Hitman: Blood Money Reprisal Review

Hitman: Blood Money Reprisal Review Header

The Hitman series was one I’ve always wanted to get into but never found the time to take the plunge. Despite not knowing much about the series’ history until recently, I’d often hear people heap praise towards the fourth game in the series, Blood Money. In lieu of a classic collection, it seems the idea with Hitman: Blood Money – Reprisal was to take a fan favorite and bring it to modern consoles. Well, some of them. This game already had a recent Xbox One and PS4 re-release back in 2019, but this latest version is a separate effort to get this on “handheld” devices. So the Switch version shares DNA with a mobile version of the game, which released last year.

You play as legendary assassin Agent 47. The game is split into 12 missions, each offering the player a sizable sandbox to figure out how to best hunt down and kill targets on each map. You have a large amount of weapons and equipment available to experiment with how to best kill your targets and make it out alive. The game implies you should handle these with stealth, but the reality is that you’re given almost complete freedom to tackle them how you wish. I wasn’t aware that the games in the Hitman series were secretly immersive simulations, but once the formula clicked for me everything fell into place brilliantly.

There are clearly ways the developer pushes the player to figure out and pursue, as clues are dispersed in every level to encourage you to make a killing look like an accident. My favorite one is in an early level, where you can switch out a prop theater gun for a real one and then lure the second victim out in a clever way I won’t spoil. They are never enforced, and I found it wildly fun to just experiment just wandering around a level and piecing together the puzzle box nature of making my murders happen. This is complimented by an absurd presentation that just begs you to only take it seriously enough when you’re actually playing the tense missions, and I think the tone works well overall. 

Hitman: Blood Money Reprisal Review Screenshot 1

Every map has a large variety of items you can interact with, like toolboxes to hide guns in or normal everyday items like a knife as impromptu murder weapons. There are so many ways to approach the game, and after every level, I’d immediately look up speed runs to see how expert players would handle things and be surprised at just how many options there are.

My go-to equipment for my style of play for most of my time with the game was the basic coin and fiber wire, only using guns when absolutely necessary. The coin is a solid way to distract people, and my only issue with it is that even though you have an infinite amount of them the game would shift my equipped item to a different one every time I threw one. Fiber wires are pretty self-explanatory, offering you a quiet way to kill guards or regular people as long as they’re alone. This pairs well with the disguise system. There are a lot of complicated systems in place for people who want to be a lot more violent to everyone you meet, like taking hostages or fighting people hand to hand.

By playing missions professionally instead of going in guns blazing you can keep your notoriety down, because high notoriety can theoretically make future levels a lot harder if not handled. The higher your notoriety the more security places will have, but you can spend reward money to decrease this. Even if this isn’t a huge deal, I’m glad there’s a system in place to punish players for not taking the stealth as seriously but isn’t too harsh to take away from the sandbox nature of the game.

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You can also spend money to upgrade your weapons and gear, like making heavy weapons cases less conspicuous or allowing them to be smuggled in through checkpoints. I admittedly didn’t bother with much of this, because I’d be the kind of guy to reload saves to try to perfect my uniquely stubborn murder plans but I’m glad they put enough attention into the gun system because there are some very fun outcomes on the few instances I got frustrated before a load and started blasting.

The game design of Hitman: Blood Money is simply sublime, offering an open-ended puzzlebox experience we just don’t see in games as much anymore. I adore taking the hour or two minimum to crack every level, and the replayability on offer of letting you revisit missions to try and do it in shorter times to make more money. As much praise as I have to offer the core experience, it was unfortunately hampered by a bit of an uneven port that doesn’t do much else but create a solid way to experience such a classic.

I had very few complaints with the resolution, where the only parts looking particularly dated were the FMV cutscenes with a lot of compression artifacting. Since I don’t find the story to be a particularly crucial aspect of this game, I found this to not be egregious enough to hamper enjoyment overall. Visually Hitman: Blood Money holds up decently, which makes sense since its roots stem from the Xbox 360 era. Whenever I was playing the game I was pleased with the clean visuals on both docked and undocked play, and a 30 frames-per-second target that is hit most of the time.

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From watching footage of older versions of this game, I have to say I’m very mixed on some of the user interface (UI) changes Reprisal has made. While the game’s UI is very readable, likely because the initial version of Reprisal was made for mobile phones in mind, it lacks in comparison with the original game’s subdued UI. Things like the mini map (which lets you look at NPCs, suspicion level, and health) are great, but take up a large amount of the screen and just look out of place. The picture-in-picture window of previous versions where specific events on the map would display stylistically on large parts of the screen now only shows up in a tiny window in the corner. I get why they did this, it could be seen as obtrusive, but I think it looks worse.

My experience was not bug-free, but the bugs I encountered varied in severity. Something I’m not entirely sure is just a holdover of old game logic or a problem with this latest release is guard AI. I found it to be largely inconsistent in how often it would catch onto any suspicious behavior, even if there should have been no reason. Like dragging a body silently high up above a stage and somehow every single person below randomly seeing me and putting on an alert. Or disguising myself and being seen as dangerous despite not even holding a weapon. The Simplified Strange setting toggled on by default also just didn’t work as expected, leading to many moments of getting caught in instances where I should have been able to just take out someone in isolation but 47 would refuse to do anything. He just wouldn’t do anything, leading to the person catching on to me. Turning this off made the fiber wire actually function as intended.

A strange bug I found was the text prompts on doors to occasionally glitch out for certain actions, leading me to be unable to parse if a door was able to be open or needed to be lock-picked. If you come across a locked door and aren’t aware that it can’t be opened normally and there are guards nearby, trying to open it will make 47 immediately go into the lock-pick animation. This will alert everyone nearby, which is as hilarious as it was frustrating. On the less egregious side, I found the ragdolls to frequently go haywire when killing or dragging corpses away, but that’s honestly just a treat for a game like this. 

If you’re a fan of the immersive sim genre or just love stealth games and haven’t already played this game, it’s a very easy recommendation even with the issues mentioned. The only possible caveat is if it would still be worth checking it out at the current asking price, which might be a bit steep depending on your tolerance to bugs. I’m pretty neutral on bugs, but some of the ones I’ve found here did kind of push it ever so slightly. Regardless I think this is a brilliant game that is unapologetic of the era it was made in and is one of the best raw gameplay-centric experiences you’re sure to find in the realm of murder simulators (an admittedly insane thing to type, make no mistake). It’s difficult to figure out where my complaints are supposed to go, the original Hitman: Blood Money or this latest port.  

While I’m happy gaming has become more accessible, I also miss its more obtuse era where games were willing to let players sink to learn how to swim. The depths of Hitman: Blood Money – Reprisal are immense and it took me quite a while to find my footing, but the game design is so strong I’d say this is worth taking a look at some point. It has already hooked me on this kind of game, and I’d be very interested to see if more of the classic titles ever make their way over to Nintendo Switch.

Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Feral Interactive

Total Score
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