Hitman: Contracts is a stealth game, developed by IO Interactive. The game is the third game of the Hitman video game series, released on April 20, 2004. It is the sequel to Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. The game features recreations of four levels from Hitman: Codename 47. The storyline intertwines between two missions in its sequel, Hitman: Blood Money. The game is considered to be the darkest and most violent game of the series, due to the overall dark and depressing tone throughout the game's missions.
Gameplay centers around the exploits of a hitman, Agent 47 as he is sent to various locations to assassinate targets. An array of weapons can be used, from shotguns to jian. While stealth and subterfuge is encouraged, the game allows the player to take a more violent approach and gunfight their way to their mission goals. As players progress through the game, they can collect the various armaments found in the levels, allowing them to be used in future missions. Aside from the more straightforward ways of killing targets such as gunplay and strangulation, several missions allow the player more subtle ways to eliminate hits, such as food and drink poisoning. This includes "accidents" involving the environment, e.g. falling from a balcony or dying from a heat-induced heart attack in a sauna.
Players are rated on their performance based on several factors, key among which are the number of shots fired, NPCs killed, and the number of times the guards are alerted. The lowest rank is "mass murderer," which is awarded to players that kill mass numbers of NPCs in the pursuit of their target and do not use stealth. The highest rank is "silent assassin," which is earned when the player accomplishes their mission near-perfectly.
Contracts continues the trend of "context sensitive" actions, which means that one button is used in multiple situations for multiple uses. For example, when the player is near a door, the context sensitive button will allow the player to perform door-relevant actions such as keyhole peeking, lockpicking, or if allowed, simply opening it. When the player is near an unconscious individual, the same button will allow the ability to either acquire the person's outfit or drag the body to an area where it can be hidden from guards.
Along with the context sensitive button, the suspicion meter returns as well; this meter informs players of how close they are to blowing their respective cover. Actions like excess running indoors, brandishing weapons openly, residing in restricted areas, or sneaking can raise suspicion. Proximity will also usually raise the meter. As previously stated, if the suspicion meter fills, guards will open fire on sight of the player and the current cover becomes useless. If the guards discover a body (unconscious or dead), or if an unconscious person awakes and alerts them, the suspicion meter will raise much faster than it would otherwise.
Disguises can be either found in the environment or taken from the bodies of disabled or dead NPCs. Depending on the disguise, the player can then access areas restricted to most individuals in a level. These disguises can be seen through by guards, as stated above; e.g. if guards in a level are all wielding shotguns, a player dressed as a guard but not similarly equipped will draw more suspicion. Though a plethora of disguises exist throughout the game, the most unique is the SWAT uniform, which is new to the Hitman series. The SWAT uniform is unavailable unless a SWAT team is present in the level, and the uniform is unique because it provides additional defense against bullets and a radio that reveals the actions of the SWAT team in level.
The game begins with a cutscene showing a wounded Agent 47 wandering through a dark hotel corridor and arriving at his room. Upon entering, he collapses and begins to have flashbacks regarding previous assassinations he committed, beginning with the aftermath of killing Dr. Ort-Meyer at the end of the original game. The missions are primarily focused on replays of previous missions in the original game, except played in reverse. The graphics, maps and artificial intelligence have been improved and modified. Perhaps due to 47's feverish state of mind as he remembers these past missions, it is raining in nearly every level. In the game, 47 visits several locations, including Romania, Kamchatka, the United Kingdom, Rotterdam, Budapest, Hong Kong, and finally Paris.
While 47 suffers, a doctor sent by the Agency arrives unexpectedly and treats 47, then flees when he discovers GIGN officers surrounding the hotel. At the end of the game, 47 regains consciousness in the hotel room with an expired mission briefing. It is revealed that 47 was hired to kill a US ambassador, Richard Delahunt, and a famous tenor at an opera house in Paris (an event later seen in Hitman: Blood Money). He was also tasked to kill their mutual friend, Inspector Albert Fournier. That police officer has sent a team of police to capture 47 after discovering his hideout.
47 discovers the situation he is in. He manages to kill the inspector and escape the area. He then makes his way to the airport, where he boards a plane and escapes the country. His contact, Diana, previously a presence on the other side of a communications system, is actually sitting behind him. The player does not see her face. She suggests to 47 that his target may have been tipped off.
The soundtrack of the game, composed by Jesper Kyd, is darker than that of previous entries. While Silent Assassin featured a grand orchestral score, the score of Contracts was that of dark electronica.
Apart from the original Jesper Kyd score the game features the songs:
- "Put Your Head on My Shoulder" by Paul Anka in Level 2 "The Meat King's Party".
- "Immortal" by Clutch in Level 5 "Rendezvous in Rotterdam".
- "Walking Dead" by Puressence in Level 6 "Deadly Cargo".
- "Le Souteneur (Monsieur Claude)" by Faf Larage in Level 12 "Hunter and Hunted".