Fans of stealth action video games have probably heard of Agent 47’s gruesome exploits. This genetically engineered super killing clone first started carrying out hits in 2000 when he made his debut in Hitman: Codename 47.
Since then, Hitman has grown into one of the most popular stealth franchises in video games and developer IO Interactive’s crowning achievement, arguably. Films, novels, mobile spinoffs – the Hitman franchise is still growing.
Could 2015 be the year we see a new Hitman AAA title? There’s a good chance we’ll get more details, at least. For now though, here’s a brief history on the Hitman series of video games, mobile games and movie adaptations.
This was gamers’ first chance to step into the shoes of a cool killer. 47 is a chilling figure, his ghostly visage neutral of emotion, with the infamous barcode tattoo on the back of his neck, but there was more to Codename 47 than its disturbing, antihero protagonist.
In many ways, Codename 47 changed the way gamers thought about completing a level. While there was still a point A and a point B, so to speak, how players got to point B could be very creative. 47 is a man of violence, as his job description would suggest. But aside from garroting unknowing victims from behind or releasing a frenzy of automatic gunfire at a group of assailants, the game still rewarded players for employing stealth over shooting.
For instance, by donning the clothes of security guards or henchmen, 47 could access restricted areas, blending in with the crowd. The sneak feature also enabled him to evade detection or zero in for a silent hit. Codename 47 was one of the most popular games of 2000, praised by critics and fans, alike. It was also one of the most graphically innovative games for the start of the millennium, one of the first to use ragdoll physics, cloth simulation and foliage physics.
In the franchise’s first sequel, players were further encouraged to avoid the run-and-gun concept prevalent in other shooters. Instead, players could use tactics of disguise and problem-solving to traverse past layers of security, nail their intended target and land a “Silent Assassin” rating at the end of the mission.
A fan-favorite, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin advanced the concepts of Codename 47 with more creative detail, but it also was more user-friendly, with shorter levels and easier AI to handle. Players also got some deadly new toys to play with, including chloroform to incapacitate enemies quietly and a crossbow for killing covertly from a distance.
Hitman: Contracts is much like a re-master of Codename 47, featuring recreations of four levels originally introduced in the first game. Many of the same concepts make a return: The emphasis of stealth and subterfuge, a suspicion meter that enables players to see whether they are under suspicion by guards and henchmen, as well as a myriad of creative ways to take down targets, such as spiking poison in drinks or arranging “accidental” deaths.
Hitman: Contracts also used an interesting narrative change of pace. As 47 relives the memories of past assassinations, the player goes through those classic levels in reverse. Upon awakening in the present, details are revealed that allude to missions found in the next game Hitman: Blood Money, as 47 also discovers that a mysterious group is targeting him.
Hitman: Blood Money continues this storyline, as players complete missions based off an interview between a journalist and a former Director of the FBI that had been tracking 47 for a number of years. From climbing obstacles, using melee combat and taking enemies as human shields to open-world styled levels, enhanced character models and an entirely new game engine, Hitman: Blood Money is another fan favorite. The sheer amount of changes greatly revised the experience of being the world’s deadliest assassin.
Players could dispose of dead bodies in containers to hide them from view. Weapons could be upgraded – bombs and armor entered the arsenal, as well. Accidental deaths are in every level, where players can take out targets in a variety of inconspicuous ways, like rigging chandeliers to fall, BBQ grills to explode and prop guns to fire real bullets.
The fifth installment of the series and the first game under the new leadership of publisher Square Enix, Hitman: Absolution goes for a more user-friendly experience, while still maintaining the detailed elements of subterfuge and stealth that have made the game a success. Hitman: Absolution also introduced some novel elements, such as allowing players to create their own missions, called “contracts,” to share with other players online.
The Hitman series has also begun expanding into mobile games, with the release of Hitman Go, a turn-based puzzle game developed by Square Enix Montreal. Carrying a board-game aesthetic, Hitman Go uses a turn-based approach, taking away the use of gunplay and setting up accidental deaths for a simpler, more grid-based feel.
IO Interactive has gone through some tough times recently, but the developer announced that a new Hitman title for the Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC would be coming out this year. While details are sparse, the “Contracts” mission editor will make a return, and the game is intended to have a more open-world feel.
Two movie adaptations based off of Hitman have been produced, so far. 2007’s Hitman, starring Timothy Olyphant and Dougry Scott, has a different continuity from the games, and while it was a critical failure, it proved to be a financial success.
A new adaptation, titled Hitman: Agent 47, is scheduled to come out August 21, 2015. The film, which will star Rupert Friend as 47, is being directed by Aleksander Bach. Paul Walker was originally intended for the role of 47, but following his untimely death, Friend was cast for the titular role.