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Hitman: Blood Money

Game director Rasmus Højengaard fills us in on this newest art of assassination

The developer shifts in his chair. He is clearly uncomfortable. "Yeah, it happens all the time," laughs Hitman game director Rasmus Højengaard nervously while we're badgering him about the forthcoming Hitman: Blood Money. Really? You've actually had to ditch some forms of assassination because they're too extreme?

"Usually what you see in the game are extreme ideas that have been given a family treatment," he says. "That's the approach we vouch for." As in the Manson family? Because if this is considered 'family', with the raft of new weapon upgrades and lethal new game modes, we don't want to come round for dinner thank you very much.

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Agent 47 is back. Ladies and gentlemen, start your screaming... Since our last shadowy encounter with baldilocks, a lot has happened to Agent 47. His mentor has been murdered, he's lost the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, and to top it all it appears he's getting a little bit lazy. And getting lazy means opportunists trying to muscle in on your patch, which for Agent 47 means the appearance of a rival hitman stalking the streets and taking hits off his book. Could it be the insidious slaphead is losing his touch? He's a bit too old for all this killing malarkey now, surely?

"He will never be too old - it's in his genes man! He'll probably die with his Silver ballers tightly clenched in his fists." His what? "Oh sorry - his guns." Okay then. But surely he's lost his touch if the rumours of another hitman are true? There can't be room for two top killers in the world.

"Well, the good old hunter-becomes-the-hunted scenario seemed to be a very nice foundation for a character like 47. We also wanted to create a very large and multilayered story, so we could make a tasty blend of intrigue and twists and turns," says Højengaard.

The 'hunter' in question is a rival hitman, another master of murder who is out to screw up Agent 47's life, big time. We're talking about him not only trying to assassinate 47, but force him into highly volatile conditions where situations can quickly go tits-up. It's this new story element that gives Blood Money the new game mechanic. You'll have to buy off witnesses (or murder them, of course), but you'll also have to consistently alter your appearance to evade assassination, or to prevent drawing unwanted attention to yourself.

"We wanted to add some dynamics to the gameplay. Hitman is not really a shooter, and it's not really a stealth game - it's a balance of both," says Højengaard. "We wanted the game to have consequences if you just went in guns blazing. That's where the new Notoriety system comes in.

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"If you just kill like mad, and leave witnesses, it will have consequences later on in the flow of the game. The levels will get harder, people will start to recognise you, and your picture will be all over the newspapers. This kind of paranoia and suspicion adds a lot of spice, as well as giving you feedback as you play through the game. If people start pointing, you know you're not being careful enough."

So what do you do to counter that, then? Surely some sort of disguise would help, short of chasing down every last witness and running them through.

"Well, Hitman has got many new cool disguises, but I won't tell you too much about them. You're just going to have to experience them all in the final game." Fine, be elusive then. See if we don't pop a cap in your ass, or something. Okay, tell us about this amazing new 'Blood Money' feature, then. Højengaard smiles. It's clear this is something he's proud of.

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