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Last Updated: Friday, 2 June 2006, 08:47 GMT 09:47 UK
Hitman game is bang on target
By Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website

Screenshot from Hitman: Blood Money
Shooting your way through a mission is not recommended
Wanted: Calculating, cold-blooded and ruthless assassin to travel to America and kill people in imaginative and innovative ways.

This neatly sums up what the game, Hitman: Blood Money, is all about, in which gamers play as hired gun Agent 47.

It works beautifully as a stealth assassination game, where players are rewarded for their patience and dedication to the art of death.

While the premise of the game may be distasteful, this is not a title that revels in gore, even though it has an 18 age rating.

At times, Hitman feels more like a puzzle where players have to explore the various levels and work out how to achieve their assignment without attracting undue attention.

This is its greatest strength but also its weak spot.

Notorious

The open-ended nature of the missions mean that players could spend hours exploring different techniques, such as dropping a priceless chandelier on the mark, in order to pull off the perfect kill.

HITMAN: BLOOD MONEY
Screenshot from Hitman: Blood Money
Format: PC, PS2, Xbox 360 (reviewed), Xbox
Graphics: 8
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 8
Enduring appeal: 7
Overall: 8
Or they could grab a machine gun and try to play it as a first-person shooter.

Overt violence does not pay though, attracting the attention of guards and police. Often it results in a hasty death.

But at other times, the poor AI of enemies means that they will blindly walk into the line of fire, making it easy to complete a mission.

The developers of the game, IO Interactive, have tried to counter this by including a so-called notoriety meter in the game.

The system rewards stealth and punishes mindless violence. Killing bystanders or leaving witnesses behind will push up the notoriety rating.

This will get Agent 47's picture in newspapers and make later missions harder to complete.

But as some players have discovered, a way to avoid this is to kill everyone in a level of the game and destroy any CCTV tapes.

Life saver

A major irritation is the system used to save progress through a level. The number of saves is determined by the difficulty setting.

Screenshot from Hitman: Blood Money
Bystanders can be caught up in the violence
Frustratingly, any progress is lost if a player decides to abandon a mission without completing it.

This seems a pointless restriction, especially given the size of some of the game levels.

The graphics, as with most games on the Xbox 360 version, are rich in detail. And the control system is easy to pick up, though beneath the surface is a bewildering array of moves.

Blood Money, the latest instalment in the Hitman series, is easily the best so far. There are minor niggles, such as the save mechanism.

If you are looking for a game that is fast and furious, this is not the one for you. But if you want something that forces you to think before you act, then Hitman might just hit the mark.

Alfred.Hermida-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk


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