Overall - 80%
If you're willing to take a hit to graphics and voice acting, Hitman: Blood Money is an excellent game, blending stealth and gunplay, wrapped up in a dark sense of humour.
Disclaimer: If you’re interested in playing this game, I advise you not to get it on PC. Some people have problems getting it to run, and I could only play it with an internet connection.
Hitman: Absolution hit Xbox Live’s Games with Gold service this week, offering up one of the first decent games to go free since it started. In true topical style, rather than review Absolution, I’m going to bang on about Hitman: Blood Money instead.
Released in the technological stone age of 2006, the first thing I noticed about Hitman: Blood Money were the graphics. As with a lot games released in the early days of the Xbox 360/PS3, when developers were still getting the hang of the hardware, they leave a lot to be desired. Up close, the character models made me think of animated wax models, some of which are downright ugly. Some levels can feel a bit sparsely populated too, and not in the human NPC sense. It’s hard to put my finger on, but some levels felt lacking in character, as if the location existed solely for the purpose of me completing a mission in it.
That’s not to say it’s completely lacking in flair. The way in which the screen splits 24-style to highlight a piece of information or when a body is discovered is a welcome addition. Too often is control wrestled away from the player in games to show a flow-breaking cutscene, so having the cutscene play alongside gameplay was a nice touch. Speaking of cutscenes, the voice acting is very standard, with even main characters sounding a bit stilted. The end-mission newspaper articles are a treat though, providing a humorous twist to stat-screens. There is personality to be found, but not as much as I expected.
So far this review has been on a downer, but I promise you it gets better from here. If you didn’t guess from the title, Hitman: Blood Money is about a professional assassin that kills for money. A standard mission begins with an intel screen, giving you a number of objectives, such as kill two guys then escape, some basic intel and the option to customize and select your gear. As soon as the mission begins, you’re left to your own devices, no cutscenes or loading screens until you die or finish the level. It may not sound like much, but being left alone, trusted to carry out a mission from start to finish without being nudged in a certain direction, did wonders for the game’s immersion.
Each hit can be taken out a myriad of different ways, whether fiber wire, poison, blown up or even crushed by a piano. Taking them out is the easy part though, meaning getting to them is the real challenge. Each level is a self-contained area, such as a theater or rehab center, laid out in a sandbox style. You can climb up a drainpipe and come in through an upstairs window, disguise yourself as a guard and hide in plain sight or, when everything else falls through, grab a gun and shoot your way through your problems. Be careful though, as taking the guns-blazing option ups your notoriety, meaning people may start to recognize you as an assassin in later missions, making your job much harder.
As the kind of person who plays through Dishonored without harming a fly, I often went the stealthy route. Climb through a window, kill a guard, steal his uniform, hide the body, walk unmolested through the security, poison the target’s wine, escape the mission zone without once being suspected. When a plan like that comes together, you’re on top of the world. It’s not always so easy though, and Hitman: Blood Money can be infuriating when you’re trying to quietly take out someone out, but they won’t budge from their room overlooked by bodyguards. When you’re used to the game’s flexibility, it’s frustrating to encounter a hit that can only be executed discretely in one very specific way, and finding that specific way requires a fair bit of trial and error.
If you’re willing to take a hit to graphics and voice acting, Hitman: Blood Money is an excellent game, blending stealth and gunplay, wrapped up in a dark sense of humour.