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Hitman: Blood Money PlayStation 2

Published by Eidos
Developed by IO Interactive
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £39.99

Hitman: Blood Money, an introduction.

When Hitman: Codename 47 was released back in 2000 there really hadn't been a game like it before. Playing as the bald-headed assassin, 47, you were tasked with killing certain individuals but it wasn't a game you could simply go in with all guns blazing and you didn't have the option of quicksaving every few seconds to record your progress. In fact the game demanded that you were meticulous in almost everything you did. You had to disguise yourself, get yourself into key positions, avoid enemy attention and then when the deed was done, you had to make it to the exit point. Of course all of this was done without the ability to save the game. Some gamers loved it and some disliked how particular you had to be (and also that you couldn't save mid-mission). Above all though the formula was a success. The next two sequels managed to improve on the formula and they also allowed you to save your mid-mission progress too, which made the game more appealing to the more impatient gamers out there. Here we have the fourth game in the series, Hitman: Blood Money.

What's the game about?

Agent 47 returns once more to rid society of its undesirables, for a price of course. The game offers a dozen missions and an initial training level that introduces you to the game. The training level sees 47 being given the task of taking out a former theme park owner known as the 'Swing King'. The reason for the contract being put on his head is that his negligence led to a horrible disaster which caused a Ferris wheel to collapse whilst being used, leading to many deaths. Following a high profile court case the 'Swing King' was let off the hook, although one parent who had lost a son in the disaster decided that justice should still be served and thus 47 was called in. Each mission has its own story of course and there's some very surprising outcomes in certain missions and it would really be naughty of us to reveal anything. Suffice to say that events in the game will certainly throw a curve to fans of the series.

What's good about the game?

Hitman: Blood Money is arguably the best game in the Hitman series. That's not to say it does anything wildly different but the on the whole the missions are more impressive and more interesting than in previous games. It's also a great choice if you haven't played a Hitman game before because the training mission goes to great lengths to familiarise you with all of the game's concepts and it does so in a way that's interesting. Once you're past the training mission you'll find the missions are not only entertaining but also non-linear. There are several ways to go about things and not only does it increase the replay value of the game but it also makes you feel like you've created your own personal solution to the mission rather than having simply ploughed down the only available route. One of the more basic choices in the game is whether or not to use stealth or whether to go in all guns blazing. The Hitman series has always rewarded the stealthy approach and Blood Money is no exception but there are times when it's beneficial to use the not so subtle approach.

The game offers four difficulty levels (Rookie, Normal, Expert and Pro). The difficulty level doesn't only affect the efficiency of the AI. The Rookie level will allow you to save as many times as you want whilst the Pro difficulty level won't allow you to save at all. One of the aspects of the game that's affected by the difficulty is notoriety. In Blood Money, if you are sloppy in a mission you'll make it harder for yourself in subsequent missions. It pays to hide bodies and remove evidence whenever possible. Failure to do so will lead to trouble further down the line. At the end of a mission you'll see a newspaper headline commenting on the murders you've been responsible for. Being sloppy means that a clearer description of 47 can be given. This in turn means that NPC's in later missions will begin to recognise you, so it's essentially raising the difficulty level. On the Rookie difficulty level notoriety is disabled but on the other difficulty levels it's very much in effect. Notoriety can be reduced between missions but it's going to cost you some of the money you've just earned so it's wise to be as efficient as possible. There's an impressive range of weapons in Blood Money and most of them can be modified in one way or another and you get to choose what weapons you'll take on your missions. Of course leaving a custom weapon at the scene of your crime might give others some valuable feedback on what 47 is like, so it's not something you want to do.

What's not so good about the game?

Hitman: Blood Money is generally a very fine game but there are few aspects of the game that could have been better. Perhaps the contentious aspect of the game is the save game system that's been used. As we've already mentioned the game has several difficulty levels and the amount of saves you can make is dependent on the difficulty level you've chosen. However all of these saves are temporary and as soon as you quit a mission all of your progress will be lost. Naturally this means that you'll have to complete missions in a single sitting if you want to make progress in the game, which does seem very strange. There are quite a few clipping issues which take the shine off the visual experience. You'll see enemies pass through 47 from time to time (especially if you make a bungled attempt at using the piano wire) and it all looks very unsightly although it has no effect on the game.

How does it look?

The Hitman games have always been fine looking games and Hitman: Blood Money is  no exception. In fact this is probably one of the best looking games on the PlayStation 2 in terms of character models, lighting effects and environmental detail etc. The frame rate is pretty impressive too and remains smooth throughout the game, which is great to see. In fact you wouldn't guess this is a multi-platform title as the developers have done a great job in making the game feel at home on the PlayStation 2. As we mentioned earlier there are some rather unwanted clipping issues that should have been sorted out but the for the most part there's little to complain about. The game, like others in the series, is played from the third person perspective but you can now switch to a first person perspective if you wish, which some gamers might prefer.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

The game is subtitled although by default the subtitles are disabled. With the subtitles enabled you'll be able to follow the dialogue in the game's cutscenes. The subtitles are placed at the bottom of the screen (in the lower border as the cutscenes are displayed in a letterbox format) and are displayed using a bold white font which makes them easy to read at a distance. The subtitles aren't colour-coded but this doesn't appear to cause any problems. The HUD displays gauges for health, a threat metre, weapon currently equipped and the context sensitive functions of the triangle, circle and X buttons. An encircled "!" icon will appear in the top centre of the screen when new information (which appears in text) is available and this is accessed by pressing the select button. Your immediate objectives will appear on the top right of the screen and these are displayed in text. A compass also shows the general direction 47 is heading. There is no gauge to show you visually how much noise 47 is making. Non-essential conversations and comments from NPC's are not subtitled. Communications from Diana (47's only link to the International Contract Agency) are not subtitled. Diana reads out the mission descriptions on the mission objective screens and these are also not subtitled. There are also no captions. Whilst this makes things a little tricky at times for deaf gamers (in situations where enemies can be heard before they are seen), it doesn't cause too many problems.

Final thoughts.

Hitman: Blood Money is probably the most polished game in the series and it's certainly ones fans of the series will enjoy. If you haven't experienced the series yet then this game is definitely the best place to start as it manages to shoehorn you into the Hitman experience better than any other title in the series so far. The missions are enjoyable regardless of how you choose to play them although they are definitely more satisfying when you opt for the stealthy approach whenever possible. The newspaper headlines and the notoriety system are interesting additions that add to the experience, if only slightly. On the whole though Hitman: Blood Money is as good as any other title in the series. It has the classic Hitman ingredients but the missions are more entertaining and their non-linearity is refreshing. The save system might be disappointing for most but overall this is a game fans of stealth or action games are going to want to get their hands on.

Overall Game Rating: 8.5/10

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Hitman: Blood Money is arguably the best game in the series. The awkward save system means you'll have to complete missions in a single sitting but on the whole there are few disappointments with the game and whether you're a fan of the Hitman series or general FPS games Hitman: Blood Money is recommended.