Nostalgia is a funny thing.
Experiences and events from years past can become encased in subjectivity that remains immune to the passing of time. As you get older you sometimes get a desire to re-visit some of those experiences and feel the emotions all over again. Sometimes those feelings rush back, and it is everything you remember and longed for. Other times those memories are shown to be less accurate than you had expected, or that as time and technology move forward, those pristine snapshots of the past now show flaws and frayed edges that were not present when first taken. The Hitman HD Enhanced Edition which bundles Blood Money and Absolution into a single “remastered” package manages to provide both ends of the spectrum. The magic is still there, but Agent 47 had not aged as gracefully as I had hoped despite the facelift.
This is my first time playing any Hitman game on console, but the transition was an easy one. Both games control very naturalistically, and all the onscreen action has been given a solid if somewhat jarring at times visual upgrade. Of course, both titles are presented in 4K with HDR and look better than they ever have on console, but like we’ve seen many times before this “remaster” looks more like the original games being played at higher resolution than an actual remastered product. The animations are stiff, the character models simplistic by today's standards, and many of the environments and textures lack the detail you would expect in a modern release.
For example, a side by side comparison of the OG 2012 release of Absolution running on my PC is all but indistinguishable from the HD Enhanced version on my PS4 Pro. Aside from some UI clean-up and the aforementioned HDR both games in the HD Enhanced Collection seem to be 1:1 ports of the original PC assets including the rather hazy and heavily compressed cinematics. Which likely explains why there was no PC release for this collection.
Of the two games [/\i]Absolution has gained the most from this re-release being the more recent of the two titles the visual upgrades mesh a lot better due to the generally higher quality of the original assets and animations. By comparison Blood Money’s age and relatively simplistic visuals are brought into sharp focus thanks to the new high-resolution presentation. 47 is far less wrinkled and world-worn but he feels and performs like a man a generation older than this Absolution incarnation and practically geriatric when compared to his last two outings.
The only things that have not been re-touched in this collection are actually the best reasons why anyone should be spending their hard-earned money to play them. Both Blood Moneyand Absolution retain all of the original missions and story, and despite the comparatively smaller worlds that exist in both games, they stack up admirably against their more modern cousins all things considered.
Blood Money for many was considered the best game in the series and it’s hard to argue against that even now. The narrative beats hit just as hard as they did back in 2006 and the escalation of events expertly ratchets up the stakes and emotional tension all the way to the end. Despite the smaller levels and much simpler AI and pathing the stealth and assassination gameplay hold up reasonably well, but they feel more puzzle-like and less free-form than I remember and certainly less sand-boxy than the latest entries and even collection mate – Absolution.
Absolution is the most direct of sequels in the Hitman canon and is to date the most cinematic of the series in terms of its story and presentation. Its inclusion in this two-game collection makes sense from a story perspective but the generational jump between the two titles is significant and rather jarring. Absolution is mechanically a better game than Blood Money but it’s a bit of a sprawling mess lacking the focus and narrative drive of its predecessor despite upping the emotional stakes. Absolution tried to make 47 more relatable but in doing so took away from what made him so unique and fun to play. It also created an uncomfortable juxtaposition between his cold-hearted and workmanlike efficiency in-mission and the story IO Interactive was trying to tell. Absolution is a far more open game and gives you more tools and freedom than the series had until this point when originally released but it never really gels as a complete experience. Objectively Absolution has some of the best missions in the series, but it also has some of the dullest and that inconsistency does hurt it overall.
Ultimately it is inconsistency that stands out the most in this package. Blood Money and Absolution feel very different and their HD enhancements do little to hide their age. Blood Money is the superior experience, but Absolution looks and plays better. An engine upgrade for Blood Money to help the transition between titles would have improved the experience significantly. In the end, I enjoyed revisiting both titles and despite various minor issues and age lines that no facelift could erase they are worth going back to, or even experiencing for the first time if you’re a fan of the sneaky kill em all (or nor) sub-genre.