IO Interactive’s latest stab at its Hitman franchise, as well as its predecessor that it’s basically a continuation of, is its best work yet. Last year’s Hitman 2 is essentially the Hitman formula perfected.
If you fancy finding out how IO Interactive reached the top of its game, though, or just crave more Hitman action on your PS4 or Xbox One, the Hitman HD Enhanced Collection should pique your interest. Bundling both Hitman: Blood Money and Hitman: Absolution together while giving them both a bit of a makeover, it delivers two very different experiences. It also probably costs a bit too much for what it is.
Originally released in 2006, Hitman: Blood Money is one of the most loved entries in the Hitman franchise. Past its tutorial mission in which you’re guided to eliminate a theme park owner with plenty of collateral damage along the way, it presents you with more than ten small sandbox environments in which your aim is to kill silently and efficiently. Although things don’t always go quite as planned.
Like the most recent Hitman games, the joy of Hitman: Blood Money lies in exploring each level and discovering all their secrets across multiple playthroughs and difficulties. Blowing up a lighting rig in a theatre is an effective way of eliminating a target stood below it, for example, but also a noisy one. Instead, tailing your target for a short while may present you with an opportunity to strike in a secluded area away from prying eyes, thereby securing your status as a silent assassin.
While Hitman: Blood Money‘s levels now feel tiny compared to most of Hitman 2‘s sizeable environments, they still feel wonderfully designed. You don’t have as many murderous opportunities within them, but there are enough to make replaying them multiple times worthwhile. Hitman: Blood Money is the pinnacle of the original Hitman formula, providing a great deal of freedom within small environments to get the job done. Whether you try to make your kills look like accidents, strive to leave no evidence behind at all, or run in with guns blazing like a maniac, is truly up to you.
However you decide to play, you’ll be pleased that Hitman: Blood Money does indeed look a step up from its last-gen counterpart. The image is sharper, textures are crisper, and lighting is more natural. Also, the HUD now takes up much less space on the screen. Hitman: Blood Money still looks a bit old in this enhanced collection, but it looks as good as a 12-year-old game possibly can. And it runs at a silky smooth 60 fps, too. The only bugbear you might have after playing the most recent Hitman offerings is its control scheme, which now feels fiddly.
You won’t experience the same control issues in Hitman: Abosolution, on which the modern Hitman series control scheme is largely based. Released six years after Blood Money, Hitman: Absolution is the black sheep of the series, dropping the sandboxes in favour of delivering a more linear, story-driven affair. Lots of devout Hitman fans hate it as a result, which makes it a strange inclusion in this collection.
Personally, I really like Hitman: Absolution. It may deviate from the typical Hitman formula, but that doesn’t make it bad; just different. It keeps you on your toes, placing you in a range of scenarios that keeps the gameplay fresh. And while most of the game is rather linear, there is the odd opportunity to dispatch targets using your ingenuity.
Hitman: Absolution was an attempt to make the series more mainstream, introducing unlockable upgrades based on your performance and more cinematic presentation. Combat also plays more of a role; Agent 47 is able to more easily dispatch foes in close quarters combat thanks to the inclusion of quick time events, and the new point shooting mechanic allows him to take out multiple enemies in one fell swoop with firearms. There’s the new instinct feature, too, allowing Agent 47 to see the paths of enemies and blend in to avoid their suspicion. Basically, Hitman: Absolution is more of a stealth-action game, akin to the likes of Splinter Cell.
Whether you’re a fan of Hitman: Absolution or not, the fact that it looks great cannot be denied. In 2012 the game looked absolutely wonderful on PS3 and Xbox 360, but its potential is now truly realised on PS4 and Xbox One. Like Hitman: Blood Money, Hitman: Absolution benefits from increased resolution, more detailed textures and improved lighting, only the effects are more noticeable. At times, I’d say it actually looks better than the most recent Hitman releases. And once again, it now runs at a steady 60 fps.
Like any remaster, whether you should pick up Hitman HD Enhanced Collection or not really depends on how much you like the games included. Both Blood Money and Absolution are notably improved over their last-gen console counterparts, and remain great games on their own terms. The only problem is the collection’s price. £49.99/$59.99 is a lot to ask for two remastered games, especially when Hitman: Absolution is missing its contracts mode thanks to factors outside of IO Interactive’s control.
I played Hitman HD Enhanced Collection on Xbox One, on which both Blood Money and Absolution are already available thanks to backwards compatibility. On the Xbox store, the Xbox 360 versions are priced at £11.99/$19.99 and £14.99/$19.99 respectively, though physically they can be bought even cheaper. Honestly, the enhanced versions of both games do look a hell of a lot better, and they play better too, but you’re paying quite a lot for the privilege.
If you really love the Hitman series, including Absolution, and don’t mind parting with £49.99/$59.99, you’ll appreciate what’s been done to bring these games to current gen consoles. If not, you’ll probably want to wait for a bit of a discount. Hitman HD Enhanced Collection thankfully isn’t a lazy port, but I can’t help but feel that a mistake has been made with regards to its pricing.