And so, we finally conclude the three part series on the best locations in all of the Hitman franchise, HITMAN – Season 2 aside. If you missed Part One, you can find it right here – If you just missed Part Two, you may find it here.
Bucharest, Romania – Hitman: Contracts
Romania is Agent 47’s homeland, what with the clone project, the training, and all that taking place at Dr. Ort-Meyer’s Asylum out in the countryside. Whilst I enjoyed the escape of Agent 47, the Golden Guns easter egg, and seeing the Asylum very much… This isn’t why I’m talking about Romania. Infact, you may have noticed in the title that I’m specifically talking about the capital, not the countryside. You may not recall specifically what level takes place here, though. At least… Until you play the song below.
Oh yes. That mission: ‘The Meat King’s Party’. When charged with the kidnap of a wealthy Romanian’s daughter, Scottish meat industry entrepreneur, Campbell ‘Meat King’ Sturrock, hired lawyer Andrei Puscus to take care of things. The lawyer proceeded to get the case thrown out through use of blackmail and bribery. With the daughter still missing, the wealthy Romanian hires the Agency to A) Eliminate Sturrock and Puscus during a party celebrating the dropped charges and B) Escort the kidnapped young woman to safety. Upon arriving at Sturrock’s main Romanian plant, which doubles as his personal estate of sorts, you find the party to be far from any typical affair – It is a BDSM fetish party, with guests dressed in leathers and partaking in various carnal acts as desired. I like this because it’s one of the few times Hitman lets you explore a seedy underbelly that meshes with the tone of the game, and sadly, it’s one of the few times it ever goes this route; if only we saw more of this stuff! The only other time we really do is, what, the Heaven and Hell party in Las Vegas I mentioned last article..? Kind of a missed opportunity, I guess.
You can sneak in past the guard in various ways; you can either take a meat worker’s outfit (You knocked one out at the start of the level in a cutscene – Ensure that, regardless of if you use this disguise or not, you lock the truck so he doesn’t get out and alert the guards when he wakes), or the much less useful guest’s outfit (By knocking out a guest who goes off for a pee every now and then). Either way, enter unarmed as you’ll be frisked, and you can pass the guard by (“CUNO PROCEDURA. ACUM SIMT CARNEA.”).
Immediately upon entering, you’re smacked with the atmosphere of the place – Gutted pig corpses hang on hooks that move them around the facility, and the sterile tiling is covered in trails of blood. Only the central area of the factory has been cleared and decorated for the event; the closer you get to the main floor of the facility, the more gurneys and trashbags filled with off-cuts give way to ornate candles, potted orchids, and patrons ravishing one another. The entrance area has a small preparation room, presumably for specialty cuts of pork, as well as the main storage, which is refrigerated and loaded with hanging pigs. This is also the location of the bolt gun – A tool slaughterhouses use to detach the brain from the skull causing death, which coincidentally, also works on humans. There’s also a Dragunov SVD Sniper Rifle here for some reason; if the rifle in the German embassy was pointless, this one is just absurd. The area’s main hallway has a central stairway, which will lead upstairs. Whilst most of this part of the building – and especially the second floor – is filled with useless storage, you will have to head up because that’s where our missing VIP is.
Sneaking in, and going through a few corridors, you’ll come to… A strange room. Candles, air fresheners, and that damned song from playing. A fat, only half-dressed butcher wanders this area mumbling to himself, and he will attack you on sight regardless of disguise – this is your target’s brother, Malcolm, and apparently this area is his alone. In the side room he keeps entering, you’ll find the source of the music (A record player), as well as your client’s daughter. Or, more accurately, what’s left of her: It seems, going off the mutilation, the torture devices, and the creepy shrine built to the unfortunate woman, that the poor woman was kidnapped to appease Campbell’s sociopathic sibling. Yikes. There’s also an ethereal-sounding woman’s giggle every now and then, which isn’t creepy at all. You have to take an arm as proof of her death, which is all you can offer the client at this point in time, unfortunately. Curiously, even though you discover Malcolm killed her, he never becomes a target in the mission – Presumably the situation would be discovered by investigating police after your work is done here, at least, so justice would be served that way.
Heading back downstairs to that little main hallway, you can proceed south towards the locker rooms (Where you can knock out the Opium Pipe Waiter, which I recommend doing, for reasons I explain later). Head into the next door kitchen once you’re done. If you’re dressed as a butcher, you’ll be asked to take the Meat King an entire chicken to feast on. A chicken which, conveniently, can be stuffed with weapons, like the meat cleaver next to it, hint hint. Exit onto the main floor, and witness the depravity of this celebration whole – a bar, dancers in cages, sofas, candles, orchids, guests ,pig’s blood and more. That brightly lit room overseeing it all, though? That’s your goal. Head up stairs (Passing the frisk on the way due to having stashed your weapons), and go greet the Meat King.
His room is warmly lit, and lavishly decorated with Ottoman-esque furnishings. Makes sense; this seems to be where he lives at least part of the time. The Meat King himself – all 500lbs of him – lays immobile and almost naked on a bed, two very stoned female guests basking in his ‘glory’. As soon as he sees the chicken, he’ll tell the women to piss off – He doesn’t share his food. Go over to the curtains, draw them for some privacy, and retrieve your blade – When you hand Sturrock the chicken and he’s distracted, and everyone else is out of sight, butcher this pig and exit through the opposite door you came in – That way no-one will re-enter the room and discover Campbell’s body.
Head back downstairs, and to that Opium Pipe Waiter you hopefully knocked out, and take his outfit. There can only be one Opium Waiter at the party, so if you didn’t KO him, you may be setting yourself up for trouble. You’ll find Puscus high off his ass in one of the side rooms of the main party floor, which has been converted into a seedy opium den. Give him a pipe, wait for him to pass out (And nick his silenced pistol if you’re inclined) and dispatch him. This body will be discovered in time, so hastily head towards the back of the plant and exit via one of the refrigerated trucks before this can happen.
Fairly straight forward, this level is memorable for its atmosphere and tragedy (And the fact one of your targets is so fat, they literally cannot move of their own accord – If he discovers your intentions, he’ll just squeal for help and wobble about). The level is also decent for mayhem plays, especially if you’re a ‘clear room by room silently’ type. Overall, this level definitely has a place in my mind and heart, but I’ll be damned if I let it lay its head on my shoulder. *shudders*
Rural Sicily, Italy – Hitman 2 – Silent Assassin
This was a hard choice to make. I was debating about putting this in the list, or Requiem from Blood Money. Both are great, and very atmospheric, but I decided to go with this because *everyone* talks about the other, and whilst that is an awesome sequence, this is the more impactful on 47 as a character without a doubt.
After the events of Codename 47, Agent 47 retires to a quiet life, finding refuge in a lonely Italian church – the Gontrano Church – as its groundskeeper. The only other resident of the house of worship, Father Emilio Vittorio, becomes both a friend and guide to 47 as the clone attempts to find his new place in life. This bond, however, later serves as a weakness.
The Gontrano Church is a large, picturesque blend of typical Catholic Gothic architecture and Sicilian construction – Large, stone bricks make up the three belled church and surrounding walls, all topped with aged terracotta tiles. The windows of the main church are stained glass depictions of Catholic saints, and inside lays a large central hall (Overlooked by two balconies) which contain a great number of disused pews, a confessional, and a main altar, behind which reliefs of Jesus, Mary, and the apostles keep watch. The central hall is also home to thick, stone pillars, carved into ornate collumns, and a checkered tile floor is spread throughout the building.
The church is accessible via a large garden, the majority of which is wound around the back side of the church and out of sight. In this back part of the garden lays a simple garden (Tomatoes, mostly), a pig pen, and a small garden shed, which also serves as 47’s home during his stay. It’s all very tranquil, solemn, and peaceful – Perfect for the retired hitman.
This peace is broken, unfortunately, shattered when local mafia Don, Giuseppe Guillani, kidnaps Father Vittorio, leaving 47 a note and a knife, attempting to extort the assassin into his service in exchange for the old man’s safety. Booting up the tablet hidden in his shed, 47 contacts the Agency, much to their surprise – After forwarding him to his old handler, Diana, 47 asks a favour; intel and planning for an assassination and retrieval mission. Diana, bewildered at the return and unusual request – especially upon learning 47 considers the Padre a personal friend, something she had thought an impossibility – commits the Agency to the task, on the condition he returns and takes on one mission in exchange. He agrees, and sets out towards the Villa Borgehese, home of the Don, dressed in his old suit and equipped with his old Silverballers.
The mansion mission – ‘Anathema’ – is a good introduction to the rest of the game proper. Whilst 47 got to try out some things back at the church in a prologue of sorts, this level asks you to put what you’ve learned into practice, providing you multiple entrances into the villa grounds, some disguise opportunities, and very little hand holding. It’s a useful level to experiment with, and see what you can get away with, how disguises work, interacting with NPCs, and general infiltration – On that last front, this level can certainly be a strong challenge to new players, due to the heavy guard presence and their routes.
The villa itself is beautiful, and more properly representative of southern Italy than Gontrano’s secluded nature was. Surrounded by olivine hills topped with cypresses, the villa is further protected by an external wall. The property itself is a two story affair, complete with a large garden and pool (The only instance in Hitman 2 in which you can enter the water, actually). The interior is well furnished, and well guarded – upstairs, you’ll find the Don in his office. Once he’s enjoyed his last game of balcony golf (I usually fibre wire him and drag him around the corner, onto the rest of the first story roof and out of sight), grab his key, and go rescue the Father from the basement… Or, attempt to. Once you’re there, you’ll find the Father isn’t – Diana will check surveilance records and find only hours before your incursion, some Russian-looking types escorted the priest from the property. Bitter and unknowing where his friend and saviour has been whisked away to, 47 suggests to Diana that he may as well return to working for the Agency full time – On the promise that they keep searching for Vittorio. Diana agrees.
From there, the game progresses, and we ultimately learn that Vittorio was actually kidnapped on the orders of Sergei Zavorotko – Your main client and, later, antagonist. Zavorotko wanted only the best to take out his enemies and assist his plot in selling a nuclear weapon to a fanatical Indian cult and, as 47 had managed to kill Zavorotko’s brother in the first game, who better than he? When things go wrong and 47 learns that his redemption was shattered for such petty reasons, Zavorotko is eventually forced to take drastic measures to protect himself. He takes refuge with his bodyguards where it all began – the Gontrano Church – hiding in the confessional, using Father Vittorio as a human shield. Although hoping to confront and execute the assassin, 47 proves more than enough, killing the bodyguards and shooting Zavorotko through the confessional window before finishing him off.
47 approaches the weary but safe Padre, who accepts 47’s desire to leave the church, and ‘do good elsewhere’ via clearing the world of evil people. The Father gives 47 his rosary, and tells him that he’ll always have faith in him, and that no matter what he has done – what he will go on to do – redemption can still be found, and all humans have some good in them. As 47 departs, he leaves Vittorio’s cross on the gate, blowing in the wind.
This last scene especially is why this location is on the list. It’s such a beautiful, tragic moment – One of the few people to have ever reached 47’s heart, one of the few who he trusts, is forced out of the assassin’s life for their own sake. Vittorio’s statement that 47 can change is rejected so ultimately when he leaves behind the rosary – 47’s tried to change. He can’t. He knows he can’t and it’s pointless to cling to the notion he could. This experience has made him see that he’ll only ever be allowed to be what he was made for: A living weapon. And if he has to be that, then he’s going to do it on his own terms.
This is also where I’d like to mention another tragedy; Jasper Kyd’s departure from the franchise. He was with IO Interactive from before they were IO Interactive, really – He scored Sub-Terrania, Red Zone and Scorcher, which was developed by Zyrinx employees who would later form IO. He often employed this amazing mix of classic and choir music with electronica to create some truly amazing and memorable tunes. Yet when Absolution came around, his music – so closely associated with the franchise and its feel – was nowhere to be found. Sadly, he’s still yet to return, although he’s still composing. Perhaps now IO Interactive is free again, they can give him a call and get a missing piece of the series’ heart back?
Bonus – Are there any *bad* Hitman levels?
Look. I want to say no, there aren’t – Each place has their own little gimmick after all… And for as much hate as that game cops, even the ‘levels’ in Absolution weren’t too bad, with some boasting decent design (‘Terminus’, ‘Blackwater Hotel’, ‘The Vixen Club’) or a mercifully short length (Most of the shit getting to Dexter Industries in all honesty – Especially that mill with barely any guards?). But yes. As I’ve alluded to a few times throughout these articles, the series has had a few missteps here and there.
‘Motorcade Interception’ in Hitman 2 immediately comes to mind – The Afghan mission, where you have to snipe the Khan in the limo? Don’t tell me that wasn’t completely broken. I haven’t played it in years, but I still remember the frustration at not being able to make the shot for seemingly bullshit reasons, and having an insanely hard time carrying the rifle around undetected. You can’t kill the UN soldiers without a Game Over either (On the premise that it’ll damage the Agency’s relations with the shadier side of the organisation, which they kind of need). I think at the end I gave up trying to do it silently, hid behind the gates, and popped the Khan from behind when his motorcade went through.
Speaking of bullshit, there’s also the ‘Hidden Valley’ (Again, Hitman 2) – That enormous, snowy map in Japan you pass through to the map with the actual target on it? What a time waster; it wasn’t difficult to traverse, enemies were easy to avoid above and below ground, and you only ever played this bastard if you had to. Unlike St. Petersburg, you just had… Snow, and trees, or a generic looking underground tunnel. ‘At the Gates’, just after this map, had you deactivating generators at least. Did the developers really need to give us two maps before we got to the castle..?
And finally, whilst I mostly enjoy ‘Curtains Down’ in Blood Money, doing a Silent Assassin run on it is a nightmare. You can get the opera star, D’Alvade, easily enough, but if you want to take care of Ambassador Delahunt in an ‘accident’, you need D’Alvade to die on stage in an accident… And to do that, you need to wait for them to finish practising the scene so you can replace the replica gun with a real one. The problem is, that scene is from a real opera, and takes like 10 real world minutes to complete! I get it, they’re doing a pivotal scene of Act I, realism, yay – But gameplay wise, you simply don’t need that long to get into position, or set up the bomb on the chandelier to kill the Ambassador, or anything. So you’re just…waiting. I swear, I can still hear that opera singing… And if you’ve played this level, I’m so, so sorry for reminding you of it. At least it had boxing rats? Think of those instead.
And so concludes my thoughts on previous Hitman levels. What levels from the franchise did you like, and why? Feel free to tell us in the comments.