Hitman: Codename 47 (Windows)

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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
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5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Dave Schenet (138)
Written on  :  Sep 10, 2001

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Stealth and deception are your most useful weapons.

The Good

While there is a wide range of weapons available to you in this game, it's hardly a "shooter" - your path to success is paved with stealth, sharp observation, and careful planning. It's even more of a "sneaker" than the Thief series.

Enemies will watch you constantly, and if they study you long enough, they will remember you. If you do anything suspicious while they're watching (like, simply drawing a weapon, or killing someone) they will attack you, or run off to alert other enemies. The alert will spread like wildfire, so if you are caught, you have a short amount of time to take out the runner, before he can get to another enemy. Learning their behavior and patrol routes becomes vital; simply killing everyone will more than likely result in you failing your mission due to excessive "clean-up" costs. Besides, you'll almost always lose in a straight-out gunfight. Not only can you not dodge effectively, but you can't even jump. When drawing a gun is required, you must choose your targets wisely.

There is a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when you complete a mission in the cleanest possible manner (such as - not only sparing any innocent bystanders, but never being detected at all). It's possible to take out your target, and casually stroll away, past confused and alarmed enemies.

Another option for deception is stealing the uniform of a slain guard. The type of uniform you're wearing determines the areas you can enter in certain missions. Some of the uniforms available in the Hong Kong missions are amusing - "I am a Red Dragon Triad elite guard. Ignore, for the moment, that I'm a six-foot Westerner with a barcode tatooed on my head. Oh, and these aren't bullet-holes in my uniform, they're... um... cigarette burns."

But with that bit of humor aside, the ability to change your clothing is not only very useful, but also required. Not only do uniforms determine what areas you can enter in some missions, but they also determine what weapons you can wield openly (some weapons, like the AK-47 assault rifle, are too large to conceal). Studying your enemies' weapons is worthwhile - if a bunch of guards are wielding AK-47s, you can too. But you wouldn't want to run around in their uniform with, say, an Uzi equipped. That will certainly look suspicious.

The physics engine is also very well-implemented. Bodies are affected by gravity, so if you kill someone and decide to dispose of the body in a storm drain, you just need to dangle it over the edge, and it will slump into the hole. Dragging a body through a doorway, or around a corner, can sometimes be tricky - their feet may get stuck on a corner, and they slip out of your hands, costing you precious seconds. Hanging banners, and even Hitman's necktie are affected by wind, and your own movements.

If you're big on surges of adrenaline, there are more "close calls" in this game than I can count. Killing a guard, and dragging his body away to conceal it, and quickly putting on his uniform and holstering your weapon just before another guard wanders into sight is only one of many heart-pounding situations to be had in this game.

The Bad

The graphics seemed somewhat dated and blocky, even though the animation was very smooth.

The interface is very non-intuative, and you may end up redefining a number of keys. To start with, "R" is not Reload, as one may initially guess - it holsters your weapon. "1" is actually reload. The right-mouse button or spacebar brings up the "use" menu, and to select different options, the "G" and "T" keys are used to scroll up and down in menus (the manual says that you should use your mouse-wheel to select different options, but I don't have that type of mouse. It took random experimentation to figure out how to select different options). The manual is, unfortunately, very vague and unhelpful all-around.

Also, there is a high frustration factor. Whenever you fail a mission, you must start over from the very beginning; there is no save feature. While I suppose this could be chalked up to "realism", the game quickly starts losing its fun-factor when you're replaying the same mission from scratch for the Nth time - especially when you were just about to complete it the previous time (some of them are fairly long and involved).

I also wish it were possible to set additional challenges for myself. For example, when you purchase weapons and ammo at the start of each mission, you can decline to purchase any excess weaponry if you desire, and enter the mission with minimal equipment. On the missions where a gun was actually required, I would have liked the ability to purchase only one round per target, eliminating any margin for error. But, ammo is sold in entire clips only. One can't have everything, I suppose.

The Bottom Line

I would recommend this game to the "Thief-powergamer". You know, the type of person who plays Thief on the highest difficulty setting. Hitman is essentially the same experience, but I feel that it's more rewarding. A casual gamer (such as myself), on the other hand, may become a little frustrated at the need to restart lengthy missions from the beginning, whenever you fail.