Sony has unlocked Pandora’s Box by releasing some of its PS2 classics on the PS4 in 1080p with full feature support, including trophies. Sure, I could just as easily spend that $15 on a satisfying meal at Chipotle, but whereas Chipotle will only bring me temporary satisfaction, trophies last forever. So, the question now stands, what do we want to see them bring back? The PS2 had an enormous library, so every Friday I will make a case for the games that I think deserve the recognition. Some are beloved classics, others are deeper cuts. This week’s pick is:
Hitman: Blood Money (2006)
While I usually like to give keep things zesty with a healthy dose of variety, this week we are doing another stealth game. It is also another game that is still available on last-gen consoles. On top of that, the game is also available on PC, for those who have the capability. However, like last week, we are talking about a franchise that is in trouble.
I love Hitman. The premise is simple, yet allows for numerous avenues to accomplish your goals: here’s a map, kill the target, don’t get caught. That’s it.
The genius here is that the series truly allows for level design, an often under appreciated element of game development, to shine. On top of that, these games always added a bit of devilishly dark humor on top of it all, giving it a charm that is almost unique in the gaming world. It could have maintained a super-serious facade, but Hitman, Hitman: Blood Money, was always confident enough to remind you that it was a game, despite its subject matter.
Of course, I am talking about the Hitman of yesteryear. As many of us are aware, the last entry in the franchise, Absolution, began to sway towards more action oriented gameplay. While it did feature a few well designed maps that you could explore to find all sorts of lethal tools, they were few and far between shootouts and generic hallways. What made Hitman: Blood Money great was being vulnerable and having to use your mind, not the ability to slow time and execute precision head shots. In Absolution, wearing disguises was almost an afterthought. In Blood Money, they were your primary weapon. Even more disturbing are the plans that current publisher Square Enix has for the release of the next entry. The company will be releasing the game piecemeal, one map at a time. While the quality of the content is unknown at this point, none of this bodes well for Agent 47.
So, I think it only fitting that we get a taste of what the series was like in its prime. Of course, many would argue that perhaps Contracts or Silent Assassin was better than Hitman: Blood Money. They all had memorable maps, from “Invitation to a Party” to “Traditions of the Trade” to “The House of Cards”; it all really comes down to what missions were most memorable to you. But I would argue that Blood Money was really the culmination of the series up until that point. It fixed many technical issues, making the game a lot easier to look at, and the controls were a bit smoother. It added some meta features like weapon customization, so we finally could do something with all of the money earned on missions. That money could also be used to bribe witnesses, take care of cleanup, and all sorts of cool things you probably wouldn’t think of unless you were an assassin.
Bringing Agent 47 to America for the first time also allowed the game’s dark humor to hit a little closer to home. Dropping a piano on your target during a Mardi Gras parade was priceless. Finally, Blood Money featured many of the greatest tracks laid down by famed game composer/sound designer Jesper Kyd, and was the last title he worked on in the franchise. It was quite the sendoff for a guy who’s music used to be part of the soul of the saga.
While, in truth, I would like to see the entire collection from Silent Assassin through Hitman: Blood Money on the PS4, I have chosen the latter to represent this era of a franchise that is heading towards a cliff. Please Sony, make it happen.