Assassins Have Become Heroes
"Death is a calling, unlike living; it's something I do very well"
Assassins are cool! Hollywood has employed this concept to created memorable assassins that have captured the imagination of millions of curious film-goers over the years. Matt Damon's recent reprisal of his role as Jason Bourne in the hit movie The Bourne Ultimatum, the third installment of Robert Ludlum's best-selling trilogy that began with The Bourne Identity, is but one of a recent crop of movies with interesting main characters with the job title assassin.
Director Joe Carnahan's 2007 release of the assassin filled romp, Smokin' Aces, in which Alicia Keys plays a sexy assassin hoping to cash in on a million dollar payday, just one of a handful of hopeful assassins in the movie hoping to collect a cool million shekels for a day's work, by offing Buddy "Aces" Israel before he spills the beans on the mob.
Yes, the profession of assassin is a skilled position, perfect for the female of the species as Lucy Liu, Uma Thurman and Julie Dreyfus proved in recent years with release of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill. The best feature movie featuring an assassin as the main character for many is The Day of the Jackal, which has been reshot over the years with many famous faces as the infamous Jackal.
The Power of Life and Death is in Your Hands
Born a cold calculating imperfect-individual, with total emotional control and absolutely no moral consideration or feelings about the pleas for pity from individuals suddenly aware of the price of their choices when the devil's bill collector knocks upon their door, the International Contract Agency has a position in its collections and liquidations department that will feel like a familiar friend in your hand.
How does a job sound that involves hobnobbing in majestic geographical locations, while creatively employing innovative technologies and weapons in a profession instilling fear in the hearts and minds of all who hear the word ‘assassin', and receiving the kind of monetary compensation for your labours we all dream of being able to spend?
If this has your adrenalin and blood pumping feverishly then Eidos Interactive has foreseen your need and their fourth installment of the popular Hitman franchise Hitman: Blood Money will leave you as happy as a bear swimming in honey as you play notorious assassin Agent 47 of the ICA in a fight for survival. Hitman: Blood Money is an upgrade in enjoyment level from the previous three installments of the well-liked series of Hitman titles, but if you're planning on playing the PC version, you need to use a computer with the recommended system requirements.
Once you get beyond the performance issues though, the computer version is a sparkling gem for any gamer into Hitman: Blood Money's brand of entertainment. The console units are a superior choice if you just want to experience the appeal of the Hitman series without forking over bags full of shekels, if you need to upgrade your computer to the recommended system requirements, that is.
The Story (3 out of 5)
The game opens with the former FBI director meeting with a reporter to brag of the arrest of the mysterious Agent 47. The meeting between these two men tells us of how the FBI tracked Agent 47 through a series of assassinations and why Agent 47 is being targeted for elimination.
Agent 47, the world's greatest assassin, is on the run from an unknown third entity that is quietly and efficiently eliminating his parent organization, the International Contract Agency, one agent at a time.
Realising he is being hunted and that his success in his chosen profession has worked against him, Agent 47 decides he needs fresh territory to explore and allow him the time and space to determine why he is being targeted, and remove the threat on his tail. The world's best assassin heads to the fresh territory, the United States of America.
In the course of caring out his work and trying to determine the identity of the entity systematically eliminating his colleagues, Agent 47 learns that the FBI is the organization which has targeted the ICA for eradication, and as the game evolves Agent 47 and the government come closer and closer, eventually concluding in a final encounter between the minions-of -the-man and Agent 47.
Positive Aspects (3 out of 5)
This game certainly reaches greater gaming heights than its three predecessors, all of which could boast of having some of the most noted and well constructed level design in any game in the genre. The third game in the series, Hitman: Contracts, hit a soft spot on the road to the video game best seller list.
This fourth attempt uses essentially the same game play elements as past Hitman games; with the added improvements of text-sensitive controls and an improved touch-sensitive hand to hand combat system that makes this fourth Hitman a lot more merciful to the average gamer. Despite a few problems with slow motion fight scenes and sluggish mouse movement during gun battles with the PC versions, a good game is hidden underneath a buggy fourth attempt by Eidos to allow gamers to vicariously live life as a paid killer.
In spite of this Blood Money missions are enjoyable as Agent 47 is finally receiving monetary compensation at the end of each mission that can be used to improve your ability to carry out your assignments, perks that increase in time with job efficiency and stealth, making the benefits of being a thrifty killer worth checking out. The money will come in handy for upgrades to weapons, or if stealth isn't your forte you will need to save the money to pay off witnesses and the police or if everybody knows your face, a new identity.
Enjoy the New Features
The most dramatic improvement in Blood Money to the series involves a more accessible control system that allows you to make simple life saving moves, like opening a door or picking up an item, a lot less lethal. Using the simple three-button on-screen system included with Blood Money, you'll find that guns, hidden stashes, doorknobs, and all items are contact sensitive, when you pass by a usable object the right button lights up in the corner of your screen.
Planning and thought are required to get to the target, complete the job and leave undetected, the best hit is certainly the one nobody suspects until you are sipping champagne. Agent 47 is a weapons expert trained in the use of exotic and extremely final assassins-tools, one of which is the convenient accident, so you can choose to take-out-the-trash in varied and entertaining ways, it all depends on your personal killing style.
Eidos has incorporated a new ‘notoriety' system, which uses newspaper headlines to allow Agent 47 to get an indication of the amount of information he has been leaving bystanders, cops, reporters, and even current or future marks, information capable of jeopardising Agent 47's ability to complete current and future missions. So maybe Rambo isn't such a great example to attempt to emulate, unless of course you always intended to die by the gun.
The geographical locations and improved missions make this game a more realistic rendition with enjoyable challenges that add a significant replay factor as the gamer tries to find new and more creative ways to eliminate the target. There are more then a dozen open-ended assignments that must be finished in a linear order, most of them being set in the United States, that can be completed in a few minutes if you are skilled, but most gamers will take about an hour to finish a mission.
Eidos Interactive created diverse, complex, spacious and dynamic environments for the gamer to explore. The plot and story lack depth in the end, but then a writer always sees things from a writer's perspective; it's always about the next word.
Negative Aspects (3 out of 5)
Hitman: Blood Money is certainly the best assassination game available, but the story and plot could use a little sprucing up in content and realism, although the presentation is excellent. The biggest problem with the game is the control scheme, which takes a little practice to operate efficiently, but once the hours of play increase this becomes less of an issue for the gamer. It is easier to get caught and Blood Money balances this by making the game more forgiving if you do get caught, but hardly realistic.
The console models give better over all performance, unless you have a computer system in the high end of the performance spectrum, and even then the computer version can be hampered by unresponsive-mouse movements during menu navigation and when engaged in firefights. The cut scenes between missions are often so choppy the dialogue is unintelligible as the frame-rate drops dramatically, making it frustrating to actually figure out what the plot of the game is.
The console versions of Blood Money don't suffer from the same issues as versions running on computers on the low end of the minimum system requirements, at the top of the review, and occasionally these same problems appear on high end computer systems as well. But considering the cost savings of consoles in relation to the small improvements in performance when running this game on a high end computer system, the console versions of this game is certainly a better choice.
The consistency of the AI has been a problem in earlier versions of Eidos' Hitman series and while the AI in Blood Money is significantly improved it's still a point of contention. Your alert level may suddenly skyrocket and you won't know why, the body you left was discovered, a slight noise, a flash of a shadow, a flicker in the edge of a guard's eye, can all add up to you being noticed and your subsequent elimination. The guards are much more aware, so alarms sometimes appear randomly triggered, so it's best to use disguises or disdirection when possible.
Soundtrack (4 out of 5)
The composer for the music for the Hitman series has from the beginning been composer Jesper Kyd and he hit the right note again with a combination of choral tracks and down-tempo electronic pieces that is pleasant and enjoyable to listen to while playing this game.
Graphics (3 out of 5)
The graphics gets a little slow at times if the computer this game is running on is on the low end of the system requirements. The beautifully crafted geographical locations in this game have been rendered wonderfully, making playing this game a lot of fun.
Entertainment Value (4 out of 5)
Hitman: Blood Money is the best of the series, so far, and is a real pleasure to play. Take time to think every mission out and try to find new and interesting ways to complete each mission, it will make the game a lot more fun.
Points to Remember (5 out of 5)
Survival for Agent 47 involves success in the missions, this necessitates stealth and intelligence in the choice of methods to complete each mission, the most successful hit is one nobody recognizes as an assassination. Disguise, misdirection, resulting in the perceived accidental death of a target is the best result. IO seems to have made efforts to weed out any Rambo's from the crowd of successful assassins – one non-silenced gunshot and the gig is up.
You have little chance of surviving in these gun battles with goon squads as just a few guards onscreen will cause the frame rate to plummet and the mouse to move like a turtle. Additionally, money will be deducted from the pay at the end of the job for every body you leave laying around during a mission, so it pays to be neat and professional. Some basic moves have been automated with Blood Money so it's easy to alert guards without knowing it and getting noticed is not beneficial. The control scheme takes getting use to, but this becomes less noticeable the more you play the game and become familiar with the controls.
Replay Ability (4 out of 5)
The best feature of Hitman: Blood Money is you can replay every mission, over and over again, trying to create the perfect kill. There are a number of ways to complete each mission, but the fun comes from finding a way to eliminate a target and getting away without anyone noticing until you have left.
Overall (4 out of 5)
If you liked the previous games in the Hitman series, you will certainly enjoy the experience that this game brings to the table. The issues with the control scheme aside, this is certainly the best Hitman of the series and is a move in the right direction for IO Interactive. The scenes in the missions are spectacular and take you to the far reaches of the globe as you hobnob with the rich and elite of the world. Series veterans will enjoy the new complexities that have been added to the game play, while new players will find this game to be a one of a kind combination of stealth action and first person combat.
Genre: Contract-killer, first-person simulation or third person perspective
Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
ESRB rating: Mature
Computer system minimum requirements: 1.5GHz CPU; 512 MB RAM; progressive scan (480p, 720p widescreen); GeForceFX/Radeon or better and at least 5GB hard drive space
Computer system recommended: 2.4GHz CPU or better, 1GB RAM or more, GeForce 6800/Radeon X800 or better
Console systems: Playstation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360