The current season of Hitman is in full swing, with Agent 47’s trip to Thailand scheduled for 16th August 2016. In all my excitement, I decided to look back on his all-time greatest missions. There are far too many to choose from, but here are my top ten favourites from the Hitman franchise:
10. Invitation to a Party – Hitman 2: Silent Assassin (2002)
The countdown begins with arguably one of the best levels from the second entry of the series.
The premise is simple: Agent 47 is tasked with infiltrating a party being held at the German Embassy in St. Petersburg. He must kill General Vladimir Zhupikov and also steal a suitcase containing a guidance system from the ambassador’s safe. Finally, as with every Hitman mission, you must escape, this time in a boat. However to complicate things a little, a Spetnaz agent wants the suitcase too.
The whole level feels like you are playing James Bond in a scene straight out of one of the earlier Sean Connery films. And that’s a good thing. For starters, the setting is fantastic. Heavy snow falls on a massive Soviet-era building at night time as Jesper Kyd’s incredible soundtrack dials up the tension. Once you manage to get into the party, either by stealing an invite or by disguising yourself as a guard or waiter, it’s hard to not feel like 007 as you wander through a magnificent ballroom, with wealthy guests sipping on champagne while a pianist plays gentle music in the corner. There’s a real sense of post-Cold War espionage, heightened when the ambassador is forced to open the safe at gunpoint.
There’s no denying that this level (and in fairness the entire game) hasn’t aged particularly well, with clunky controls and punishing enemy A.I hindering the path towards a perfect kill, but this early mission demonstrates the beauty of what Hitman is all about; the ability to tell a stand-alone story in a self-contained world.
9. Deadly Cargo – Hitman Contracts (2004)
This memorable mission deserves a space on this list simply because of the ingenuity of one particular way to complete it.
Your target is Boris Ivanovich Deruzka, a maniac with a nuclear weapon at his disposal. What makes Deadly Cargo stand out is the ability to disguise yourself as a member of the SWAT team who are waiting to attack the ship where Boris is holed up. While your ‘colleagues’ take care of Boris’s armed goons, you can sneak away from the formation and silently take out Boris.
Of course that’s not the only way things can go down. You might fancy taking the place of a SWAT marksman, putting a bullet in between Boris’s eyes from afar. Or you could plant a tracking device on the nuclear weapon, enabling you to find it on the ship later so you can disarm it and deprive Boris of his leverage.
8. The Meat King’s Party – Hitman Contracts (2004)
At a time when video games were beginning to explore darker themes, this iconic mission definitely stood out like a bald-headed clone in a wig shop. Agent 47 must attend a party being held at a meat-packing plant in Romania and kill the ‘Meat King’, an obese Scotsman who has kidnapped the client’s daughter, along with the Meat King’s lawyer. 47 is also instructed to bring back the daughter, an objective that goes sour as you delve into the depths of the sadistic factory.
This mission is extremely satisfying to play as Agent 47 deals his own brand of justice to the abusers of the criminal justice system. The setting is grim and twisted and shows how dark 47’s world can be. I don’t think the developers of the Hitman franchise have matched the tone of this level in the 12 years since, and the song lyrics from Paul Anka’s ‘Put your head on my shoulder’, which you hear upon discovery of the client’s daughter, still haunt me to this very day.
7. A House of Cards – Hitman Blood Money (2006)
There’s no denying that Hitman fans love a level set in a hotel, and this offering from Blood Money is incredible. I replayed the whole of Blood Money last week, and when it came to this level, I discovered a brand new way to complete it. A BRAND NEW WAY. How is that even possible? It’s been ten years since it was released and I’ve played this level too many times during that period to mention, so that recent playthrough simply left me speechless.
6. The Murder of Crows – Hitman Blood Money (2006)
For a start, this level deserves a place on the list because of the poetic title. I do love me some clever wordplay.
The mission isn’t bad either. Taking place in New Orleans during the Mardi Gras Parade, Agent 47 must prevent the assassination of a canvassing politician by a group of contract killers dressed as big birds. There’s a real sense of urgency to this mission, because two of your targets – besides having itchy trigger-fingers – are lovers. They maintain contact through walkie-talkies, so if you kill one and wait too long before striking the other, their broken heart equals a massive hole in the politician’s head, thus causing you to fail the assignment.
The mission feels fresh on every play-through, as the gunman’s position is randomly generated, so even if you’ve played it a dozen times you won’t entirely know what’s going on the thirteenth time.
The Murder of Crows holds a special place in many a Hitman fan’s heart because of the hilarious bird-suits you can wear, and even ten years later the crowd mechanics are still some of the best I’ve ever seen in a game.