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Hitman: Blood Money

Though last summer's Hitman: Contracts was a disappointment in many ways, it did establish one fact pretty decisively: the Hitman series makes no apologies. Where Splinter Cell slaps you on the wrist you for taking lives and Thief is just plain jolly, this game is dirty. Filthy in fact. This is the game where you infiltrate S&M blood orgies and hack people up with meat cleavers. This is the game where you garrotte middle-aged women in the shower and dump their bodies in a ditch...

It's one of the reasons we still love Agent 47, despite his patchy track record, and one of the reasons why his next outing - now apparently delayed till Christmas - is still on our list of prime targets. Already, there are some great indications that this will be another brutal, unrepentant affair. I mean, for god's sake, the first official screenshots showed 47 pushing Santa Claus off of a balcony!


Of course, this was merely to demonstrate one of the cool new features - using gravity and the environment to make deaths look like accidents. We've just been shown through another new level - an Opera House in Paris - and there are some other great examples of this device to be found. Our favourite (if the insinuation of the developer is to be believed) involves planting a remote bomb on the anchor of the Grand Chandelier and waiting until your target wanders beneath before detonating. With carpentry work already going on all around the building, we think you can safely pass that one off as shoddy workmanship.

If you do things the old-fashioned way, there's yet another new feature to contend with - incriminating blood stains. Now, if you shoot or chop someone carelessly, the claret splatters at the scene; and if you drag the freshly punctured corpse away it leaves a sanguine trail for guards to follow. As such, cleaning up after yourself is a grisly new part of your assassination duties.

Perhaps even more welcome is the way money is better incorporated into
the game. Rather than just assuming 47 splurges all his earnings on scalp wax, the new game gives you a chance to spend your ill-gotten gains on mods and upgrades for weapons. So, think silencers, night vision scopes and so forth, as well as bribing corrupt cops and buying the silence of witnesses.

with a plot that sees two rival assassin agencies at war, should give a much greater feeling of involvement in the world of contract killing, something strangely absent from previous outings.

Clearly, there are some great ideas at work here. Let's just pray that Eidos gives the game enough time and support to see them come to fruition and that the Hitman series might once again be able to mix it with the best.