For the first game that IO interactive developed, Hitman: Codename 47 can be considered a great success.
Originally IO Interactive was working on a fantasy MMO called Rex Dominus, but they were asked by Nordisk Film staff (that was IO Interactive’s founder along with Reto-Moto another Danish game developer) to stop the development and test themselves with a “simple shooter”. So, IO Interactive took inspiration from John Woo films, mainly Hard Boiled and The Killer, and with interest in new 3D graphics capabilities. The end result was Hitman: Codename 47.
The story follows 47, a human clone with a barcode tattoo who is trained in all methods of murder. After escaping the facility where he was being trained, 47 gets hired by the ICA (International Contract Agency) and gets he gets contracts killing some of the most ruthless criminals in the world. The contracts will take you all over the world from Hong Kong, Columbia, Budapest, Rotterdam and finally Romania.
The levels are good and thought out, but most of them are rather short. Every level has its own style and you get a good sense of progression. The game has some problems with night levels, as when I played them, it was difficult to see anything, which can lead to more frustration, especially in the Rotterdam levels. In an interview for the fansite, lead animator Jens Peter Kurup stated that several locations in a game were based on real-life locations and were constructed with picture references or by visiting the locations. For example, the Budapest hotel in the game is based on a real-life Budapest hotel. Each level also features amazing music made by the IO Interactive’s Jesper Kyd, whose soundtrack was featured in several Hitman games, and even other IO Interactive games. Each level will have different objective aside from the elimination of your target. This may range from planting something, retrieving something or destroying something and they can be completed in any order you want. Hitman: Codename 47 is different from other third-person shooters from that period. Going in guns blazing will quickly get you killed, instead, the game requires you to stop and think about your next move. 47 is very vulnerable, even if you purchase body armor, and the firefight is quick and messy. Also if you die, you may as well start over, as the game doesn’t offer to save or quicksave. If you die you will see a white background and 47 falling dead and you will be given the option to continue, but continuing is pointless because the mission will most likely be ruined.
To complete the mission you need to plan, time your actions, and execute them on time and with precision. You can drag away bodies, use them for disguise to gain access to restricted areas and close to your target. However, you must not be seen while dragging enemies, changing clothes and of course if the body is discovered your cover will be blown and you will be faced with more alert enemies. The enemies will also react to sounds you make, so using sneaking is a must in some cases. All of this adds to the tension and atmosphere in the game.
To complete your contracts you are offered a wide variety of weapons. From melee to ranged, you can choose from knives, a piano wire, handguns, shotguns, rifles, SMGs, and more. The weapons are made to be realistic, so if you use a sniper the scope will go up and down while aiming, and you must wait to line up a perfect shot (or you can press Scroll Lock and slow down time). The game doesn’t have weapon upgrades, although it was introduced later in the following sequels. If you take out a weapon at a wrong a time, you can expect the enemies to be alerted, also if you disguise as a guard and have a different weapon from them, you will certainly raise some brows and alarms. Some of the weapons feature silencers, and they can be a huge advantage, but if you don’t purchase them, they are pretty rare in the levels. All of the weapons are nicely modeled and sound good, and have their own picture in the inventory which is a nice touch.
Hitman: Codename 47 was one of the first games to use ragdoll physics. This means if you shoot the enemy on the stairs, they will tumble down the stairs. You can also leave them hanging down the grate, with one leg hanging, taking into account the body mass of the victim. The game also uses cloth simulation and foliage physics. Banners and even 47 neckties will be affected by the wind or the movement. IO Interactive also made good use of smoke and lighting effects. The graphics are good, for a 2000 game, and you can even read the barcode on the back of the 47 head. Now they might seem blocky, but at the time they were considered detailed and mostly decent. You can see some good animation, for instance, enemies will react differently when wounded, based on the body part which is being hit, and some of the cut scenes are pretty good. Cut scenes are for the most part good, nicely directed and decently voice acted. Some of them are serious, while some of them are pretty humorous, but all of them give a nice atmosphere to the game like you are watching and playing a good action movie.
But the game is not without flaws. One of them is an awkward position of the camera, which can be annoying at times. Also, the game requires precision to interact with objects and only then can you interact with objects. This is especially frustrating when for instance, you are running away from enemies, and you can’t hit the elevator switch because you are few millimeters to the left and can’t interact with it. Also, one of the most frustrating things in the game is that it requires that you don’t make a mistake, because of the already mentioned save game flaw.
For the first game Hitman: Codename 47 is a very good game. Playing it you will see a good idea and concept, and it serves as a good foundation. Hitman also spawned 7 games and two movies, a couple of comics and several mobile games. If you want are interested in the series, Hitman: Codename 47 is a good place to start, although it can be brutally difficult at times. The game received a sort of remake in Hitman: Contracts, with most of the missions being remade (expect the infamous Colombia missions), and it is a pretty good game, although several minor details are changed in some missions. Hitman: Codename 47 is good, hard, kinda buggy but overall, for the most part, a good game, and it will provide you with a challenge and a good entry into the series.