Game: Hitman: Blood Money
Platform: PS2, Xbox, PS3 (version played), 360, PC
It was the opera contract that really made Hitman: Blood Money click with me. Prior to playing this last week, I was pretty much a Hitman novice, my only experience being the first level of Silent Assassin being played on a computer barely able to support Microsoft Word and trailers for each new flashy title. With a new entry due out soon, I wanted to get to grips with the series to see what was on offer and given the praise most fans of the series gave to Blood Money it seemed to be the one to try.
First impressions weren’t great. A bumbling tutorial, goofy thug voice acting and gratuitous use of topless women really didn’t set my pulse racing, and unfortunately neither did a stale contract in a Chilean vineyard. There was nothing specifically wrong with the first proper level, it’s just I felt like I had seen it before – dense foliage, security heavy lodge with guards on patrol. I was also getting frustrated at the game’s little niggles and disconnects; wander around with fibre wire and the guards couldn’t care less, but carry a tiny detonator in your hand so that barely even you can see it and suddenly the world and its sniffer dogs are after you like you’re a runaway grape. And seriously, that box is totally big enough to fit more than one limp, lifeless body.
Thankfully then, the opera mission came next and it transformed the game for me. Suddenly the setting was interesting and relatable, and despite being an enclosed building with a more signposted way of going about things, it felt like there was more choice in what you were doing. I felt like I was sneaking around and avoiding detection rather than just wandering aimlessly, while always needing a smart, logical way to deal with your next goal. The split screen element where you can see important events occurring while going about your business was a useful touch as well and aided in building tension.
While I’ll never understand while Agent 47 seems to require a shotgun and semi-automatics, the weapon progression system was sound with upgrades purchased with cash earned from your previous hits, though given my propensity to avoid using guns wherever possible this didn’t really end up being too useful. It became really enjoyable finding creative ways to draw targets out and dispose of them using nothing but weapons found on the scene, or wire and syringes. It’s a shame then that the controls really did feel like a relic from 10 years ago, with Agent 47 either feeling not very or far too responsive, while the chore of cycling through your inventory to change weapons was probably one of the main reasons I stuck to my trusty fibre wire. Happily it wasn’t enough to put me off the game which was a relief given the creative and diverse level design on offer.
As long as the new Hitman returns to the gameplay roots from Blood and is less action heavy than what I’ve heard about Absolution, I feel good about the reboot this year especially as the episodic approach doesn’t hugely bother me.