I love Hitman games – I mean really, what’s not to love? An emergent approach to stealth and murder that encourages perceptive strategizing and repeat playthroughs. The best of these games have offered us sandbox stages to murder our way through in dark, silly and hilarious ways. The weakest have offered linear levels that still achieved an excellence the genre isn’t used to. Curiously, the Hitman HD Enhanced Collection offers a little bit of both, and it comes away as a surprisingly balanced package because of it – though not without a glaring mistake of its own.
The hitman series has always loved sending Agent 47 – the iconic, chrome-domed murder aficionado – on globetrotting adventures to track down and take out his targets. The storylines that serve to back up this simple premise have always been a bit odd, at times taking a backseat to the action and barking orders at you such as in Blood Money, or trying for a more personal narrative like in Absolution.
Neither one works better than the other – again, this mix of styles is a refreshing part of the package – but the more developer IOI wants to take control and tell a story, the less freedom you seem to have as a player. For this reason I prefer the slightly more hands-off approach Blood Money (and more recent titles) have taken. Just let me get to the murder!
There’s a beautiful balance at work in this HD package that seems very deliberate. For every misstep one game makes, the other rectifies it. Each time I got tired of the freeform mayhem of Blood Money, I could take to the far more straightforward action of Absolution. Each time I got frustrated with some punishing stealth mechanics in Absolution, I was able to return to the overly-stupid AI of Blood Money. Most people will probably play through one game at a time, and that’s just fine – they’re both fantastic games in their own right – but I can’t help but feel that IO knows their games, and their legacy, better than any critic. They know their missteps and successes better than anyone, and this package proves it.
As a HD collection, it is a curious one though. Blood Money is an old game that had already received a HD treatment in 2013 on Xbox 360 and PS3, but it remains to this day a fan favourite. Absolution was less popular in the long term – especially with the fanbase – though it was by no means a bad game – but it also debuted on the previous generation of consoles. As such, it feels like somewhat of an affront to charge £50 for a couple of games that, combined, you can pick up for under a tenner.
That price tag is ultimately Hitman’s biggest misstep. The games are just as fun today as they always were, their new fancy presentation boasts crisp resolution and stable frame rates, and all things considered they behave wonderfully for games of their age (though Blood Money feels far clunkier than I remember). But they simply don’t demand such a lofty RRP.
Truly though, if you absolutely must play either of these titles at 4K resolutions and at a solid 60FPS on new hardware, this is the best way to do it. Absolution obviously holds up better to the passage of time, not just because it’s the newer game but because of its darker environs and smoother textures – Blood Money’s sun-drenched suburb looks starkly aged in comparison when presented in such high resolutions.
The Hitman HD Enhanced Collection feels like a trip only diehard Hitman fans with a plump wallet need to take. The games are just as fun as they’ve ever been, but there are far cheaper alternatives to indulge your nostalgia. If you simply must relive your murder-y memories, however, there’s no finer place to put your kill-skills to the test. With a well-balanced choice of games that seem to answer one another’s shortcomings with their own direction and feature set, this is a great example of the highs – and occasional lows – of a fascinating series. Playing through this collection I learned to appreciate just how much IO have learned from their own past in building the phenomenal Hitman rebirth we’ve enjoyed in the last couple of years.
I hope to see a lot more from IO Interactive in the coming years, and as the evolution of the series has proven, it will be by looking backwards that they can truly build a brighter future for the franchise. Long live Agent 47.