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Hitman: Blood Money

We're bald over by Agent 47's latest killer contract on PC

Sitting on the 8:41 train on my way into work, I glance over at the teenager who ruins my otherwise peaceful journey every morning. His particular favoured brand of obnoxious grunge music blares so loudly from his headphones that people in the neighbouring carriages are in danger of getting tinnitus. Every day for the last couple of months, I've responded to the situation by calmly turning up the volume on my iPod and concentrating on the scenery rushing by, but today my thoughts turn to darker avenues.

If I could just follow him home, mug a passing electrician for his clothes, pose as a meter reader to get into his house, rig his CD player with tiny microwave chips and his earphones with a specially conductive material, then the next time he turns up the volume on the train, the resultant sparks will travel along the headphone wire and take him out without anyone being any the wiser.

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My new habit of plotting people's deaths via supremely inventive 'accidents' is all thanks to Io Interactive's fourth outing for slap-headed assassin, Agent 47. Far from Contracts, where you could happily blast your way through any opposition without fear of consequences, Blood Money has put the emphasis right back on melting into the shadows again.

THE PRICE OF FAME
It's achieved this via the clever use of the titular blood money and the notoriety system. While each hit grants you a fee, if you should manage to complete it without anyone noticing your presence, this cash sum will be increased. However, get your bald mug on camera, leave corpses out in the open or just leave plenty of witnesses in your wake and you'll soon find your notoriety rising. Finish a level and the next day's papers will report on the deaths (featuring such information as your favourite weapon, number of people killed, accuracy and more), and may even feature an appropriately accurate photofit of who the police are now looking for.

It's a novel way to present the information and one that works extremely well, allowing you to review your mission progress by way of something that's easy to digest and fun to read. Should your notoriety level get too high, you can choose to spend some of your hard-earned cash on bribes to lower it. Don't do this and your face becomes increasingly recognisable, thus making further levels even harder to pull off without everyone running screaming from you at first sight. Money can also be spent on a series of weapons upgrades, which give yet another incentive to keep your head down. It's a streamlined system that once again places the emphasis exactly where it needs to be: on stealth.

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ACCIDENTS HAPPEN
Now that sneakiness is again a priority, Io has introduced 'accidental' deaths to help you fulfil your contracts without a trace. These unfailingly inventive and often hilarious ways to bump off your targets range from rigging someone's barbecue with lighter fluid, to dropping a suspended piano on their heads - but by far our favourite 'accident' is rigging a pyrotechnics display used by a dancer in a club.

When the dancer comes out, the flames set her on fire and she rolls over until dropping straight into the shark tank below, where one of the oversized fishes promptly gobbles up its impromptu meal. It's completely twisted yet utterly brilliant and brings a whole new dimension to the game. Finding out just how to pull a complicated accident off effectively can take hours of observation, but once you've seen one target pop their clogs without anyone even suspecting you, it soon becomes quite addictive and you'll find yourself resorting to weapons less and less.

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