Set in the Siberian wilderness, your main objective is to take down some highly elected officials.
The overall story is there, your reasoning for being where you are is solid enough, but you really won’t care beyond that. It’s not a weak story per se, yet it never captivated me to take too much notice. The fun in this game comes from its focus on the assassination playground design, the choice of how you pull off those fancy stealth kills against your targets.
In the world of assassination secrecy is a must, hence why you are referred to only as ‘Seeker’ and the ominous voice issuing your contracts is referred to as ‘Handler’. During missions, you wear a mask, which wouldn’t look out of place in the Deus Ex series. It isn’t just a fashion accessory though, it acts as your HUD, as well as tools such as; Binoculars and a vision which highlights objects like explosive barrels. It’s a clever way of intriguing the UI elements into gameplay.
Missions are presented in an open-ended level style, this allows for more freedom when it comes to completing your objectives. I was surprised just at how much freedom you are given, the variety of locations you can stealth your way through is enough to keep each of the five levels feeling fresh.
While the best way to play Contracts would be to stay back in the shadows using your trusty sniper rifle, things can often go pear-shaped. Raised suspicion, or walking in plain view of security cameras could end in a huge firefight. Your health at the start is limited meaning some mistakes end up in certain death. You do have access to suitable weaponry if the need arises, picking them up from bodies is also a smart idea just in case. You can, if you feel like it, use a more direct approach in your contracts, so guns blazing is definitely an option if you desire.
Using your rifle is the games major challenge, it may seem simple just lining up your rifle to your target, yet you need to take a few things into account. Bullet drop, wind, weather conditions all alter how easy the shot is to take. Pulling off a successful kill shot in your first attempt is always satisfying, and is often rewarded with a cinematic bullet cam (think Sniper Elite). Missing shots won’t necessarily mean failure, too many though and enemies will start searching for you. Different ammo types will broaden your style, EMP, armour piecing and DARPA (eliminates wind/drop challenge) rounds will open up different opportunities.
You’re not completely left to figure out your shots while aiming down scope you’ll notice a drop indicator which helps with wind speed as well. While it doesn’t hold your hand it’s a helpful guide to still give you that feeling that you are a sniper expect, especially when you pull off a headshot.
Each level has multiple contracts, tasks and bounties to undertake. Successfully completing these will grant you money and tokens that you can spend upgrading yourself and your weapons, further increasing your ability to take on your missions more successfully. You may find guns scattered about each area but the option to purchase is there, which is especially useful for buying more powerful rifles. The choices are plenty, without becoming silly. Same with the equipment, which allows you to buy a drone and a gun turret to use in the field.
With the multiple approaches you can take, each playthrough can have some uniqueness to it. Situations might arise in which you’ll have to adapt on the fly. The variation in contracts means you might have to get up close and personal to hack a laptop or steal something, rather than sulking in a bush picking off targets. The game shines by letting you be methodical, the slow pace of setting yourself up, taking in your surroundings and assessing the situation really immerses you as a tip-top sniper.
Contracts is a huge step in the right direction for the franchise, the approach to how levels work, upgrades and more just feel a lot better this time around. It reminds me of the most recent Hitman titles, just with a bit less polish but more focus on getting the sniper sections right. The precision and pacing may not be for everyone, but you’d be missing out on some fun scenarios and satisfying shooting mechanics.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*