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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Stealth / Action

 

Publisher

Eidos

 

Developer

IO

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

June 2006

 

 

- Open-ended gameplay and tons of replayability

- Cool music

 

 

- Figuring out proper mission goals is way too chaotic

- Wildly varying difficulty

- Dumb save system

 

 

Review: Hitman: Cotracts (XB)

Review: Hitman 2: Silent Assassin (PC)

Review: Thief: Deadly Shadows (XB)

 

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Hitman: Blood Money

Score: 6.5 / 10

 

The Hitman games have always been kind of a mess - although, one could argue, that’s the point. As bald badass Agent 47, you’re plopped in the middle of various settings, with orders to kill one or more people, and make it out alive You’re given a full map and some vague orders - how you accomplish your mission is completely up to you. Hitman: Blood Money doesn’t change any of the established formula, which will please it’s fans and confuse everyone else.

 

hitman blood money          hitman blood money

 

The theoretical brilliance of the Hitman series is that you can execute your mission practically any  way you want. In one stage, you need to kill a guy who’s in a glass bottom jacuzzi several stories above. You can take the easy way by walking underneath it and firing up, and watch as the glass shatters and the poor sap falls helplessly to his death. Naturally, this will cause some concern amongst the guards. If you want to be less obvious, you could climb up the side of the house and snipe from out of sight. The “most correct” way to beat the level is by slipping an aphrodisiac in his drink, then strangle him when he’s off visiting a stripper. You can also cause “accidents”, which are new to Blood Money. By messing around with certain objects, you can make your target’s deaths seemed accidental, thus removing Agent 47's involvement from the crime.

 

Figuring out the quietest way to kill people is even more important than ever, due to the newly introduced Notoriety rating. If you get captured on camera, or rampage through a level and kill everything in site, eventually people in other levels will recognize Agent 47, which can cause problems down the road. The only solution is to either expend money to cover up your tracks, or be more

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stealthy. The easiest difficulty level turns the Notoriety rating off, so you can still play levels as you please without having to worry about consequences in the next.

 

The problem is, figuring out how to execute the stealthier kills is astoundingly difficult, and practically impossible without a guide. You’re given some pieces of intel, 

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which can be purchased for a small fee, but they’re only vague guides.   The map marks off “important points” with an exclamation mark, but never tells you exactly what you’re supposed to be doing there. In one particular stage, an exclamation point leads you to a point where you can set a bomb, which in turn will send a lighting fixture crashing to the ground. But - for what purpose? Is to kill someone, even though the room below appears to be empty? Is to cause a distraction? There’s such a thing as being too open-ended, and the complete lack of the direction makes the game feel too chaotic.

 

The game occasionally shows a split-screen cinema (similar to the TV show “24")  - in this same level, you see a man cooking food in his apartment. You don’t know who this man is or why he’s cooking, all you know is that he’s apparently important. If you somehow manage to find him - the game constantly shows you these things without any indication as to where these events are taking place - you can walk up to the gas tank and sabotage it. When this man returns to cook some more food, it explodes and kills him. And once again, you wonder - why? You find out later in the mission that you were supposed to murder this guy, but the game gives you clues right at the beginning. Instead of levels taking linear - or even divergent - paths, the route through some feels more like a much of arbitrary scribbles.

 

The only real thing you can do is wander around and hope you stumble across something. In order to get access to most areas, you need to accost various people and steal their outfits. Most of the time, you can only do this in pre-determined places, where you can hide the bodies. Otherwise, people will come across the unclothed body and begin to become suspicious. Right next to Agent 47's life meter is the “suspicion” meter, who shows how alert the guards are in the area. Pull out a shotgun in front of some policeman, and it’ll hit red really quickly. But how this works doesn’t always make sense. Sometimes you can hijack a costume and the suspicion meter immediately drop. Sometimes it’ll stay red until every guard in the level - and there are usually dozens upon dozens - are on your tail. Sometimes even weirder things happen - in another level, I garroted a lone guard in some thick brush and hid him in the bushes. A minute later, for some reason, another guard comes running out, runs straight towards the body, and immediately calls a full alert. The whole game operates on some kind of logic that’s never really apparent to the player, and thus things happen all the time without making any real sense.

 

hitman blood money          hitman blood money

 

The graphics engine in Hitman: Blood Money has increased slightly over the previous games, with the biggest advantage being better lighting effects. The Mardi Gras level is also pretty cool, because the streets of New Orleans are packed with scores upon scores of people, which lends greatly to the hustle and bustle. However, there are several instances of screen tearing throughout the game. Obviously it doesn’t look quite up to par with the Xbox 360 version, but if you’re without the next gen console, you needn’t worry about the differences, because they’re purely graphical. The story is told with some very ugly prerendered cutscenes, as two men recount aspects of Agent 47's hits, leading into a throwaway plot about cloning, including a true match for the prowess of our anti-hero. It would’ve been cooler if the game was more like the first level - your first client is a grieving father who wants to kill an amusement park tycoon, whose negligence caused the death of his son. It adds a bit of emotion into a game that’s otherwise just about murdering the scum of society.  The other minor (but cool) addition to Blood Money is the newspaper article after every level, which details specifics about your mission performance. It’s a heck of a lot cooler than a plain old statistics screen, even though you get one of those too.

 

Once you become intimately familiar with the levels, Hitman becomes a lot of fun, and the game is practically made for infinite replayability. The problem is, getting to that point is so messy that it’s more confusing than fun. This isn’t helped by the strange difficulty spikes (one level can be a massive challenge, and the next can be a cakewalk) and an annoying save system which lets you quicksave in level but erases them if you turn off the game. Most of these issues are trademarks of the series, and IO Interactive doesn’t really see any reason to fix them. It’s too bad, because while the concept is excellent, the shoddy execution is what keeps the series from excellence.

 

- Kurt Kalata

(July 14, 2006)

 

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