When developer IOI split with Square Enix in mid-2017 they retained the intellectual rights to their Hitman series, effectively allowing them to re-release their back catalogue under their new publisher Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment; (relatively) hot on the heels of Hitman 2 comes this HD enhanced twin pack featuring 2006’s Blood Money and 2012’s Absolution.
Before I go any further I should point out that the keyword here is enhanced, which means the resolution and frame rate have been upscaled rather than a complete rebuild. This means that the in-game controls, HUDs, menus and submenus are exactly as they were upon each of the game’s original release. This is most noticeable in the older of the two games as the controls, in particular, feel unfamiliar when compared to the current gen releases.
First up, we have Blood Money; heralded by die-hard Hitman fans as one of the best entries in the franchise and chock full of iconic lines (“names are for friends, so I don’t need one”) and assassinations. I personally missed out on Blood Money upon its release back on the PS2 and OG Xbox, so having a chance to revisit some of 47’s most fondly remembered kills definitely piqued my interest. The game is also well-remembered for introducing new mechanics, some which remain and others that the Hitman community are screaming out to IOI to reintroduce to the franchise, such as using NPCs as human shields – handy when needing to clear a room full of enemies.
In direct comparison the newer games, Blood Money’s button mapping definitely takes some getting used to, almost to the point of feeling clumsy and unwieldy. The obligatory tutorial mission walks one through the basics – movement, distractions and kills (both melee and weapon-based) as 47 takes down a shady former amusement park owner responsible for a string of negligent deaths at his park. From there on, the plot is progressed via flashbacks as journalist Rick Henderson and former FBI director “Jack” Alexander Leland Cayne, discuss 47’s hits over the past year and a half with the game flicking between missions worldwide before leaping forward to Henderson and Cayne’s conversations.
The game certainly feels more difficult than the more modern entries, as there aren’t any (obvious) markers as to what methods one could use to incapacitate the target, leaving a lot more to trial and error. Overall I feel that although the game is good as a nostalgia trip and great for anyone wishing to delve deeper into Hitman lore, there really is no need to revisit what is essentially an exact port of a two-generation old game; albeit with a bit of spit and polish applied to the ageing graphics.
Moving onto Absolution, which was the franchise’s sole entry during the last generation, we’re in more familiar territory in terms of gameplay mechanics and controls. The game is much more cinematic than any other game in the series, with Absolution being heavily reliant on cut-scenes to progress a plot that involves Agent 47 betrays his long-term employer ICA in order to protect a valuable agency asset – a teenaged girl named Victoria. Each mission is bookended with a lengthy cut-scene which sets out the next mission.
Aside from the on-screen HUDs, which feel a lot busier compared to this generation’s releases, there is very little difference in terms of the look and feel of the game; in fact, the only mechanic that is different is the limited use of instinct mode on higher difficulty settings. I found that I was instantly more comfortable with Absolution, but this is likely due to the similarities to the newer titles and my having played it upon the game’s initial release.
Now, considering that Hitman HD Enhanced Collection released at a cost of £49.99 (which has dropped as of the time of writing this review) one may feel that this is a bitter pill to swallow. Had IOI rebuilt both games from the ground up, or in Blood Money’s case at the very least remapped the buttons, the cost could be forgiven. Taking into account that all you get for your money is two straight ports with upscaled resolution, this may only be a justified purchase for anyone wishing to delve deeper into the world of assassination or those looking to take a stroll down memory.