By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Chuck Wilson
Over a hundred years ago, Sigmund Freud wrote, "No one, who, like me, conjures up the most evil of those half-tamed demons that inhabit the human breast, and seeks to wrestle with them, can expect to come through the struggle unscathed." So it is with The Hitman, also inelegantly named Agent 47. 47's no psychoanalyst, but he's got the demons on him nonetheless.
Of all the dark characters in the world of gangland style video game shoot 'em ups and stealthy spy thrillers, Agent 47 may be the most compelling. That's because he seems to have the deepest back story and a real personality that's not one-dimensional. Sure, 47 benefits from having four installments of the HITMAN video game series which reveal his character's proclivities.
But, as an assassin, he's a loner, introspective, and outside of society. He's not only a bald rebel without a cause; he's genetically engineered from the bad seed DNA of five of the worst criminals the world has ever known. He can kill ruthlessly. Yet he's scared of needles and, as a youth, lovingly cared for his pet rabbit. He also has a bar code tattoo on the back of his head so his creators can find him easily. All of this makes his complexities even more interesting.
Hitman: Blood Money starts out with a haunting version of "Ave Maria" as a crow flies onto the shoulder of the statue of the Virgin Mary in a cemetery. The opening movie then cuts to a dramatic action visual of 36 people dying in an amusement park as a Ferris wheel crashes to the ground. That's followed by a montage of newspaper clips showing the park's owner on trial, and, ultimately, being cleared of all charges. A grieving but vengeful father hires 47 to rid the world of the Swing King, the amusement park owner.
Although the first level is a tutorial, it's a lot of fun since it takes place in the run down, ocean-side park which is richly detailed, and kind of scary. You'll distract guards with the throw of coin, and get to your prey with easy-to-follow directions that appear onscreen. As the levels progress, however, the game turns much harderquicklyand a mystery begins to unravel. Apparently, a rival wants to remove the bald 47 and will stop at nothing until he's eliminated.
The tension you'll feel during the dozen missions is palpable. During a mission that takes place on a Mississippi river boat, you'll have to kill six gang members and a boss. And during a level in a casino à la Las Vegas, you'll find a case full of important DNA. But you'll have to kill a sheik and a scientist before you're through. You'll also find yourself at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, although a post-Katrina scenario would have been more frightening. And, like this year's 24 on TV, you'll have to deal with a devilishly evil White House official in the Oval Office.
This is a thinking player's game rather than a strict shoot 'em up. You'll have to strategize and prepare for your assassinations. If you simply go in with guns blazing, you'll soon die. This stealth requires a lot of exploration of the various environs. But because the levels are so beautifully designed and graphically stunning, you'll enjoy the sights (along with the creeps you meet) pretty much everywhere you go.
Hitman: Blood Money isn't for everyone. It's an M-rated game with guts, gore, and cussing. But for those of you who can deal with the mature themes, Hitman will reward you with great gameplay and a nicely written story. Just as in Die Hard: With a Vengeance, you'll "Think fast. Look alive. Die hard." And you'll do that every minute you play.
Publisher: Take2/Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar San Diego
When you talk about it with the folks that have seen the exhibition, everyone agreed the recent Whitney Biennial kind of sucked. I mean, what was with those dull, deli canopies from the Reena Spaulings gallery? But two things didn't suck, and the reasons for their unsuckiness had to do with a good idea conceived and executed simply. Tony Conrad's pickled raw film stock in canning jars says a lot about the idea of preserving film if you look at the things with a Monty Python-esque nudge-nudge wink-wink. And the documentary about the anti-St. Nicholas craziness in Austria called "Kranky Klaus," with its coal-in-the-stocking meets-bullying-frat-boys-for-a-night-of-mischief is just a lone video camera or two following the herd of mythical, antlered Krampuses as they harass the local villagers. Both are simple. But both are so effective, they're ingrained within the consciousness of $15-paying museum-goers forever.
When Rockstar, the pseudo-controversial video game company that created the violent Grand Theft Auto franchise, sent over a game called TABLE TENNIS, I almost thought it was a joke. I laughed, Maybe this is some early public relations idea to promote Grand Theft Auto 4. I mean, where's the complexity for the next generation system? It's too damn simple.
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