There are so many games that are near enough universally adored, but are they all as perfect as we like to believe, or are we just peering through overly rose tinted glasses? The goal of Brilliantly Flawed is to expose games we all know and love for what they really are: very well made and enjoyable, but by no means perfect. This week we take a look at Eidos’ sandbox assassin simulator, Hitman: Blood Money.
The thrill of the perfect assassination. That’s what Hitman: Blood Money is to me. Hours of aggravation, meticulous planning and scoping out all of the possibilities all culminate into one perfect run; an undetected, flawless execution. Literally. Hitman: Blood Money was the third major release in the Hitman series and in my opinion by far the best. It made the player feel genuinely clever when they managed to concoct a scheme that would allow them to work their way through the level to the hit, carry it out and escape undetected and provided players with such a vast number of ways to do this with just the right levels of creativity.
The sheer magnitude of possibilities is, in my opinion Blood Money’s greatest strength. Every level is created in such a way that allows a player to take at least 10 different approaches to each target, with your decisions having implications on the ways that you can effectively tackle your next objective. New routes can be opened and obstacles appear depending on your choices, dependant on if you choose a stealthy or guns blazing approach. I love how this opens up endless replay value for what could be considered a fairly short game. I must have spent a good 70 hours replaying for a full set of Silent Assassin ratings, or just to enjoy the levels once more. Hitman: Blood Money is just one of those titles that is pure unadulterated fun, while still rewarding you sufficiently for smart play.
Hitman games are generally well known for blindly throwing you in situations where you’re not quite sure what you’re doing. This is no different in Blood Money, where you’ll usually end up skulking around a level to see what is and isn’t possible before you actually make an attempt at trying to beat it. While this may be one of the more well received elements of the game, it also brings to light the fact that the entirety of the game is just made of up of trial and error scenarios that you’ll end up repeating over and over. Missing out one minute detail such as putting on a Santa suit before you walk past a certain point can lead to an instant ‘kill on sight’ response from guards, forcing you to restart a level, only so that you can repeat exactly what you’d done before but with the slightest of variation in your actions. With the intricacies required for some of the scenarios in the game, even the tiniest of mistakes can lead to frustrating situations where you’re forced to restart entire levels over and over. It alienates new players and makes it much less accessible an experience for all.
The main draw of the Hitman series is letting the player loose in a murderous sandbox of unlimited possiblities, allow them to kill and sneak their way through the level whilst also giving the player many other variables and options to get to grips with. This is fantastic for those who are initiated into the Hitman “fold”, but slightly leaves those coming into the series out in the cold due to the obscene size of each level, which is my biggest problem with the title. Perhaps signposting could’ve been made more available on easier difficulty levels as simply making combat easier tempts the player to whip out their strongest weapon and blasting through scores of enemies instead of actually educating them of the various ways that the level can be conquered, though obviously missing out the perfect route. This would be an excellent tool seeing as this would prepare them for later games in the series and allowing them to take off the training wheels from previous games and experiencing the true Hitman experience.
Hitman: Blood Money delivers a consistently thrilling gameplay experience throughout, and while it has no large, gaping flaws, the issues lie in the game’s detail. One of my major issues with the game surprisingly is the addition of the hint system. While this is a common feature in most modern titles, hints in Blood Money take away a decidedly large portion of the experience for the player. The Hitman series manages to be so compelling to play because of the way the player chooses to fulfil their goals, providing a different experience for different players. The hint systems aren’t even hints, outright giving the solution to the player. This makes Blood Money arguably more linear than it needs to be, taking away the amount of exploration and training in the game, and in itself, taking away the player’s satisfaction.
I feel that many of the counter points against Hitman: Blood Money are in a very similar train of thought to one another. As a result, I’m fairly confident that one main point can work as an answer to most of what’s been said. The Hitman series is well known for its element of choice, to an extent that it’s been argued here that it leaves out certain demographics. I, however, disagree with this entirely. While we’re primarily talking about spending hours learning the levels and finding the best combination of routes in order to obtain the Silent Assassin rating, saying that that’s the only way to play, or even that it’s what all of the players are aiming to play like isn’t right at all. Hitman: Blood Money incorporates such a large amount of choice in its gameplay because it caters to however the player wants to play.
Some players want to lurk in the shadows, while others want to utilise the (rather large) array of weaponary and equipment at Agent 47′s disposal. It intentionally caters to long term fans, new players, and a middle point very effectively, and allows playstyle to differ depending on skill level and mood without issue. However, I can understand what both Greg and Sunny have mentioned about the hint system, which could in this case be seen as a flaw in the title.
I disagree that Hitman’s audience is varied as far as Blood Money was concerned, especially considering the huge fiasco that happened over the idea that Absolution could have become a linear game that panders to low level skill with handicaps. Blood Money’s difficulty attracted a certain type of person, not a wide variety of them. It’s interesting though, really, because when you look at how Absolution is coming along as a whole, you can see lots of examples of how the game is accommodating to a new demographic that’s made up of both veteran players and newcomers alike. It’s almost as if they know that Blood Money put off some people with its trial and error style gameplay. I’d personally rather they stuck to the previous demographic that allowed for much less pandering, but if it keeps the Hitman games coming through, I won’t be one to complain about it.
I agree that Hitman’s audience is pretty set in stone as far as Blood Money was concerned, especially considering the huge fiasco that happened over the idea that Absolution could have become a linear game. It’s interesting really, because when you look at how Absolution is coming along, you can see lots of examples of how the game is accommodating to a new demographic that’s made up of both veteran players and newcomers alike. I’d personally rather they stuck to the previous demographic that allowed for much less pandering, but if it keeps the Hitman games coming through, I won’t be one to complain about it.
Yeah, the game does cater exactly to the audience who enjoys this kind of game, which is why I understand what my suggestions might be seen as a dilution to the series. It’s a tough call to make, honestly, do we keep the game as it is with the barrier of entry held so high but the rewards that you reap for doing so are much higher or do we help players get into to the game but lose much of the real satisfaction gained from learning the ins and outs of such a deep game? Either way, Absolution is arriving which is, seemingly, going to cater to newer audiences, so we can assess if the decision is the correct one to make when it releases.
I agree with Dan’s point about the game’s design fitting a wide audience of players, after all, that’s why I enjoy the game. I still stand by my point about the hint system, however. My main issue with hints is how streamlined the game can potentially become, especially for newcomers who may feel compelled to follow the route they’ve been instructed rather than deviate from it and discover better, more rewarding ways to accomplish their task. This problem could be easily fixed simply by making the hints more like hints. Having clues over a straight solution eases new players along, but without spoiling any of the game’s secrets, accommodating both novice and veteran assassins.
Hitman, as a series, is a bit of an anomaly. Instead of pandering to potential fans with low skill levels by offering handicaps, Blood Money in particular offers either a pummelling into the ground or a straight forward hint system that tells you exactly what to do. Honestly though, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Maybe the hints could go, but the rock hard difficulty is something that should never be taken away. It may not be the perfect game, but Blood Money has kept us all coming back for our many attempts at that illustrious Silent Assassin rank.
After 8 installments, Brilliantly Flawed is finally over. We hope you’ve enjoyed our look into the flaws of our favourite games as much as we did. We’ve got something brand new for you all next week, so don’t forget to come back at the same time next Sunday to see what we’ve cooked up for you!
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