You know how high-definition packagings are supposed to work by now, right? You've got classics that have been masterfully reconditioned for the modern era with graphics that pop just the right way on your HDTV; gameplay that's fully realized with a modern-day controller; and extra features, such as online multiplayer or unlockable movies that make the purchase worthwhile. We've seen it a few times now, mostly from Sony's end with its HD Collections, but now it's Square's turn, as they celebrate the legacy of IO Interactive's Hitman trilogy with its own HD opus. Unlike other packages, however, it doesn't entirely hold up, even though there's still plenty of blood to spill.
Hitman HD Trilogy covers three of his finest games from the PlayStation 2 era — Silent Assassin, Contracts and Blood Money. The original game, like the Metal Gear Solid collection, is conspicuously missing, but considering it was a PC-only release, it probably would've taken a lot more effort to convert. Regardless, thanks to Contracts, you get the gist of Agent 47's gory history anyway, and it doesn't get in the way of the action.
Now, if you're familiar with the way Hitman Absolution works — offering the opportunity to either go stealthy or kill everyone in a third-person action sense — forget that. The older Hitman games are a lot more strict when it comes to your executions. Bodies can't be conveniently hid; disguises are hit or miss; and the controls take some getting used to, especially as far as Contracts and Silent Assassin are concerned. You have to do everything pretty much perfect when it comes to setting up the deaths of your intended targets, or you're going to get nowhere fast. That's bound to be a bummer for those who have gotten used to Absolution's gifts, but the fans who grew up with the series won't mind at all.
The first two games don't offer anything overwhelming, but rediscovering Blood Money is a treat. It's here that the gameplay really clicks and offers some disgustingly good rewards for your dirty deeds — like when the shark comes into play. The controls are excellent here and really show you what IO Interactive intended to do with the series in the first place. That said, if you have an Xbox 360, you might skip out on buying the entire trilogy and just going after Blood Money instead, since it was released on that platform and hasn't aged too badly. And it's cheaper, too. PS3 owners don't have that option, unless they have an older model with PS2 backwards compatibility.
While the gameplay is up and down, the graphics aren't bad. True, we don't have a sparkling makeover like Ico/Shadow of the Colossus or the God of War compilations got, but they're good considering the source material, and watching the kills in action never gets old. The animations could've used more work, and the disguises, again, needed a better effect, but overall, this isn't too shabby for HD work. Still, in some ways, the Tomb Raider Trilogy was a hint better.
The sound is good too, though not changed much. The effects in the room really give you an idea of what's happening during an assassination attempt, and the music cues are deep and riveting. And the voicework still remains top notch, for what it is.
There's lengthy gameplay in each chapter, provided you can get used to how Silent Assassin and Contracts work, and for good measure, you also have access to the Sniper Challenge originally offered with Absolution as a downloadable bonus. Not bad for a $40 packaging.
Hitman HD Trilogy probably won't be considered one of the best modern compilations for your game system, especially with only one game — Blood Money — truly deserving of your time. But if you're a fan, or if Absolution left you curious just where Agent 47's roots lie, this is worth checking out.