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Hitman: Blood Money, a DVD-ROM in English by Eidos Interactive, distributed by Hed Artzi Multimedia with a 30-page Hebrew-language user's manual, requires Windows XP and up and a 1.8 ghz Pentium 4 PC or better, for ages 18 and up, NIS 219.
Technical rating: ****
Moral rating: 0 stars
With a name and subtitle like these, nobody who buys this computer game should be surprised that it is gory, brutal and depraved. But although it is carried out with excellent graphics and technical skill, the fourth version of the Hitman series since 2000 is depraved and cruel beyond belief.
Agent 47, a completely bald fellow dressed in a somber dark suit - with a bar code pasted on his nape as if he were sold in a supermarket - stars in this diabolical, third-person stealth action game. He is a cold-blooded, genetically engineered killing machine with no morals, doubts, limits or scruples - just the "hero" we need for our younger generation.
The inhuman and inhumane Hitman already had a following from the first disk, which was followed by Hitman: Freedom Fighters in 2003 and Hitman: Contracts not long after. The fourth one is more easily playable and more stunningly lifelike (in fact, deathlike) - if you have the stomach for it. Although the recommended age group is adult, it is likely that many teenage boys will get their hands on it. If your children do and you care about their sanity and sensibility, insist that the blood be turned off in the options list.
The game, which is played on any of four levels of difficulty, starts with an obligatory training session, in which you learn how to use weapons such as the "silent assassin fiber wire" that goes around a poor fool's neck. There are also more conventional pistols, knives, submachine guns, mines, sniper rifles and silenced weapons, which can be hidden in boxes and other items to get them past security guards. You kill or otherwise knock off not only enemies but also innocent witnesses who could otherwise testify against you and send you to jail. Try not to arouse much attention, as stealth is the name of the game.
The user's manual offers illustrated explanations on how to punch, disarm, poison food in a restaurant kitchen, inject toxins, scale ledges, attack in an elevator, ram somebody with your head, jump from a balcony or over a wall, hide in closets, climb on drainpipes and into windows, take and use enemies as human shields, dispose of naked bodies in garbage cans or garbage trucks and break locks. To avoid being caught, you must also stage events so that deaths seem like senseless accidents rather than intended murders. You also learn to create diversions in the form of exploding chandeliers or people falling into swimming pools. Do you get the idea?
It will take you about 16 or 18 hours to get through the more than one dozen missions, which are based in the US and whose locations begin with a Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, where you have to kill a crooked theme-park owner named the Swing King, whose carelessness led to the deaths of many customers on the rides.
Other missions are set in an FBI hideout for protected people, a luxurious mansion, an opera house, a riverboat sailing down the Mississippi, a drug rehabilitation facility in California and a casino in Las Vegas built to look like the ancient pharoahs' playground. It will take even longer for you to unlock additional endings and videoclips that you didn't reach the first time on the second time around. Press coverage of death-filled events and the police reaction are also included. If things get too hot, you can try to bribe officials to reduce the heat and swing the investigation away.
The game - technically a significant improvement over the three previous Hitman games - is well directed, has a good story and boasts good acting and improved lighting and sound. Agent 47's voice acting is very good, but it is more than a notch above than that of other characters. Be forewarned that bugs occasionally make the game crash, and the language is filthy, the acts immoral and the women players mostly undressed. It could easily serve as a training course for would-be mafia members.
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