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Hitman: Blood Money Review

Developer: Io Interactive Publisher: Eidos
Release Date: May 30, 2006 Also On: PC, PS2, Xbox and Xbox 360

The Hitman series fits in its own place on the third-person action game spectrum. On one side you have stealth games like Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid, while the other is filled with stuff like Resident Evil 4 and typical third-person shooters. Hitman is everywhere and nowhere in particular, because the flexibility of its gameplay caters to fans of either side of the spectrum. Hitman: Blood Money has this flexibility and a few other elements that make it a viable purchase for Xbox 360 owners and Hitman fans on other consoles.

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In Hitman: Blood Money, Agent 47’s story is played totally through flashbacks and recollections of a mysterious, scarred-faced man who claims to have hunted down and killed the elusive agent. I didn’t think that the overall story was as particularly gripping as the individual scenarios found in each level. Hitman: Blood Money invites some of the emotion and some of the tension that perhaps a real assassin might feel: is killing another person easy to do for the sake of money? It’s possible that some might feel remorse for 47’s victims.

Each of the twelve levels is a cleverly conceived romp that Io Interactive should be extremely proud of. From the initial training mission, where you’ll kill an amusement park tycoon, to one where you’ll cleverly kill an actor as he practices an opera on-stage, each level is exciting. When the player completes the level the way it was intended, with stealth, the clever side comes out, and the feeling of accomplishment is immense.

Fortunately, setting up the “accidents� in each mission is simple enough thanks to an intuitive control system that is mapped entirely to the Xbox 360’s face buttons and shoulder triggers. Pressing the A button (or, for PS2 owners, X) will allow you to interact with just about anything in the environment. You can climb up ladders, through open windows, rig explosives, and more. The B button (PS2’s circle) allows you to pick up things scattered around the environment, like weapons and disguises. Last, the Y button (PS2’s triangle) lets you drop things.

Shooting, using weapons, and setting traps can all be done by pulling the Right Trigger, while the Left Trigger allows you to sneak around silently. And though the default perspective is in third-person, there is a first-person perspective available as well, which can be adjusted on-the-fly. I found myself using this first-person perspective in situations where I didn’t have to worry about sneaking or following someone, as it gave me a better perspective on different things scattered around the environment. It also felt a lot more natural when the time came to defend myself with a firearm.

Since Hitman: Blood Money isn’t a game that focuses on combat it isn’t the most polished in that area. It feels stiff and sluggish to engage in a firefight, which is unfortunate when Eidos’s other recent published release, Tomb Raider: Legends, feels so fluid. At least firefights aren’t necessary, or encouraged, because the true fun in Hitman lies where guns aren’t used and cunning is the key to success. Using sedative syringes to silently incapacitate your victims is pleasing, but it’s all the better when you inject poison into a drink and watch your target drink his life away. It’s endlessly entertaining to watch the rich wife in the suburbs explode into flames when she turns on a rigged barbeque grill, then falling into the clear blue water of a swimming pool just after being burned to a toast. And setting traps is great: one of the targets in the opera level can be killed by a falling chandelier if you set a mine in the proper location and time the detonation correctly.

Performing these violent killings has a negative effect on 47. This time around, a system called “Notoriety� will be affected by how violently or with what level of terror that you execute your hits. If you enter a level in the game and unload on every living thing, you’ll earn a lot of notoriety and later missions will be made even more difficult from the beginning, based on your predetermined notoriety. However, performing missions the way they’re meant to be, stealthily, you’ll gain far less notoriety and have to spend less of your hard-earned money lowering the wanted level. So while it’s safe to say that Hitman: Blood Money is accessible to those with an itchy trigger finger, those patient gamers will be rewarded with more available funds to upgrade the in-game weapons and add items to the assassin’s inventory.

Visually, Hitman: Blood Money is a mixed bag. While the indoor environments are fantastic (the first level, for example, is beautiful), outdoor areas (the rehab facility, for example) aren’t always as impressive. Shrubbery and trees are particularly ugly. I will say, though, that the game has beautiful water effects and decent cloth effects. For example, running between hanging sheets in a suburban home definitely reminds me of Splinter Cell. Last of all, it’s definitely got the most humorous ragdoll physics I’ve seen in ages. When the going gets rough and you’re armed with a shotgun, pumping NPCs full of lead, you’ll definitely be laughing as bodies slump across the floor and fly over tables.

In terms of music, Hitman: Blood Money delivers at just the right time, but it’s more about ambiance than anything. The opera level was the most captivating, mostly because of the opera music in the background. For once I found myself trapped in ambient noise and speech bytes rather than my Xbox 360 custom soundtrack, and I’d say that Hitman: Blood Money gets the job done in the audio department.

The flawed parts of Hitman: Blood Money lie in the A.I, which is sub-par to say the least. NPC’s will follow their computerized routes, rarely straying away from them to interact with you or the environment. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because the combat A.I. is quite simply the dumbest thing you’ll ever see. I witnessed attackers stand blankly in doorways, unsure of what to do. Other times, I’d randomly alert a guard or stumble into something and frighten a civilian. It’s annoying, but it’s something that is tolerable to the point that the game itself isn’t tainted.

Others might say that Hitman: Blood Money’s scenarios are dangerously similar to those of other Hitman games, but they’re fun and entertaining nonetheless. I particularly liked the rehab facility, suburb, and opera missions, which is why I keep bringing them up: they’re tense, they require perfection, and they’re obviously entertaining. They’re early levels, and the later ones are much more complex, but they’re definitely worthy mentions.

Overall, this is a fantastic game. Playing through each assignment and figuring out the perfect formula is the key, as well as keeping a low notoriety level. Doing these things will make the experience so much better. Hitman: Blood Money’s intuitive controls, satisfying gameplay and addictive qualities make all of that something that I wanted to do. Even when I’d alert a guard and restart an entire level or miss a chance to kill my target, I was having fun trying to cleverly clear this game. Unskilled players that play on easier difficulties will find that the game is a lot shorter; the later levels are only unlocked on the two harder difficulty settings. Going through different difficulty settings and trying to unlock more missions is the extent of this game’s longevity, since there’s not a single multi-player mode, but it’s safe to say that you’ll want to perform missions at least twice to see just how many different ways each one of them can be finished. Though there are a few flaws, this is a great entry to the series and a nice addition to any gamer’s library.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 8
Written by Cliff Review Guide