Thief Review (PS4/X1): “Something lurks in the shadows, perhaps it should stay there”

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Thief launches the series into a next-gen experience; adding to its quiver everything that goes along with a complete rejuvenation of a series: new graphics, a fresh story, clever designs and a whole new world to call your own. But just because something is new doesn’t always mean it’s better – does this new Thief properly pay tribute to the past entries in the ever popular series? Or should it just cower in the shadows, dwelling in the shame of being “just another game”?

Story: 1/5

Instead of reviving an old storyline from previous entries in the series, Eidos Montreal took a classic move and started from scratch; giving main character Garrett a new background with a new reason to be the master thief (as well as a killer new look). Thief takes place in a busy setting simply called “The City”: an almost middle-aged, steampunk, “we just discovered electricity” kind of place. This means that modern-day locks, contraptions and security systems haven’t been invented yet, which is all the better for us. It’s also around the time where sorcery and a hint of mysticism can viably make an appearance. For an agile spirit in both mind and body, this makes for a pretty attractive place to set up camp and reap the benefits of the ever abundant shadows.

At the start, the city is booming, meaning plenty of heists to pull off with a plethora of back alley deals going on. Garrett accepts a job working with an old student of his and you both head out to steal a valuable artifact. However, when things don’t seem quite right, Garrett has the smarts to turn away; but an overzealous “co-worker” thinks she has what it takes. A few miscalculations and an interruption or two and we wake up a year later with no idea what happened to her or what happened to our beloved City. What once was thriving with markets and healthy people has now descended into the depth of purgatory, with sick filling the streets and an overruling government squeezing the City into submission with a clenched fist.

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Garrett decides he needs to figure out what’s been going on for the past year and what happened that fateful night. What starts as a few simple inquisitory jobs evolves into something much deeper… and darker. Garrett soon finds out that he may be the only one with the ability to save the City he calls home.

Thief takes off with a pretty rough start. With what can only be described as a pre-rendered unsynced mess of a first cutscene, it’s pretty hard to get involved in the story. To be completely honest, every cutscene is this way, and to truly enjoy and take the story for what it is, you’ll need to distance yourself from the quality and focus on the hard facts. Sadly, that still won’t do you much good. While the story seems to make sense in the end, it relies on what I like to call “accept-a-scene’s”. These are events that take place without any previous or further explanation, forcing the player to just accept what has happened as practical and move on. While some games may have one or two of these events, Thief will have about one major event a chapter, really adding some suspicious loopholes to the story as well as incomplete connections, leaving you with a cheated feeling.

The story takes a few winding turns in an attempt to make it more interesting, but in the end with only one decent (though poorly followed through) twist, you won’t end up remembering much of what happened.

Thief Gameplay 1

Gameplay: 3/5

If you can get past the choppy cutscenes and poorly strewn together storyline, you can find a mildly addictive game to enjoy for a while. The City is a large arena filled with loot for you to steal. Sadly, many of the areas are patched together with loading screens, making the game feel unconnected and as choppy as the cutscenes. Luckily, none of the chapter missions will put you through this waiting period, allowing you to roam free and interact with the world as you like… well sort of. While the game originally boasted near-absolute freedom, you’re really quite limited. You have a clever arsenal of arrows at your disposal, but really only a handful of ways to use them. Wander through an area in a mission and you can clearly see how the developers wanted you to play it, which honestly makes you feel like some entity is watching you play, constantly forcing your hand to interact with the world the way it has intended you to.

Nevertheless, there is still a large amount of satisfaction in uncovering hidden passageways and alternate routes, and that’s really where the game earns its keep. Unlike many other stealth games, Garrett is not a force to be reckoned with. Facing one guard is challenging enough but when you’re pit against multiple enemies, your best bet is to run, hide, and survive. You have a small amount of self-defense, with the ability to dodge and weaken enemies enough to a finishing blow, but this takes time and will definitely cause attention! This is something that is highly appreciated, really capturing the feeling of being an actual thief, and it will make you play the game that much more skillfully. Utilizing no real powers or abilities other than a swoop action that dashes you forward a few meters, you’re left to use your wits.

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Different environments make sneaking around more difficult. For example: carpet will mask your footsteps, but be careful on wood, and God forbid you happen to step on any perfectly placed broken glass! This concept is strung about through the entire game as the AI is keenly aware of what happens around them. Sure, you can distract a guard with a broken bottle to make them wander over, but land that bottle too close and they’re on full alert, quickly searching every nook and cranny! Your only option is to stick to the over-protective shadows as much as possible. You can put out candles (when no one’s looking) or swoop across lighted areas to avoid detection, but you still need to be aware of everything that is going on in your surroundings. You may not have noticed the traps set up in that hallway, or the guard on patrol around the corner. It’s best to take it slow, using the incredibly smooth peak/lean function or utilizing your mystic focus ability to highlight objects of note. Sticking to your skills and being alert will allow you to cruise through the missions with ease; pulling off huge heists without anyone even knowing you’re there.

While story missions are long and well-thought out, it’s good to get some diversity in the game. That’s where miscellaneous jobs and client jobs come in. In between story missions, you can peruse the town in search of specific loot to steal. Most of the time this involves a drawn out and repetitive sequence to open a window and pick a lock with no threats around, but once in a while you will have to avoid a resident or guard. The real challenge is usually finding how to get to the said window, as the city can be a tempting puzzle. The client missions are a little different however. Locate the specific waypoint in the City and you’ll be ported to a small section to carry out your mission. These are a pleasant change of pace as the venues are small enough to tackle quickly, but complex enough to take your time and practice to perfection. It’s a shame there aren’t more of these as it would really add to the game’s replay value. Much like each story mission, there are collectibles to find, loot to steal and threats to avoid. At the end you’ll get a nice report screen detailing your actions and how you performed and what you should do to improve. These, combined with the story missions, will give you plenty of time playing to become the master thief. However, if that’s not enough for you, there is a challenge mode which puts you in a map (albeit a small number to choose from) and gives you new objects to steal. You can choose to alter how the game is played, possibly giving you more points when the job is completed, and then you can compare to your friends’ scores on the leaderboards. While these challenges will take some time to master, the real meat lies back within the City.

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Graphics: 4/5

It’s a rare occurrence when cutscenes are the weakest point of a game visually. However, Thief really showcases this conundrum well. Luckily, that means that the rest of the game looks stunning. During gameplay, you’ll constantly find yourself stopping to appreciate the textures and lighting effects, and how those light effects affect the textures and how the textures texturize the lighting effects! With a game almost entirely set at night, it’s an impressive feat that Eidos has been able to make the world stand out visually. Fog and visibility has been expertly created to make you feel like you truly can hide in the shadows, if only the same effort was put into the dreadful, yet somewhat infrequent game events.

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Sound: 4/5

Thief knows you need to concentrate, and that means silence. You won’t often notice music or background ambience unless it’s absolutely needed. One of the things Thief helps you with is knowing when you’re being spotted. An eerie atmosphere of voices will kick on when someone is contemplating if they see you or not, and music will drastically appear if they decide that you’re not actually a shadow. This allows to you focus on the environment as a whole when planning your next move. Realize that your footsteps aren’t so silent? Probably shouldn’t swoop then. Hear a guard walking around the corner? Maybe he’s sleeping quietly – best to peek and check it out. Thief also takes a new approach to sounds alerting threats by adding birds and dogs. Move too fast by a bird and they’ll act like an alarm. Dogs will smell and see you in the shadows so you need to consider your routes carefully! Sadly, not everything is balanced in the world. People talking will carry without drop off for a long distance! This truly creates a poor experience when you’re trying to sneak around a 3rd story building but you head the guards on the 1st floor by the gate as clear as day as if they were in the next room! Not to mention that in the City you’re constantly barraged by a mess of different people talking, it’s almost enough to make you want to sit through an unsynced audio session in the cutscenes!

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Overall Score: 12/20 = 6.0 out of 10

Overall, Thief is a rather unpolished attempt at a next-gen revitalization of a classic stealth game. Freedom isn’t truly free and while the in-game graphics will keep you mesmerized, the repetitive nature of the in-City jobs can feel like a chore after a short while. The City itself has some addictive puzzles and alternate paths if you can get past the loading screens, and the gameplay can be highly rewarding if you let yourself get into the mindset of a shadow-walker. However, in the end, if you’re looking for a stealth game, you should probably purchase Dishonored.

Pros:

+ Some pretty neat and clever paths in/out of missions

+ Awesome in-game graphics

+ Clever strategies to progressing in missions

Cons:

– CUTSCENES?!

– Loading screens all over the place

– Story is filled with “accept-a-scene’s”

– Same cool paths feel like you’re simply being guided

– Repetitive nature of out of mission heists

Thief was purchased by the reviewer and tested for the PlayStation 4 system.

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Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix Review (PS3): “A Remix Worth Checking Out”

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Kingdom Hearts, being one of the first Action-RPG games I’ve ever played, holds a very dear place in my heart and holds many memories of yesteryear that invoke nothing but feelings of fun and nostalgia. The concept of taking Square Enix characters and Disney characters, and mixing them together seems proactively obscure, but works all too well. And to see this game, as well as a few of its spinoffs, get the HD treatment is actually quite exciting for someone like me. But how does the game do in the quality department? In the same manner as Nintendo’s Wind Waker HD remake on Wii U, Square Enix has opted to remake Kingdom Hearts and two of its spinoff followups in HD to help prep fans for the upcoming Kingdom Hearts 3. But the important question is this; should you buy it?

Story: 4/5

Portions of the Kingdom Hearts story have aged well and others have not. The first game provides likable characters and an interesting narrative that guides the player from point A to point B with a clear goal and an easy to understand plot that drives all the characters forward. Unfortunately, as you head into Chain of Memories, the story becomes somewhat convoluted and by 358/2 Days, it becomes almost incomprehensible, not unlike the treatment of writing that was dished out in Birth By Sleep and Kingdom Hearts II (neither of which is included in this particular collection). The main character Sora grows up somewhat in the first game, but it becomes clear that by Chain of Memories his development has become stagnant; he knows his right from wrong and doesn’t have much growing up to do. Characters like Riku on the other hand are a whole other case and are a little more interesting to follow. Being able to do so in both Kingdom Hearts and Re:Chain of Memories is an interesting treat.

The Disney plotlines are abridged from their movie counterparts with subtle changes made to fit into the Kingdom Hearts universe (such as Disney villains interacting with Disney characters not from their respective movie or interacting with the Kingdom Hearts exclusive Heartless enemies). After the first Kingdom Hearts, there is a lack of focus on this as Re:Chain of Memories only offers retreads of the same worlds from the first game and 358/2 Days does not concern Disney characters much, if at all. Overall though, if you are interested in experiencing the full story without buying a Gameboy Advance and a DS to do it, this would be a great way to get that done. Unfortunately though, you will have to wait until HD 2.5 Remix to have Birth By Sleep and play them in canonical order.

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Gameplay: 4/5

The Kingdom Hearts gameplay, “simple and clean” as it were, remains fun but new and improved in the HD iteration. Camera control now belongs to the right thumb stick and some commands can now be utilized with the triangle button (similarly to the new gameplay design in Kingdom Hearts II). A welcome addition to Kingdom Hearts HD is the previously unreleased Final Mix content, which contains new cutscenes, items and even an exclusive super boss fight. Kingdom Hearts has occasionally offered its own form of platforming and unfortunately it works about as well as it used to; not well at all. Furthermore, many battles can be handled with a simple mashing of the X button and require little strategy. The bosses on the other hand will require much skill and strategy. The same applies in Re:Chain of Memories. Bosses force you to think on your feet and react as best as you can to certain situations, completely changing how you play the game. This can be both fun and frustrating depending on what your play style is and which boss you fight. The game allows you to customize your play style in both Kingdom Hearts and Re:Chain of Memories. In the former, you can adjust Keyblades, equipment, items, and other such tools to give yourself an edge. You can even adjust how you level up and what to prioritize in battle at the beginning of the game. In Re:Chain of Memories, it’s more luck based, as you have to obtain high level cards as you play the game, which is easier said than done. Even with these high level cards, victory is not assured due to the player being required to approach boss battles very differently from the more common Heartless battles.

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Kingdom Hearts allows you to play in real-time combat alongside Disney companions for the better portion of the game. Having Donald, Goofy and the likes of Aladdin or Jack Skellington by your side makes for an uncannily fun and strategic experience, especially if you are a Disney fan. Fans who are more Final Fantasy inclined will be very pleased to see the likes of Cloud, Sephiroth, Squall and other such characters from that universe more intertwined with the main story. For the most part, the Square characters will fight against you rather than alongside you. The game balances this well for the most part and doesn’t force you to do much grinding. The optional super bosses on the other hand are a different story. Another welcome addition is the ability to skip any cutscene at any time with a simple press of the start button and selecting the option.

Re:Chain of Memories handles this differently. While grinding can be done by simply encountering and battling every Heartless you find, this can become incredibly tedious and lead to little reward. This is made all the more frustrating by fairly stiff controls and a wonky battle system. As someone who played the Gameboy Advance original version, I can say that even with the more advanced controls thanks to the PS3 DualShock controller, Re:Chain of Memories is actually not quite as good as the GBA game. The gameplay was made overly complex and even confusing; for example, when you wanted to “stock” three cards together for a combo, you did so in the GBA game by pressing the shoulder buttons together (the shoulder buttons are individually used to cycle through your deck). In Re:Chain of Memories, this is mapped to the triangle button and the shoulder buttons seem to be reversed by default (hitting R1 cycles left and hitting R2 cycles right) and there is no way to switch the order. The most frustrating thing is that you lose the ability to move when you need to recharge your deck, which is obviously not the case in Chain of Memories for the GBA. All in all, minus these gripes of mine, Re:Chain of Memories is still fun, just not as much as the first game which makes up for its shortcomings.

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Why have I not mentioned 358/2 Days? Because if you do not yet know, there is no game there. It is basically a several hour movie that sums up everything that happens in 358/2 Days, splicing cutscenes with small text screens that abridge the parts that used to have gameplay. While it is a shame that you cannot play 358/2 Days, having played the original on DS, I can say it was not a very fun experience and I would prefer not to go through its tedious design again, even with improved controls (which may not have even happened if Re:Chain of Memories was anything to go by).

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Graphics: 5/5

The visuals in every game in this collection are absolutely gorgeous. The developers, originally only using PS2 tech, were very much ahead of their time. Bloom and particle effects are fairly abundant and the art style is cute in a Disney way, but also stylish in a Final Fantasy way. While the anti-aliasing could have been better in the collection, the games look stunning in HD. A minor gripe I have is that during some cutscenes, even during the 358/2 Days cinematics, some characters are given a “paper” like face with a flat expressionless texture that just flaps its lips out of sync with the dialogue. This feels distracting, especially whenever there is meant to be emotion between the characters conveyed to the player. It most certainly does not take away from the look of the experience, but if anyone expected the cutscenes to be remade to look better, you may be disappointed.

Re:Chain of Memories is very on-off in this manner. There are brand new fully voice-acted cutscenes whenever the characters are in Castle Oblivion. But once you enter a Disney world or using a World Card, all bets are off and the dialogue is told strictly with the “paper face” models and talk bubbles. It feels strung together and I would have preferred cutscenes for any moment in the game where I am not meant to play, but to watch.

358/2 Days, while also somewhat guilty of this, handles it better than either of the first two. All the cutscenes are very well animated and acted, with few noticeable instances of “paper face” and the gameplay being summarized with text walls akin to Metal Gear Solid 2’s extra Snake missions, but less tedious read. Visually, the story holds up excellently and the design has not lost any of its charm.

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Sound: 5/5

The music and voice acting in Kingdom Hearts, Re:Chain of Memories and 358/2 Days is absolutely brilliant. From Utada Hikaru’s magnificent voice handling the songs “Simple and Clean” and “My Sanctuary,” to Haley Joel Osment’s innocent voice work as the hero Sora, there is not a sound in this collection that isn’t wonderful. The soundtracks, while apparently completely redone, sound beautifully mixed in with the gameplay. The sound effects, particularly in the first Kingdom Hearts, are imaginative and fluent, immersing the player into this colorful world. If there was any gripe to be made here, it’s whenever there is a cutscene without music. Watching the characters can be fun, but it helps the mood to also have a subtle score help keep the player engaged, especially if he or she is expected to sit through a lengthy cutscene.

This carries over into both Re:Chain of Memories and 358/2 Days as both their sound effects and music sound brilliant (though this is a given in the former’s case as much of its assets are recycled from the first Kingdom Hearts). Re:Chain of Memories does have some new assets of course, but most of the in combat audio is recycled from the first game. Is this bad? Absolutely not. 358/2 Days on the other hand (and yes, I AM getting sick of typing out that ludicrous title) is mostly new assets and only uses the main theme from Kingdom Hearts II, Utada Hikaru’s brilliant “My Sanctuary.”

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Overall Score: 18/20 = 9.0 out of 10

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix is not necessarily perfect, but for a Kingdom Hearts fan, it is a fantastic way to get a brand new look at the series and revisit older stories and prep up for the upcoming third (well, more like eighth) installment to the series. And if you are not a fan? This is great for you too! This is an excellent time for fans to jump in, get two full games and a movie version of the one installment that is often deemed to not be fun to play, and experience the story in time to get the next biggest installment next year. If you own a PS3, I cannot recommend this enough in spite of its minor flaws. Go out and get it.

PROS:

+ Improved gameplay in first game

+ Looks fantastic in HD

+ Music and voice acting are superb

+ Great way to experience the story

+ Two games and a movie for $40

CONS:

– Re:Chain of Memories controls are flawed

– “Paper face” cutscenes

Copy purchased by reviewer and tested on the PS3.

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

Curious to how our review system works? Check out the About section.

Thief Finally Gets a Release Date

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Square Enix announced today that Thief will launch in North America on February 25th, 2014. The game will available on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, X1 on launch day.

In Thief, players control master thief Garrett, who is caught in the mounting conflict between a ruling baron and the leader of his region’s downtrodden people. This is yet another confirmed triple A title for all platforms, so gamers will need to save up this fall and early next year. Check out the latest cinematic trailer below of Thief.

[Source: Destructoid]

Money Keeps Talking, Square Enix Retracts on Prior Promise

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Square Enix has confirmed that the upcoming Director’s Cut for Deus Ex: Human Revolution will not be an exclusive title for the Wii U anymore. Apparently, even though Square Enix stated this would only be coming to the Wii U, they have now retracted their statement. As always, money talks in this industry clearly. Square Enix now stated that it is now coming this fall for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC, alongside the previously announced Wii U version.

Square Enix spokesman stated “The Director’s Cut for Deus Ex: Human Revolution includes the Tong’s Rescue mission and Missing Link downloadable content, alongside “overhauled” boss battles, “redefined” game balance and combat, “improved” artificial intelligence, and updated graphics. It seems this E3 that the trend has become money. Earlier today, in an uprising move, it was announced that Kingdom Hearts 3 would be not be a PS4 exclusive, as originally thought. Clearly developers are looking to generate the greatest profit, and distribute to all audiences.

Final Fantasy XV (Final Fantasy Versus XIII) E3 2013 Trailer

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Square Enix showcased the long-anticipated Final Fantasy Versus XIII, which has now officially changed to Final Fantasy XV and looks stunning. Check out the gameplay trailer below to see the intensity you can expect for the game.

A New Deus Ex Coming This Fall?

Eidos Montreal is publicly hinting of a Deus Ex game coming this fall. Earlier today, an Eidos developer tweeted “Are YOU ready for The Fall?” Now, that alone does not automatically mean a Deus Ex title due to the fact that Eidos is known for a variety of big titles. However, last week it was discovered that Square Enix had registered the domain for a project rumored to be named “Deus Ex: The Fall”.

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Since then, Square Enix has registered sites named DeusExTheFall.com, and DeusExTheFall.net. It would seem that they are laying the ground work for their future project. Another rumor is that they are renaming their Wii U version and severely overhauling this version for a future release date. Originally, it was rumored that the Wii U version of Human Revolution was listed for a May release, but it was suddenly pulled off retailer listings a week before the release date and replaced with a “TBA”. Whatever the secret is, one thing is for sure…fans of Eidos Montreal are sure to see something in the coming weeks at E3.

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix Rekindling Gamers This September

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Long time fans of Kingdom Hearts will be praying for the Summer to go by quick this year! Square Enix announced today that the HD 1.5 Remix is coming to the Americas on September 10th. For $40, you will get the PlayStation 3 remake collection, which includes visual and gameplay updates of Kingdom Hearts 1: Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, along with cinematic story videos pulled from Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days. If you pre-order, you will also receive a limited-edition art book. This 24 page book contains character renders, promotional images, and concept art of the various worlds depicted across the Kingdom Hearts adventures. For hardcore fans, this is a seriously budget friendly collection. Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix also includes full Trophy support, as well as new content such as new enemies, weapons, abilities, and additional cinema scenes. For more news on Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix, stay tuned!

Deux Ex: Human Revolution Director’s Cut Coming to Wii U

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Last year’s cyber-punk hit Deus Ex: Human Revolution is finally coming to the Wii U in the form of a special “Director’s Cut”, and it’s getting its due.

The Director’s Cut will be optimized to take advantage of the Wii U’s unique features, including using the touch screen for hacking, map editing, augmented sniping, grenade throwbacks, and more. The game will feature full Miiverse integration as well as the inclusion of developer commentaries. More than that, however, the Director’s Cut will also improve on the game’s challenge, tweaking boss fights and some combat mechanics as well as a visual overhaul. Finally, the “Missing Link” DLC will be included and, according to Square Enix, “seemlessly integrated” into the game’s overarching story.

No release date has been given as of yet, but the game is set to be shown off at PAX East this week. In the meantime, check out some Director’s Cut teaser images below, courtesy of PureNintendo.com, and stay tuned as we cover this and other developments out of PAX East!

The Final Hours of Tomb Raider: Episodes 1-4; Multiplayer Footage Unveiled

As Crystal Dynamics fine tunes their reboot on a beloved franchise, Zachary Levi treks the world to give fans an inside look at the latest Tomb Raider. In episodes 1 and 2, we meet the talented young actress Camilla Luddington on how she approached bringing Lara to life, as well as see how the story came about. In episode 3, we look at composer Jason Graves (Dead Space 1 & 2) capture the audio that encapsulates Lara’s desperate struggle. Lastly, episode 4 (which has just released) showcases a competitive multiplayer component for the first time ever in Tomb Raider history. Also, to make things more interesting, Zachary Levi is a playable character in the multiplayer. Be sure to check out the videos!




Hitman HD Trilogy Coming to PS3 & 360

More news and rumors continue to pour in regarding the Hitman HD Trilogy. US retailer Amazon has listed that on January 29, 2013, for both Xbox 360 and PS3, the Hitman HD Trilogy will be released. Initially it was rumored that this HD collection was going to be a PS3 exclusive but that seems to have changed. According to the listing, the collection will include HD versions of Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, Hitman: Contracts and Hitman: Blood Money. A newly updated Xbox360Achievements lists the full rundown of achievements for the Hitman HD Trilogy, supporting the idea that it will in fact be available for both platforms on January 29th.

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For more news on this or any other topic be sure to keep it locked onto Gamers Xtreme, and as always, “Game On!”