Eidos’ killer game is a hit, man. by Cole Smith
June 9, 2006 – Hitman: Blood Money is like a fine wine. One must acquire a taste for it in order to fully appreciate and savor all of the nuances associated with its full bodied flavor. The series has definitely spawned Hitman connoisseurs that can be decidedly snobbish about the proper gameplay techniques. They might say something to the effect that if you’re looking for a run-and-gun style shooter, your thirst will be better quenched with something more low brow like a Big Gulp rather than a glass of Gewurztraminer.
The Hitman series is more realized than ever in Blood Money. As the fourth in the franchise it plays better, sounds better and thanks to the Xbox 360, it looks amazing. The game itself, like the story, can be as simple as you want it to be, but to truly experience the game the way it was meant to be played you have to dig deeper. You could simply assume the role of a hitman and kill everyone in your path. The end. But what fun would that be? There is so much freedom in the game that you aren’t forced into any particular style of play. It’s great to have that freedom but you have to exert some restraint. You have to really get into the character and do things from his perspective. He may be a thug, but he’s the best in the biz. Take a lesson and learn what it takes to be a professional in this deadly discipline.
Before I get to sounding all gushy about this game there are some elements that conspire to keep it from reaching greatness. First of all the game doesn’t deviate from the original formula. It’s just more refined. It’s more user-friendly and it’s altogether more cohesive, but it’s still very familiar. The combat is awkward, certainly not the game’s strongest feature, and shootouts with the guards are redundant. There is plenty of trial and error and while it appears that you can save in the middle of a level, it will be erased if you turn the machine off.
Known as Agent 47, the Hitman, is a complex personality. He’s atoned for his past sins and at one time had retired from the profession but was forced back into action when his friend, a benevolent priest, was kidnapped. Agent 47 is not unlike James Bond. He’s cool, resourceful, professional and dapper. He will do whatever it takes to get the job done. He conducts himself by a code of ethics in which he strives to do as little collateral damage as possible. He also justifies his killings so that he is morally convinced that he is doing the right thing, not just performing a job. When viewing the world from his perspective, you eventually come around to his way of thinking.
I don’t want to belabor the point but just because the game can be played as a third-person shooter doesn’t mean that it should. There are far better games available for that purpose. Approaching Blood Money in the tradition of Splinter Cell will yield the most favorable results and ultimate enjoyment. One of the most crucial aspects of the gameplay is the blend of stealth and exploration. Approach every situation with caution. Like a real hitman you want to scout out the scene without attracting attention to yourself. Your primary goal in each mission is to avoid detection at all cost. This culminates in numerous situations that must be taken into account, from making the hit look like an accident to the disposal of the body.
Each mission should be approached as a complex puzzle. There are many different ways to piece things together so that you won’t be stuck for a particular solution – although some solutions are much superior to others. It’s this open-endedness that gives the game a lot of replay value as you can go back and try to figure out more sophisticated means of accomplishing your mission while reducing collateral damage. There are even some bloodless solutions, but what the hell fun is that?
You don’t want to leave behind any evidence or witnesses. As you can imagine this requires that you not be seen or heard. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to cower in the shadows. You can don disguises and mingle with the population or you can just be another face in a frenzied crowd. Bombs may be planted or a sniper rifle can be used which will help you avoid being placed directly at the scene. Agent 47’s favorite weapon is a strip of wire that he uses to sneak up behind an enemy and strangle them to death. The kill is quick, silent and a lot messier than a headshot. If a body is not disposed of properly or another guard is alerted you will be swarmed and overwhelmed. By taking your time and observing the guards you will be able to discern their patrol patterns and possibly avoid a confrontation altogether. However, not all tasks are this straightforward.
To illustrate the level of complexity one must give to a specific situation I’ll reveal a particularly interesting mission. In an attempt to eradicate an actor you discover that he is performing at the Paris Opera House. You learn that according to the plot he is to be shot by another actor. Breaking into the backstage prop department you switch the fake gun for a real one. You can imagine the results.
Blood Money refers to the cash that Agent 47 earns for his successfully completed missions. With that money he can purchase new equipment and upgrade his old weapons. He can acquire more destructive ammunition, faster reloading mechanisms, more powerful scopes for his sniper rifle and better ways to conceal his weapons. There are situations in which you will not be able to sneak weapons past certain points and will be required to make use of regular items such as knives, garden tools and poison. Another way to acquire weapons is to take them from the bodies of the enemy.
A new feature is Notoriety. It’s an attempt to steer you in the right gameplay direction and discourage you from running and gunning through the levels. I should rephrase that. It doesn’t necessarily discourage you from playing this game as a shooter as much as it rewards you for not playing it like a shooter. If anything it only encourages shooters to continue their shooting spree as you learn that the best witness is a dead witness. If you play the game sloppily by leaving bodies around, kill innocent civilians, or leave witnesses the papers will report your activities and publish an image of your likeness. This increases your chances of being recognized by the public and it also brings the on the heat. This is going to cost you. You will have to pay out your blood money in the form of bribes to keep things quiet. If you want to fully customize your character with specific upgrades you will want to clean up your act in a hurry.
The attention to detail in this game is astounding. There are no looped sound effects. The crowd scenes at the hillbilly wedding and at Mardi Gras are dynamic. Environments are rich in detail, from the odd crack in a random brick to the incredibly precise rendering of a crystal chandelier, be prepared to be impressed. Unlike previous Hitman games we are afforded a third-person perspective instead of the over-the-shoulder view. The Hitman moves with newly refined grace. He’s not stiff and puppet-like. In fact all of the animations are fluid. The cutscenes sport great production values including great voiceacting, haunting music and a compelling storyline.
If you’re just looking to blast your way through level after level, Blood Money, is not the game for you. If you want to assume the role of an actual hitman and utilize the most dangerous weapon of all, your imagination, then by all means get your hands on this one. Knock ‘em dead, kid.
- Welcome to the USA: Agent 47 is heading to the U.S. making deadly stops in iconic locales such as Las Vegas, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Mississippi.
- All-New Game Engine: Now with a number of new moves including the ability to create accidents and to dispose of bodies as well as a re-vamped NPC and AI system, the world of being an assassin has never been more realistic.
- New Blood Money System: Use your hard-earned cash to bribe the press, keep your picture out of the morning paper. Or you can customize and upgrade your weapons to match your personal style of assassination. The choice is up to you.
- Assassin Rivalry: Agent 47 is up against a rival agency of assassins competing to take out high-priced targets, and may even become the primary target himself.
- New Online Stat System allows players to post stats in a variety of different skills and feats.
- Compare and compete with other players around the world.
- Rookie Training: New to the world of assassinations? New rookie mode and levels of difficulty will give you all the training needed.
- Environmental Danger: Drop a priceless chandelier or use a remote bomb all new accident system allows for more freedom in choosing the method for taking out the target.
By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer