Everyone has their favorite Hitman level. It’s a game about player choice, where you, as the best assassin in the world, have to figure out the best of ways to go about solving a problem presented to you. In many cases, this will involve pushing an unsuspecting NPC off a cliff or silently taking care of them with a fibre wire after getting them into a favorable position. But that introduction is useless. You already know what the Hitman series is and why you, as the player, love it so much. You may even have a favorite level yourself! After all, it is the player who is the target (pun intended) of the overly thought-out level design and whom all of the kinks and details are polished out for. Having that in mind, let’s see which levels succeeded in being the most memorable. And whom better to ask than the Hitman community?
HITMAN Season One – Sapienza:
Hi! I’m GuLe, I do HITMAN videos. I can’t really remember when I started playing Hitman, but Absolution wasn’t out yet, so it was probably like 2010 or something.
What I do remember however is that once I played a game about a bald killer (spoiler alert: it was Hitman 2: Silent Assassin) at a cybercafé. I was impressed, so I looked it up and found out that the series actually consisted of 4 games. I played all 4 of them in order and loved them!
I didn’t join the community until HITMAN came out and I made an account on HitmanForum and started using the subreddit. I did lurk those places before though – well before HITMAN! I just played the damn game, no specific playstyle, but after HITMAN came out and I started making videos, I decided to focus on style points more than anything. And with that, speed usually comes naturally. You’d think I always go for speedruns, but that’s not the case. But teabagging the leaderboards is always fun!
As for my favorite level, for me it’d be Sapienza. Here’s the thing about HITMAN – when you’re evaluating a level you have to consider the entire map, and the potential for contracts you can play on it. With the other Hitman games, you’re only talking about the main mission. I have 2470+ hours in HITMAN right now so the main missions are pretty dead to me (even though I’d still pick World of Tomorrow if we were only talking about the main mission, and I think Silvio’s story is the most interesting out of all targets). But I still mostly play Contacts mode, and as Sapienza has huge potential for it, I tend to visit it a lot. It’s also the best looking map! Huehuhuehuehue.
Hitman Contracts – Traditions of the Trade:
Hello, my name is RadeR. Sometimes I’m a fiction writer, half the time I’m a music producer, but most times I’m just RadeR. The first time I heard of Hitman was back in 2002, when my dad brought a bootlegged Hitman 2 copy back home. We’d play with “the bald guy” all around, and I remember bits and pieces about what I’d soon know as Hidden Valley, Basement Killing, Anathema, and the Gontranno Sanctuary. And whenever dad left the computer unattended while 47 was in the garden shed, I’d go and waste all the ammo on the pigs outside. Don’t sue me, PETA.
At some point in 2016, I really wanted to record gameplay of Hitman and a friend of mine said that I should share my videos on the Hitman subreddit. That’s when I discovered White’s blog and spent the next week reading it and being mesmerized at both the details I’ve missed and the passion displayed in those writings. So I sent White a message on a whim, just to express my opinion and I got a Discord link in exchange. That’s how I met a lot of key members of the community, with whom I’ve kept in touch ever since, and it’s safe to say the people I met form one of the most balanced and friendly communities I’ve ever been a part of.
It’s also the most diverse as we all play video games for different reasons. Personally, I play games for the story and the vibes. Graphics or mechanics are usually neglectable for me, as long as the journey I’m offered is rewarding, compelling, or simply beautiful. Sometimes, I try and speedrun games for fun, mostly obscure titles like Disney’s Tarzan and something like that. But even so, the vibe of that particular jungle is what makes me look another way when the controls break my run.
This is how my list of favourites is the way it is. Bjarkhov Bomb is one of my favourite levels of the Hitman series. There’s something about that freezing isolation, in that “dangerous environment”, that no snow engine has yet managed to replicate for me. But honestly, it’s hard to pick a single favorite. I did have one for a very long time, but then, a contender surfaced, as both these levels influenced the book I am writing in terms of destinations my character visits. I have the visual aspects of Rotterdam from Deadly Cargo engraved in my brain for when the time comes to paint a scene in that city, but I have already envisioned myself and my characters visiting the Thermal Bath Hotel over in Budapest. So I’ll have to go with the remade Traditions of the Trade.
Hitman Contracts has always attracted me for its dark and gritty theme. I can’t begin to describe how immersed I was when playing it. By the rain, by the visuals, by the music, the Budapest Hotel is not just my favourite Hitman location, but it may as well be one of my all time favourite locations in gaming altogether. In terms of gameplay, there’s not much I can say that hasn’t been said. Quickly go and pick the pool lock, drown Fritz, time it so you can steal the bellboy’s key, sneak into Frantz’s room from the other balcony, dress as his goomba, steal the bomb, #winning. My own personal input? Just load a saved game and walk around, listen to the great tracks that flood the hotel, go through the forbidden corridor, explore and lose yourself in the hotel. Oh, and if you happen upon the roulette, ALWAYS play on black.
HITMAN Season One – Paris:
Hey, I’m Lilith. Probably better known for heading the Hitman Discord server.
I bought HITMAN on impulse and then decided to venture into the subreddit and HitmanForum for a bit. Now it’s just Discord. White actually got me to pick up the other Hitman games and play through some of those.
My playstyle really varies. Had I been asked this while I still had a fondness for the HITMAN game, I would’ve said immersed pistolero. SO/SA, taking it slow. Times changed. Eventually I started mowing down everyone as a means to pass boredom while waiting for the next episode down the line and that turned out to be fun.
I almost wanted to put Patient Zero’s Vector as my favorite mission but I don’t feel like GOTY edition. Honestly, though, it’s the least clunky level and still, you just snipe. So, I guess Paris, simply due to the sheer time spent on it thanks to signature IOI delays, and also having the 2015 leak to see how it evolved. Also pretty sound Swiss cheese design philosophy that was executed well. Going back to it now I can’t find anything really memorable. My sentiment for the game shifted majorly. There was one or 2 times I got escalation speedruns done with one try but in hindsight, there weren’t many “wow” moments.
HITMAN Season One – Sapienza:
I’m Introvert_. I’m a Hitman enthusiast though I don’t pretend to be good at any of the games. I upload game content regarding Hitman to YouTube.
Hitman first came to my attention in 2012. Blood Money was a game I was aware of through videos on YouTube I stumbled across, namely TheAuzzieGamers’ playthrough which I was a huge fan of. I got the game on Steam around October of the same year (unaware that Absolution was to be released only a month later) and was instantly hooked by its open-ended playstyle and puzzles. It was a style of game I had never played before, and one to this day I still struggle to find emulated as well anywhere else.
As for the community, I got into it around 2 months before the release of HITMAN’s Paris Level — creating a profile on the HitmanForum and slowly learning more about the games, the lore, speedrunning community and the people. Some of them I already knew about, such as Kotti — I had seen his Blood Money run from AGDQ 2014 and was blown away by what he could achieve by manipulating the AI and seeing him complete the entire game in the time it took me to half complete 1 level.
Personally, I love trying to achieve Silent Assassin in the most absurd way. I don’t roleplay the game, though I sometimes try to speed-run my own strats. The puzzle element motivates me to play the game more than anything else — how to get from A to B while killing X in a sneaky way, and all the elements that come between that. It’s a hard act to balance though, as if the puzzle is too easy, it’s not a fun challenge, but if it’s too difficult, it becomes tedious and a chore. I think for the most part, the level design of the series has been pretty superb, and definitely adds to the fun of exploring and having that “oh, I can complete this challenge differently now” moment.
Sapienza for me is my favourite level of the series. While it’s easy to say the level is good because it is “big”, I’m more a fan of intricate level design and the way everything fits together like a jigsaw puzzle. I see Sapienza not as one level per se, rather 3 or 4 sub-levels that are meshed together fantastically, all with the ability to feed off each other. It’s why I feel levels like Marrakesh and Colorado (while still a good level in its own right) dropped the ball for me, as while it has sub-levels, they seem entirely separate from everything else happening in the level and don’t talk to each other. I like to approach the level by luring the targets away from everyone else. I like the idea of the NPCs wondering where a certain character went, only to find a corpse, or an unconscious half-naked guard with no gun, or indeed nobody at all. It’s how I approach most of the game anyway, but there are some good setups in Sapienza that fit really well with the setting and narrative of the mission.
Hitman Codename 47 – Meet Your Brother:
Hello! I’m AlyMar1994, and known in some places as Nehpys. I play video games most of the time, and as of now I’m studying music at my high-school. I also run the HitmanWiki.
I actually started to play Hitman very recently. At minimum… five years ago? I knew of the series long before that; I’d watched lots of videos on YouTube and such before getting all the games, especially the Hitman: Absolution playthrough by an Irishman named “CallMeKevin.” I also got into the community more recently, in the last two years? Can’t remember all that well. I found it when browsing Google and such, and didn’t join it at first. I didn’t even get a welcome at first either! What assholes!
Since I don’t feel playstyles split up the community, I’d say I’m more of a roleplayer in Hitman (and really many other games as well). Now, I’m not a “look at pot plants”-type of player; I mostly like to walk around and take in the atmosphere and what the developers try to build, as atmosphere is incredibly important to a series like Hitman, but I don’t take it to the extremes of “stalking my target for 10 minutes because I conveniently forget the level every time I play,” or “I like to stalk my targets with a sniper rifle and not even kill them with it because that’s fun.” At other times I like to go the pure Silent Assassin route, because that’s kinda fun. Not Suit Only though. Definitely not Suit Only.
I enjoy how Hitman levels are built, and how they present the atmosphere. That’s what motivates me to play them. I really love Traditions of the Trade from Hitman: Codename 47, but I also love House of Cards from Hitman: Blood Money. Both equally have great atmospheres to me, even if the latter isn’t really that great in gameplay (but screw the haters, it’s still great). Pretty much all of Hitman: Absolution, too, is great at the atmosphere. While the gameplay wasn’t superb by any means (except King of Chinatown, but even that could use some polish), the game nailed what I feel should be the general atmosphere and feeling of a Hitman game if modified. The “how they’re built” part isn’t really mentioned here, as it’s not really something I can describe. It’s one of the “if it’s good, it’s good” things.
But actually, my favorite level has to be Meet Your Brother from Codename 47. While you can’t really take the level and play it in many different ways, I always find it entertaining. The mood, the atmosphere, and the feeling of obliterating all the No. 48s just to destroy Ort-Meyer himself is great. The ability to hold a Minigun and at the end of a corridor, shred down anyone who dares step a millimeter in your sight — it’s awesome! Definitely not something I experience in many Hitman levels. While Meet Your Brother is no Traditions of the Trade, House of Cards, Attack of the Saints nor Return to Gontranno, the level itself holds a special place in my heart for what it is and what it could be, along with all of Codename 47.
Hitman Codename 47 – The Lee Hong Assassination:
Hey, I’m Timothy — I am your average person with too much free time. I love games and have done for years, especially adventure games like the old Lucas Arts point-and-clicks and original Telltale games (in their Monkey Island/Sam and Max era of actual games with gameplay). I also love immersive sims like Thief, Dishonored, Prey, etc., and weird and unique games like Psychonauts or Firewatch or The Witness or Far Cry 2 (right there is a point of contention, I am sure). Other than playing games, I’m very active in online communities and have been for a long, long time now! Currently, I am a moderator over at Double Fine official forums and an active member of the Hitman subreddit and Discord communities.
I started playing the Hitman series sometime in the past 5–8 years. I began with Absolution, played the tutorial level, got completely bored and assumed the entire series was like that. BOY, WAS I WRONG. I purchased Blood Money on Steam after reading all over the place that the game was the best in the series and about fifty times better than Absolution, so I decided “ah what the hell, I’ll give it a go!” I fondly remember the first real level in the Vineyard overwhelming me in the most fascinating and beautiful of ways. Not understanding that one of the core goals of the game was to try and attain Silent Assassin, I fumbled my way through the level like a complete moron, killing plenty of guards in the way but ultimately completing the objective. The thing that struck me about Blood Money was that each level played its full hand with no strings attached and it was up to me to pick which cards I wanted to play with. I could bring in any assortment of weapons, access the buildings from many different angles, choose what disguises to wear, take as much time as I like, and the game allowed me to do so. No restrictions, no telling me how to play, no hints popping up. The game wasn’t scared that I was missing content, or taking too long to complete objectives. The self confidence it had in its own mechanics and design amazed me to no end, and I ended up playing that first level of Blood Money dozens of times before I even considered moving on to the next level.
I actually never completed Blood Money that first time playing, nor for many years after that. I ran into the ‘issue’ where I would play the first five or six levels so much that I ended up burning myself out. But it wasn’t a bad burn out, it wasn’t from grinding away at pointless crap. It was from the joy of experimentation that the game sits back and lets you experience. Sometime in 2015, I spotted at my local game retailer the ‘Hitman Collection’ for ten dollars. It came with games 1–4 and I immediately bought it, remembering my incredible experience with the first half of Blood Money. I decided I would play through the series from beginning to end to get ready for the release of HITMAN, which was announced at this point, and I did just that. I played from Codename 47 all the way to the end of Absolution. I even played Sniper Challenge and the Hitman Christmas Game, which is, obviously, the best Hitman game as all true fans know.
Games 1–4 of the series are easily the peak for me. Gameplay aside, the atmosphere of these games, the philosophies they explore, and simply observing the strangely interesting character of 47 work and evolve over these games was a very memorable adventure. Each of these games is so confident in itself and fully embraces its identity and tone. There were a couple of points in these games where I didn’t enjoy the gameplay completely; but the world, sound design and music made me want to keep playing. There is a reason why soundtrack composer Jesper Kyd is specifically credited in the opening title videos of Contracts even before the main menu. His music is phenomenal and his work on games 1–4 makes for some of my favourite soundtracks of all time, along with the music in the original The Sims.
Picking my favourite level in the series so far is extremely tough. I have to weigh in on the gameplay, the tone, the atmosphere, the music, the level design and more to really choose my favourite. After much deliberation I decided to choose The Lee Hong Assassination from Codename 47. This level is the culmination of a series of levels all set in Hong Kong, where 47 performs assassinations in order to get Lee Hong in a position where he can be killed. The actual level blew my mind when I first played it. In my opinion, this is the first level in the entire series that really set the bar for a Hitman level. All future Hitman games have this level to thank for its design sensibilities. The level begins when you enter the lobby of a restaurant, from here you have a series of doors that you can attempt to enter, some guarded by guards. There is an easily attainable outfit nearby, but first-time players of the level are not likely to figure this out straight away and are instead drawn to the dining/restaurant area. You can talk to the barman, who provides something interesting I won’t spoil here, you can explore the restaurant, you can find outfits, you can discover an incredibly beautiful garden, you can find numerous strange little rooms, and weave your way through the beautiful and atmospheric maze that makes up this level. This is the first level in the series where it seemed that Io-Interactive really figured out how to design a level that just you figure it out. The level had confidence that you were smart enough to solve its puzzles and it respected you as a player. There is a lot more I could say about The Lee Hong Assassination, but much of it is best experienced first-hand. To summarise without spoiling; the joy of discovery is wonderful, the strange and memorable characters in this level have stuck with me, and the sandbox nature of the level has informed the series’ design over the years, so I see The Lee Hong Assassination as one of the most important levels in the series’ history, and my favourite Hitman level to date.
Hitman Blood Money – A Vintage Year:
I’m Rob, known online as Vinnie. I’m a veteran and printing pressman at a printing company. I’ve played the Hitman series for about 16 years now. I started with Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, fell in love and continued pursuing the franchise ever since. I never really got “involved” in the community until right before the release of the newest installment (HITMAN). I got pulled into the community by the Hitman subreddit and the HitmanForum.
My preferred playstyle is very realistic and Silent Assassin-like. I try and only use the fibre wire or other silent weapons and only use guns for shooting cameras or causing distractions.
My all-time favorite level doesn’t quite exist but it would be a perfect mixture of Blood Money and Contracts levels. When it comes to existing ones, A Vintage Year is amazing and Beldingfold Manor is thrilling. As far as level detail, HITMAN’s Sapienza is great.
Ultimately though, I think I’m gonna go with A Vintage Year. I remember when I first got the game and I replayed that level over and over… I was intrigued by the level design at the time. Over the years, I played it so much that I developed a distinct strategy I always use. Honestly, it’s muscle memory at this point. I start off by sedating the guard under Don’s window to get his outfit. I then enter the vineyard, climb the gutter near his window, and sneak through. I equip the fibre wire and assassinate him while he plays his violin. Afterwards, I climb out of the window and jump off to the roof back to where I sedated the guard from earlier. I change back into 47’s suit, make my way down to the docks and sedate the guard smoking by the wooden crates. This gives me his disguise. Then, I enter the elevator and head for the secret entrance in the wine cellar. I enter the room where Manuel will eventually come and snort his line of cocaine, and head for the door exiting the door. Upon the target exiting the room, I fibre wire him and hide him in the crate located in the room. I head back down to the docks, put back on the 47 suit, then leave by plane. I honestly think the scenery of this level is absolutely gorgeous and it’s amazing that you can see so much of it even when in reality, the level isn’t very spacious. It proves that the level doesn’t have to be huge to be great and is something IO should consider nowadays.
Hitman Codename 47 – Traditions of the Trade:
So I’m FrankFuchs and I guess I am here today because I rather like those Hitman games by IO Interactive. I’m the biggest Hitman fan in Finland, and if you disagree with that, you can come here and discuss it. Then we’ll have crêpes and beer, and I’ll tell you that I, in fact, hate basically all kinds of elitism, gatekeeping and bragging, and I don’t think I’m anywhere even close to being the biggest Hitman fan here or anywhere else; and I just wanted to have crêpes and beer with you.
My introduction to Hitman was in my teen years. I can’t be sure of the exact date, but most likely it was summer 2003, when my cousin was visiting. He had this PlayStation 2 game with him he was quite excited about: Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. I played the tutorial and he let me fail miserably on the Anathema mission. Despite that, the 3D world, binoculars, disguises, guards doing inspections at the gate, fibre wire, anaesthetic, real-time map, stashing items in crates, and that really slow, but oh-so cool, sneaking blew me away. Not to mention the music and voice acting!
Nowadays I’m easy to reach on HitmanForum and THE Hitman Discord, but it’s been a long journey. I’m quite a private person, and even as a fan of… anything, actually, I usually don’t feel the need to find like-minded people and form a community or any of that. I can just enjoy whatever it is that I like by myself and maybe a friend or two, although I can tell that getting older has reinforced that need to share things with others. It’s probably so my fragile memory isn’t the only thing recording my likes, and others can remind me in case I forget. It couldn’t possibly be anything deeper, like shared joy being a greater joy. I was rambling there a bit, but I was supposed to lead into how I found the online community between Hitman 2 and Contracts releases. I wasn’t really that active; I maybe browsed a few interesting topics every few months on the HitmanForum. I think I had two registered accounts, as I just forgot what the first one was, and these days I can’t remember either one. I’m fairly sure I made less than five posts between those two ancient accounts. That’s strange considering how used to I am to being called Frank these days.
When it comes to Hitman, I am a slow and methodical player. Why run if you can walk? Even if the game mechanics wouldn’t punish me, I like to play in a way that wouldn’t cause suspicion in the real world, though I do wish the game would take care of that for me, so I can do the minimum amount of pretending. That’s my preferred way of playing at least. Naturally I change it up a bit from time to time. Atmosphere and story are the things to nail down to get me to play, and interesting gameplay mechanics, and challenging obstacles and puzzles will keep me coming back. Or if the developers are lazy, just stick excellent music in there, and I’m stupid enough to play the game instead of listening to that song on YouTube.
So if I would have to name just a single level as my favorite, I think I would go with Traditions of the Trade from Codename 47. I would still like to give a special shout out to all the Russia missions from Hitman 2, however, as the atmosphere there is just unrivaled, and even the stricter missions with less freedom are just a joy to play. There’s tension there, which is severely lacking these days, I feel.
Traditions of the Trade has a bit of that, as in the nuke doesn’t have too many ways of getting to it, which is one of the few flaws the mission has. But this freedom versus tension and difficulty to me is one of those battles that is at the forefront of my Hitman experience nowadays. Hitman is a series that is distinguished by the social stealth element, and Traditions of the Trade is one of those missions which acknowledges that. It is public, yet guarded. The number of installed metal detectors, hotel room keys and the DO NOT DISTURB signs you can place on any door were all welcome surprises when playing the game for the first time (which for me was between Blood Money and Absolution, so fairly recently in terms of Hitman — curb your accusations of nostalgia!). I can’t even imagine how many movies do the “put the DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door to keep hotel staff away” trick, and here you can actually do that with any room you like. I should mention that I consider the scripted sauna kill the most gruesome in the entire franchise. There is nothing more cold-blooded than holding down the door and staring at your victim when he is struggling to get out to save his life. It says something about 47 too — he could easily have held down the door and not been visible from the inside, yet he watches.
Ultimately, I think Traditions of the Trade approaches the assassin fantasy in a convincing way that is easy for anyone to imagine. Enter the hotel, check in, get a sneak at the register, go to your room, and start thinking about how you are going to do this. Compare the location of your room to the target’s room. Maybe take an innocuous stroll past the target’s room. There’s a guard at the door, didn’t expect that. And he tells me to piss off, really didn’t expect that. Perhaps it’s time to track down the other Fuchs.
Hitman 2: Silent Assassin – St. Petersburg Stakeout:
Hi, I’m Mad Max. I’ve been a member of the HitmanForum since 2004 and Lilith’s Hitman Discord server since its launch in 2016. Like so many others, I was introduced to the series with the release of the Hitman 2: Silent Assassin demo disc (Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine, Issue 62, November 2002).
I found H2: SA highly engrossing and wanted to read more about it. In the process of seeking out reviews, I discovered the HitmanForum. I would often check the front page for news, interviews, etc., before I finally signed up on December 12, 2004. By then I had also played Hitman Contracts. However, as I’ve played H2: SA more, and more recently, than the others, I’ll focus on that.
I tend to play missions somewhat loosely the first time to study the lay of the land. My goal is to be efficient; a Silent Assassin rating is ideal, of course, but Professional is acceptable. (When I was twelve/thirteen, I probably spent more time turning levels into shooting galleries than trying to complete my objectives in a manner befitting of Mr. 47’s skillset.)
Choosing a favorite mission is difficult, but one I’ve always been fond of is St. Petersburg Stakeout — the first mission 47 is sent on following the revelation that Padre Vittorio was not at the Villa Borghese in Sicily. “It’s seen its share of bullets and betrayal over the years and not an easy place for a comeback.” What an introduction! I like this mission because of the sense of urgency 47 — and the player — feels at not knowing for certain who the target is, as Diana feeds him information: “That narrows it down, but still no positive ID. My time slot is slipping — any additional info?” Furthermore, having to transport a weapon over half a kilometer of cold, hostile territory to a vantage point really helps set the mood. “I have to rely on the element of surprise — they don’t expect me, and if I keep it cool, clean and quiet, they’ll never know what hit them.” All of this amounts to a very memorable experience for me.
After deboarding the train, I retrieve the Agency pickup from locker #137, careful to avoid civilians in the metro with my new SVD Dragunov. Using the sewers to navigate, I change into the soldier’s uniform lying beside the truck next to the manhole north of the metro exit. I then board the truck next to the Neva River that takes me to the apartment complex across the street from the Pushkin Building. Once there, I head to the 3rd floor, pick the lock to the apartment facing southwest of the corridor, and set up. I wait until the patrolling soldier is either two floors above or below me before taking the shot to buy time for my retreat.
“I have visible contact and positive ID.”