Excellence of Executions

British publisher Feral Interactive has not brought many games to the Switch, but the ones they have given us have all been solid. That record of success continues with Hitman: Blood Money – Reprisal.

Reprisal, of course, means we’ve seen this game before; the original Hitman: Blood Money was released for consoles and Windows back in 2006. It’s only now hitting a Nintendo device, but the wait will have been worth it if you’re into stealth action games.

Blood Money picks up with series protagonist Agent 47 doing his assassin thing. Even if you’ve never played a Hitman game, you likely recognize this guy (and his distinctive, bald head) from the game boxes or movies.

Actual knowledge of his exploits, however, is not required; Blood Money fits into the Hitman universe, but it’s not such a complicated universe that previous experience is required to proceed.

The bonkers plot involves the CIA, the President, the press, and secret organizations, but it’s all served to put Agent 47 into his multiple mission scenarios. Each of these gives him a target, and it’s up to the player to figure out how to accomplish the mission within their fairly large environments. Stealth is rewarded, and that’s therefore where the fun lies—but you can certainly ramp up the body count if you prefer.

To not reveal spoilers, I’ll focus on the tutorial as an example. The game begins with depictions of an amusement park tragedy that took the lives of a few dozen attendees. Although the shady park owner ends up bankrupt, he is not punished for his obvious negligence, prompting one grieving father to call upon Agent 47 to settle the matter.

So, you’re placed outside the derelict park and tasked with sneaking in to assassinate the park owner. It’s a fun setting, even if it’s not clear why so many thugs are there protecting the guy. Agent 47 begins with little more than a wire for a weapon, but he can (and will) pick up other items as he goes along. To not raise alarm, he has to distract guards with a coin, eliminate an employee to steal his uniform, sneak weapons past more guards, and so on.

Eliminated enemies must be disposed of, but the game usually gives you logical ways to dump bodies.

Agent 47 will eventually work his way to the target, and there’s never a shortage of cutscenes to make the path and the payoff fun to watch.

It’s all pretty clear-cut, but it’s never all that easy. Patience is key, as it pays to hide until you detect openings and can plan the clearest route. Guns are quick, but they draw attention. Close-range kills are clean, but they’re tricky to time. There’s usually an obvious way to go, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it that way.

Even when you’re detected, there are usually multiple ways out of trouble.

The Reprisal version of Hitman: Blood Money introduces a few quality of life adjustments to make all of this easier, if you choose to use them. Instinct Mode slows down time a bit and highlights items of interest. A mini-map allows you to track target so you can memorize their movements and get in the right position to strike (or avoid altogether).

There are multiple difficulty settings to help. I first set the game to the easiest mode, as this is my first Hitman game in nearly a decade (and first with a game pad). When I messed up at one point and found myself being shot by a half dozen grunts—without dying—I realized I wasn’t playing the game right. Making this game too easy belies its very purpose, so I definitely recommend playing at a normal or harder difficulty and relying on the map and Agent 47’s instincts to carry you through.

It’s also important to grow comfortable with the controls. They’re cumbersome. The tutorial does a good job of taking you through them all, but the stress of remembering how to switch and use weapons or drop items and bodies can quickly ruin a mission. Even getting in the right position to interact with objects like ladders and buttons can be a pain. I imagine Hitman: Blood Money would’ve been much easier to play with a mouse/keyboard combo.

There are a couple other items to consider when taking on this game. Tonally, it’s all over the place. It’s verbally vulgar and visually violent (especially compared to your typical Nintendo release), so it’s definitely not one to fire up when the kids are around. On the other hand, it’s often quite funny, as when Agent 47 dons various costumes to complete his missions.

Also, although the graphics are decent considering the game’s age, they have aged. So have the enemy AI and camera placement. Hitman: Blood Money – Reprisal will feel old at times, but never in a way that jars you out of the moment. That’s important, because the game is meant to engage you for multiple playthroughs. The story compels you forward, so replaying levels for better efficiency is best left for a second full playthrough. Or third.

Hitman: Blood Money – Reprisal is violent, absolutely, and that’s worth considering these days. But it’s presented so far outside of reality that it’s hard to take anything seriously. And considering the lack of stealth action games available for the Switch, it’s definitely one for genre fans to consider even if they’ve played it before.