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Hitman: Contracts

You're a trained killer, a silent assassin who specialises in squeezing the life out of your victims and getting out before the alarm is raised.
Odd, then, that when it actually comes to wrapping the strangle wire round the fat neck of the bloated businessman who's your next target, you're a bit of a clumsy tit. Sneaking up behind him is a breeze but unless you're in EXACTLY the right spot when you go in for the kill, you end up pathetically waving your wire around like some retarded rodeo rider trying to lasso his first bull. The guy you're trying to knock off sees you flailing around from the corner of his eye, raises the alarm, and seconds later tooled-up guards rip into your body with AKs.

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Hitman's Greatest Hits
So what has Hitman Contracts got going for it then? Well, quite a lot, if you can deal with its flaws. The story, for instance, is more compelling than most. Agent 47 has been set up, his latest hit gone terribly wrong. The game intro unfolds with 47 stumbling into his safe house, blood gushing from a bullet wound in his gut. And as he drifts in and out of consciousness he relives his greatest hits - and that's how the missions play out.

Right from the start Hitman's missions and the objectives within are varied, and some are very cleverly designed. It's not simply a case of finding the guy you've got to kill and putting a slug in his face. Take Agent 47's third hit for example: the Russians are constructing dirty bombs in Siberia and you have to infiltrate the submarine base where they're hiding out. First you've got to get in unnoticed, but rather than sticking to shadows and sneaking in like Sam Fisher, Hitman's favoured form of stealth is disguise. And let's face it, if anything is gonna stick out like a sore thumb in a white, icy wasteland, it's a bald bloke wearing a black suit.

Fake 'Tache And Specs
Best get some thermals, then. You can do this by shooting the nearest guard, but this will raise the alarm. Better to trail one of the bad guys and slip a hefty dose of laxatives into his soup. Then, when he's emptying his arse down the pan, slit his throat and nick his clothes. Nice.

So there you are, walking around the base in a parka caked in blood, and the guards don't bat an eyelid providing you act normally. But while this disguise is enough to get you close enough to kill the Russian commander - using 47's trademark silenced Silverballer pistol rather than the clumsy strangle wire - it won't get you close to the bomb-filled sub.

Luckily you're given clues as to what to do next, on the tactical map - which highlights objects of interest as well as the position of enemy guards. So you get a radiation suit, which allows you to get inside the sub and pick up the explosives. Plant these around the base and, as you're making a swift getaway, trigger the remote bombs and BOOM! Mission complete.

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No Fair!
That's only if everything goes to plan, though. More often than not, it all goes a bit tits up. So rather than everything running smoothly, what usually happens is you change into a disguise but then accidentally bump into a guard. Their alarm meter starts going crazy and, unless you get out of their way fast (but casually, like), your cover is blown and lead starts flying.

Hitman Contracts is unforgiving. Ridiculously so. And because guards are temperamental and some puzzles solved only through trial and error, it REALLY tests your patience.

The danger meter provides some help, but it too is unpredictable. A slight blink means nearby guards are checking you out, a violent red flash and they're extremely suspicious - put one foot wrong and your cover is blown.

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