Hitman, Assassin of the Millennium

A look at one of gaming's most notorious hitmen.

Picture this, it's the year 2000, George W Bush has just became president of the United States and actor Michael Caine (The Italian Job, The dark Knight Trilogy) has just received his Knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II. Slipped in between all of this was the release of IO Interactive's Hitman: Code 47, the original game in the series.

The Hitman series follows Agent 47 who is a, you guessed it, hitman. He works for the International Contract Agency (ICA) to carry out assassinations in all corners of the globe. His handler, Diana Burnwood, is a constant companion throughout the series as a voice in your ear giving you crucial pieces of information about your targets and the surrounding area. 47 is a clone designed to be the peak of human physicality who was raised to follow orders without question and to kill without feeling. One of his most defining traits (apart from his exquisite fashion sense) is the bar code that is tattooed on the back of his head which was used as a security key in the lab where he was both created and trained allowing him to access certain areas of said lab.

The first game in the series Hitman: Code 47 (HC47) was released 19th November 2000 in NA and 1st December 2000 in EU for Microsoft windows and had a focus on stealth, however there was no way to incapacitate enemies non-lethally as this mechanic wasn't added until the sequel Hitman 2: silent assassin.

Personally my first introduction to the franchise was with Hitman 2: silent assassin when I was around 11 years old, and you might think that was early but with the PS2s blocky graphics the violence was nothing compared to what we would expect from more modern games. The game was roughly 9 years old by the time I got to play it but it managed to hook me in a way few games do, I would find myself consistently returning to repeat Agent 47's contracts with each play through being completely different and I must've finished that game over 20 times by now enjoying it more each time as I became more skilled as a gamer and thought of new ideas on how to approach certain situations.

One of the core features of any Hitman game is the ability to change disguises during missions to help you blend in to a crowd and gain access to areas that most people wouldn't have. This mechanic has been present since HC47 and has become a staple of the franchise and makes the games stand out against any competitors. Changing disguises does have some drawbacks, after all if it didn't the game would be too easy, for example there are certain enemies that can see through your disguises, these are known as noticers within the games fandom, and they will alert guards to your position making the disguise completely useless for the rest of the level.

Another major part of the games is the weapons. There are some classics that return over and over again in the series like fiber wire or the silverballer pistols and some more wacky ones namely the unicorn horn (a horn from a statue) or a simple banana. The wide variety of tools at your disposal means that you can be as creative or as straight forward as you want in any given situation, be it simply sniping your target from another building or making all their guards fall unconscious using chloroform gas in a vent then killing them with an exploding rubber duck, the possibilities are endless giving each and every level a huge amount of repeatability.

Now I know what you might be thinking, stealth based games just aren't for me, well that's fine because with Hitman there's no rule saying you have to be stealthy, even if your final score is based off your ability to go unnoticed, you can still have plenty of fun with the game being as loud and out there as you can be and the games even sort of encourage you to do this by giving you access to weapons like the exploding golf ball or the revolver, like who wouldn't want to run around throwing golf balls at people and just watching them rag doll all over the place. All of this makes Hitman an enjoyable game for a huge range of gamers.

The franchise has 8 main games in total but has also inspired some spin off titles, some of which are connected to the games stories, for example the graphic novel Agent 47: Birth of a Hitman which is essentially 47's backstory. Some of the spin offs however don't associate with the narrative of the games, like the two Hitmen movies that came out in 2007 and 2015 which were very poorly received by critics with Hitman (2007) getting a 16% critic rating on rotten tomatoes and Hitman: Agent 47 doing worse with only 8% critic score on rotten tomatoes. Other spin offs include two novels and two games made for mobile.

The three most recent games in the series are set apart from the rest as before hand all the games happened in the same continuity but didn't have a coherent story between multiple games the latest additions do have that continuous story. They fall under what the developers have deemed the "world of assassination trilogy" and follow Agent 47 and Diana's attempt to stop an evil organisation called providence by assassinating key members within the group to weaken them. The story is engaging and will keep you gripped but also doesn't overpower the main themes of any Hitman game which is essentially find the best way to get your target.

If you haven't already I highly recommend trying out this franchise, if you have an older console you will be able to get some of the older games for cheap to try out and see if you want to invest the money in the newer titles, I suggest Blood Money as a good starting point for anyone new.

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