The silent assassin at his best.
The Hitman series has always been a very different breed of stealth game. While many in the genre will have you watching simple sentry patterns then picking them off one by one, these games encourage you to rarely even make contact, to be in and out without a trace. Instead of constantly hiding in the shadows, you’ll hide in plain sight by using proper disguises. Hitman: Blood Money continues this tradition but allows you to not only mask your appearance, but that of your kills as well. The “Staged Accident” is the newest and strongest feature in the game and brings with it a welcomed variety of gameplay.
Falling chandeliers, perilous pyrotechnics, or a BBQ gone bad; these are just a few of several ways to close a contract over the course of the twelve available missions. Once again, players will find themselves in the role the world’s most calculated killer, Agent 47. The story loosely centers around the capture of 47 and is told through a series of flashbacks by the game’s main villain, a wheelchair-bound rich man with a serious vendetta. These flashbacks consist of hits that take players anywhere from a snowy mountain party to the bayous of Mississippi, with one of the most impressive being the busy streets of New Orleans during a Mardi Gras parade. The areas are often large, highly detailed maps that provide a playground of opportunities to dispose of foes.
This is where the game truly shines. As previously stated, Blood Money introduces a new mechanic in the form of staging accidents. This feature, coupled with the map design and AI patterns, give each mission a significant amount of replay value. Learning target routines and simply navigating some of the maze-like structures can turn a ten-minute task into hours of planning. One of the best examples involves a rehearsal using a fake gun. Perceptive players will be able to switch the fake one with the real thing, then simply sit back and watch it play out, which is as sociopathically satisfying as it sounds. Scenarios such as this, while highly rewarding, require patience and timing and are often the result of several attempts. Fortunately, the game allows you to save anywhere (amount limited by difficulty) so you can learn the best ways to take out targets.
Knowing how and where to kill is only a portion of this stealth package though. Like its predecessors, getting the perfect disguise is often the key to making your way around, but that doesn’t come without issues. Getting a new outfit often requires subduing someone quietly then hiding the body. How you choose to go about this matters as well. Shooting as opposed to strangling will leave blood trails for others to find, which will inevitably lead to your cover being blown. This is also one of the few games that nails the concept that silencers aren’t actually that silent, as using one in a populated area can still alert others, even if nobody sees the shot. The game rightfully prides itself on teaching the precise moments to act. Knowing when to duck into a closet or around a corner can make all the difference between success and failure. Keeping all of these moving parts in check make for some highly suspenseful moments, like silently sedating a nurse right around the corner from a smoking co-worker.
When you want to take a break from methodical murder and try a more direct approach, Agent 47 has that covered too. At the start of each mission you will be given the opportunity to choose a loadout. Everything from his trademark Silverballer pistols to sniper rifles and shotguns can be equipped, and weapons found in each mission can also be added to the arsenal. The starting set of weapons can also be upgraded with different attachments and ammo types, purchased through money earned from each successful hit. The payout is determined by your performance, which is ranked anywhere from psychopath to the highly acclaimed silent assassin rating. While it is entirely possible to complete most missions like a gun-toting madman, this adds to your “Notoriety”, making each successive mission more difficult than the last since Agent 47 will be more easily recognized. This can be reduced, however, by bribing police or witnesses after each mission. With all that said, trying to be as stealthy as possible is the far more entertaining experience and should at least be attempted to get the most from the game.
Hitman: Blood Money is fairly solid on the technical level but not everything is as smooth as 47’s bald head. The character models are often nicely detailed, as are the locations you’ll find yourself in, but some of the animations can be a little janky and the AI pathing can go a bit haywire at times. The controls, while not necessarily bad, certainly take some getting used to and are apt to cause a few issues early on, particularly with sneaking or inventory management. Character movement feels a little floaty and the hit detection when using close-quarter weapons such as the syringe or fiber wire, can feel off, but thankfully not enough to completely sour the experience. The weakest aspect is the gunplay, since aiming via third or first-person perspectives feels awkward at best and sometimes not as precise as it should be, though this can be mitigated to some degree through upgrades. Thankfully, the game only forces you to use guns at two very brief segments.
The story as a whole is nothing special and is simply there to give vague reasons why Agent 47 must go where he goes and do what he does. However, the gameplay more than makes up for the weak narrative. The voice acting ranges from abysmal to serviceable, with Agent 47 (David Bateson) being the calm but menacing highlight. Most of the dialogue will be heard from listening in on conversations held by guards or civilians, which can be both amusing and helpful. The music fits the tone of the game perfectly, opening with the somber sounds of “Ave Maria” setting the stage. Proper suspense beats kick in when entering restricted areas or upon closing in on a victim, adding a nice sense of dread to the whole affair. Gun shots are as strikingly loud as they should be and footsteps are audible enough to clue you into those nearby. Even the random background noise in some maps can be used to your advantage since proper timing can help drown out gun fire or other misdeeds.
Ultimately, Hitman: Blood Money is as professionally executed as any of 47’s targets. Sporting a fair amount of missions that contain as much variety in location as they do ways to dole out death, the game will keep players coming back to tackle each one in a new way. The ranking system doubles down on that by keeping you striving for the perfect run that can reward you with the silent assassin rating, a hefty payout and the personal satisfaction of a well-laid plan implemented to perfection. All of these aspects are valid reasons why this game, unlike our contract killer, should not go unnoticed.