The Michigan Daily discovered in November 2004 that several articles written by arts editor Alex Wolsky did not meet the newspaper’s standard of ethical journalism. Parts of these stories had been plagiarized from other news sources. Although the article below has not been found to contain plagiarism, the Daily no longer stands by its content. For details, see the Daily’s editorial.

The baldest, most deadly killer since John McClane has returned in Eidos Interactive’s bloodthirsty, tactical outpouring “Hitman: Contracts.: Continuing as the third installment in the developers “Hitman’ series, “Contracts” rehashes a lot of old memories – including stellar gameplay and visuals – as well as drudges up and exposes many of the original game’s flaws.

Where the first two installments in the “Hitman” series took place in the present time, “Contracts” takes place, primarily, in flashbacks. It’s unclear at first, but Agent 47 has sustained a grievous injury and is recalling many of his earliest missions which immediately explains why there seemed to be no constants from mission-to-mission (it also explains why most of the missions in “Contracts” are similar to missions from both “Hitman” and “Silent Assassin.”)

The new missions are certainly diverse. In the signature “Hitman” manner, there are always two ways in which players can maneuver through each mission: run-and-shoot slaughter or stealthy precision. The first mission in “Contracts” finds 47 in the asylum where he was first genetically enhanced as the building is surrounded by SWAT teams. Other missions take 47 to a blood rave, a British mansion, a Siberian outpost, a hunting party and a fascist biker gathering in Rotterdam.

The fine details of “Contracts” are impressive. 47’s movement is the most human-like of any videogame character, the environments are all drenched in either rain or snow and capture the thick, overwhelming qualities of film noir – the use of shadows and light in the game as both a tool of deception and characteristic of the realistic environment is effective. Also, in all of the international locales, the people speak in their native tongues.

Yet, despite its superior gameplay and visuals, compared to other games within the genre, “Contracts” suffers from two major pitfalls. The first is that its plainly a rehash of the two earlier “Hitman” games and fails to build on any aspect, like “Silent Assassin” succeeded in doing. As a result, many of the major flaws in the earlier games of the series stick out in “Contracts.”

The second major failing has existed in all three of the “Hitman” games. In each, the player is allowed three levels of difficulty. In the easiest, the game is almost too easy and runs the risk of being boring and tossed aside. In each mission, 47 has a silenced pistol, which can cause more than enough bloodshed. Also, he can take more damage than realistically possible, meaning that it’s more alluring for gamers to just plummet through each level with no regard for their character’s health – it’s easier to just blow everyone away than to be stealthy about it.

On the other hand, the most difficult mode in “Contracts” is too difficult for most gamers. Your character can sustain less hits because your enemies are much more accurate. Also, your tactical map is missing and you’re not allowed to save your game while in the middle of the level. Because of this – and the unrelenting difficulty of taking the stealthy route – most gamers will be inclined to just play it in the easier mode and blast their way through “Contracts” easily missing its finer points.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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