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The Original Assassin
Hitman: Blood Money (PS2)
Member Name: caseybrady1992
Hitman: Blood Money (PS2)
Date: 10/12/12, updated on 14/12/12 (36 review reads)
Advantages: Replay value, great gameplay; story; music; visuals
Disadvantages: A few glitches
Platforms: PS2, Xbox, PC, Xbox 360
Release date: May 26 2006
If you trawl through my reviews, you'll find reviews on 'Hitman: Silent Assassin' and 'Hitman: Contracts'; 'Hitman: Blood Money' is the fourth in the series, the third of the console games. With the recent release of the fifth: 'Hitman: Absolution', I thought I'd backtrack slightly and fill in the gap.
Released in 2006, 'Hitman: Blood Money' (HBM) features Agent 47 as protagonist once again. A sharp, professional, bald-headed clone assassin, 47 is ordered by The Agency to take out various targets. HBM brings 47 to the States, where he undergoes a series of missions which are presented as flashbacks in a present-day story: retired FBI director "Jack" Alexander Leland Cayne is being interviewed by a reporter named Rick Henderson. As the two discuss 47 and whether not he is actually real, we play out missions to which they refer, leading up to the true reason for the interview: the White House assassination. As the plot unfolds, Cayne claims to have actually captured the elusive hitman of whom they speak, and promises to prove it.
With HBM, Danish video game developers IO Interactive (now part of Square Enix) up their game, so to speak. Building on Hitman: Contracts (HC) from two years previous, there is a new energy present, with better graphics, a stronger story, more exotic locale and plenty of new features. The game's concept is dominated by an open map with many hidden opportunities ready to be unveiled and pursued to complete missions. Introduced in the second game, 'Hitman: Silent Assassin' (HSA), the true purpose of the game, although certainly not mandatory, is to achieve a 'Silent Assassin' rating, which is chiefly obtained by completing a 'hit' without being discovered - in my opinion, it's the true art of the game, and allows for great replay value. To pursue the game like so, however, one needs to be prepared for a lot of trial and error, and patience. All of that said, you could just run in guns blazing and be done with it; it's completely up to you.
'Replay value' is something I really look for in a game; I'm not an avid gamer and I don't buy many, so I like my games to be powerful enough to cause me to return to them later on. The Hitman series have always done just that, and I often do return to the aforementioned games. It is chiefly the large maps that allow for this to be the case. The developers produce very detailed environments that offer a lot of ways for you to carry out the mission at hand, and there are always a myriad of ways for you to go about completing the levels. The game's difficulty depends entirely on how you choose to play it. If you do take the stealthy approach, I find it to be far more rewarding, interesting and challenging. In the case of HBM, it IS possible to obtain a 'Silent Assassin' rating, but it's not exactly easy. When taking this approach, patience is required in that one needs to learn the map and people within the map's behaviour; only in understanding these elements can one complete the mission stealthily and perfectly. The process of reaching this ultimate understanding for all of the missions takes hours of gameplay, and even when you've mastered the game, you'll want to keep playing it - and even trying to complete the game taking different approaches, and challenging yourself in various ways.
HBM presents new features. Firstly, the opportunity to customise and upgrade 47's arsenal and inventory is back, having last been seen in the first game 'Hitman: Codename 47' (2000) - but it is much improved. Secondly, there are added obstacles such as video cameras (which may prevent you from obtaining that 'Silent Assassin' rating), notoriety (a nice but underdeveloped feature that adds an interesting level across your campaign) and NPC (non-player characters) human shields. But the classic features remain, too, such as the interactive map that displays the entire area and people present within it (the detail of which depends on your difficulty setting), the exciting locale, the disguises, the suit, the fibre wire and the general free structure. That said, what I like most about the games across the series up to this point, is how different each game is. While unifying features, like those just mentioned, remain, the developers completely review the style to provide players with a completely new experience. In comparison to the games before it, HBM is brighter and more fun, yet debatably more violent. While HC was quite grey and moody due to 47's state and psyche, HBM, despite only being set in the US (save two missions), the variety presented in mission locale certainly boosts the game's appeal. And this highlighted by the ever-changing style of soundtrack composer Jesper Kyd. His work is sublime, and the way in which HSA features a Russian Classical orchestral approach, HC a penetrative electronica approach and HBM a mix of the two (to understate it) displays his sheer diversity. Putting the fact that I am a film/TV/game music buff to one side, I feel that his work really defines the games, and without it, the games would be far less poignant. HBM's soundtrack in particular is fantastic and possesses character to such a level which I feel no other video game composer has ever come close to.
Each mission is very different. While in HSA, for instance, the player would be required to play a number of consecutive missions in one location (for example there are five missions set in St. Petersburg in snowy Russia), HBM provides completely different environments for every level, whereby even two missions set in Mississippi are divorced from one another. That said, HSA does contain around 8 or 9 more missions to play. And there is a lack of repetition across HBM's levels, in that it's not a case of once you've cracked how to do one mission, the rest will be a walk in the park. On first play, each mission is an enigma, presenting a number of openings, followed by numerous ways to approach and then execute each objective, ultimately amounting to millions of possibilities of how to complete a level. In one mission, for instance, 'A New Life', set on a beautiful, sunny suburban street reminiscent of Desperate Housewives's Wisteria Lane, you can either enter the target's house via two back entrances, (one of which requires you to remove a video camera tape, the other of which requires you to sedate a dog first) or the front door dressed up either as a clown, an FBI bodyguard or a caterer. It's also worth mentioning here the series' renowned black humour which adds a comic and grounding level to the game; HBM is no exception, and there are plenty of nuggets of character interactions ready to be discovered within the game.
The game is six years old now, but for its time, graphics were great, particular in the case of the Xbox 360 release. The locale, which ranges from a cruise ship on the Mississippi river to a Chilean hacienda and from an abandoned amusement park to a jazzy mansion Xmas party in the Rocky Mountains, provides opportunity for visuals to be pushed to the extremes. And for a game released in 2006, IO Interactive, with their 'Glacier Engine', did a really superb job. It's amazing how much a strong backdrop can heighten likeability of a game, but I feel that this is one of the series' - and HBM in particular - most effective traits. While graphics are continually updated and outdated, the games themselves are not. While the original Super Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog games are still loved and played worldwide, while not quite on the same scale, the Hitman games have a similar timeless quality. Within six years, the gaming industry has changed enormously, with extremely advanced graphics and budgets to allow for cinematic experiences; but games like HBM shine through this, and I personally prefer these older games, where the focus lies primarily on challenging and fun gameplay rather than aesthetics (I will be posting up a review on 'Hitman: Absolution: in the next few weeks, and it will present quite an interesting comparison to HBM). So in a sense, HBM is one of the last of its kind, and even the game's sequel has taken a completely different (and generic) turn, its release albeit six years later.
I heard/read somewhere that 'Hitman: Blood Money' is available online now for free; whether that is the case or not, the game can be purchased for as little as £3.00 these days, and bearing in mind the excellence of the game and the hours upon hours of gameplay, this is a steal if I ever saw one. With the multiple avenues a player may take, the interesting story, the exotic locale and wonderful visuals, the comic elements, the brilliant soundtrack and most importantly, the excellent gameplay, 'Hitman: Blood Money' is a classic. One does not necessarily have had to have played the prequels, but I would recommend you do as they are great too - the four games up to HBM can actually be purchased as part of a collection for as little as £5.00, which is a super-steal if I ever saw one (bearing in mind that the first was only ever released on PC, so this collection is only available on PC). With the direction that the developers are taking the series now with 'Hitman: Absolution', 'Hitman: Blood Money' should be treasured, and while I may be entering the waters of cliché, they just don't make games like these any more.
Visuals (for it's time): 9/10
Summary: 47's fourth adventure