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Ruth­lessly/rue­fully ex­e­cuted. (Delete as ap­pro­pri­ate) Talk about dumb ways to die: Hitman’s open­ing mis­sion, which takes place dur­ing a cou­ture fash­ion show in full swing, is packed to the rafters with ‘em. Like, lit­er­ally – crank the right winch and you can send an elab­o­rate light­ing rig crash­ing onto the packed cat­walk be­low to a cho­rus of screams.

That’s just one of many rea­sons why the mis­sion’s ti­tle, ‘The Show­stop­per’, is an apt one. Tum­bling loud­speak­ers, poi­soned cock­tails, bal­cony falls, toi­let bowl drown­ings, elec­tri­cal mishaps – there’s so many ways to knock your so­cialite targets off the mor­tal coil it’ll make the coro­ner’s head spin. Wait, that’s an­other one: a twisted neck.

It is, in other words, Hitman at its freeform, de­vi­ous best. For­get Hitman: Ab­so­lu­tion and its ill-ad­vised at­tempt to turn the se­ries into an ac­tion film. For­get ‘sexy’ nuns, for­get snap­ping a man’s neck in front of thou­sands in a wrestling ring, heck, for­get your own name if you have to. This is the true se­quel to Hitman: Blood Money that we’ve waited a decade for.

“Whoa, back up the truck there a sec­ond, Alex,” you might say. “Isn’t it a bit early to be drop­ping pipebombs like that? Af­ter all, this lat­est en­try is drip-fed episod­i­cally over the next six months. So far you’ve only played the con­tents of the in­tro pack – which con­sists of two train­ing mis­sions and the afore­men­tioned ‘Show­stop­per’ – and the first of its five DLC chunks, set in Sapienza, a sun-drenched Ital­ian coastal town. How could you know?”

Well, thank you, Dr Ex­po­si­tion. Two things: 1) How do you know so much about me, get away from my bins, and 2) True. But then, what is be­ing a silent as­sas­sin about, if not hav­ing the con­fi­dence to run with a hunch?

Killer in­stinct Sure, there’s the pos­si­bil­ity that one or more of the four re­main­ing mis­sions will be a stinker. But I’ve seen noth­ing so far to set my sus­pi­cion cones a-ris­ing – in fact, ev­ery­thing points to this be­ing the en­try where this unique se­ries, for­ever ham­strung by its own am­bi­tion, fi­nally brings its po­ten­tial to­gether and ex­e­cutes the per­fect hit.

Take the AI, which has long been a stick­ing point, as an ex­am­ple. Even in cel­e­brated en­tries such as Silent As­sas­sin, it was im­pos­si­ble to pre­dict com­pletely how passersby would re­act. Of­ten guards would open fire on you just for break­ing into a jog. Here, you can set your watch by the NPC be­hav­iour, which is use­ful, as per­fect hits de­pend on ev­ery­thing run­ning like clockwork.

Enemies that will see through your dis­guise are marked with a white dot above their bonce. It’s an el­e­gant so­lu­tion that’s used log­i­cally – if you’re dis­guised as a work­man, say, close col­leagues will no­tice some­thing’s up, but con­trac­tors on the other side of the map will be obliv­i­ous. Since ev­ery­one be­haves in a pre­dictable man­ner, you soon learn how to ma­nip­u­late them to your ben­e­fit – leav­ing a pis­tol ly­ing on the floor will cause a mem­ber of the pub­lic to scurry off to the near­est

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