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Hitman: Blood Money

The Hitman series has always been about finding creative solutions to problems, specifically the "problems" its protagonist is hired to kill. As the bald assassin named 47, players have been able to run around with guns blazing, sneak through the shadows and garotte guards from behind or slip on a disguise to poison or smother their targets, all to more or less equal effect.

Due in May, Hitman: Blood Money ups the ante not only by giving players inventive ways to kill, but also by giving them incentives to use them. In addition to his usual third-person skulking-around/shooting-up-everything tactics, 47 will be able to pocket random objects for use as improvised weapons, take human shields and throw stuff around to distract watchful eyes. All of which should come in handy, given the witness-filled casinos, theaters and hotels his new missions will take him to.

As Blood Money opens, 47 has become the target of a rival assassin agency and goes more or less into hiding. As a hunted man, it's vital that he keeps a low profile, and the new notoriety system gives you a tangible reason to do so. Shooting everyone still gets the job done, but it's sloppy, and sloppy killings draw headlines. To drive the point home, you'll be presented with a newspaper that details the damage you've done at the end of every mission; make a mess and leave witnesses, and a police sketch of 47 will be right there on the front page, leading to wanted posters and recognition by everyone who sees him. But if you're smart enough to stay quiet and make your hits look like accidents, then that's exactly how they'll be reported, and you'll fade from the public eye.

This will also affect the amount of money you get for your missions; clean work means bonuses, while your agency will actually charge you if they have to clean up after you. Cash will play a very real role in the game, too, as it can buy weapon upgrades and bribe witnesses.

Promising more versatility and online rankings, Hitman: Blood Money already looks like an improvement over the so-so Hitman: Contracts. Whether it plays like one remains to be seen, but if nothing else it should let players kill more creatively than ever.

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