dangerous missions for a mysterious organization. But the latest title, Hitman: Contracts, could be the most sinister set of tasks that our anti-hero (indeed, any game hero) has taken on to date.
Cloaked in mystery, Contracts starts off focusing on the main character, 47, as he returns from a job. However, this is obviously one that hasn’t gone as smoothly as he’d hope, because he’s been badly wounded. In fact, his injuries seem to be mortal wounds, and just as he opens the door to his hotel room, he succumbs and falls to the floor. Yep, it’s about two or three minutes in, and our “hero” has just died. Or so it seems. In reality, he’s passed out, delusionally reliving some of his former jobs. Using a flashback format, Contracts essentially plays “This Is Your Life,” returning to the scene of some of 47’s crimes.
If you’ve ever played Hitman, you know that these games aren’t for the faint of heart. As incredible as it seems, Contracts manages to delve even deeper into the dark side, with a ton of disturbing, even shocking images and settings. We’re talking walls covered in streaks of blood, sadomasochism clubs with creepy patrons, and other items of scenery that you’ll definitely have to see to believe. To aid 47 in his task of eliminating subjects, IO has included a number of new weapons that can be creatively used to snuff targets. Pillows, for example, can be used to silently smother opponents, reducing the opportunity for passersby to hear the murder taking place. He’ll also have access to syringes, meat hooks, and other firearms, not to mention his signature Silverballer pistols.
With the odds he’ll be going up against, he’ll need every weapon he can get his hands on. The open-ended formula of Hitman has remained intact, which provides not only a significant amount of replay, but also a major challenge. Players will have the option to take out every single opponent on a level, slaughtering anyone who comes across his path. They can also take the option of sticking to the shadows, picking and choosing their targets as they wish, or combining both methods to suit their needs. Unlike other stealth games, you won’t fail a mission by getting detected by guards, although it will make accomplishing your goal significantly harder. Fortunately, 47 has a number of tricks to avoid these thugs, including swapping clothes with downed enemies and dragging bodies off into the shadows.
Jesper Kyd’s soundtracks for Contracts are both moody and evocative, which seems to fit the ominous tone that the game creates. Like I said before, Contracts is full of shadows and even darker characters ranging across the world from Hong Kong to Romania. What’s more, 47 actually talks in this title, and for someone who’s remained essentially silent throughout the series, it’s particularly noteworthy to hear Chrome Dome utter some phrases. With all of these features, Contracts should easily satisfy the darkest desires of gamers when it slips onto shelves this week. Check back soon for a full review!
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