Hitman Blood Money Review
I took a bit of a break from chipping away at titles in my backlog, up until last week I was knee deep in my first Fallout 4 play through and you can imagine how many hours that took me to finish. So this week I took a trip back to 2006 when things weren’t so high definition as they are today.
Hitman: Blood Money is the fourth instalment to the Hitman franchise. Releasing on PS2, Xbox 360 and PC in May 2006, many believe it to be one of the best Hitman games to date. Prior to this instalment I had played only one other Hitman game, and one that is one of my favourite games of all time, Hitman: Contracts. Of course I kept up to speed with all the on goings in the recently released Hitman (2016) episodic release, but always took a backseat to the franchise as I was overwhelmed with the amount of titles it held.
Blood Money’s story is mostly told via flashback sequences that take place in current date, well it was current day when the game released. A FBI director and journalist go over Agent 47’s past hits over the last couple of years. The story then takes a slightly odd turn when the two start discussing cloning, and this all comes to ahead about half way through the game when the agency you are working for gets forced to shut down.
The overarching story wasn’t exactly the most compelling, and I did find it very hard at times to really care about what was happening in the plot. What I did care about though, was the small mini-stories that you get on each assassination hit. Throughout the game you get to meet some rather colourful characters, and some which you definitely were not expecting to come across.
Before each mission you get an albeit short briefing on the ins-and-outs of the target, and the opportunity presents itself that allows you to purchase more intel on the mission too. This opens up more hidden plot lines that may not otherwise have been accessible. Unlike many games we have today where additional plot and story can be found scattered around the game world in terminals, newspapers, books etc, Blood Money has none of that unfortunately.
Whilst I had only played the previous title (Contacts), and the last time I played that is going on about three years now, I didn’t feel as if a new person to the franchise needs to play catch up with going even further back in the catalogue to keep up with the story. Then again, you are reading a review for a ten year old game, so why not jump back another few more years and hit up the start of the franchise, eh!
I always feel that talking about graphics on old games is a bit of a null point, because it’s quite obvious the graphics are nowhere near as up to date as current day titles….okay not all of them, Greenlight has some awful looking games. But even though this game is ten years old, and yes it does look like a PS2 title, that doesn’t take away the fact that it’s still a decent looking game. It really helps that you can ramp the resolution up to 1080p because I don’t think I could have coped on the default resolution, but it definitely looks OK. It’s not the worst looking game out there, and it is very passable in this day and age.
The character model of Agent 47 is fairly detailed as well. You can really tell a lot of attention was put into the face of the character too. You don’t once get the “uncanny valley” effect either. Where you may really hit the dated side of the game though, is in the lighting, special effects and animation department though. When Agent 47 walks downstairs, the animation is fluid and his body reacts in the way you would expect, however when an NPC is walking down a set of stairs it looks all sorts of janky. Their arms don’t move, their head is perfectly still, it just looks wrong and certainly does remove you from the immersion quite a bit when you see it. The lighting is definitely nothing to rave about; with Hitman being a stealth game normally lighting is a key factor in how successfully you can remain stealthy, but lighting seems to have very little effect or place in Blood Money. When changing from an inside environment to the outside quickly, you can see the obvious screen filter colour change; the lack of a gradual change is very jarring.
Regardless of how the game looks though, it actually runs perfectly. Saying this game is ten years old I was very surprised to see it work flawlessly at 1080p and at a steady 60fps too.
Okay so the soundtrack to Blood Money is absolutely stunning. I can’t quite remember the last time I heard some music in a videogame that added injected so much emotion. The minute you start to really start you devious plot to take out your target, some seriously dark music starts playing. It really adds to the immersive factor and you feel like you are in the game with the deep thuds which feel like your heartbeat and then the sudden drop of beat. Amazing. Check it out!
Voice acting is decent too. Agent 47 doesn’t say much, but when he does speak his rustic voice fits perfectly. Other sound effects are okay as well. However not many of them play apart in the stealth gameplay mechanic which is a little disappointing, or maybe I’m a few years ahead of myself here thinking that they should. Either way, it’s a little off putting if when open a door in a quiet room, that a guard doesn’t even turn around to look at it.
What really makes Blood Money a Hitman game is the multitude of ways in which you can carry out your assassination. You can of course go all guns blazing and just shoot every bad guy you see. Spoiler; that way will either a) result in you running out of ammo and getting overrun with guards or b) why are you playing a Hitman game if you just want to act all Call of Duty? Another method relies on you being sneaky and stealthy, make your way to the target and cut their throat with a wire, gruesome but effective, or thirdly you can be a little more creative.
Each mission will have a different way in which you can carry out your hit. This can be anything from poisoning a birthday cake, to pushing your target off a balcony when they are playing the violin. I made it a personal target of mine to complete each objective in the least conventional way possible and I ended up having a ton of fun doing it.
An important mechanic through the Hitman series thus far is the ability to change your disguise. You start each mission in the classic suit and tie which we’ve all grown to become familiar with on Agent 47, but looking like that will not get you everywhere you need to go. So maybe you poison a wandering guard to take his attire so you can slip into the back rooms, or maybe you sedate the chef so you can access the kitchen, really their is plenty of options available for you to make your own path to success.
Each mission takes between half an hour and an hour to complete. I felt this was a sufficient amount of time as it allowed the pacing of the game to flow properly. There were moments where things are a little drab for instance when you are sat in a cupboard waiting for a guard to show up so you can introduce him to your cut-throat-wire, but that is part and parcel of being a deadly assassin I guess.
The whole game took me around ten hours to complete. That is with me taking the stealthy and creative method route too. If you are the sort that wants to rush through each level you could maybe beat it a bit quicker, but like I said before; why even play a Hitman game if you just want to go shooty-rooty the whole way.
The first level of the game is essentially the game’s tutorial. It introduced me to all the relevant mechanics that will get used throughout the whole game; but what it doesn’t do very well, is teach you how to actually carry out these mechanics. I found myself entering the in game controller menu constantly to work out what button does the mechanic I just learned is. Maybe this is just a result of it being a PC port, I don’t know if the console versions were the same but alas it was very annoying to have to experience it.
I was very impressed with how the AI acts though. It can be very clever in ways which you would think only current day releases could show, but small actions that the player carries out, can really make a big difference on how the AI interacts with them. It’s hard to talk about specific situations without spoiling certain parts of the game, but say for instance you are carrying a stolen brief case, and you leave it in a room for safe keeping, if a guard notices it they’ll raise the alarm. It’s small incidents like that which makes the game play experience feel all that more in depth.
For the Aficionado
Hitman: Blood Money maybe ten years old, but it will still hold it’s own in any adventure/stealth fans library. Currently on sale on the Humble Store for a mere $2.24 you really can’t go wrong. The individual stories of each target are compelling, and the creative ways in which you carry out assassinations are all exceptional gameplay mechanics which I thoroughly enjoyed.