There are many games that have captivated me in the past, but none quite like Hitman: Blood Money. It was released in 2006 by Eidos Interactive and features what I believe is the peak of stealth gaming. It follows a clone contract killer named Agent 47 who has enhanced abilities for carrying out assassinations for clients in different locations around the world. What is quite a simple concept makes a game which is unmatched today even by its follow-ups. On every level Blood Money shows the peak of video game creation.
The level design of Blood Money is one of its biggest assets. For each mission you undertake you are dropped into a single level set somewhere in the world. The levels are incredibly open and allow for a wide variety of gameplay styles. Locations range from Opera Houses to seedy parties, but one thing each place does successfully is immerse you in its world. The little detail of a plumber going about his everyday work; the rehearsals of an opera with the singers blaring out as you observe from above; these all make you feel as if the levels you have been dropped into are real breathing places. Forgetting the mission objectives, you could easily spend a great deal of time just exploring these environments.
The level design perfectly complements this games gameplay. Because of the non-linear structure you are able to carefully plan out your route throughout the map, making the perfect assassination, or just go guns blazing, tearing your way to the target (even if this is not encouraged). The key aspect therefore of Blood Money’s gameplay is therefore choice. As well the geographical element you also get a wide choice of equipment which allows an even greater scope of approach. This is ranging from more obvious guns to the more discreet fibre-wire or sedative. However, despite the plethora of different tools available to you, the controls can often feel quite clunky and can hold you back from making that perfect kill.
Tied into these other elements is the narrative of this game. This takes the form of retrospective cut scenes in which two men discuss the various murder cases where Agent 47 was believed to have been involved. You play out each incident they describe and the narrative advances forward towards the present day ending with what I believe is the most satisfying final level ever made for a game (no spoilers here). The narrative slots in so well to this game for the reason that it is subordinate to the gameplay. If you were to skip every cut scene and just play the game it would be completely fine, but if you wanted to you could follow the story which complements the gameplay quite well.
The Definitive Hitman
This is why I think that Blood Money’s follow up, Absolution, is nowhere near the same calibre of its predecessor. The fact that had mostly linear levels instead of open sandboxes meant that the gameplay felt constrained and nothing like the brilliance of Blood Money. Despite the fact that in this year’s Hitman – the sixth game in the series – they have gone back to the original open game style, hopefully recapturing what Hitman is about, I still believe that blood money represents a peak in the series which will be hard to ever follow.
Should you get it?
Blood Money may now look slightly aged, and the controls are pretty clunky for today’s standards. Despite this it is still such an amazing game which sets the bar high for the stealth genre. You can get the game on Steam now for only £7.99 and if you wait for a sale it often goes for less than two pounds. If you are looking for an immersive, single player experience, where you are able to choose exactly how you want to play then I recommend picking up this game. It’s something I doubt you’ll regret.