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Reading Into Contracts
by: Mike "The Button Man" Pearce | April 2, 2004
HitmanHQ's resident bar monkey delves deep into the next Hitman game. Real deep.


The time of waiting is nearly over. Over the past two years, IO Interactive has been working under a veil of near military secrecy - something that should be applauded. There's nothing worse than over-hyping upcoming games (Half-life 2, anyone?), and it should leave some pleasant surprises up its sleeve. But in the last few weeks, there has been a flurry of information released about Hitman 3. Sorry, my mistake. Eidos seem to have an absolute phobia about labelling sequel games numerically at the moment. There has actually been a flurry of information about Hitman: Contracts, and it is nearly upon us.

Who does your head tattoos?

But what are we to expect from the sequel? There have been a fair few details released, but the majority of the game remains shrouded in anonymity. Here, I hope to provide some analysis of what we already know, and perhaps a good guess at what we might expect.

Just For Starters

Letís start with the basics. There is little doubt that the story of Contracts will be a much more in-depth affair. Details state that the game begins in a Paris Hotel room after a botched hit, with 47 flashing in and out of consciousness, delirious with pain and opiates. 47 glances around the room, objects catch his eyes, and as he drifts off again. The last object reminds him of his past, and there we, the players, take the helm.

The use of flashbacks is a classic technique that can tie a story together extremely well (just look at films such as Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Fight Club, and games like the Max Payne series). It can add depth and complexity to even a fairly simple story, simply because it keeps you in the dark for much longer. In addition, it can help tie together seemingly unrelated episodes into an overarching story. In this case, we are promised a view into the inner workings of an assassin's mind, drifting through past hits in a state of delirium, and all tied back to the present using this flashback device. And we're promised that it will all tie into another overall storyline as well.

Back in the sanitarium. Home, sweet home.

This has two main benefits for IOI. The addition of a more in-depth story is an obvious bonus. Max Payne was hailed for two reasons. It had innovative gameplay, and it had an extremely impressive plot. This addition will no doubt move Hitman ever more into the mainstream game arena, propelling it to a wider audience than the previous games. It also makes for an interesting play experience, because flashback mixed with plot twists tends to make you spend a lot of your time second-guessing the narrative, questioning every move and detail, ultimately pulling you further into the game world. How has 47 got to his current state? Sloppiness? Bad luck? Another setup? How does his mind work? What is he truly thinking? Will he survive?

It also allows IOI to go back and use some of the best missions from 47's past. We don't know exactly when this is set, but from the release of character screenshots, we might assume that it is after the events of Hitman 2. Certainly, the highest praised missions are making a comeback. Thanks to flashbacks we're going to have more Traditions of the Trade (Budapest Hotel) and Lee Hong (Kowloon and Hong Kong, which means Lei Ling is back). Looks like we'll be back in The Sanitarium (Romania) as well - certainly some of the finest moments of Hitman: Codename 47.

We'll also return to Rotterdam, so Boris looks like he'll get his come-uppance (though hopefully not so shrouded in passwords, dogs and trains). And it looks like we'll have another shot at Sergei, though whether the last two Hitman 2 levels were among the best is open to interpretation. It also almost guarantees that there will be no more wondering hellholes like Colombia and Japan, though if 47 is dreaming in delirium, surely such nightmare should come back to him!

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