Like a macabre portrait cast in shades of grey, Agent 47 uses the colors of black and red to paint a magnum opus.
Agent 47, the dual wielding, impeccably dressed anti hero from the previous Hitman games is back and has a new mission. You play as Agent 47, on the trail of a rather nasty gang of characters, who’ve kidnapped someone important to you. The story unfolds slowly over the course of the game and features some of the slimiest characters you’re bound to see in a video game.
Presentation wise, the game is about as slick as Agent 47’s bald head. You’ll move throughout each level, using the gift of stealth and the art of disguise to slip past enemies unnoticed. You score points for each objective completed, as well as optional level challenges. You are docked points for every kill that isn’t a mission objective, as well as being seen. If you don’t mind losing points, however, you can play a “run and gun” game, and take down your enemies instead, though the game does try to ensure that you stay on a more stealthy path.
The modes of the game include the traditional story mode, and a “Contracts” mode, where you can challenge the scores of other people playing, with custom made levels and objectives or simply create your own.
The interface is a tribute to minimalism, and it works pretty well. There’s a simple radar showing enemy placement in one corner of the screen and your instinct bar in the other corner. You call up a small, cross shaped inventory screen when changing weapons, but it fades into the shadows, like our hero, after a few seconds.
The in game tutorial, which takes up the first half of the first mission, does an excellent job of getting you acquainted with all of the tools you have at your disposal. It turns on the scoring system for the latter half of the mission and from there you’re on your own, though on the easier difficulty levels, there is a rather robust hint system available.
On the easier difficulties, you’ll prove a very efficient and deadly killer, slipping past enemies like a ghost, while taking them down like a trained professional. On the harder settings though, enemies will spot you easily from a distance and use cover and sweep tactics to provide quite a challenge.
There’s a robust hint system as well, on the easier difficulties, which will give you advice on certain items found in levels. You can also turn on a kind of “detective mode” by using instinct, which lights enemies up like Christmas trees and lets you see the locations of any weapons or any objects you can interact with in the world.
You’ll move through a number of exotic locales on your journey, from Chicago to Chinatown to South Dakota as well as many other places. They all look rather nice, and you’ll find yourself staring at the immaculately polished floors of hotel lobbies, rustic wooden interiors of gun shops, and moonlit cemeteries. The South and its inhabitants all have a gritty exterior, as if coated with a thin layer of grime that just won’t wash off.
Agent 47 by comparison is always dapper and ready for anything. Even in disguise, its hard not to enjoy his gruff exterior, tempered by years of this kind of work.
Aurally, the game does a good job. The music is appropriately subtle when you’re in stealth mode, and ramps up to dramatic levels when you’re in a more combat-centric role. The sounds of different weapons are noticeable, and the voice acting is predictably over the top, but that’s part of its charm.
You’ll come to find an almost eerie sympathy for the trials and tribulations of Agent 47, and the life he has to lead, by the end of the story. Nameless, his only moniker a stoic number, he wields power over life and death like a painter, who uses only the deepest shades of red, and the darkest shades of black. You may have a few lingering, thought provoking questions by the end, but for 47, there is only the next mission, the next kill, the next contract. It may be a solemn, grave existence, but wherever his next contract takes him, we hope we’re along for the ride.