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Hitman Absolution preview: How user-generated content extends the life of the game

Infinite number of 47's doing infinite murder

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This has a number of knock-on effects. Firstly, it means no one can create a Contract that's impossible to complete. If it's been published online it must be doable, because the creator managed it first. But it also means that more skilful players can devise fiendishly difficult puzzles. And the slightest tweak can make all the difference, as showcased in our hands-on with two Contracts set in the Chinatown level.

COPPER HEAD

The first simply requires one policeman and a drug dealer to be bumped off, and in that order. The copper kindly acquiesces by walking into an alley, alone, where he can have his neck broken and his body bundled into a dumpster. Then it's simply a case of sneaking into the dealer's apartment and knocking a silenced pistol round into his bonce.

But the introduction of a third target - a policeman stood right in the middle of the town square - changes things completely. With the Contract stipulating that all kills must go unnoticed, and half the town having him in their eyeline things get... tricky. We end up with half the town dead after a shoot-out with a SWAT team. Failure.

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Contracts mode is an inventive, alluring and potentially endless addition...

And it's the malleable nature of these criteria that lend the mode its competitive edge. Simply killing the targets and escaping the level technically constitutes completion, but the amount of money you earn is dependent on how many of these you fulfill. So players will compete against each other and you as a creator, providing the kind of addictive, asynchronous back and forth that we've seen in games like Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit.

There will also be weekly 'featured' Contracts, chosen by IO. "It's the first time you can really go heads-up with other players - you can challenge your friends to see who's the best assassin," says Elverdam. Contracts mode is an inventive, alluring, and potentially endless addition to the Hitman series, and the perfect online accompaniment in place of some inevitably disappointing traditional multiplayer. So start embracing those dark thoughts: killing has always been an art form for Agent 47, and now you're being handed a blank canvas.

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