Staying Out of the Papers: A Celebration of Hitman: Blood Money
The Hitman series has always been a series of duality. It’s a place where you can be as messy or as clean as you desire in your operation of the man known only as Agent 47. Certainly IO Interactive gave some favor to the silent assassin over the boisterous leadslinger, but those who played Hitman as a bullet-filled bloodbath never had that option taken away. That said, in 2006 when it came time to drop a new Hitman game, IO worked to split those camps more distinctly than ever and put emphasis on the idea of what makes a murderer and what makes a true Hitman. The result was Blood Money, which arrived on North American shelves today.
From the beginning, one of the primary goals in the development of Hitman: Blood Money was an environmental shift towards locations that favor a suave assassin over a military operative. In a 2005 interview with Eurogamer, Game Producer Adam Lay expressed the team’s desire to feature “locations geared towards less military-inspired scenarios, and more towards those a where a genuine hitman would be most effective.” This meant a tonal shift away from missions revolving primarily around armies and soldiers in favor of putting seedy underbellies of underground mobster clubs and opera houses housing immoral politicians in the spotlight. The former still existed, but Blood Money was far more interested in giving Agent 47 the opportunity to schmooze his sophisticated way through everything from mountainside mansions to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Of course you’re still clear to make as much of a scene as you want. Agent 47 packed head in the form of his own personal arsenal of five highly customizable weapons, from the iconic Silverballer pistols to the W2000 breakdown sniper rifle. Players could also collect over fifty other firearms from the guards and enemies within missions around the world. You want to kill indiscriminately? That’s fine as long as you hit the target too, but Blood Money also introduced a progressive system to react to your violent escapades: The Notoriety system.
The Notoriety system revolves around witnesses and evidence of Agent 47’s presence in missions. Witnesses, security cameras, evidence left behind and other factors make Agent 47 a gradually more recognizable face. Cash is rewarded on how professionally the job is done, with deductions taken for how much work the clean-up team has to do. The highest pay comes from a Silent Assassin ranking in which no evidence is left behind and only the intended target is slain, as is the lowest Notoriety rating. Being seen or leaving a trail behind puts media and security worldwide on notice of Agent 47’s existence. High notoriety means security will linger on observing Agent 47 or targets will recognize him and run to alarm guards. In essence, being a violent butcher can be just as dangerous as being a killer chameleon.
There were escalating rewards for both sides of the coin nonetheless. The aforementioned cash can be used to upgrade Agent 47’s personal arsenal and tailor them to whatever situation you might find yourself, making you a much more versatile active killing machine. Meanwhile, the more discerning slayer was given the opportunity to use that cash to buy information for their next contract. With new enormously detailed environments came a new slew of unique environment ways to stage “accidents” for those who carefully observed their environments and critical information served as keys to the perfect kill.
Hitman: Blood Money was by no means a perfect game. Even as much as the Notoriety system was built up, Blood Money hosted the system in its first and simplest form of the series. As such, it was easily manipulated. Meanwhile, the AI moved between places of easy patterns and predictability and nonsensically erratic. Nonetheless, it set a new, higher bar for the series. Blood Money has its faults, but it still supplied a masterful series of scenarios and a reputable open-world assassination experience, supplying a suitable challenge to the recklessly violent as well as the proficiently silent.