Reviewed: July 12, 2006
Released: May 31, 2006
The Hitman series has been allowing people to live out the fantasy of being a contract killer since its inception. This newest installment in the series, entitled Hitman: Blood Money, is not an exception. From up-close-and-personal fiber-wire strangulations, to reach-out-and-touch-someone sniper shots, you’ll find yourself giggling with a sort of sick, morbid glee as you see your clever plans lead to the demise of so many unlucky victims.
Also, since the designers seemed to focus even more on allowing for a multitude of different, interesting ways to dispatch your targets, you’ll find yourself replaying missions over and over, attempting to find new and inventive ways to complete the missions and get an even better rating.
The movement and controls in the game are intuitive and extremely easy to learn. With all of the various things you can do, and all of the various weapons you can use, there are really only a few buttons and controls that you need to know and the HUD in-game always tells you what keys will do what actions, so the learning curve is very short. After that, it’s just up to you, as the player, to experiment and find the way you want to complete the mission. There is no “right” answer, which is the beautiful thing about the game.
You can poison someone’s food, shoot them, stab them, drop something on them, blow them up, push them over a railing, strangle them…the list goes on and on. You can also, as in the other games, kill other people in the area and change into their outfit, thus giving you a disguise that allows you to gain access to areas that you otherwise would have difficulty getting into without attracting undue attention.
In games past, I recall the disguise system being kind of hit-or-miss. Sometimes it seemed that people saw through your disguise without any warning of it. The “tension meter” in this is very helpful, enabling you to see exactly how secure you are in your current status, letting you know if you need to skedaddle, or get a new outfit, or hide somewhere.
And, every once in a while, you might just get the bloodlust to go out on a killing spree. Although it is extremely fun and they do give you a wide arsenal of automatic weapons to do exactly that, it’s not the best way to complete the missions in this installment, since the more overt you are in your actions, the more people will remember you, making subsequent missions all the more difficult. As your “notoriety” increases, you’ll find that your disguises don’t work as well because people will recognize your face from witnesses descriptions and sketches that are published in the newspapers.
The newspapers are a great feature in the game, also. After missions, you will get a newspaper from the local area that has headlines and stories about things happening in the area (usually extremely funny, if you actually spend the time to sit and read them). Also, the cover story is about your latest kill. It is, in effect, your mission completion stats put into a newspaper article format. It will say things like “.45 caliber ammunition was found at the scene, indicating that the killer was using a Silverballer handgun. No witnesses heard gunshots, indicating that the killer was most likely using a silencer.” And these articles are extremely dynamic, reflecting exactly what you did in the mission. If you were to go back and do it a completely different way, the article would read completely differently, as well.
You gain money from your completed contracts which then allows you to do several things, such as purchase upgrades for your custom weaponry like better scopes for your sniper rifle, silencers for your pistols, etc. You can also pay off important officials, resulting in lowering your notoriety level. Another nice feature is the ability to purchase intel at the beginning of a mission, which gives you little clues as to possible ways that you could go about completing the mission.
All in all, the gameplay is great. The story, the fluidity of the missions, the ambiance and feel of the environments, and difficulty levels that make the game accessible to all levels of gamers make this an extremely solid single-player game. Probably the best single-player game I’ve played in years.
With a game that focuses so much on content, I usually wouldn’t expect the rest of the game to be just as flawless. I was pleasantly surprised with the graphics in the game, however. They aren’t exactly flawless, but as I stated earlier, they supply a wonderful ambiance to the feel of the world you inhabit in the game. The lighting/shading effects are used very well, adding texture to the environment that would otherwise be lacking.
The only thing that bothered me at all about the graphics was that the rag-doll physics are sometimes very wooden and the dead bodies sometimes seem to have trouble finding their final resting position, they will kind of flop around a little too much before finally coming to rest.
The sound effects are pretty good for the game, also. Obviously, the voice actor for Agent 47 is the same, and he is extremely talented. There are a lot of other environmental sound effects that add to the feel of the game, as well. Also, the weapon sound effects are very well done, though sometimes, I felt that they didn’t give them quite enough boom and they end up feeling a little weak. Especially when using something like the Desert Eagle, you expect it to literally explode in your hands, but it ends up sounding just a little louder than the rest of the guns.
Another sound complaint that I had was that the designers took a lot of time to have characters engaged in idle chatter, but you have to be just about right next to them in order to hear what it is they are saying, and if you move away only a few feet, the sound drops off to a whisper almost immediately. I wish that the distance sound traveled was a little further.
Other than that, however, the sound adds to the overall experience of the game, rather than detract from it.
With the amazingly involved story, and the seemingly limitless replayability of the individual missions, you’ll find that the cost of the game is well worth it. I think this may be one of the first single player games that I’ve actually wanted to go back through and replay missions over and over. Usually, once I’ve gone through a mission and know how it ends, I don’t really feel like going through it again. This game, however, gives the player plenty of incentive to want to go back and relive the experiences over and over again.
The long and the short of it is that you won’t regret purchasing this game, especially if you enjoyed the previous installments of the game.
Warning: if you’re only into run-and-gun games and don’t like stealth-style games, this probably isn’t going to be the game for you. Howwever, if you like setting up, planning, and figuring out unique, interesting ways to go about doing things, and watching as your best-laid plans come to fruition in front of your eyes, you’ll love planning intricate, devious, dastardly ways of killing your targets while keeping your anonymity and walking away in the confusion, no one the wiser to your actions.