Jesper Kyd has been revered for his musical contributions to the stealth-action Hitman series. His most acclaimed soundtracks are a combination of dark electronic sounds with orchestral arrangements and brooding Latin lyrics, of which became trademark to the series. The Danish-born composer was there in the beginning when Hitman: Codename 47, the first title in the series, was in development. Though he had very little source material to work with – that being a single sheet of backstory and level locations – the end result was still impressive nonetheless.
The soundtrack release was packaged alongside the OST for the game’s sequel, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin (stay tuned for a write-up on that one). Starting off the album is an extended version of the game’s signature theme. Its eerie synths slowly build up alongside the electronic beats as it works its way up to the striking chorus. It’s definitely one of the strongest tracks on the album. The end result was a primarily ambient and experimental album, albeit with some catchy, looped rhythms, which still makes for an enjoyable listen.
The CD release includes medleys of the numerous themes heard in each level, respectively. The loud crashing noises paired up with the Asian-sounding drums and airy synths in ‘Hong Kong Themes’ evokes the liveliness of the streets of China, while ‘Hotel Themes’ feels both warm and unsettling at the same time with its relaxed and reserved instrumentation – much calmer than the other tracks, in comparison.
Even the tunes heard in the jungle missions – considered to be some of the worst missions in the series – are strikingly catchy. ‘Jungle Exploration’ starts off fairly reserved before reaching an uplifting crescendo and a simply beautiful leitmotif, while the drum beats and wind pipes in ‘Dark Jungle’ make it a brooding, but pleasant, listen. The ethnic instrumentation in these tracks alone are simply sublime.
‘Hospital Themes’ and ‘Harbour Themes’ are some of the weaker tracks on the album. The crashing drum beats in both of these seem to break the immersive feel that they attempt to invoke. Drum ‘n’ bass doesn’t quite mix with these eerie soundscapes, even if the keyboards in the latter track is a nice hook. They may be fitting enough for the levels in the game, though they’re far from an essential listen.
Packaged alongside are a few demos, one of them being the original version of the main theme. Though vastly similar, it has a much slower electronic drum beat, thumping away at roughly one beat-per-second (it was twice as quick in the final release). As a result, it’s not nearly as catchy. ‘Hotel Music (Early Demo)’ is a pleasant listen, though the ‘Atmosphere Demo’ is awfully generic and simply forgettable. While ‘Rainforest (Early Demo)’ is strikingly different from the other jungle-themed tunes, it’s a surprisingly lengthy track. Plus, it’s pretty catchy one at that, thanks to its jaunty tribal drums, twanging acoustics and upbeat tempo.
While Hitman: Codename 47 is no doubt showing its age, the soundtrack still stands as one of its strongest aspects. It may not be Kyd’s most complex or revered work, yet the selection of ethnic-inspired, rhythmic-ambient tracks are no doubt a cracking listen. Even though the bonus tracks included are a bit hit-and-miss in terms of quality, it just goes to show that Kyd was on strong foundations from the very first Hitman title onward.