One of my newer games is Hitman: Contracts. I just finished it a few nights ago.
But back up a step. A year and a half ago, I rented Hitman: Silent Assassin (aka Hitman 2) over the Thanksgiving break. I played that bugger right on through the weekend. Fantastic gameplay. Very open and large levels, varied ways to approach the problem, excellent graphics, and a reasonable storyline.
Well, let's just say that my rating was usually Mass Murderer. My gameplay style was a bit, umm, direct. "You moved!" BLAM! "I see you over there!" BLAM! Of course, all the cool folks would go for the Silent Assassin rating. But holy crap is that hard. No other kills besides your target, no alarms, no injuries, etc. So I just killed everyone. Even the half-naked bimbo in the hot tub.
So this time around, with Contracts, I cranked the difficulty up to Hard. There are four levels: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Expert(?). I've played enough of these stealthy games that I figured Hard was quite doable. Replayability for this kind of game can be a bit low (once you figure out the best approach to a mission, then why try again?) And then I tried to be less of a walking death machine.
Well, it is still quite a bitch. I was definitely able to reduce the body count, but only got the Silent Assassin rating once. Of course, that felt cool as hell to do that. Got myself a nice unlockable for it, too.
And the game? Even better graphically. Great missions. The story line was not really present this time around, however. It is a series of flashbacks to prior hits, and you play through them again. But that also means they are disjointed. No problem, of course, when the whole goal is whacking some fat executive. The AI in this game is really quite cool, when you alert some guys and they start to search for you. Not quite as smart as the Splinter Cell guys, but hey.
A good amount of the game is trial and error. Thankfully, the load times are decent. (Morrowind is an awesome game, but you can make a trip to the grocery store while it loads a saved game) So in this, you'll find yourself experimenting with different approaches. This is a great part of the game: very challenging, and it makes you think. And when you get frustrated, just pull up a walkthrough on gamefaqs.com, and get a few hints. It means you won't ever get totally pissed off and just give up.
The final mission was a real bitch. I tried it over and over with various approaches. Finally got a few hints, and got through the level. I exited with an Expert rating, but I think I can do a Silent Assassin on it. Gonna have to load it back up and try...
For some stealthy, murderous action... Hitman: Contracts is a winner. A bit short (10-15 hrs), so a very solid weekend can do it as a rental.