Review by Millers C

"Not as perfect as it could have been"

As a veteran of the series, Hitman: Blood Money was one of my most anticipated games of 2006. The previous games had you in the role of agent 47, a cloned super assassin embarking on hits in various locations across the world. IO offered for the very first time a game where players could embark on the role of a ruthless hitman, and the game could be played in different ways to suit the player. The games were renowned also for their massive replay value potential and strategy elements. However constant delays In release indicated problems with this game, but Blood Money finally got released in May 2006 to much promise.

The plot of Blood Money is revealed in a similar fashion to that in Contracts. Rather than play through missions with the storyline, the entire game is told in flashback mode. We begin at a US mansion where a renowned reporter is interviewing the former director of the FBI. What follows is a tale which centers on 47's activities. The flashbacks used in Contracts, I felt, did not work as well as the ones in Blood Money. They are used very well to develop the plot and are used to great effect as the game nears its conclusion.

Much of the game takes place in the US, which has surprisingly never featured before in a Hitman game and gives the game a different experience as the previous games were predominantly set in Europe and Asia. IO have clearly learnt which of the levels in Contracts were the best as they have emulated their feel and style in most of the levels in this game. The design is excellent, IO have developed sprawling levels which are twice the size as some featured in Contracts. Intriguing locales such as casinos, weddings, suburban cul de sacs and an opera theatre make such excellent backdrops and fantastic levels and the varying and altogether fun levels are one of the highpoints of this game.

The way the previous games were played have again been retained, which is good as the previous games were very playable, but IO have added several new features which have made the game a more complete experience. Instead of just simply letting you choose equipment at the beginning of a mission, you can also upgrade your equipment to your satisfaction. The game has a system of rewards whereby a good hit, such as achieving the rank of silent assassin for instance, will garner more money. As you progress, more of these upgrades become available as you can build up your fully customized signature weapon. You can also use money to buy faster working lockpicks and remote detonated bombs, but also for the new notoriety meter.

The control method remains, but 47 has advanced his moves this time around. 47 can scale walls, climb drainpipes and ascend trellises which offer more interactive environments. This is also true about the combat, with a fine tuned melee system which enables an unarmed 47, pressing R1, to attack an intended victim. Depending on circumstances, 47 can punch, head butt and even push people off balconies to gain ‘accident' kills. You can kill all your targets via accidents on every level which leads to interesting and unique kills if you can find them all. At the end of every mission, you will get an interesting newspaper article which reports on your last hit which I felt was a terrific addition to the game. The amount of depth and attention to detail in levels is astonishing at times. In one mission there is a Mardi gras parade where hundreds of people walk the screen at once. You can kill your targets in a variety of ways including accidental kills which are difficult to find at times, and methods which suit your style of play.

However, one of these much talked of new features, namely the notoriety meter is practically useless and a waste of time. What happens is if you fail to complete the previous mission perfectly, IE you kill several innocent people and gain witnesses you will gain notoriety which will rank as a percentage at the end of a level. What occurs next is you are given the option to spend money you have earned in the missions you've played so far to bribe the police chief or eliminate witnesses. The theory is that you will be more recognizable to people in your following missions; the problem is the expense used to reduce the notoriety meter is nominal in terms of the money in 47's bank account so you'll never need worry about this which is disappointing as it helped penalize players for gung ho attitudes in the game.

I cannot fathom how IO interactive has failed once more to incorporate an effective hit point system in terms of combat. When I engage a person in a firefight in this sort of game, I expect a shot to the leg to produce a reaction of the character involved limping. Shots to the hand should disarm whilst multiple shots to the chest should deal more severe damage. I'm disappointed a system was not introduced for this game because they have had 5 years to come up with a solution. I can't help but feel IO have missed a trick here as it would have made combat a much more interesting affair. There are also no weaponry rewards for silent assassin unlike Contracts; again, an oversight which would have been a fine addition to the game.

Blood Money is an excellent game, with so much to offer including good challenge, loads of replay value an intriguing and absorbing storyline and is a lot of fun to play, advancing the series in many ways. After playing the previous games and seeing how much the series has evolved and the new features in Blood Money, there is so much more that IO could have put in the game to make it the complete package , but I'm sure as an overall game it will satisfy fans and new players alike.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 08/21/06

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