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As gun owners/writers go, I’m pretty non-violent. I’ve never shot another human being. I’ve never bagged a deer. Never shot anything larger than a dove, in fact. Even though I conceal carry, I don’t really believe, in my heart of hearts, I’ll ever have to shoot someone in self-defense. So I’m trying to figure out why I’ve become all but addicted to a game from Glu called Contract Killer . . .


Contract Killer is a “freemium” game for the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch (and should be availalble for the Android platform soonest). It’s a free download, and you can play, all the way up into the highest levels, and never spend a dime of real money. Or you can make a few in-store purchases, buy some better weapons, and kick some digital ass.

The backstory on Contract Killer puts you in the role of a burned agent/black ops assassin. With your goals of A) finding/getting the people who burned you, B) making a buck to survive, C) ridding the world of scum as a freelancer, and D) keeping those shooting skills sharp, you accept contracts from informants and carry out the hits.

Like most first-person shooters, this one’s in 3D. As 3D games go, it’s not going to make you think you’ve got an XBox 360 in your hands, but the graphics are fairly sophisticated for a tablet/phone game. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take a contract and kill the bad guys. Or trank ’em. Sometimes. Depends on the contract. You start with a basic rifle. You earn (digital) money and “XP” points and use a few “Energy points” for each contract.

When you run out of energy, you can buy more, or wait for a “refractory” period while you rest up and rejuvenate. You also have to contend with “Health points” which start each contract at 100, and decrease with every round fired at you. Get down to zero health, and you fail to complete the contract. You can purchase Med kits (think of them as instant triage) to keep you in the game. Your health is miraculously restored at the end of each contract. Earn enough XP, and you graduate to the next level, which means you get more informants, more places to snipe targets and more weapons unlocked.

As the game progresses, the contracts become more difficult to carry out successfully. In the upper levels (as I write this, I just graduated to level 15), missions follow some (relatively predictable) scenarios:

  • Kill only your target, leave all the other bad guys and civilians alone.
  • Kill your target first, then take out his henchmen (killing them first may result in the target escaping).
  • Kill all the bad guys, including your target, in any order you choose.
  • Tranquilize your target, leaving all others untouched.
  • Tranquilize your target first, then kill the henchmen.
  • Trank the target when you can, but you’ll have to kill the henchmen to get to him.
  • Survive an ambush, killing everybody but the civilians.
  • Survive an ambush, killing the henchmen but tranking the target.

As the levels progress, the henchmen become more resilient. The guys in SWAT regalia are particularly resistant to anything but a head shot. They are damned difficult to kill with a deer rifle, and hard to take down with a .50 cal. When you graduate to the serious firepower (known in the game as “High Stability Rifle,” “Anti-Materiel Rifle,” “Heavy Sniper Rifle” or “The Zerstorer”), one round will pretty much take down anything, anywhere you hit. (Headshots award you some extra XP for any kill).

There are any number of in-game badges or awards you can earn for various things like “Killing two targets with a single round” (or three targets!), using 50 Med packs, or getting 25 headshots in a row without a miss. (Not accomplished that one yet.)

If you want to fast-track things, you can make in-game purchases for what amounts to debit cards. Some items can be purchased with the loot you earn from contracts. Others (mainly the really good guns) can only be bought with credits. In the first iteration of the game, you could earn credits by clicking on ads and downloading other apps. That went away in the latest update.

Then again, the latest update fixed some annoying bugs, including sloooooow transitions between missions/the store (where you buy more ammo, med kits, and weapons)/the map (where you communicate with informants and get new assignments).

After a while, the bad guys all start to look the same. Because they are. You’ve got a SWAT/ninja bad guy, a bad guy in a hunting vest, a bad guy in a rust-colored jacket, and a handful of targets – bald guy, black guy, Hispanic guy, oily-looking mob boss, and a security guard-looking guy. That’s it. Oh, and occasionally, you’ll see a female civilian, and one or two male civilians (who look a lot like bad guys, so be careful: kill a civilian and you fail the mission immediately). You can also fail a mission by killing someone you were supposed to trank, allowing the target to slip away, or by getting yourself wounded (health points fall to zero).

It sounds far more complicated than it is, and that’s both a good and bad thing. It’s a simple game to play. But there are times I wish it was a wee bit more challenging. For instance, it would be nice if I could move around a bit. Some of the weapons they offer seem…well, useless.

Most of the missions have you at sniper range to your targets. Using a shotgun or a handgun (the game allows you to have a primary and secondary weapon) seems kinda ridiculous. In fact, I’ve really not found any “secondary gun” to be that useful, aside from the tranquilizer gun, and that, because there are missions where you need both a rifle and the trank gun to survive.

I appreciate the fact that killing a civilian equals an instant fail on a mission. I loathe games like Grand Theft Auto, where killing the innocent wins you points. And it’s relatively easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys – hover over a target and you’ll see a green chevron for a good guy, a red chevron for a bad guy, and a double red chevron for your main target.

So after about six weeks into the game, I’m at level 15. I know there are at least 17 levels. After that, I don’t know what will happen. I do know that other games I’ve played (notably High Noon), I lost interest near the highest levels, and quit playing. Because Contract Killer employs Apple’s Game Center, I can see my scores and compare them to everyone else playing.

I’m pleased to report I’m in the top 5%, and my rank is 760 out of 115,018 players as of today. I’ve earned 30 “achievements” and 335 achievement points, but the badges for “Calculated Killer” (kill 13 people in 40 seconds), “Mad Murderer” (kill 13 people in 25 seconds), and “Unrivaled” (kill 13 people in 15 seconds) have so far eluded me.

The most interesting thing in the 1.1.1 update? A “Nanotech Infinite” weapon, which looks a lot like the KRISS .45 ACP carbine. It shoots “unlimited ammo,” that it creates on the fly. (Would that somebody would invent such a thing in the analog world.) At 1,100 credits that’s about $60 in the real world. Sigh…

One last recommendation – if you’ve got an iPad, get the game. If you’re on an iPhone or iPod Touch, get it if you’ve got great reflexes, small fingers, and great eyesight. This kind of game screams for a high-rez, large screen.

So if you’re into games and enjoy the visceral thrill of taking down wave after wave of bad guys, give Contract Killer a try. Saving the world from scum was never so fun. Or safe.

Contract Killer®

  • Freemium (free to download, extra weapons cost $)
  • for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
  • version 1.1.1 – iOS 4.3.3 (8J2) Tested
  • Language: English
  • © 2011, Glu Mobile Inc.
Rated 12+ for the following: 

  • Frequent/Intense Realistic Violence

Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later.

RATINGS (out of 5 stars):

Interface * * * *
Graphics are pretty damn good for an iOS game. Think “first gen XBox” and you’re close. User interface is improved over first version, as far as the “Store” section goes. Could still use a little help in that area.

Controls * * *
Uses touch screen for aiming. Surprisingly, no option for gyro aim. The scope is a must for long-range targets. The “Steady” button is really not needed, except when using the tranquilizer gun.

Ergonomics * * * * * (iPad) * * * (everything else)
It plays well on an iPad. Kinda hard to aim on an iPhone.

Value * * * *
As freemium games go, they don’t really nickel-and-dime you to death. But if you want to play marathon sessions or get better weapons, be prepared to shell out some bucks. Which is only fair.

Addictiveness * * * * *
What can I say? I’m hooked. Maybe I can kick the habit after I reach level 17. But I suspect they’ll just add levels and have me hooked all over again.

Customize This *
Aside from weapons choices, you get none. No avatars, and a smattering of icons you can use. Needs work.

Overall * * * * *
Waaaay cool fun. But bring earbuds if you wanna play in public and avoid either a panic, or someone thinking you’re a sick, twisted, future-serial-killer freak. Highly recommended.

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53 Responses to Game Review: Contract Killer for iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch

  1. Defender. Never could kick any real @$$ at that game but still dumped quarter after quarter in it…
    And Wizard of Wor.

    And Zork(?) never made it past Avenger.

    And Rush and Attack.

    Loved your review. At level 16 myself. Would love to see the creators add the ability to sell and trade the weapons the user has purchased….

  2. Great review. For a pacifist I find myself similarly addicted. Although I think I’m mostly just in awe of the fact that I can play a game like this on my iPhone.

    Aiming is not so difficult but I do fond my nose sometimes coming into contact with the screen protector.

    Which leads me to my current problem. I currently have two missions open with a “Kill the boss first” objective. The problem is the boss never appears!

    Now either I’ve gone blind trying to okay the game on such a small, yet gorgeous screen, or he remains hidden behind a power pole for the duration.

    Specifics are:

    – Soho Central “Calculations” : Marty Stark
    – Old Town “Money Talks” : Junior Albani

    I’ve filed them as bugs but have had no response as yet, and can find no hits on Google.

    Please tell me I’m not going mad! 😀

    • you’re not going mad, some of the bosses take their sweet time coming into view… if you can’t see him but you’re getting hit make sure you have enough medkits or energy and just move your scope around till you hit the indicator that you’re on him… some times the game glitches and the boss is just out of view but still able to be shot.

  3. Hey so I’m an admitted addict to this game I’ve been playing since April or so and I’m just curious if anyone can tell me if there’s a level after 20? I reached that a month ago and I’m just wonder if there is a new update coming out with more levels or if that’s that? Because if so at this point I’m just earning credits to buy the weapons… incidentally enough I just need to get five more: High Stability Rifle (400),
    The Zerstorer (680),
    Nanotech Infinite (1,100),
    Heavy Sniper Rifle (200),
    Tactical Assault Rifle (120)

    Otherwise it’s like the reviewer said it gets boring after awhile of killing the same looking guys… just perhaps finish up the game buying all the weapons then be done with it.

  4. I too am stuck on two missions where i need to kill only the boss.

    The problem is, no matter how hard i look, i can not find them. The grace period ends, people start shooting. Boss is now said to be escaping. I look all over for someone who is running, nothing. Boss escapes, i lose 5 energy for nothing.

    I scope over everone i see, i only see civillians and criminals, no boss anywhere. I dont really want to do missions around these two, i would rather get them out of the way.

    Frustrating.

    • In the future, if the boss is not immediately sighted, just crouch and wait 10 heartbeats (use your rifle reticle to see your beats), stand up and do a quick sweep. Hopefully, the boss will have appeared. If not, repeat crouch. Trust me, the boss will appear and you will not have tipped his goons off. Good luck”

  5. Ok, i found the guy. If this happends to anyone, i suggest staying crouched for about 2 or so minutes, then start looking.

    • I’ve got that problem too. At first I just ignored the missions and hoped that I would get ambushed so the boss just comes out. But then all my informants missions began to clog up. Then I realized that either I didn’t look hard enough (in the corners), or that you have to kill a guard and the commotion would draw out the boss.
      Good luck for the missions anyway. 🙂

  6. @Panoone – unfortunately, I think that everything other than the red story missions is randomly generated, so any Google search will turn up nothing. I think it really is just a matter of being a bit patient and keeping a sharp lookout, although Dan’s idea of staying crouched for a while may work – I’ll have to try it next time it happens.

    @Everyone – has anyone managed Calculated Killer, Mad Murderer, or Unrivaled?! As far as I’m aware, it’s not possible before level 13, because there are never 13 people in one mission. I’ve used the Accuracy-Plus, and I think I managed something like 60 seconds, but it’s the reloads that were killing my time.

    Also, can anyone tell me if the scope is better on the Anti-Materiel? I’m trying to decide what to spend money on – the A-M or the Cheetah?

    Nooo…! While looking at weapon details, I just bought the defender by accident! It’s absolutely atrocious! Can anyone tell me how much money I just wasted? I can’t see the price any more!

    • Don’t buy the cheetah. Its scope does not work i.e. it does not zoom in. For distance targets, a scopeed gun with no zoom is worthless. I haven’t used A-M but I think it would not be steady. Same issue as with the tranquilizer gun.

  7. The defender rifle is 3800.

    I’m on level 20 and completed 632 contracts. I’m using the anti-material rifle which seems to be the best yet. Just wondering if anyone knows if they are adding anymore levels and contacts?

  8. Also on level 20 – 594 contracts – I was expecting that somebody could give me a definite reply whether there are any planned level updates. Another thing – the game crashes a lot -sometimes every other mission. I was wondering whether anybody else has this problem.

  9. Does anyone notice a glitch on level 12 , contract to kill luciano? I have lost this contract over 10 times . I never see the guy and he escapes every time

  10. Confirmed Additct here:

    Level 20, 937 Contracts. There are definitely still some glitches, here are some that I’ve found:
    – Some Bosses still fail to appear from time to time.
    – Some Bosses do not fall after being Tranq’d. They just kinda hover in mid air
    – I have for a fact killed all 13 enemies in less than 25 seconds on NUMEROUS occasions and never received the Mad Murderer or Calculated Killer awards.
    – I think unrivaled is only possible with the Nanotech Infinite.
    – Earned the Dead Aim award ( 100 head shots with a handgun ) but still have not earned the Wild West Award ( Hit targets 50x’s with a handgun). How is that possible?
    – Still havent unlocked 6 or 10 informants? Am I missing something?
    – Hot Swap award?? Still havent changed weapons 250x’s??? Again, I’m not sure how this is possible in nearly 1000 missions.

    • Good to hear I’m not the only one with handgun issues. At 40% for ages, yet completed the 100 headshots. Must be a glitch. Oh well.

      • The Wild West award pertains only to the basic handgun. I too had issues with this using the Skull Crusher as it’s a handgun and I had used it to kill hundreds of enemies. It will only progress with the simple “Handgun”.

  11. Over $920K in the bank ……. on Level 22 with more to come …. Can’t seem to get by detonator guy on the water. Anti-material rifle is the way to go.

  12. A good place to get the 3 thirteenkill awards is vehicle missions, especially the heli one. I got all three of them on the same mission.

    • Thanks. Up to level 32 with a little over $2 million in the bank. I think it may tap out at Level 40 ……. but there may be update that takes it to Level 70. I still refuse to buy any credits …….

      • I read that you are at level 32, as of this post. I am at level 27.
        My question to you is, does the “story line” continue? Or do you just carry on killing the bad guys for all eternity, once the girl, and Kingston the Jamaica mobster is gone.?

        • I got up to Level 40 and it was all pretty much the same. Sophie, Kingston, all long gone. Had close to $4 million, then the system did a restart and I had to start over. What I did notice is that dollar values are less and it takes a lot longer to up-level. Would be nice if we could trade cash for credits so to buy items I don’t normally buy… such as BP vests, pills, silencers etc. I think I pretty much took it as far as it would go without buying any credits. It does get old after awhile.

  13. Can anyone tell me how to unlock more informants? I am on level 70 and have only unlock 3 informants even though I am trying to do as many informant missions (I think it’s Dimitry Pushkin) as I can! Also I can’t believe I haven’t won the hot swap weapon yet! System issue??

    • I’m also confused as to why I haven’t won the hot swap achievement yet. I’m on level 36 and have swapped weapons before going into a mission, while in a mission, while crouched behind cover… nothing as of yet. Need advice please!

  14. Can someone please help with the solution to the Hot Swap award. I heard that it pertains to being crouched down and then swapping weapons – no luck there. I tried swapping weapons between missions in the Safe House – no luck there. It doesn’t give a % of completion in the awards section, but then again some of the awards show this while others do not. It is one of the few awards that I’m still missing.

    Level: 30
    Contract Completed: 864

  15. Level 70 (for at least half a year), Contracts completed 5590.

    The only thing I cannot do is to kill enemies that our out of range.

    I have tried everything from shooting nearby barrels (they die but it does not count as killing an enemy out of range) to shooting above the target with different distances.

    Has anyone succeeded with this?

    Thanks.

    • Yes. It is merely hitting a target beyond the given range of your current weapon – they don’t have to be a mile away. If you’re using a pistol with a short range for instance, your target simply has to be beyond that distance and then it’s only a matter of hitting him. It will take a few good shots and is pretty much luck of the draw, so be patient and you’ll get it.

      • I have tried all these. Selected a handgun, selected a target only a few feet more away from me. Then I started to shoot at it and then above it, and more and more and more until I shot 3-4 times his height above him. Nothing happened.

        Yet, I can blow up a barrel that would normally be out of range with one shot. So I thought that it could be the solution. I started to blow up barrels near targets out of my gun’s range. They die. But those will not count as hitting out of range targets.

        So where do you aim?

        Or should I just hit this guy 40-50 times and at some point he will die?

        Thanks.

        • The way that I had done it was by using the hunting rifle and looking for enemies that, when cross hairs go over them, would post that they were “Out of Range”. It took a lot of shots, so don’t be shy on taking a fair share of ammo on these attempts, but eventually I would get the lucky shot that hit the target. It is luck and not aiming 4 times as high as you think you should – I had tried that as well. Hang in there!

  16. Thanks mate. It worked. I shot 20-30 times on a target a little bit out of range. His health never dropped but after a lot of hits he suddenly did. Thanks again.

    • Yep, it’s definitely one of the more challenging achievements, but can be done. Speaking of achievements, I have posted on here several places about the hot swap award and have gotten no feed back and also have had no luck anywhere else on the internet in regards to the Hot Swap award/achievement. Any suggestions?

      • I have just checked my awards. Only 250 swaps needed and I do not have this award after almost 6000 contracts. I use two weapons for most contracts so no way I had less than 250 swaps. This must be a bug. Have you reported it?

      • But it works….
        I have just been awarded. I usually swap weapons while I am standing. So you must be right, it only works when you crouch.
        So I started a mission, crouched immediately and started swapping weapons. After about 40 swaps a message appeared: 40% Hot Swap. And then later I received 60%, then 80% and finally the award. So it works.

        And while doing this, I was also awarded the Pacifist achievement for not killing anyone for minutes. 🙂

        • Great! Thanks for the help. I never checked if I had the pacifist achievement or not, but as I keep a close eye on what I’m missing, I may already have it. I have however read that there are a couple of hidden achievements that they don’t list, but that you have to accidentally perform by basically stumbling onto them. That may be one of them. I have also started Contract Killer 2 just yesterday – very different platform, but very enjoyable. Let me know if you’ve played it or once you’ve checked it out. I’ll stay in touch with any other difficulties. Again, thank you for the help!

        • Yes, Pacifist must be a hidden achievement. I cannot see it in the list. You get it when the timer finishes and you have not killed anyone. I do not think that anyone would have it. For this you have to crouch and stay there for minutes. It is not something that you would do in this game.

          I have CK2 and it really is completely different. It is a great game. I am on level 5 and I play it occasionally but I do not see a long future with that game. I have a philosophy that I do not pay for games. I could reach the very top of CK and a few more games by never paying any real money. CK2 smells greedy. I do not think I could play it for months without an inApp purchase so I will take it slowly to delay the disappointment. 🙂

      • Start a mission….. crouch down and switch weapons until you receive the award…it will take 5-10 minutes of constant switching weapons but you will get it!!!!

  17. Does anyone know how to get the hidden achievement between “electrified” and “impatient”. I have 76 out of 77, please help?

  18. the hidden achievement between “electrified” and “impatient” is called “Thrifty”: Run out of ammo 5 times

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