"Some Killer, Some Filler"
The stealth gameplay genre has been in a bit of an upswing recently, as exemplified by last year's best new IP, Dishonored. Perhaps coincidentally, one of the genre's most (ironically) recognizable figures also made a powerful mark. Last year, Agent 47 once again stepped into the spotlight, err, shadows, to off targets in meticulously grand fashion as the impressive Hitman Absolution released to some glowing reviews. Not a few months later, the stoic contractor is once again making himself ready for public consumption.
Unsurprisingly hot off Absolution's acclaimed heels, the Hitman HD Trilogy finds its way to store shelves. The two-disc set culls a couple of last-gen releases – Hitman 2: Silent Assassin and Hitman: Contracts – and groups them with 2006's Hitman: Blood Money. If you jumped onto the Hitman bandwagon with Absolution, this trilogy is a nice way to experience disparate parts of the series' past. However, if you have been a long-time instigator of Agent 47's deeds, then this collection will likely leave you wanting.
As far as presentation goes, this, like most HD re-releases, is very hit-and-miss. While, yes, the visuals of the last-generation games have been cleaned up considerably, they have certainly not been overhauled. Now in widescreen and sporting smoother, crisper graphics, it is still quite easy to tell that these are games from years long past. Certainly a limitation of the hardware at the time, these games are severely limited in scope and scale compared to today's biggest releases.
That comment extends beyond the visuals and applies fairly aptly to the gameplay. As much as one can polish up how these games look, there is little one can do to disguise their age when it comes to controls and mechanics. Navigating subsets of menus to access a game map really slows down the action and progression.
Honestly, beyond the revamped looks, some user interface adjustments and the addition of the Xbox 360 and PS3's ubiquitous and necessary Achievements and Trophies, Silent Assassin and Contracts are pretty much exactly the same games they were when they released around a decade ago.
Like most HD remakes and collections of last generation games, Hitman HD Trilogy is not without its share of flaws and oddities. Perhaps to pad out the collection and reach for that $40 price tag, Hitman: Blood Money is included as the third installment of the compilation's trilogy. A peculiar inclusion considering that it appears in its original state, neither unaltered nor upgraded in any way. It is still leagues more polished than the collection's other inhabitants, so if you have not played it already, it would certainly be the most familiar and intriguing of the bunch.
As Blood Money has already been released in HD in its original form some seven years ago, a copy of its initial run costs a meager amount. Further, I would wager half of the audience that would even be interested in a compilation that celebrates Hitman's history in a shinier, new coat of paint would have likely already purchased the original Blood Money. A more worthwhile inclusion would have been an entry of the series that has seen limited exposure, like the PC-exclusive Codename 47. Being the first entry of the series, it would have benefited from the HD treatment to help serve as a truly comprehensive collection of Hitman games past.
High definition compilations fulfill an interesting purpose. They let gamers experience or re-experience a past game with visual upgrades, but they also do well to show how far certain franchises have either progressed or regressed with their mechanics and formulae. The most positive aspect of the Hitman HD Trilogy is that it does the former with aplomb. If nothing else, this trilogy offers a fantastic glimpse of Agent 47's past and a solid understanding of the framework that led to the genre's evolution.
GameDynamo's Score for Hitman HD: Trilogy (PS3)
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