Monday, 15 March 2010

Midnight meat-beating at the fetish party

* Note that the images included in this and the upcoming posts may be from several runs through the levels, which is why they might not make complete sense with what I'm actually writing about if I leave out stuff from the failed tries

So after the rather poor training area I start the actual game.

Chapter 1: Asylum Aftermath
I've noticed the Hitman games have some interesting stylish cutscenes, and Contracts starts with one also. 47's on the floor of his hotel room where he fell down in the intro when someone's hand comes into the picture and picks up 47's gun, aims and blows 47's brains out. The camera twists so that the horizontal changes to vertical while it zooms out to show that the guy who picked up the gun was 47 and the 47 on the floor has changed into a 48. Then everything's white and 47 kills a professor. It's the ending of Codename 47, I know because I was there!
If you haven't played Contracts yourself then you should know that Contracts is all about these feverish flashbacks to 47's old jobs, except for the final mission I think.

The first level starts after the end of the first game, with 47 having just killed professor Ortmeyer. The asylum is surrounded by a SWAT team and patients are running loose. I have to say that despite the level being far larger than the one, or rather ones, in Codename 47, it still resembles the original quite a bit at times. The changes to the level design also make sense, for example a secret passage to the top-secret lab that is visible everytime somebody rides the elevator was some bad desing on the antagonist's part in Codename 47 (especially because you would always need a partner to ride the elevator if you wanted to enter the lab at all). Making the elevator itself being the way in was a pretty good idea in Contracts.
Although, I find it odd that the SWAT is just entering the asylum when I'm leaving the lab, and in Codename 47 they had already entered a long while before I even faced the clones.

I'm just the intern.
Anyway, into the actual gameplay. The first half of the level is nothing more than running around. The corridors are filled with doors leading to empty rooms and harmless patients are roaming the hallways, and there's even one locked door that made me waste time picking the lock for nothing as the area behind it was empty (although I got a good chuckle out of seeing a bunch of loonies stand behind me as I'm picking the lock just as if they were waiting for me to finish the job). I really took my sweet ass time escaping this nuthouse, checking pretty much every nook and cranny, even under some patients' skirts.After finding the elevator and exiting it on the 1st floor I immediately saw an orderly run past me. Thinking I just found my ticket out I promptly killed him and took his clothes. I found this to be a mistake only 6 seconds later when the SWAT team immediately opened fire when they saw me. At this point I wasn't yet sure if it was just the Silent Assassin bullshit again or if the SWAT was just ordered to kill everyone inside, although I admit I was leaning more towards the former.

It's alright, I'm getting used to it.
Restart mission, and this time I took the elevator to the 2nd floor where I found a dead SWAT team member, and I have no idea what he was doing there since the SWAT had entered the first hallway only seconds earlier. Jackpot! I thought in any case, stole his clothes and took the elevator downstairs thinking that surely the SWAT will let a fellow copper go by unharmed if no Silent Assassin bullshit mechanics are involved. I casually walked towards the front door (Silent Assassin taught me to never run), but I didn't even get close to the guys guarding the exit when the suspicion meter started flashing red in a matter of milliseconds. I quickly veered to the left and opened a door that lead right to MORE SWAT guys with their backs turned to me. I went back to the main hallway where the front door was and hid in a dark corner, planning my next move. I noticed that a patient almost got through the door, and that got me thinking.

No, behind you. Stupid mofos!
Just as I was going to get myself some patient clothing my cover was blown and I got shot at. Apparently the SWAT guys kill nurses and other SWAT team members, but not the potentially dangerous loonies running around the asylum. I find this particularly odd because in Codename 47 professor Ortmeyer called the police and told them that there was a man with a gun there who had gone insane and was shooting people, yet the cops are on a mission to kill the employees and other cops on sight.

My third try provided further evidence of the SWAT team's lack of professionalism. I took some spare clothes from a dead patient and wandered into some random room with a spiral staircase leading up to the second floor. I assume this was the room  where the patients were ordered to wait. I went upstairs and felt relieved seeing a door leading to  a balcony. To my surprise Mr. SWAT popped out of nowhere to bust my balls and told me to go wait in the lab. I went downstairs, and he followed me. When he went back up I followed him in sneak mode and put my finger on the fiber wire button already, but he turned around and told me to go back. I did, and then a patient downstairs spawned a fucking sub-machine gun, fired at the ceiling and SWAT started shooting at me. Why not shoot the patient with a gun, I don't know. Crap game or intended social criticism?

At this point I was getting a bit tired. Crap mission that made no sense and brought back bad memories of Silent Assassin. I had originally started playing on Professional difficulty because I'm a professional and trust you agree, but I went back and started a new game on Normal. Don't know if it affects anything except the amount of allowed saves and amount of punishment 47 can endure before going down, but I did it anyway. I don't save during missions and I restart if I get shot so I suppose the switch of difficulty may be pointless, but for the sake of details I'm playing on Normal from now on.
On my 4th try I decided to just dress up as SWAT again and try out the spiral staircase-balcony method in that attire. It worked, albeit on the 5th try (the 4th try ended 3 seconds after changing to SWAT clothes thanks to patrolling SWAT officers gunning me down on sight). I got outside and from then on it was easy peasy. I went around the yard to the front gate and the game told me I couldn't exit while the SWAT were around. I wasn't really thinking it was that easy anyway, so I continued around the yard to the one lone civilian vehicle because I remembered that at the start of the level I had picked up car keyes from Ortmeyer's corpse. There was some SWAT man there guarding it and my suspicion meter started flashing full red as I got near the car. I managed to snatch the vehicle anyway before anyone pulled out a gun and then in a cutscene 47 drove through the gate like a madman.

Mission accomplished.
All this took me a bit over 5 minutes. No aggression, all 0s on the stats and full stealth. Silent Assassin rank.
So far the game has left me cold, mixing good memories of Codename 47 with bad memories of Silent Assassin. This first level was short and intensely crap.

Chapter 2: The Meat King's Party

I'm all yours, sailor. Wait, where's that line from?
This chapter begins with 47 waking up on the floor where he fell and then going to the bathroom to splash some water on his face. He starts hallucinating and sees he's holding a meat hook with his left hand, and suddenly the scene dynamically changes to him interrogating some douche butcher. Mission start!

In this level I'm apparently going to kill some fat bastard (note no capital letters, thus it's not a name, thus it's not an obvious joke to anything) named Sturrock and his crooked lawyer (is there any other kind?) while they're having some sort of a fetish party in a meat factory. I am also supposed to locate some kidnapped girl and help her escape.
That's really all the briefing tells you, and I do have to give credit to the Hitman series for being honestly complicated and difficult and giving very little details. Games these days tend to cater to idiots and offer needless amounts of information and tips, but Hitman games are directed to people who like to figure out and do things themselves, which seems to be a bold move nowadays. Although, I do still think that the training should be strict and say exactly what should be done next, because it's god damn training!

Note that because I ended up restarting this mission a dozen plus times I will only really describe the final, successful run. Bits from the failed runs are only mentioned to further describe the situation and the alternate gameplay methods available.

The level starts with 47 standing over an unconscious butcher inside a truck. Normally my first thought would be to undress him and lock him in using this nifty little button on the side of the truck, but having played the beginning part a few times already I have come up with a better plan. Locking the butcher in there prevents him from causing an alarm when he wakes up if you don't kill him, but alarm is exactly what my imaginative brains desire. You see, you can get in past the guards as either a butcher or a guest, but in both cases you would have to drop your guns since you get frisk searched at the door. You could also shoot your way in and raise hell as you go, but this is Hitman, not The Punisher (though I love The Punisher).
So following my master plan I leave the truck doors open so that the butcher can freely get out as soon as he's back on his feet. I kill the urinating guest, take his clothes and make sure the body is positioned just right so that it can only be seen when running towards the entrance, and then I just sit back and wait.
As you might have guessed already, soon the butcher came running and alarmed everybody, most notably the guards at the door. With the guards running to check the truck for suspicious bald men there was nobody preventing an armed guest from entering the party, and since the guest's corpse was hidden so well the guards took a minute or two before finding him, giving me ample time to get out of sight and dress in a dead guard costume. See, I told you I was a genious!

Inside I head towards the room where the girl is kept to finish that objective. I find the girl has actually been butchered by some lovesick psycho, the Meat King's brother I guess, and all I can do here is to acquire the girl's severed arm for murder proof and blow the brother's brains out. It's not an objective to kill the brother, I just did it for fun. A note about the brother, if he hears or sees you he immediately attacks you with his meat cleaver.
With the girl's hand in my pocket I head to take out a guard who is guarding the door to the roof, because at this time I'm still in the guest attire. I take the guard's clothes, which allow me to freely walk everywhere inside the building, and then go outside with the intent of killing the Meat King himself next.
Probably the most favoured way to kill this target, if I'm allowed to make assumptions here, is to deliver him a chicken with a meat cleaver hidden inside it and whack him dead with it. The cleaver, not the chicken. I tried it once or twice, but I didn't know about a switch to lower the curtains until I read a walkthrough and by then I had already beaten the mission my way.
What I do is I climb to the roof and find a skylight that I can open. You get three guesses on who the fatso is that I can see from the roof. I take my silenced baller and pop the bastard in the head once. Objective completed.

She's not really Kinky Cola material to be honest.
Second to last task of this level is to kill the lawyer. After some time spent looking at his pattern I had noticed he can be easily killed either when he's passed out on opium or when he's taking a leak. I would've liked to kill him in the loo, but unfortunately while I was on the roof getting ready to take out the fatman I noticed the lawyer had just been, so I snuck in the locker room where there's a spare opium waiter costume. From previous failed attempts in this sort of clothing I deduced that there can be only one, and I am The One, meaning I must kill the real opium waiter and get his powers if I am to succeed in infiltrating the lawyer's smoking room.
Some bitch is giving the sob a final lap dance, so I wait until it's done and then enter combat with the opium waiter. He makes the rookie mistakes of starting a fight unarmed and turning his back to me, so before the battle really starts he is already on the ground. What do you know, he's a red shirt. I drag him in the showers but oddly enough leave him clothed, and instead take the spare uniform from the bench. I deliver an opium pipe to the lawyer and wait for him to fall asleep, then pop him in the head. He manages to squeal since I apparently missed, I suppose it was the bad angle, but another bullet to the head fixed that, and nobody seemed to hear his cry. 3rd objective down, last one to go.
Last task is to leave, which is accomplished by, how else, walking out. Mission accomplished.

Several alarms, some collateral damage, cover blown, a few bullets fired and time wasted generally idling and staring at the map. Professional rating.
With these stats you can safely assume that I will be having loads of fun. Had I been recording a walkthrough  I probably would've spent the entire day re-trying the mission just to get Silent Assassin in the minimum amount of time.

With the second chapter Contracts really shows that it could be a far better game than I gave it credit for, and the gameplay has been improved from Silent Assassin. For one, I can RUN! Run, Forrest, run! At least in the second mission nobody seems to give a shit if I run, and that's a good thing. Silent Assassin always had you shot if you ran, no matter the disguise or the distance to the enemies (except for the party mission, there you could run as a guest).
Another improvement is that people generally don't seem to get suspicious just for seeing a glimpse of you. I don't know what was up with the first level, but in meat King's Party I could dress up as a guard and stand right next to another guard without him firing at me. The guards also don't seem to share a collective consciousness, and the mission generally seemed more like something from Codename 47. I always felt Silent Assassin was too... too... linear of sorts, too mission oriented if that makes sense.
Contracts also seems to be far darker and gorier game than the first two. In the first chapter there's corpses here and there and it all looks pretty grisly already, and the Meat King's party is even worse with it being full of blood smears and dead animals. Finding the girl like that is pretty scary compared to the earlier games where you would've been able to escort her out just fine, perhaps accompanied by comedic cutscenes, and the Meat King's bedroom's floor is actually completely covered in blood. We're dealing with fucking psychopaths here.
I hope Contracts keeps this up, because it's starting to look like it might even be a better game than Codename 47. Yeah, looking good.

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