The Hitman games have always been a great source of dark humour and graphic violence and Blood Money ups the ante even further than before. Where the previous game relied on very nice but criminally overused rain effects to create a dark atmosphere, Blood Money uses subtle black comedy to unsettle the player in the most brutal of ways. For example there's a lot to be said for killing a mark dressed as santa, or a clown. Or a giant red budgie.
Blood Money is also far more realistic than previous games with the introduction of the notoriety system and the ability to make hits look like accidents. The superbly simple push manouvre is a fantastic addition, as is 47's close combat skills. Caught without a weapon in previous games and 47 was stuffed but now he can headbutt people, punch them and even snatch weapons out of the hands of guards. Another fantastic addition is the way you can upgrade your weapons for extra silence or more firepower.
Raising the bar again is the extremely numerous ways of despatching your targets. Hitman relies on the fact that you are killing people rather than dark surroundings for its darkness and some of the methods are quite brutal. Dropping a piano on someone's head or pushing them into a furnace are particular highlights although it's during the 5th mission that the most brutal death can happen, ironically in a quiet suburban neighbourhood, another example of the games grimly black humour. I won't spoil it for you but i'll just say watch out for the barbecue and the lighter fluid.
Of course the game certainly doesn't lack atmosphere. Beautiful lighting and a great use of sound come together to create a cohesive and believable world and makes the game all the more special. The animations are also superb and one of the games highlights, for example when 47 climbs the stairs his feet actually hit each step as he climbs. The best example i discovered though was during the first Mississipi mission which is on a boat. The mission had gone a bit coffin shaped so i went on a bit of a rampage. Snatching up a shotgun i shot at a guard coming up some stairs and as he reached the top he had a railing behind him so that when i fired, not only did the force of the shot knock him backwards, but as he stumbled he bumped into the railing and toppled over in a perfectly animated sequence. Its this kind of detail that really makes the game stand out from the crowd.
Another fine detail is the AI not just of the guards but of the civilians too. Draw a weapon in a crowded place and pandemonium is instant. The guards will actively seek you out and if you're dressed as a guard but wander away from the patrol routes too far and they'll be very suspicious. In addition if you shoot down some guards and they drop their guns then its quite possible that as you walk away one of the civilians will actually pick up a gun and start shooting you in the back.
Replay value is vast because of the wonderfully varied ways of despatching your foes so make no mistake you will be playing this for ages after completing it.
Graphics: 10 - beautifully designed, wonderfully lit, truly one of the best looking PS2 titles out there
Sound: 9 - great voice acting and neat use of sound
Gameplay: 9 - mighty fine and deeply involving if a little stop start
Lifespan: 10 - open environments and very numerous ways of completing hits
Overall: 10 - easily one of the best ever games on PS2, macabre and violent but deeply satisfying and often very funny