Hitman: Blood Money Xbox 360 Review

Welcome to Hitman: Blood Money: the fourth game of the series from Io Interactive. The first time I got my hands on a Hitman game was Hitman 2: Silent Assassin way back in 2002 on the Playstation 2. I will admit that it did not instantly convert me into a fan of the series. It took many hours of play for me to understand what the game’s great appeal was, but as I continued to play I noticed the game’s quality really did shine through. If you ever chatted with fans of the series’ three other games you would be told to “give it time, the game gets much better.” When these devotees may be right in their assumptions, not everyone will wait for the fun to come to them – in this day and age we all want instant gratification. It seems as if Io has been listening to these criticisms as Blood Money heralds many changes for the Hitman formula. Fear not, the great game that fans loved is still there, but now the game feels instantly appealing. From the menu screen to first level and beyond, everything about the game feels more welcoming than it predecessors. Now anyone can enjoy Hitman, but what exactly is there to enjoy? Well…

Blood Money starts off with the revelation that someone is targeting the Agency and is set on eliminating all of its agents. All of the missions that follow involve the typical Hitman gameplay of fulfilling the usual contracts, but interestingly also include trying to figure out who exactly is after you. The game does a great job of propelling the player though the adventure as the game’s story is presented through a series of flashback cut scenes that are interlaced between the missions themselves. As you continue more and more gets explained and everything begins to make sense as you reach the conclusion. It would be dangerous to speak too much about the story in this review as it would be very easy to spoil the great story Io has laid out for gamers to traverse though so I will just say that that the story is well thought out and paced with a truly rewarding ending. Now I’d better move on to how the game plays before I say too much.

As in previous games, shooting your victims is the last thing that should be crossing your mind. Hitman is about, and always will be about, achieving the tasks the game by avoiding getting blood on your hands altogether. The game aids you in planning strikes and setting up accidents with the help of a GPS map with lots of information regarding everything in your close vicinity. Blood Money also introduces many new features to the franchise. First off is the ability to upgrade weapons (as well as equipment), although only the game’s five main weapons can be upgraded. Another new gameplay addition is the ‘Notoriety’ system. The basic idea behind this revolves around how much the player does to garner attention of other during a mission. If you go around getting caught on CCTV and murdering people with someone looking on then your notoriety goes up. The higher Agent 47’s notoriety gets, the easier it will be for enemies to identify Agent 47 in the next mission. Disappointingly, this aspect of the game does not work as well as it could have as after each mission bribing is possible to reduce notoriety and you always seem to have enough money to drop the notoriety to almost zero again rendering the whole system useless. My favourite new addition in Blood Money is the inclusion of a newspaper article that is displayed after each mission talking in great detail about what happened during the mission you just played. The content varies greatly depending on what happens as you played through the level.

The series’ PC roots are undeniably evident when it comes to the controls. From the moment you drag around your first body to toss it in the nearest box it seems like they’d be more at home when using a keyboard and mouse. Thankfully the game still manages to play very well with a controller. Other interactions are context sensitive meaning 47 will react with the environment. For example if you walk up to a drainpipe you automatically grab hold meaning all you have to do to is push up on the analogue to move up it. The same goes for going up or down ladders, walking through open windows and jumping between balconies. Thankfully these automatic interactions in no way exacerbate the high feeling of immersion the game has developed – in fact they aid in making the whole experience more pleasant gaming experience.

The game does have a few small niggles. One which really annoyed me was the game save system. It has various save options depending on which difficulty you choose to play on (you get none on the hardest and infinite saves on the easiest). The frustration comes as these saves just disappear if you turn off the console meaning you must play though a level in one sitting (some of which can take over an hour) or chance leaving your 360 running for a few hours if you must head outside mid-game. While this is not a game-breaking bug, it is rather annoying as you have to think to yourself “Will I be here in an hour’s time?” as you sit down to work you way through a level. Another small complaint comes from some of the levels being slightly broken meaning that if you want you can choose to use brute force to work your way through a level rather than stealth and cunning. This stems from the enemies’ artificial intelligence being slightly below par at times, but only works on some levels and by doing so you sacrifice all chance of getting a good rating come the end, so once again this is not a game-breaking bug as it does not help you cheat you way to the end of the game.

With the game being a multi-console release, no one would expect the 360 version to be truly next-gen in terms of visuals. Nevertheless the title still boasts some sharp graphics that do make the game very easy on the eyes. Another plus point for the game is that every level is noticeably different from the last with each location beautifully realised. One level taking place during a Mardi Gras parade is an awe inspiring moment for anyone that loves video games as there are literally over 200 full modelled characters on screen at one time as you walk through the streets. If you compare the game directly to Hitman’s last outing then the game is a huge step up as every thing looks hell of a lot better with all environments ornately detailed looking busier and more alive than ever before. The game also animates very well with 47 looking very sharp with every move he makes. Blood Money also gets rid of the annoying and downright useless over-the-shoulder camera view of older titles replacing it with an acceptable central camera. This can be now used conjunction with the first-person view if needed. The game frame rate also seems very stable with little or no hiccup rearing head at anytime over the 14+ hour duration.

The game’s soundtrack is also very satisfying and catches the player’s attention right from go as the composition that accompanies the game’s title scene perfectly sets the scene for what is to come. All the music included is based on low tempo choir style melodies. While this may not sound like the most exciting music ever included in a game it does suit the Hitman universe very well and greatly enhances the game experience – once again showcasing the fantastic talents of the long staying series composer Jesper Kyd. The sound effects and voice talent is also of a high quality with all gun sounds having a gratifying oomph accompanying them as you pull the trigger. As you upgrade your range of guns as you advance through the game they also change in tone which is a nice touch.

Upon reaching the climax of the title I think I have finally been converted into a Hitman fan. Even after finishing and highly enjoying Contracts, Silent Assassin I never gave the games a second thought after completion. Blood Money has changed this – not only do I want to play though the whole game again, I am already thinking about what could be done in the next game in the series. It seems as if Io Interactive have finally refined Hitman’s unique gameplay attributes to near perfection. Sure, there are still a few small niggles in there but with first-class gameplay and a surprisingly compelling storyline that takes place over well thought-out levels, these blemishes can easily be overlooked. Hitman: Blood Money is the best the series has offered yet and is indeed beautifully executed.

8.6 out of 10

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