Review: Hitman: Blood Money

PREPARE TO MAKE A KILLING

Developer: IO Interactive
Genre: Third Person Shooter
Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: May 26, 2006
Compatability: 200MB Mininum Space | HDTV 480p / 720p / 1080i
Rating: 8.9

For the most part, stealth games are split into two types: those involving crouching in the shadows and waiting for the guards to go past, or those in which you find ways to walk right past the guards without them noticing. There are some great titles which can fit into either of these strict categories, such as Metal Gear Solid or Assassin’s Creed II, but Agent 47’s latest contracts blend the two so effortlessly that the result is not only the finest yet of the Hitman series, but also a stealth game rightly stands out from its peers.

As you would expect from a hitman, the task of every mission is to kill a specific target and, despite the trailers showing 47 mowing down swathes of enemies, escape without attracting much attention or causing more bloodshed than need be. However, simply sneaking in a back entrance, shooting the target in the head and making a run for it isn’t this particular agent’s style, nor are the missions ever that simple. What will be necessary is a balanced use of the lethal and non-lethal weapons at your disposal, along with the classic Hitman tactics: reservation, timing and disguise. The variety of options for both infiltration and assassination is stunning – poisoning food, dropping lighting frames from ceilings and throwing kitchen implements into an unsuspecting victim’s skull are just a few creative examples – and after three playthroughs there are many means of completion I still have not seen.

Not getting attention is key.

Of course, every mission is unique so don’t expect to find one method and stick with it, while one contract might call for you to sneak into a birthday party dressed as a clown, another may require you to hide a waiter’s unconscious body in a freezer while you use his outfit to serve a poisoned cake. Every mission will end with you receiving a newspaper report of your victim’s death which doubles as a report for how successful your attack was, so if you decided to take an assault rifle to every guard and civilian in sight, you’re more likely to be referred to as ‘crazed maniac’ than ‘professional killer’. This rating keeps the game fresh and it will have you coming back to missions for second, third and fourth attempts, rethinking your tactics in hope of getting the ultimate prize that is the ‘Silent Assassin’ title. Your discretion will also affect the all-new Notoriety stat, which increases considerably if there are many witnesses or unnecessary deaths during your mission. If your Notoriety is low, you’ll be unrecognisable, but if it’s high, enemies and civilians will become alerted just from seeing you. This system could have been a little deeper, such as noticing your tactics and suit easier (as by now Agent 47 has taken on some pretty big hits) but it is an effective means of carrying the consequences of badly-executed operations.

Being the most trusted and sought-after assassin in the world, and working for the biggest contracting agency in the business, you won’t just be given a 9 millimetre and shown on your way. Money earned from missions isn’t just used to bribe people to keep your Notoriety down; it’s primarily for buying upgrades for your firearms and general equipment. At the beginning of every level you are given the choice of which weapons to take with you, and the five standard guns are the classic Silverballer pistols, a small submachine gun, a SPAS-12 shotgun, an M4 assault rifle and a WA-2000 sniper rifle. Attachments and different ammo types can be unlocked and bought as you progress, and as you will usually be buying the upgrades for the guns you like, by the last few missions you will be using some seriously tricked-out weaponry. While I loved using dual scoped and silenced Silverballers with extended magazines and laser sights, which really were the most badass guns I have ever seen in a video game, I never really found a decent use for the shotgun and assault rifle, as these were not concealable (meaning any enemy who inevitably saw me holding one would shoot on sight) and, particularly in the case of the SPAS-12, were very loud. Unfortunately, this rendered them almost entirely useless if I was trying to implement a decent amount of stealth, a situation that could have been easily solved if they could be packed into a briefcase like the sniper rifle could. Apart from guns, body armour, health kits and explosives can be purchased. A few more tools for distraction or creative kills would have been welcome additions to further branch out the diversity of the game, but on the whole the game does a good job of keeping you well-equipped.

Visuals may not be top-notch, but the gameplay will immerse you in 47's assassinations.

A particularly noticeable departure from the previous Hitman games is that almost all of the contracts put 47 in civilian environments, such as weddings, parties, nightclubs and a Mardi Gras parade. On one hand, this has been well executed as many crowds are absolutely vast, and the game manages to run perfectly smoothly despite there being up to and around two hundred NPCs moving about and talking to each other. This creates a deeply immersing feel of blending in with those around you, especially in the parade level. On the other hand, the AI on the whole is not great, as most characters robotically walk on preset routes continuously, and guards are often sporadic in their behaviour. Sometimes they will open fire on you for simply setting foot in a certain area if you are dressed in the wrong disguise, while on other occasions they won’t suspect a thing if you’re seen standing right next to a corpse.

No Hitman game is going to be hugely plot-driven, but at the end of its 8 hour story its stunning climax puts an end to what is, despite a little clumsiness here and there, one of the finest and most original stealth games out there. Hiding in boxes may be Metal Gear Solid’s trick, and climbing pipes on ceilings Splinter Cell’s, but dressing up in a giant chicken suit to deliver a suitcase full of diamonds and C4 before blowing it sky high is something gamers will never be able to associate with anything but Hitman.

Reviewed by failboatskipper – September 22, 2010

Graphics
Animations are often a little stiff and there perhaps isn’t quite enough variation in the character models, but overall nothing’s particularly ugly, and some things like crowds are pulled off masterfully.
 
Sound
Voice acting is mediocre, and sound effects for guns will disappoint. However, the score written by Jesper Kyd is fantastic at building tension.
 
Fun
Even with a few hiccups on the part of AI, Hitman is a brilliantly varied game, one which lets you think for yourself and definitely rewards you for thinking outside the box.
 
Final Score

 

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