HITMAN: BLOOD MONEY
Hitman: Blood Money of course features our now famous protagonist, Agent 47, doing his work once more for the good of… well, himself really. If you haven’t played one of the three previous Hitman series games then you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. Well, just for you lucky few: Hitman is a game based around a hitman, you play the hitman and he hits people off for other people who pay him. How does Mr. Agent 47 get his jobs? Through an agency of course, of which he has worked with for the past 3 games in the franchise. This game in particular focuses more or less on the same old stories of revenge and rescue with you being the middle man that makes it all happen. There are 13 different stories packed in here and around half of them are well written, with the other half being pretty vague and generic at times. As a whole however, the game’s plotlines do a lot to add a lot to the gameplay in terms of role-playing and further on that will you keep playing and take out all those bad drug dealers. In addition to those more or less insignificant stories (at least in terms of 47’s mind-state) there is a small little twist at the end of the game that not only shakes the foundations of the Hitman franchise but also sets up a nice little bridge to whatever game comes next.
Story Rating: 8/10
2. GAMEPLAY & CONTROL
Controls from Hitman are strange because although they may appear simple, things can get pretty confusing at times, especially at earlier points in the game. The problem lies within the games rather random selection process in which you can have the Y button allotted to a certain action, then move an inch and have it switch to a totally different action. As a whole however, you should get used to it and eventually you’ll probably regard it as an unavoidable feature that couldn’t be helped solely due to the large allotment of actions Agent 47 can perform. Aside from this, controls are fairly simple and work well.
Gameplay is simple, sneak around, and carry out your objectives and leave, all as quietly and subliminally as you can. In order to do this you will have to choke people with fibre wire, steal their clothes, inject them with sedatives or poison, snipe unsuspecting targets, climb through windows, pose as restaurant staff and deliver poisoned food, and that’s just the beginning. I couldn’t possibly go through everything involved with taking on the role of Agent 47, but you can believe me when I say that it truly is an immersive and deep style of gameplay. In addition to regular in-game gameplay you will also be able to fully customize your own personal weapons each of which have around 12-14 add-on parts that you can buy with the money you receive after a successful mission. So just what is a successful mission? Well, one could say that it’s a mission that had all of its objectives completed. However, if you really want the big bucks your going to have to try that little bit harder, become one with the shadows and resist packing every guard and civilian that comes in your way with bullet-sandwiches.
As with a lot of espionage and stealth related games, there are minor problems here and there involving the enemy A.I. It’s nothing major and resides in the silly spectrum. For example, walk past a guard, enter a toilet, and wait for another person to come in, kill him, take his clothes and exit. What happens next? Well, the guard doesn’t really suspect anything and figures that the guy lost all his hair, drew a barcode on the back of his head and walked out with a briefcase. So even though the game does boast a rather high level of computer A.I. there are the odd times when you realise that the ‘enemies’ you’re playing are nothing more than program routines and abide by rules rather than true thought: Which of course, comes highly apparent in such a realistically orientated game. Crank up the difficulty though and such problems will filter out, not all of them, but you know what I mean.
As a whole, Blood Money really does itself justice and allows you to don 47’s shoes yet again, with fantastic realism, depth and enjoyment. Even though there is the odd flaw here and there, you can’t deny the game of its brilliant appeal and addictiveness created by realistic and rather unique gameplay.
Gameplay & Control Rating: 9/10
3. GRAPHICS AND DESIGN
As far as visual quality goes and polygon counts blada blada blada, goes, Blood Money is a nice looking game. Characters all animate and look brilliant (although there’s not that much models and they do get re-used a lot) and weaponry, scenery and blood look pretty decent too. As far as realism goes, well that’s another story. You see, first of all, as with most games that boast high-polygon counts, after a certain amount of time, things will have to disappear (well, to be honest it’s just bullet holes) and a lot of things may sound like they’re breaking when you shoot them but they aren’t showing it. What really brings the game’s visual department down however is the lack of characters interacting with scenery. Even though you do open doors and bins etc. it will appear like everybody has telekinetic powers because nobody actually psychically touches the things they open or shut. Fortunately though, it’s not all abstract and picking up objects, dragging bodies and throwing them over balconies all looks brilliant and helps do the graphics a bit more justice to the game. Levels themselves are designed in mind-bogglingly high detail and some are truly massive with more interactive characters than you could ever imagine. The frame-rate remains steady throughout with only slight dips when the camera is split, showing you action somewhere off-screen.
Graphics & Design Rating: 8/10
Sound in Blood Money is hit and miss. There are some really great moments in the game where music will kick in just as you kill one of your targets and you’ll feel like you really did just assassinate a power figure. The music isn’t just good at timing itself in; the quality of the soundtrack is for the most part, brilliant. There’s a whole mix of stuff in here, mostly orchestrated, but varies in terms of tempo, instruments and general effectiveness. Sound effects themselves are just above average, with the weaponry at times sounding too generic and lacking the power they actually possess but the sound team have really went to a great length of detail in trying to re-capture the sound of an M4 silenced, un-silenced, with different ammo and well, you get the point. The game lacks in speech but when we do hear someone talk it’s usually of decent quality and Agent 47 himself is on top-form. There were times however when I heard NPCs making the same grunting noises as each other, and 47 himself. Everything else from footsteps, casino background noise, crowds, and elevators all sound well enough to not really attract too much attention, so no problem there. So as a whole, although there are the odd areas that lack enthusiasm, Blood Money has nice enough sound to help keep those ears pleased be it harmonious elevator music or chaotic gunfire.
Sound Rating: 7/10
Hitman’s main game on the normal difficulty setting will take anywhere from 12 to 25 hours, depending on how careful you actually play through it. Beyond that, there is a certain amount of replay value involved if you want to stock up on achievements for the game but not everybody will want to go through the game on every difficulty and get the highest rating you can get for 5 missions on each. The casual gamer will probably get a good 30 hours at the very most out of Blood Money while all you ‘completists’ and gamer point junkies out there will more than likely get double out of it. Once the achievements are gone however, I can’t see much people hanging on board.
Lifeline Rating: 6/10
6. DIFFICULTY BALANCE
As far as difficulty balance goes when changing difficulty settings from rookie to professional goes, Hitman gets it right. AI increases, your radar becomes almost useless, bullets will destroy you upon contact and you can’t save your progress whatsoever. Compare this to the fact that you can run through every level in the game spraying bullets on rookie and you probably get the picture. What is upsetting though is that difficulty between levels is somewhat jumpy. You can finish one really difficult level and finish the next in a fraction of the time, so there really is no clear and precise increment in difficulty between missions. Instead what you have is an increasing slope with dips every now and then, not devastating to the game but all the while, a problem that could have been avoided.
Difficulty Balance Score: 6/10
Outside of the franchise, Blood Money is a game in a genre of low population. Add to this that you actually play a hitman that cares less about the rights or wrongs of his involvements and you have a pretty original game on your hands. What surprised me even more however was that in contrast to previous games; Blood Money does have some brand new gameplay elements, a whole new set of storylines and missions and improved graphics. Add to this the fact that the 360 is somewhat lacking in anything outside of the FPS, Sports and driving genres and you have a surprisingly original title for your Xbox.
Originality Score: 8/10
Hitman is a game that successfully mixes tactical espionage and stealth with an underlying face of fast-paced and exciting gameplay. The only things that will probably soak up all that fun is all the waiting and replaying you will most probably do. It’s this combination that gives you a brilliant experience whilst playing as Agent 47 and it’s probably about time someone did because 47 just never seems to show it himself.
Enjoyment Score: 8/10
Story & Game Modes: 8
Gameplay & Control: 9
FINAL SCORE: 7.4/10
XGD RATING: 7/10
With some great stories, highly enjoyable open-ended gameplay, Hitman: Blood Money is well worth a rent at least for any fence-sitters out there. For fans of the series, this is a must-buy and will probably be one of your favourites yet.
Written Entirely by Jamie Robert Ward for XGD.com