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Bad-assed Baldy and his Ballers are back

By Daniel Florido

Hitman Contracts

The paparazzi put up a fierce
fight outside 47's mansion

My wait for Hitman 3 has been an anxious, cold-sweat based experience, riddled with sleepless nights and manic fits of paranoia.

I was disturbingly influenced by the second Hitman game as it was my first real introduction to the open-ended gaming experience, plus it dealt with the 'assassin' concept with which I've always been intrigued.

To deal with this paranoid anxiety, I've been keeping myself "sharp" by putting several 'hits' on my girlfriend's dog.

You just gotta stay sharp in the off season. That's all there is to it folks. There is no way in hell that I'm going down to rusty town, not today.

So, I received the "package" recently, much to my girlfriends and her dogs delight/horror, and have been hammering out the virtual 'hits' ever since.

I love this job. I'm glad to see I've still got my trusty customised Silver ballers that allow me to really rag-doll some of these punks into the back row. And look! I've still got my well wicked Italian-styled threads happening too. It's party time!!

For the uninitiated, Hitman Contracts is the third game in the series, which puts the player in the shoes of a bald hitman, whose codename is 47. The opening level in Hitman Contracts (HC) is ballistic. It's an escape mission with plenty of full scale riot police wanting to stick their 12 gauge shot guns up your ring-ding.

To my surprise this is actually quite fun. That's right, even dying in this game is fun. Allow me to explain: when you have taken one too many hollow points to the head and torso, the screen cuts to an ultra-slow motion, Matrix style bullets dodging action sequence that is fully dramatised by the fading screen colours and lighting. Of course, the next thing that happens is you die, but hey, its a crazy business.

Hitman Contracts

The Sniper Rifle - no assassin
should leave home without one

While all the things that made the previous Hitman games so playable are back, this time Hitman hits the road with a darker, angrier, attitude.

For instance, the second level is one that really got my motor running. It's a really twisted scene - you're at a rave in a slaughter house.

The setting is reminiscent of the opening scene in the first Blade movie (1998, Wesley Snipes) where the vampires are raving away, drenched in blood.

Anyway, in this level there are several rooms that are smeared with dead carcasses, blood and meat - there are no vampires, but there are cute little Romanian whores dressed in raunchy bondage gear, dancing around the place. It's quite a steamy scene if you can ignore all the carcasses.

Things get really twisted when you discover that one of the guys you need to take out is one sick puppy indeed. He enjoys 50s music, candle lit dinners, dancing around in his underwear, draping dead girls upside down from the roof and the mutilation of human limbs.

The developers of this particular scene and character must have been big fans of the movie SE7EN (1995, Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman) as there are several elements which are "borrowed" from that movie and re-implemented into the scene, which may be unoriginal, but you probably won't care when you see it in action.

The music, for that matter, is also along the same edgy lines of SE7EN in that it is very dark and industrial, and also has actual radio songs interwoven throughout the scenes.

For general gameplay and a more enjoyable experience, your brain is required to 'nut-out' bits and pieces of this impressively versatile puzzle. Some levels you can get by with a completely psychotic run-and-gun approach, which will give you a rating of 'mass murderer' which is fine for me, I am comfortable with that.

Hitman Contracts

Inconspicuousness is the key to blending in

But at the end of the day when the corpses of villains and innocent bystanders have been randomly splattered around the room of a 5-star brothel and there is nobody left to kill, you can't help but feel as though you have wasted the level by not following one of the numerous methods for mayhem laid out by the game's creators.

Stealth your way through the levels in quiet, clean and professional perfection, and resist the temptation to recklessly destroy everything and you'll have a much more rewarding time. Its more fun, but it takes longer. Pros and cons my friends.

The weapon range has been updated with some new nice and friendly little items in HC, with a silenced uzi which is lots of fun, a sawn-off shot gun, plus you can now drown people.

There's more: A sharp Samurai sword that'll keep the kids entertained for hours, a pool cue and a mini gun for the niggly little people that try to run away or just refuse die.

I don't know why a mini gun is called a mini gun, because it is actually a really, really big gun that spits out more metal than Will Barker does useless info. Which is a lot. They should call it a 'mini weapon of mass destruction' as it kills just about everything.

The fiber-wire is still there, but it doesn't make the cool little "ping" sound when you stretch it out and you can no longer fire two different guns at the same time. Little things like that really piss me off! And they wonder why kids bring guns to school...

Another thing which is sorely missed is the weapons shed. In the 2nd Hitman game you would go out on a mission, pick up some weapons, come back to the shed and decorate it with your new boom sticks.

Hitman Contracts

Old Man 47, as he likes to be called, didn't
take kindly to the door-to-door sales team

It would make you so proud to see all the guns, crossbows and knives you had collected from passed missions hanging on the wall of your cosy little garden shed.

And now... its all gone, no more garden shed. I don't know. Maybe its just the Aussie bloke coming out in me. We love our sheds.

You start each level with the basics, i.e. ballers, fiber-wire, binoculars, syringe and so on, and the lack of a shed speeds up the game a lot, as there is no selection process before every level.

Hitman Contracts is actually a staggering 4x faster the Hitman 2 in loading time.

With a low density environment, you can destroy just about anything in this game, such as lights, windows, and bottles, due to improved "shatter object" support. Its a damn good feature, but it doesn't solve my garden shed issue, now does it?

It's a dark game, the darkest addition to the series yet - in my mind that's a good thing. A comment one of the Io team members was: "It explores the darker side of killing for money." And it's not far wrong, as the repercussions of taking out my lady friend's pooch have lead to much darkness in my life.

Game: Hitman Contracts
System
: PS2
Players
: 1
Online: No
Developer: Io Interactive
Distributor: Atari

Rating: 85%


(Ratings Key/Explanation)

Hitman Contracts is on the shelves now.


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