Review by Eddo89

"Bloody Good"

The Hitman franchise is renowned for a few things. Stealth, lead character is a bald clone assassin with a code for his name, a pair of Silverballer, the tuxedo on Mr. 47, and of course, the game is always pretty darn good. Blood Money, the latest in the series, continues this without question. Though one may say the game is relatively the same as previous installments, go in, find target, eliminate, execute, escape, IO Interactive did add considerable amount of elements within the game. Notoriety and accidents to name a couple. One thing is sure, this not one of those mass-produced soulless games we too often see in the market today.

Graphics
The game's look did not change much, you are still looking a bald guy in tux, and the people with more attention to detail would notice the pattern of the tie has changed. So what is different? Well in some levels, you would notice the 150 some moving NPC, albeit not all are interactive, but it is a sign to behold as we play the last days of an aging system of PS2. All this, with very little noticeable drop in frame rates.

For sure, the graphics is being pushed to the edge. Hitman levels are always expansive, not necessarily large in terms of size, but what you can see. Getting from one point to another does not take three minute in most levels, but the details to make each level realistic is phenomenal to say the least. There are a few jagged ends if you look at the pixels closely but that is just about what you can really on the negative points, in terms of the environment. Otherwise, the environment is beautiful. The theme is much brighter, a pleasant change from Contracts, and the lighting is done quite well when switching from lighter area to darker area. The little things are done well.

One thing that has changed is that the cut-scenes, in the past the series used more or less the same graphics engine as the game play. Now they actually enhanced them to level of quality. Well if there is any complaints, it may be the animation looks a bit stiff. The characters very often move in a stutter instead of a fluid motion. This aside, you cannot help but admire the quality of the graphics in the cut-scenes.

Game play animation I am glad to say is quite fluent, it is quite crisp and smooth as well and it is improvements. While it is a little jerky here or there, is nice. Though they are a few things you would want to question, such as why does 47 has to put down a suitcase every time he switch off the light. Well all in all, this is a beautiful game, with a few animation issues, but certainly, everything is presented in professional fashion.

Sound
At long last, our gunfire finally sounds like a gun firing rather than like knocking the door of an old lady softly so she does not get a heart attack from the shock of hearing a knock. Still, it does not make it sound overly powerful, but the gun shots finally, sound like they pack a punch. Voice acting is clear, something that was not always present in most games. One of the things that puzzle me is why the ambiance is set to 10% as default, as really it adds to the feel of each level. The countryside of Chile in the first level has a sweet chirp of birds and the thundering of the waterfall nearby.

Music, this game has one of the most amazing music in gaming today. The original music is made by Jesper Kyd, the credits always seem to place some emphasize in it, and why not? All he is getting from me is praises after praises. The music is done by an orchestra, this very much give a very rich tone to it. As all good music implementation does, it is very reflective of situation, but this is just amazing. The rich tone of the orchestrate music is something else really, the developer certainly know what they are doing. We will not exactly call it the mainstream sort of music in gaming, but is the amongst the top. Add the icing on the cake, the opening is done by Ave Maria, something that one might called quite a holy type of song sung by choir boys, but when you are playing a game that involves the most unholy creature on earth, a clone, it really put the spooks on you. It is an oxymoron to put these two things together. And confirming what I said earlier, music was done by people who knows what they are doing, not being randomly placed there and hope it fits.

All in all, gaming perfections in music. If only all games share this excellency of standard.

Story
After a rather big prologue in Contracts, which made us curious in what happened, we have a full story. Blood Money picked up where it left off in Contracts, cut-scenes are shown between every mission and each part makes you want to know more. It is not the story in Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy, Knights of the Old Republic, Oblivion or what have you, is quite decent and does enough to keep you interested. It of coursed answered a lot of the unanswered questions deliberately placed in Contracts, namely how the last mission came about and clarifies somewhat about the demise of the Agency.

The story revolves around a former FBI director who is crippled and has a deformed face and a reporter discussing what essentially the hits made by 47. One could say is Contracts Take 2 as it is some sort of a flashback of the hits made by 47 and his dealings. You more or less could guess how everything will play out and your part is merely to see how it plays out. And like all Hitman stories, the game ends with a juicy cliffhanger leaving us to guess what next to. Great cliffhangers.

Gameplay
A game of stealth, though the direction may have changed a little but the overall aim is still the same. Perhaps this change is driven by the level “Traditions of the Trade” in Contracts, which was extremely popular to most people. The levels are placed much more on public places as opposed to a hidden castle or a mansion. This approach paved way to two new features, notoriety and accident.

The purpose of notoriety is to prevent players massacring the whole map every time they play, and designed to make levels much more difficult afterwards as your disguises are much more easily blown. However, this new feature did not exactly have much of an impact to the average player. Reason behind it is the bribing enables the decrease of notoriety, this money comes from completion of missions, higher rank nets more money. The truth is, money do not play a huge part in the game, apart for purchasing upgrades for one-off payments, they are not much of a use. Because of this, players can bribe freely to rid of their notoriety that they may gathered, neglecting what notoriety brings to the game play.

Accidents on the other hand are a far more successful addition to the Hitman series. This feature allows killing of any sort people without discrediting you in the final ratings of the game. Say a civilian is constantly getting you into trouble, you could just cause an accident to him or her and will not be discredited in the end. Accidents are a very satisfying sort of method to kill a mark, either by chandelier crashing down on the target to “accidentally” fell off the fence for leaning too far. This of course made the game far more easier than in previous installments, certainly made the highest rank, Silent Assassin, much easier to achieve. The Hitman series had a high emphasis on the achievement this rank, but very much less so in this game due to the many corners that can be cut to achieve this rank due to this new feature.

About the guns, well, put it simply, underwhelming. The weapon selection seems to have been sliding ever since Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. Of course, there are now upgrades to your guns, but this is not the main problem. The problem is these customizable guns are every bit better than anything else on offer, which makes it no sense to bring anything but those weapons. Why would you want to bring the Dragunov Sniper Rifle to the mission when you could bring the W2000 that can be customized with silencers, better scopes, more stability and greater accuracy? While you wobble about in the Dragunov, hoping the wobbling would eventually lead you to the targets head before he is out of sight and concerning how you are going to get out with that huge bang afterwards. Not to mention the W2000 can have a suitcase to carry around while you must dodge and weave to get to where you want with other rifles. Add to that, your Silverballer, a handgun can have a scope as well making every bit as useful as ordinary rifles over long distances. There is also the fact the assault rifle is only supplied with two rounds of ammo, while your customized version can have 400 bullets at your disposal. It is almost as if they do not want to let you use another thing other than the customizable weapon. All this and we have not talked about the lack of selection. Sure, there is variety, but there is not much to say when everything is a lower level quality than what you start off with.

Among what is new are close combat moves, when this was announced, many diehards of the series were concerned of what it means to the game. Well, sort of like notoriety, it did not impact on the game play as much one would expect. This could be partly blamed on the approach this game has rather than flaws to what they have done. Combat moves such as head butt generally weren't much of a use, disarming moves are only used when you actually got your cover blown, when that happens most people just restart the mission. The only one that made an impact was the human shield, which provided alternatives to knock outs, but also played part in the lowering of difficulty.

So, some things are not up to standard, but the core of which Hitman builds on is solid as ever. The game has expanded more on non-linear solution to finishing missions. Some methods are noticeably more better than other is, but allows for much more creativity. This came with a cost however, difficulty. One thing that is different is the resource management. Instead of having to plan your one and only sedative for a very particular person, you literally have infinite amount due to the new human shield move. Accidents make killing targets very convenient. However, what I feel is missing in Blood Money is the infiltration. Hardly any mission requires you to infiltrate anywhere, which really took away one of the key elements. Though let us be happy one thing, at least the guards no longer suspect you as a potential assassin the way it was in past games every time you walk by someone. And that running around is perfectly legal and you won't get shot at for it.

In a nutshell, Hitman allowed you be more creative than what it has been, pays to explore a lot more but has significant reduction in difficulty. At least at times, going the non-subtle way is more difficult than the subtle way, though not exactly the way I wanted it. I am adamant that a reduction of health is required if they are to push the game to be more stealthy.

Gamelength
Too short. Ten levels maybe, and is not ten long levels albeit well designed. Re-play value is high in that each objective could have 5 different possible method to complete all the while achieving Silent Assassin. Criticizing this game for short is almost criminal as it is as though it has very little contents. This is false but because the contents is optional in usage, a very deep game could look very shallow.

Overall Verdict:
There is only one reason not buy this game. You are allergic to stealth, which in that case I feel sorry for you.
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 10/10
Story: 7/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Gamelength: 7/10
Overall: 9/10


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/30/07


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