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Hitman: Blood Money
(hx) 11:32 AM EDT - Jul,02 2006

Hitman: Contracts is fourth installment in the Hitman series which takes you into the mind of a ruthlessly efficient contract killer, showing the action and the world through the eyes of Agent 47. Once again you assume the role of Agent 47, a skilled assassin who is rewarded for completing contract killings as cleanly as possible, without hurting innocent civilians or being caught. Let's see what IO Interactive prepared for us.

The Hitman series' storylines have always molded themselves into and around the gameplay well, and Blood Money is no exception, with a tale that explores many of the deeper issues surrounding cloning. Agent 47 is the best of the cloned assassin's. Staying anonymous, being smart and totally ruthless is the key to a perfect execution. And no one performs like 47 does. Lucrative contracts on the rich and powerful in high profile locations make killing for money good business. But when a rival agency enters the scene it's war and only the best man will be left standing. And as the rival company tries to muscle in, they re-visit some of Agent 47's more memorable jobs. But don't worry, these aren't jobs from previous Hitman games....The story is told with the help of cut-scenes between the missions. I advise you not to skip them.

There are 11 missions in all (not including the training level), each dotted across America in an impressive range of locations. One moment you'll be infiltrating a rehabilitation centre in Northern California to assassinate a target, then wandering around at a porno king's mansion in the Rocky Mountains and the next you'll be employed to cause mischief at a Mardi Gras festival. Drugs, alcohol, and prostitution will be particularly common sightings, reminding you just how dark human society can be. The missions have different goals, but you must always eliminate at least one person, if not two or three, and sometimes retrieve sensible goods or information. This is easier said than done when you throw into the mix trigger happy guards and police, locked doors, and civilians who love to do nothing more than to blow your cover. Each level can be finished in a number of ways. This game makes you use your mind and is quite tricky, but when you pull off a great idea and watch how everything unfolds, it leaves you with a great feeling of accomplishment. The missions must be played through in a linear order, but between the game's ranking system, its multiple difficulty settings, and the open-ended design of each individual mission, there's good incentive to play through the game more than once.

For the most part, the core gameplay has remained the same for the duration of the series, and Blood Money features the same type of stealthy combat that you've seen before. There are a few nice additions to make the proceedings more believable (and entertaining). Agent 47 has loads more killing moves - you can now use hand to hand to knock people out, you can throw them into the sea, stuff the bodies in bins, etc. Stealth kills are great fun too. If there is a guy in an elevator you can use your fiber wire and pull them up the elevator shaft (Leon style). The more accessible control system makes performing simple acts - like opening a door or picking up a briefcase-- less painful. The game still fundamentally functions like it did before, but the smarter interface works more intuitively most of the time.

You have a decent arsenal of firearms to use such as pistols, shotguns, automatic rifles, high-powered sniper rifles in suitcases you put together on the spot, and even remotely-detonated bombs. The major difference between this game and earlier ones is that you can finally upgrade your 5 trademark weapons. These are the W2000 sniper, the Hardballers, the Spas-12, the MP5 and the M4A1. Each of these weapons have between 10 to12 upgrades that will drastically change performance in regards to sound level, damage, precision, stability and capacity. You can basically make your weapon suit your playing style. To do this, you need to use money you get paid for doing the missions. Hits are affiliated with a dollar amount and even figure in your killing technique. You don't need to worry about the money though, the payments are very generous - I ended up with $2.7 million at the end of the game :)

Another new mechanic in Blood Money is the Notoriety system, which will actually grade you (on a scale from 0 to 100) after every mission. It is essentially a system that rates how cleanly you do all of your jobs. If you leave custom-made gear behind, kill civilians, get spotted on security cameras, or do a bevy of other things, your notoriety will increase. Your notoriety can make you easier to detect in the next mission, though by paying an affordable fee in between missions, you can reduce your notoriety back down to nothing. So this turns out to be a negligible aspect of play, but having some sort of continuity between missions still helps the game.

Yes, this is indeed the best Hitman game yet. The developers have taken everything that was great in the previous games and made it better. The levels are bigger, the AI is (slightly) improved, replay value is greater (as you tend to want to try all the different assassination possibilities), and the game looks pretty. I went through the game with a sense of satisfaction and a sadistic smile on my mouth ;) The game has a cliff-hanger ending, so I assume there will be a sequel. At least I hope so. If you like the Hitman games or stealth games in general, I highly recommend this one.

related links: demo, patch v1.1, cheats, trainer +10, savegames (unlock), CDROM, Soundtrack.

System Requirements:
Minimum: Pentium 4 1.5GHz or Athlon XP equivalent, 512MB RAM, Direct3D 9 compliant cards supporting pixel shader 2.0 (nVidia GeForce FX or ATi Radeon 9500), Direct X compatible sound card, DVD-ROM driver, 5GB free HDD space
Recommended: Pentium 4 2.4GHz or Athlon XP/64bit Equivalent, 1GB RAM, ATI X800 series, nVidia GeForce 6800 series, or higher video card


snd: 4/5 - sound effects are well suited, solid voice acting, impressive orchestral compositions from Jesper Kyd soundtrack
gfx: 4/5 - solid (step up from its predecessors), special effects like rain, lighting, shadows, spoke and fogging, all look fine, new split-screen camera style, odd clipping problems
playability: 5/5 - open-ended stealth action, good story, excellent level design, assassin rating, improved controls, new notoriety system feels half-baked, AI doesn't react on a global level
genre: 3rd/1st person thinker-shooter
platform: PC (also available on PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360)
release: June 2006
developer: IO Interactive
publisher: Eidos
Excellent
Overall: 85%


last 10 comments:

djRom(10:43 PM EDT - Jul,02 2006 )
Best serving yet of the Hitman series! I agree with your points on how the notoriety system seems half-baked. But its still a neat feature. It was a pleasure to play through the game (on normal mode), I plan to go back and try beating it on a higher difficulty. Definitely a great game for almost anyone to pick up! (40$ is a great price btw! :) )

xxxx(12:38 PM EDT - Jul,04 2006 )
I finished the game with excess of 4 million and nearly every time killed with choke wire. I didn't get any real bonuses except silencer and my titles throughout most of the game was Professional Killer. Will I play the game again, not likely. I liked it, just for me I did it once, that was enough. I didn't finish the game in 1 sitting and instead intentionally prolonged it so it would be a true source of entertainment. Now playing Titan 'Crash' Quest.

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