Have You Played… Hitman: Blood Money?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

This one’s regularly cited as a cult classic that didn’t quite get the acclaim it deserved at the time, but it bears repeating: Blood Money is io’s stealth game at the peak of its powers.

As thoughtful as it is playful, it’s also one of the more forgiving entries in a series that’s been all over the place. Forgiving in an entirely positive sense, however: what I most enjoy about Blood Money is that it lets me adapt on the fly, without necessarily having to resort to outright violence in the event I cock something up.

Ad-hoc ingenuity can win the day, and what might seem at the time like a series of comic pratfalls, ill-timed costume changes and panicked strangulations can wind up as a successful mission after all. You won’t get your silent assassin rating, but you will feel like you had an experience that was just for you, rather than to meet someone else’s rules.

Of course, this is all set within a framework of glorious setpieces and devious action-puzzles. Cleverness, craft and impressive variety is woven into almost every mission, and each one seems like its own mini-movie with its own strong supporting cast. It’s terribly sad to think about the dour, snarling place that Hitman went after this sky-high watermark.

50 Comments

  1. Anthile says:

    Few games are as satisfying to figure out. There is nothing quite like sitting at a map for hours, restart it and get a perfect Silent Assassin rating in three minutes.

    • jnqvist says:

      This. When you don’t take any fire weapons to the level at all.

    • S Jay says:

      One of the few games I have played again after finishing it (and more than once).

  2. jezcentral says:

    God, this was a wonderful game. You could see the whole level as a machine, lots of interacting systems waiting for you to deftly throw a spanner in the works, and create holes that would allow you get close to your target. You pared away the layers of security like an onion and finally got your man/woman.

    O tempora o mores.

    That the next things to come from this game were Velvet Assassin and Absolution show that you don’t always learn the good stuff from making games.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    Blood Money was one of those games where the levels had a lot of ways to make you feel clever, enough moving parts so the solutions weren’t obvious, and enough hints to let you find a way through.

    Really masterful design.

  4. Jim Rossignol says:

    Replayed this recently. Just amazing. Some of the best individual level designs, let alone all the systems that populate them.

    • Terragot says:

      It’s one of my favorite games, and a signal path of where I’d like to see freedom of player choice go. What’s sublime is how it holds back to allow for player expression, rather than the player acting as a conduit for the demands of the game.

      Absolution isn’t a bad game because it’s more linear or too story focused in comparison to Blood Money. Absolution is a bad game because it reveals itself completely to the player, depreciating itself to a check-list of content for the player to work through.

      • Orageon says:

        This and the madness of CHECKPOINTS for saving, forcing you to pass by some place. Which is madness in this kind of games with semi-open levels that supposedly offers you many ways to achieve your target.

        Oh how those check/save points ruined my experience on Absolution. Other than that, it wasn’t too bad, though definitely inferior to Blood Money, the best of them all.

        Oh but on a sidenote, and I probably won’t make many friends with this, but I genuinely think the disguise system in Absolution is actually more clever than in bloodmoney, where it was often a tad overpowered.

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    N'Al says:

    I have NOT played it, but heard it was GOOD.

  6. kevinspell says:

    Oh, man…. Blood Money. I do hope the open letter to Hitman fans wasn’t just PR bullcrap. If what they promised comes true I will buy that game twice.

  7. feffrey says:

    One of the best stealth games of all time, no doubt. Completing every level and making every kill seem like an accident is so awesome.

  8. Jiskra says:

    I just love this game, the opera mission is my favorite one !

    • ElDopa says:

      I was about to say the same thing! It’s such a brilliantly designed level.

    • thestjohn says:

      God yes. Avoiding the details ’cause SPOILERS, but the realisation that you didn’t even need to eliminate one of the targets yourself in that mission completely blew my mind at the time.

    • P.Funk says:

      Tosca will never be the same!

  9. romanlevin says:

    Tried replaying it a few days ago, but couldn’t get past the terrible, downright racist voice acting in the tutorial mission.

    • redredredguy says:

      The less said about the awful story and occasional racism and sexism the better, honestly. The mechanics and level design have always been the real draw. Dissappointing nevertheless, though.

      • jezcentral says:

        I like to think that THAT conversation in the tutorial is a homage to Aphex Twin’s Windowlicker video. It’s the only reason I can think of.

    • Terragot says:

      Everything about that tutorial mission goes against what Blood Money is seemingly about, it’s one of the worst openings to a game I’ve come across.

      • redredredguy says:

        Agreed. Really made me think the game would be terrible.

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          basilisk says:

          Also agreed. This was the first (and only) Hitman game that I played, and the tutorial did a terrible job explaining what I was looking at. I very nearly uninstalled the game because I simply didn’t get it; it took a while before I understood what it was trying to achieve and started appreciating the brilliance of it.

          • tur1n says:

            I actually quit during the tutorial and never came back. It felt very clunky, and there was nothing to draw me in.
            And I like stealth games and I usually don’t have trouble getting into older games.

  10. redredredguy says:

    The satisfaction of taking a ridiculously long time to set up the hit was amazing. You had to learn ALL the guard patrols and individual mechanics within the levels to make it go perfectly, and then when it did, the pleasure was immense. And those levels! I never knew a game so happy to contain so much variety and scale in something that could be completed in under 10 minutes. As Alec said, each of them felt like a mini-movie, where you could be in a vineyard in Chile one minute, and an opera in Paris the next. Every one felt like a rich world to dive into. It’s the kind of game that, delightfully enough, invites replayability not through unlocks (though those were in the game) or tedious achievements (those too), but in the sense of sheer, strategic fun in its varied, non-linear design. A fantastic game, and the best in the series (IMO).

  11. hiddencamel says:

    Definitely the best of the Hitman games to my mind. Better variety than Hitman 2, better mechanics and puzzles than Contracts, and without all the needless stealth tweaks in the last instalment.

  12. RARARA says:

    After Portal, Blood Money is my favorite puzzle game.

  13. deadly.by.design says:

    Did they fix the bug that made me unable to complete the penthouse party mission? It was completely game-breaking at the time, and I couldn’t avoid crashing to advance.

  14. Psychomorph says:

    Maybe time to support the Death To Spies 3 Kickstarter?

    I played the Hitman series, but not Blood Money, but after the Death To Spies 3 demo I realized I’m totally in for this sh#t and started to play Blood Money yesterday. Sometimes it is good to have never played a good old game.

  15. Hydraulic Meerkat says:

    Not just the missions, but the safe house with your firing range and wall o’ guns. Collecting rare guns from each level gave you something to do after getting silent assassin on everything. Best in the series, but Absolution really was a close second. It was a mix of Blood Money and Hitman 2, with the focus on plot. Level design wasn’t quite as good in Absolution as it was in Blood Money but it was still very good. Absolution also had gun collecting but without the physical safe house and aforementioned wall o’ guns it just wasn’t the same.

    • kevinspell says:

      Level design in Absolution is the main reason I did not like it at all. Sure Hitman 2 also had some missions cut into parts. But most of the time still offered much more open approach to the “problem”. Absolution felt like a Hitman game on maybe three or four occasions. Everything else felt to me like a scripted linear hand holding game where everything is curated to achieve the movie experience AAA games nowadays for some reason aim for. Without exploration and putting the puzzle pieces together for that perfect assassination Absolution just felt soulless.

      • Hydraulic Meerkat says:

        There were chokepoints at certain parts in Absolution where cutscenes would play, but there was just as much variety in how you got there as any level in Blood Money. And multiple ways to take out targets. I’d even say levels like Terminus in Absolution were even more open ended and complex than anything in Blood Money. I really don’t know where people are getting the idea Absolution was linear. Maybe that’s the game people need to play again.

        • PikaBot says:

          I genuinely have no idea what you’re talking about. Terminus had three points of access to the hotel itself, but everything once you were in was pretty sharply proscribed by the limitations of the disguise and instinct systems.

        • kevinspell says:

          You choose Terminus as an example… seriously? A mission with basically one way to progress to the next section and almost typical Splinter Cell experience on the next two floors. On top of that the ending of that mission is the pinnacle of anti-Hitman gameplay, a god damn cutscene… A Vintage Year, first real mission in Blood Money is at least 10 times more open than Terminus.

    • HadToLogin says:

      Actually, I found collecting guns and safehouse a big letdown in Blood Money, since it was much bigger in Contracts (and I think Silent Assassin too?).

      BM doesn’t even reward you with some shiny gun for being Silent Assassin. I loved Contracts for allowing me to grab few different akimbo pistols and just shoot everyone when I’m bored.

  16. Banks says:

    (Hi!)

    I adore this game. Every mission feels like a playground and It is an absolute joy to mess around finding a way to kill with an “accident”. In many ways, this is the pinnacle of sandbox design.

    The tutorial mission is dreadful tough.

  17. derbefrier says:

    Man this game was awesome. I dont remember the tutorial mission for some reason though. I guess its possible it was so bad i blocked it from my memory.

  18. PikaBot says:

    I’ve actually been replaying it recently, and it’s still a lot of fun. My only real gripe with the game is that sometimes they’ll set up targets such that there’s really only one way to kill them and remain undetected; the second target in the famous Opera mission, for example. Really the only way to dispose of him without starting a whole shitstorm is to drop the chandelier on his head when he runs up the aisle (which also sort of proscribes how you kill the actor). It’s also possible to snipe him from the scaffolding, I suppose, but this is almost impossible to do without being seen and unless you have a level two silencer it’ll be detected anyway.

    The absolute worst offender, though, has to be the Sheik from the casino level. He’s completely surrounded by guards, meaning there’s only really three ways to kill him short of charging in guns blazing: snipe him from the scientist’s balcony when he walks outside to make a phone call, kill him after his bodyguard leaves the room but before the dancer arrives, or put a bomb in the DNA suitcase and either throw it into his room or just drop it and walk away before the cutscene begins. Two of these methods should not work: there IS a brief window in which you can silent kill him from up close, but the only thing separating you from the prying eyes of his guards is a privacy screen that can easily be seen through. And when you bomb him, you have to literally walk away from the explosion, detonator in hand, making it incredibly obvious you did it, or else he’ll come running after you and set his guards on you. So really, there’s only one way that isn’t incredibly goofy and reliant on oddness with the guard AI.

  19. Insurgence says:

    This game was freaking awesome. I still play it these days, especially after being so disappointed in Absolution. the game rewarded you in many ways. Probably the two signifigant ones were the ability to use the items you unlocked/bought in any level, and the newspaper articles at the end. They both gave you the ability and reasons to go for all of the rankings. Better rankings made it easier to obtain the better items, which in turn allowed you to go for the different rankings that were harder (except for the “silent assassin” rank which was just as hard no matter what unlocks you had, since they didn’t get used). And you wanted the different rankings so that you could read those newspaper clippings at the end of each level.

  20. heretic says:

    amazing game, getting that silent assassin rating on the casino level after finding myself daydreaming of a solution was just the best moment ever

    sniper rifle from the german guy’s room to the scientist, climb the balconies to activate the scientist’s phone to bring out the sheik and nail him there

  21. Anthile says:

    Obligatory:

    • Velthaertirden says:

      Came to post this and was not disappointed. Makes me laugh just like all those years ago.

  22. racccoon says:

    Yes it was the best blood bath ever. The crowd really went down for it. brilliant.

  23. AUS_Doug says:

    A mind-bogglingly brilliant game, easily the best in the series.

    Where Codename: 47 and Silent Assassin – I’m not even going to acknowledge the existence of Contracts and Absolution, other than acknowledging their existence by not acknowledging it – tended towards the manically difficult at times, Blood Money found the perfect balance between making the game a challenge – especially at higher difficulty levels, and on certain missions – but not making you rage quit.

    With the exception of the somewhat tedious and boring tutorial level – which was nonetheless useful, if only for learning the game’s new mechanics – each level was brilliantly crafted, with an astonishing level of attention to detail providing the kind of replay value that Call Of Duty and Battlefield would kill for.

    It was not, however, without it’s flaws.

    As with all games of it’s kind, the AI can be abysmally stupid in a firefight, although they are much more competent than their previous iterations.

    If forced to abandon a stealthy approach, you can be assured that finding cover in a dead-end corridor with a sub-machine gun and shooting it out with your opposition – be it redneck thugs or US Marines – will only result in your survival.

    But for me, the two biggest let downs were in the bladed weapons category; Not only could not bring a blade with you into the level – necessitating the finding of one – but, after perfectly planting a kitchen knife in a bodyguard’s head from the other side of the room – which, when executed in that beautiful moment when he’s trying to draw his weapon before your blade finds it’s mark, even as both he and you know he’s going to fail is immensely satisfying – you cannot again pick that knife up and use it.

    Having said that, the game is otherwise exceptional; No quick-time events, no stupid ‘blending in’, no stupidly pressing combinations of keys to perform some stupid, overly artistic melee attack when a simple headbut and one-two punch will suffice, plenty of horrible people – everything from drug lords to paedophiles and corrupt politicians – to kill, and a staggering variety of ways to kill your target that don’t once make you go “Well that was just stupid”.

    It is my fervent hope that the next Hitman instalment will see a return to what made Blood Money great.

  24. jonahcutter says:

    I love the atmosphere of absurdity, corruption and incompetence that runs throughout the game. This isn’t simply satire. It’s farce. As well as it’s ever been done in a game.

    Everyone you run across, from euro-sophisticates to redneck white-trash to black gangbangers to drunken trophy wives to drunken bad-Santas to drunken birthday clowns to Italian mobsters to wealthy art-snobs to pornographers to the FBI, the CIA, the Secret Service and regular cops, gets gleefully portrayed as self-serving, bumbling and/or corrupt fools. Akin to the Saints Row games, it’s equal opportunity. And Agent 47 moves through this slyly absurd world like an angel of death. Always capable. Ever more efficient.

    The incredible level design is perhaps defined by the smallest one, the suburbs where you go to assassinate a mobster. Everything great about the game is distilled down to a tight focus. Smallest in footprint perhaps, but still deeply intricate. It’s arguably the most iconic level of the game.

    I always love that moment when you get spotted. Whether intentional or not, the NPC doesn’t seem to react instantly like a game AI. It seems to stare at you for just a beat. As if it’s seeing the tableau before it and realizing something is wrong. It creates such great moments of cinematic tension. And mechanically it gives you a tiny window to react and try to fix your own mistake.

    Blood Money is one of the greats.

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    Sinomatic says:

    I still haven’t played this yet. I remember bouncing off the hitman series in its earliest days (partly because I was terrible at anything that required any level of stealth play back then), and never really went back. I have amassed a fair few of the games over the years though, so I should at least give this installment a proper go at some point.

    • P.Funk says:

      Blood Money is easier than the others before it (never played Absolution) in a rare way where it actually improves the game rather than guts it of its credibility.

      Its an elegantly assembled game. Everything is so polished and flows so well. Whats more your creativity will drive your decisions and lead you to ways to finish the level that cater to your style. There is pretty much always a gimme solution that makes it pretty easy to finish things if you’re getting frustrated, while there is always a litany of complex ways to try and get a more artful assassination.

      To be honest, Blood Money is the only game I’ve ever played that made me think as does Joubert, the assassin from Three Days of the Condor.

      “The belief is in your own precision.”

  26. unit 3000-21 says:

    It may be the best Hitman game but it doesn’t have a golf club to hit people with.
    What I liked best was the knife/hammer throwing mechanic. Lots of times I failed a mission just because I felt obliged to go Jack Burton on someone.

  27. Richard Burton says:

    Yes, I have played it. One of my favourite games of all time. Everything about it was just so.. right. Wonderful level design, every mission fun to explore and discover new ways to do it. The Opera was probably the best overall mission but… killing Vinnie in A New Life had some of the best black humour in a game I can remember… the alcoholic clown… the pool guy… and of course, looking through the keyhole as the FBI agent passes out unconscious from sniffing the ether soaked panties… genius. Oh and that awesome soundtrack by Jesper Kyd. I think IO Interactive made a huge mistake by not hiring him for Hitman Absolution, although in retrospect I doubt Jesper was bothered, seeing as Absolution wasn’t so great anyway (at least compared to Blood Money).

  28. pund says:

    Best game in the series, hands down.
    Played most of the levels umpteen times. So much fun to mess around in!
    Anyone remember the exclusive ‘russian hare’ rating?
    Really loved the eye to detail and the many, many possibilities

    • AUS_Doug says:

      Or the ‘Florist’ (or something like that) when you killed everyone with the shears on ‘A New Life’.

      You’re right though, it’s the little details that make Blood Money what it is.