Have You Played… Hitman: Codename 47?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

The main way I used to play games was via demos on magazine coverdiscs, and the demo I remember most fondly was for Hitman: Codename 47.

It was the Chinese restaurant mission from the game, in which your target arrived at the beginning via a limousine, visited someone inside, and then returned to their car to leave. I spent hours pootling around in the small yet still impressive ‘open’ level, which encompassed the restaurant and a few city streets near it. At the time, in 2000, I was wowed by things I now take for granted, such as being able to go not only inside the buildings but on top of them. There was a nearby tower (which in reality was probably only a few storeys tall, but in my mind is much larger) onto which you could climb in order to get access to a sniper rifle. You could also get onto the roof of the restaurant to find alternate routes inside. I was used to strictly linear shooters and the freedom to go up and over as well as through bowled me over.

Yet I realise now that I never really made use of the freedom. I found a couple of methods I enjoyed and used them on the level again and again. One included garroting the driver while he was doing a wee, stealing his clothes and throwing him down a storm drain, then planting an explosive underneath the limousine and detonating it as the target returned to his car. I don’t know why I was hooked on this – though being fourteen-years-old and being thrilled by the subversive violence of the game probably helped.

Beyond the demo, I don’t think Hitman was actually a very good game. The controls were bonkers. The AI was temperamental. The rules in levels about where you could and could not go were often vague. I think it was Blood Money before developers Io Interactive (mostly) ironed these issues out (before reintroducing the crinkles again in Absolution). I loved that demo though, and it’s still a great little example of the promise of the Hitman series.

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34 Comments

  1. Lumière says:

    Also it was the first game i can remember that used ragdoll physics. The colombiam level was nice too, with lot of references to Scarface.

    • LionsPhil says:

      It also had some neat inverse-kinematics that meant 47 would actually reach for items in the game-world to pick them up, rather than just swipe at them. For some reason this is still the exception almost sixteen years later.

      • Rodman1_r2 says:

        Some games do “impressive” things like this today. But a lot of it is canned animations these days, especially with characters navigating some sort of unique environmental obstacle. If you pay attention, I believe the characters in GTA V will do things like reach out and push a door open when you approach it. The transitions many games do between cinematics and giving you control of the game is still kind of impressive – though, not sure it really adds anything to the game: it looks neat, but that’s about all.

    • Jackablade says:

      Forget ragdolling. The thing that impressed most when I first started playing Hitman was plant physics. There was a pot plant with great big leaves early on in the game that would move around if you walked into it. I don’t know whether this was used at any other point in the game, ut I spent quite a while running back and forth pushing the big floppy leaves around.

  2. Earl-Grey says:

    My memory banks are all painted in the most vivid tint of rose, so Im might be mistaken:
    To me Hitman 2 was the game where they really ironed out the kinks.

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      XJ220 says:

      I very much agree. Silent Assassin was the biggest step forward in the series in my opinion.

      Though I am glad that Contracts revisited large portions of Codename 47, especially the underground area of the sanitarium together with Jesper Kyd’s soundtrack is one of the best Hitman levels atmosphere-wise.

      • Earl-Grey says:

        A lot of people really pour hatred on Contracts but I remember it quite fondly.
        -I haven’t played it in about 7-9 years, though.

        I especially liked the “oomph” of the firearms, they felt brutal and final, frightening even.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Contracts has probably the best final mission of any of the (pre-Absolution, anyway, since I’ve not played it) games, because it’s actually good and narratively fitting, rather than being a forced action sequence in a game with slightly awkward shooting.

        • E_FD says:

          I got Hitman 2/Contracts/Blood Money all at once in a deal, and played through them basically back-to-back in order over a few months.

          And while the actual gameplay was clearly improved with every game and peaked in Blood Money, I honestly thought Contracts was the best one overall, thanks to some very atmospheric, well-designed levels (the Meat King being my favorite).

          • Earl-Grey says:

            I think Contracts piled on a lot more grittiness and grime than the others (I haven’t played Absolution and the latest one).
            Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just an observation, made it easier to take out the targets even.

            Oooh, I remember a mission set in an old British mansion, hidden doors and hallways, quite atmospheric.

            If I’m not mistaken, the weather conditions in the missions seemed to reflect 47’s condition; heavy storms and rainfall symbolizing his pain and struggle.
            Nice touch.
            Should try finding the time to replay the Hitmans of old someday.

    • Gassalasca says:

      +1

      • Earl-Grey says:

        You know what? After years of commenting and posting that’s my first ever “+1”.
        I wish I had some cake to gift you.
        Instead have an internet high five, here:

        Did you get it?
        Oh well, time to wipe the handprint of my monitor.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yep, except for a somewhat lousy middle couple of “just move to a location” missions in Japan, 2’s solid.

      • Earl-Grey says:

        The missions that come to mind are the first one in Italy, the one in Russia with the cars, the one in Russia with the meeting and the sniper rifle (with Diana in your ear helping you identify the target) and one in India.
        I feel like I’m missing some good ones, but it has been ages.

  3. Det. Bullock says:

    I’ve neve rhad the courage to buy and play the first Hitman and probably I’ll never will, I find Hitman 2 a bit too rough already after starting the series with Blood Money and I’ve yet to finish Contracts due to lack of time and patience.

    • Jalan says:

      People have told me (surprisingly consistently) that Blood Money is the only Hitman game I “need” to play. For some reason, I’ve kept putting it off. I started Absolution but couldn’t bring myself to finish it. There’s just something about it that put me off from wanting to do so.

  4. Jenuall says:

    Much like Graham I only played the demo of the first Hitman, but I did play Hitman 2 and have finally got around to giving Blood Money a go.

    I remember getting very frustrated with Hitman 2, there was a level where I was trying to infiltrate some Russian(?) base and continually alarming people despite being disguised. Very annoying!

    Thus far (I’m only on the Opera level) Blood Money seems to be a much better experience.

  5. Machinegun_Funk says:

    I too played the HELL out of Hitman’s demo. Being given a sandbox to execute the mission (and target) was a groundbreaking level of freedom for games of the time.

    Hitman: C47 was a flawed but incredible game. I’m so glad the newest rendition went back to its roots.

  6. kud13 says:

    I played it to the ship mission with Russian mafia spetznaz armed with MP5s who would always spot me half a map away.

    I keep trying to replay it, but I can’t get it to play nice with multi-core Win 7. I managed to finish Hong Kong, but the first Columbian mission that requires speed is beyond me atm.

    Maybe one day I’ll gatehr up enough resolve to tackle that mess again.

  7. Wormerine says:

    I tried Blood Money as a first Hitman game and I didn’t really like it. It took Hitman 2 to win me over before I could appreciate other titles. While BM is per say a better game, to me Hitman 2 was always the best one. In BM the locations were too casual for the extreme reactions of AI. I mean I am a classical musicians. No one will shoot you on sight if you sneak backstage without a permission during a dress rehearsal.

    • Earl-Grey says:

      Perhaps, but gunning down a clown walking into the house of some mafioso under witness protection is perfectly reasonable.
      There is after all no such thing as excessive force with regards to clowns.

  8. gabrielonuris says:

    Yes, I have, and it turned out to be the worst game I’ve ever played. The first 2 levels got me excited with the mechanics, and those mini sandbox levels. Then came the colombian level… it was enough to have me wondering WTF it had no checkpoints, no save system whatsoever. How the hell was I supposed to shoot my way across a level that big, with no quick save, and with a protagonist who could die with one shot? And goddamnit, that AI… never understood if it was a feature or a bug, but sometimes the disguise is as good as nothing.

    I played the second one, and found it to be a little more accessible, but still no mid level saves.

    Contracts, the same.

    By the time I got to Blood Money I was already hating the series, never touched Absolution, and surely won’t play this new episodic thing too.

    • LionsPhil says:

      2 is actually the only one that has working mid-mission saves, IIRC. (In BM, they get lost if you quit—I bet they never wrote the code to serialize them to disk. Maybe Contracts, can’t remember.)

  9. yogibbear says:

    They are all awesome in there own regards for each and every quirk. But Silent Assassin sold me on the whole series and is why I can play any of them and enjoy it. I didn’t even mind Absolution.

  10. Carra says:

    Played Blood Money and absolutely loved it. One of the very few games that I’ve replayed.

  11. The Petulant Platypus says:

    Hitman: Codename 47 was a fantastic game for it’s time but the control system was bloody frustrating even back then when there was no real “universally accepted” movement system (queue WADS vs IJKL vs arrow key debate).

    Silent Assassin is where it really picked up and I liked that a disguise wasn’t a guarantee – you couldn’t just throw on a “mansion employed chef” disguise and have free reign of the upper level bedrooms for example – clearly somewhere a chef should not be.

    I too enjoyed Contracts, I think Blood Money remains my favourite just for it’s sheer freedom.

  12. Earl-Grey says:

    Graham, where is the Staring Eyes tag?
    DAMMIT GRAHAM!

  13. Day0ne says:

    the hotel and baths level in Codename came to represent my love of the series although the latest offering is among the best yet! happy hitman

  14. ey says:

    The first chapter (Hong Kong) was a lot of fun. The other levels less so — less about creative ways to kill people and more skulking in the shadows trying not to get caught. And I remember the jungle levels not really fitting in very well thematically or gameplay-wise.

  15. mcwizardry says:

    The missions “Say Hello To My Little Friend” and “Lee Hong Assassination” where pretty difficult from what I can remember.

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    phuzz says:

    Wait, was the demo level the same as the first level in the game?
    I played it around the time it came out, and me and my brothers assumed that the only way to play was to use the sniper rifle.
    I never realised there was other solutions :(

    • Slazer says:

      It sounds like this is the 2nd or 3rd level (forgot), because that is where you can kill the driver and plant the car bomb.

  17. Ronrocken says:

    47 also had bullet holes in corpses. THAT was/is something even nowadays!

  18. poliovaccine says:

    I didn’t just play the demo, I played the living shit out of this game and the Silent Assassin sequel. Dropped off gaming for awhile but since I’ve been back I’ve been taking Blood Money nice and slow, cus it’s so good I know I’ll be disappointed when it finally ends! I grew up on this damn game (for better or worse..)!

    And what people say about the physics – the ragdolls, the potted plant physics, and even the little “inverse kinematics,” not to mention the actual dynamic bullet decals *on NPCs,* not just environments! Complete with a nasty little chunk of flesh that went flying out! I don’t necessarily have a big purple boner for gore, but seeing the actual bullet holes appear in people was just immensely satisfying to me (especially when I nailed a guy right thru his eye)…!

    As much as the demo level with the Chinese restaurant, a la the Godfather, was pretty fucking awesome, and would have made an excellent “pilot” to get anybody into the game, my favorite level in this, and indeed almost any game, is the Budapest hotel. The shotgun in the roses, the steam room heart attack method, the umpteen different NPC types to incapacitate-and-become…! I notice in Blood Money they give you a similar mission early on, the one at the opera, and while that’s been my favorite thus far, it still makes me wish I could just play the Budapest hotel in Blood Money’s graphics (yes, I know there’s a new Hitman out.. don’t even remind me til I get a new rig…)!

    Just having ragdoll physics was a dream for me – I know it was the first game I ever saw do that. And I can’t imagine moving bodies being anywhere near as enthralling or effective if they didn’t have that to em. I know a lot of people don’t care for third person games, but I tend to prefer em – Hitman, Mafia, GTA3 and beyond, Splinter Cell, and even though I grew up on the original Thief and Thief II, I still LOVED it that Thief III had a third person mode! To me that’s just the most appropriate when you’re playing as a lithe, acrobatic, light-footed character.

    To me, third person vision makes up for the lack of peripheral senses (not just vision, but senses) you’d have in real life, as a real human being with the benefit of zillions more aspects of the scene than you’ve got the benefit of feeling as a gamer – you can’t feel disturbances in the air made by NPCs, can’t feel the hair on the nape of your character’s neck go up, can’t smell a human approach on a pre-cognitive, preternaturally hormonal/even-pheromonal level – stuff like that makes third person perfectly acceptable to me, in stealth games where that sort of perception is necessary. And I can’t imagine ever playing Hitman without staring into the back of that bald, barcoded head. I know at least Hitman 2 had a first person mode, but I hardly would know what it’s like, since it’d be blasphemy to me to even use it haha.

    Anyway, have I played..? Does the pope shit in his funny hat in the woods? Do doves cry????