Hitman: Blood Money Review

Danish developer IO Interactive, or IOI as they are better known, burst onto the PC gaming scene with the highly original Hitman: Codename 47 in 2000, in which the player takes on the role of Agent 47, an all-business button man for a shadowy organization known only as 'The Agency'. The game was a standout for its unique features like the ability to hide bodies and disguise Agent 47 in any outfit you find, something quite new and original at the time. Plus, it's just downright cool to choke someone with piano wire. Now, six years later, Hitman: Blood Money, the fourth game in the series, makes its way to the 360 and Agent 47 has polished his Silverballers just for the occasion.

You've got red on you...

Blood Money's story is told entirely through flashbacks as told to a reporter by the wheelchair-bound former director of the FBI, Alexander Leland Cayne. After a serious breach of security at the White House, rumored to be the work of a globe-trotting assassin-for-hire of the highest caliber, Cayne reveals Agent 47, whom they had been tracking for nearly two years at the time, was involved. Each flashback serves to set up each of the twelve missions plus one bonus mission in the present day. The story of Blood Money starts at a decrepit Baltimore amusement park that has closed after an accident. The result of serious neglect of up-keep at the park, the accident leaves multiple patrons dead. The owner of the amusement park has turned to a local gang and drug outfit for money and, in turn, the park has become a crack den and an all around house of broken dreams. A family member of one of the victims has hired the Agency and 47 to make things right and take out the park owner, who somehow escaped any criminal charges. From there, 47 begins receiving steady assignments from his Agency contact, Diana, that take him around the world on a number of hits from taking out the proprietors of vineyard-cum-drug lab in Chile to offing the woman-beating psycho son of a Senator at a mountain-top Christmas party in the Swiss Alps. Along the way, an assassin known as 'The Albino' working for a direct competitor to The Agency called 'The Franchise' begins systematically taking out Agency employees until only Diana and 47 are left, at which point 47 is presented with a final assignment: take out The Albino and before his next hit.

Blood Money introduces a couple new innovations to the Hitman series, while also fine-tuning a lot of the gameplay elements of the previous games in the series. The most notable and interesting feature new to the Hitman series is the 'Notoriety' system of Blood Money. While previous Hitman games featured an extra money bonus to the player for completing a covert hit and featured a subtraction for innocents killed, the Notoriety system makes how the player completes a hit an integral part of how the game plays out. If the player acts out of context while in disguise or is seen by onlookers or recorder on tape making a hit, his notoriety will go up and security and police will be much more likely to see through a thinly veiled disguise the next time 47 is out on the prowl. There are varying degrees to the notoriety system so being caught in an area you shouldn't be in won't make your notoriety go up as much as say, killing anything that moves. The goal for the player is to complete every hit gaining as little notoriety as possible, and hopefully achieving the much sought-after Silent Assassin ranking. To achieve a Silent Assassin ranking, the player must complete a hit without being noticed by any onlookers, captured on tape, having any dead bodies found and in many cases making the hit look like an accident. Basically, avoiding anything flashy including killing anyone that isn't a target. After each hit, a newspaper headline shows the outcome of the hit and will reflect how the player decided to take out his target. If you created a blood bath, the paper will talk of a bald lunatic that gunned down an entire wedding party, for instance. If you are a little more discrete, the article might mention how a bizarre accident befell a poor groom on his wedding day.

The many faces of Agent 47.

Agent 47 has a sizable arsenal of weapons at his disposal to take out targets in Blood Money. From series stalwarts like piano wire and the Silverballer handguns to plenty of new gadgets to ease your mark's suffering, or prolong it, as you see fit. The interactivity 47 has with the environment and things found in the environment is quite a step up from previous games in the series and leaves you with any number of ways to take out a mark. Should you push the old plantation owner into the swamp when no one is looking, or place a remote mine in the bucket of fish he's carrying around? Or maybe you prefer sneaking up on him as he watches TV, oblivious to your presence, and end him with the piano wire? The choice is yours and there are plenty of them. This level of variety and interaction adds tons of replay value to the game and makes each mission feel unique, even after multiple attempts. Add in some solid controls and a customizable assortment of weapons, and you've got the makings for fun and engrossing gameplay that keeps you coming back for more. While continuing the seriousness of the other games in the series, the trademark humor of the Hitman series is still here, from Agent 47 putting it down at a square dance to a group of assassins dressed up in Big Bird costumes. Little details such as these really add to the game and show that IOI has a serious eye for detail as well as style.

If there was anymore choking going on in Hitman: Blood Money,
they'd have to change the name to "A-Rod in October".

The game has no online multiplayer and honestly, that may not be a bad thing in Hitman's case. The game doesn't really lend itself to online multiplayer and to shoe-horn some in just to say you did is a mistake I am glad to say Blood Money does not make. That said, there could always be something done with co-op over Xbox Live. Another idea that would work pretty well in the context of the Hitman universe is two dueling hitmen in an online versus mode. You both start a mission without any guns or weapons other than a couple syringes and some piano wire and see who can take out the mark first. Add in the ability to foul up your opponent's progress by sabotaging their operation and you've got some multiplayer modes that could add a considerable amount of replayability to a game that is in relatively short supply of it.

Hitman: Blood Money is one of many Xbox 360 titles that has been ported from previous generation consoles like PS2 & Xbox. As such, it doesn't have the same "Wow" factor that a next-gen exclusive game like Lost Planet has. It does, however, feature slight visual upgrades compared to other console versions of the game and the game is certainly not an eyesore by any means. Missions like 'A New Life' are visual standouts as you get a face-full of blinding sunlight as you turn the corner to the target's house. Textures are overly smooth and don't feature the level of detail of other next-gen only titles. Characters aren't very expressive or detailed either and can seem almost cartoony at times. IOI is already hard at work on a next-gen only Hitman game and hopefully they will address the graphical problems of Blood Money and we'll be able to slip into the role of Agent 47 in and be in awe of the detail as we break necks and generally do what hitmen do.

The sound in Blood Money is also pretty run of the mill. There isn't much in the way of ambient noises though the game does feature a fabulous and moody musical score that really adds to the operatic style of the game. The voice acting is great as well with 47 still being one of the coolest sounding gaming characters to date. Sound effects for the weapons are all pretty decent sounding, but if you're anything like me, you'll never really notice as you'll rarely use the more brash weapons like guns and bombs in the Hitman games.

Surprise, Buttsechs!

The achievements for Blood Money are among some of the best I've seen yet. Sure there are some boring ones like beating the game on every difficulty level and fully upgrading all weapons in the game, but then there are other ones that are just downright fun. Achievements like killing exactly 47 people in a mission or getting your Notoriety maxed out encourage you to play the game differently each time. This is good because you will have to beat the game no less than four times to unlock all the achievements as each difficulty must be beaten individually. Normally this would be a tedious proposition but because of the insane number of ways there are to take out your mark, you could play the game through four times and never kill the same mark the same way twice. Easily the most fun achievement is the Special Rating achievement which can be achieved by killing most people on any given mission with a certain weapon. The easiest one is 'The Russian Hare' on mission 'A New Life' which consists of taking out all FBI agents and the target with the sniper rifle. However you can also achieve a special rating for beating a bunch of people to death with a fire extinguisher or hacking them up with a meat cleaver. Most of the achievements are relatively easy but the bitch of the bunch is definitely the 5 Silent Assassin Ratings on Professional difficulty. For those, I suggest the in-depth achievement guide found on our forums or the video walkthrough posted here.

While not the best game when it comes to nuanced sound, the sound of the weapons is highly satisfying and the musical score is beautiful to behold. Voice acting is also on point as well, although rather limited throughout.

Looks great for a port. Then again, a port is still a port and Blood Money definitely won't be taxing your 360's GPU. The textures lack the level of detail you'd expect in a next-gen game and nothing about the game really stands out from the crowd visually.

Controls work well for a third person shooter and a highly interactive environment makes for fun gameplay. The numerous ways to dispatch your enemies in each level keeps things fresh as well.

Blood Money has it going on in the style department and Agent 47 oozes cool. Everything about the game just makes you feel like the ultimate badass, dispite the fact you're at home playing video games on a Friday night.

The achievements encourage you to play through the game multiple times and to try different ways each time through. Play through guns blazing on Medium and get your 'Notorious' achievement and then become a ghost moving through the shadows to achieve 5 Silent Assassinations on Professional difficulty. Achievements are rather easy to obtain but still add something to the game.

The sheer variety of ways to eliminate your target is staggering and keeps gameplay fresh as you complete each difficulty, while some of the more creative achievements help mix things up a little bit and change the way you play. It's one of the few games that makes you NOT want every level to turn into a massacre, but instead for no one to realize you were even there. The graphics aren't the best, and here's hoping the next Hitman game is made specifically for next-gen consoles, rather than another port.

Game navigation