"Are you a hitman or a gunman?"

Hitman: Codename 47 was the first game in what became a successful series, mixing stealth, action and puzzle elements with amazing level design, atmosphere and one of gaming's most interesting characters. Codename 47 shows the humble beginnings of our beloved bald assassin. This game succeeds on its on merits and lays a strong foundation for its sequels.

The overall story of Codename 47 is up to some interpretation, and it is usually progressed through static mission briefings and in-game letters and documents that can be read, but sometimes there are a few in-engine cutscenes. Every mission strand has it's own story. One mission set in Hong Kong will have you working to assassinate a powerful crimelord. He has massive amounts of police protection, as well as allies with other criminal groups, and you'll have to remove both before going after your main target. The mission briefings also provide a short biography of each character, and also sum up past missions.

Score: 7/10

The graphics were incredible for their time. While they still look fairly decent now, the noticeably short draw distance and pop-up is annoying. Some of the character animations seem robotic, but they do the job. Environments are impressively done, with a variety of different locales. The streets of Hong Kong are colourful and vibrant, while the dense jungles of Colombia are filled with multiple shades of green and brown. The game runs admirably, as well.

Score: 8/10

The sound department is, again, good but not great. You'll hear plenty of voice acting. Characters do not speak in their native tongue though. Chinese NPCs will speak in heavily accented English, and Germans will speak with stereotypically angry and deep voices. The Hitman himself is admirably voiced by David Bateson, with unintentionally humorous lines, such as, "I need to use the bathroom." His voice seems a bit unnatural and stilted, adding to the humor. There is also a variety of techno music, with different sets for each locale, done by Jesper Kyd.

Score: 8/10

Hitman: Codename 47 features a lot of depth in its gameplay. On the surface, it may appear to be your average third-person action shooter. However, after several minutes of playing, you'll find it to be very different. Missions always start off with a static mission briefing. Here, you'll be informed of your target and objectives, complete with biographies, photographs and video surveillance. You'll also be allowed to examine a map of the area, with possible important areas and item drop offs marked off. Lastly, you'll be able to buy items and weapons to use in the mission. These range from silent, stealthy offerings such as knives, piano wire and suppressed pistols, to loud, Rambo-esque firepower like heavy machine guns and shotguns.

Once all your initial prep. work is done, you can enter the level. Immediately, you'll notice that you can't go certain places without being shot at - you're probably entering a restricted area. In order to get through restricted areas and make it to your target undetected, you'll have to off one of the guards and take his threads. Ridiculously enough, 47, a 6-foot-tall bald Caucasian male can pass for a Chinese man. Anyway, you'll have to kill guards and steal uniforms to make progress. You'll also need to hide the corpses, unless you want the other guards to be tipped off. If they are, the handy HUD will have messages to indicate so.

In order to perform sneaky kills, 47 must be sneaky, of course. He can enter a stealth mode wherein he moves slower but makes a lot less noise. Whenever he draws weapons, the other NPCs can't hear him either, which is probably a good thing. 47 can smuggle small arms such as pistols, knives and other small objects with ease. Large, bulky objects such as rifles cannot be hidden, however. A neat feature is being able to hide a collapsible, bolt-action sniper rifle in a carrying case - nobody will know what's in it unless you pass through a metal detector, which some levels have.

You'll probably end up playing a level several times to find out the proper solution to beating it. Most levels have at least 2 or 3 different methods of completion, while a few may only have 1. If you get lost, you can reorient yourself in the large levels using the map from the briefing screen. For realism's sake, you can't see other people on it, which may disappoint some, and lead to a few pooched missions. Some levels also have random elements. In one level, you must open your target's safe and steal a valuable statue. However, you won't know which of his several safes it is in, and with each playthrough, the location changes. The amount of different routes and methods you can use in the game is staggering, and adds loads and loads of replay value. But, having to replay levels over and over to solve them without being able to save your game mid-mission will definitely piss off some players.

The mission design is mostly spot-on, with mostly intuitive solutions to each one. Almost every mission can be solved by stealthy means - only one or two force you into firefights. If you do screw things up, you can shoot your way through most levels. There's no penalty for icing armed guards, but shoot enough cops and civilians and you're in trouble. You get deducted money for each one you kill. You'll lose access to some key weapons and you will fail the mission if you kill too many. Some of the levels are pretty frustrating, meaning multiple playthroughs before finding a solution. There are a few that a pretty long, and the lack of saving can bite when nature calls, or when you have to leave for work/school. Progress, however, is automatically saved in between missions.

Score: 8/10

+ Awesome missions and level design
+ Decent graphics and sound
+ Intuitive controls
+ Interesting, if confusing, story
- Steep, steep learning curve
- Some stealth mechanics seem simplistic
- No mid-mission saves
- Punishing difficulty


Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 04/26/07

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