The graphics are here in full force, and even caught me off guard a few times. An example: being on the last level on the Pro setting, I had about 12 different NPC’s engaging me, at the same time, however they could not hit me due to the tree I was hiding behind. You could really see the tracers (Well not “true” tracers, but close enough that you get the visual) as well as the impact the rounds had on the tree. When you die, you get a few seconds of slow motion in which you can do pretty much do as you wish, which turns out to actually be quite an entertaining feature. It lets you know that you have expired and that you have failed the mission, so why not take a few seconds and just unload on everything around you, LOL, that is what I always did.
The story is immersive and very well written, which also describes the level design and AI of the non-aggressive NPC’s. You actually feel like you are a part of the current mission and when you make a tiny mistake, especially on the higher difficulty settings, you can really find yourself deep in trouble. I know you may be thinking that you have awesome twitch skills, but unless you are exploiting the AI by hiding around a corner, you cannot dodge the bullets of 4-5 guards all lighting you up at the same time. You will also notice that NPC’s have their own agenda and react in different ways to different circumstances. In the “Curtains” mission, if you kill the performer (your first target) you will notice that his friend (your second target) will leave his box and come up to see what has happened, and stand by his dead friend and grieve. This is an excellent opportunity to eliminate him, since this means you do not have to kill him while he is well guarded. Also note that while in game you may hear quite a bit of chatter that reflects on events happening in game. This could come from NPC’s having a discussion, from a radio broadcast, etc.. It adds to the environment and grips the player even more, making him feel that much more “in the game”. The game is rated “M” so I will not grief it for the extreme language, (mostly in the tutorial) or the provocative dressings such as at the “Heaven Party”. The adult content is done in a way to add to the realism of the situation, instead of how some games try to say “buy this game, it has boobs”.
The Bad: While the AI does get tougher with the difficulty level, it seems to only affect a few things, besides what is stated in the notes. A higher difficulty setting seems to remove unseen armor from you, adds armor to the opponents, lowers their reaction time, and sharpens their aim. While at first this may sound like a positive gameplay aspect, I was greatly disappointed to find out that in the last mission a grenade was used. Grenades should have been used in numerous locations, not just the last mission. Using camera angles, you can easily exploit the enemy AI, however if the NPC’s were allowed to use grenades throughout the game, this would have stopped a lot of “player camping”. We all know the best thing to use against a camper in a FPS is a good ole fashion hand grenade. Why it was only used on the last mission, I don’t know. While the 13 missions are very nicely set up, the overall game is kind of short. The first time you play, it will probably take you between 10-15 hours to complete. Even though the game does have replay value with the different difficulty settings, after you run through it once the following times you complete it will be drastically reduced. There is not enough incentive not to “Run & Gun”. Although many may call this a “stealth game”, at the higher difficulty settings, a single mistake will have 10-20 guards coming for you. In a way this is a good thing that the game notices and reacts to your screw-ups, however this just an excuse for me to practice my perfected “now is the time to reload” skills. This changes the game from a stealthy nail-biter, to a “weapons free” blood bath. Somehow I do not feel this is what the devs intended. This is another area in which the use of grenades by NPC’s would have helped the situation. You would have been a lot more cautious, knowing that if you did make a mistake you could not sit behind a corner and gank the NPC’s as they came around it. While there is a cash element in the game that rewards you for completing your mission in a productive manner, it does not penalize you enough. I have been through missions, finishing with penalties exceeding 100k for “clean-up” costs, and still finished the game with awesome weapon set-ups.
The Ugly: Yikes, I bought Hitman: Blood Money via a digital download. Normally I rave about purchasing software like this, however this is the second time I have had a problem with it. The first time I had some “Starforce error”. I downloaded a racing title, and played it for a week and then it said it had to verify something and now it does not work at all. My experience with Hitman, however, was different. While the game works fine, it did not come with a manual. (I bought and downloaded this from Direct2Drive.com) I have purchased many titles via download and this was the first without a manual, and needless to say this has caused numerous problems. I did not find out until I had already completed the game three times that you can actually “throw” mines and then detonate them. Knowing this sooner would have made the game a lot easier. Also, for some reason when I had multiple options, while on an elevator for example, I could not choose anything but the top and bottom option. I changed the speed on my keyboard as well as the controls, yet it would always skip to the top or the bottom of the lists. The workaround to this is that if you move in game, a tiny bit at a time, you can get the menu to change what is at the top of the menu.
The Final Word: If you have played previous Hitman titles then you are in for a treat. If you have not played any of the previous titles and you have the discipline to NOT exploit the NPC AI, then you will enjoy the game.(This means that on the White House level you do not take an M4 fully decked out with 100 round clips and laser sighting and kill all the Marines as they come out of the front door…) If you can get by knowing that there are only 13 levels, then this is definitely worth the $40 you will pay for it, when the price drops, it will be a steal.
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