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Have You Played... Hitman: Blood Money?

Right on the money

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

This one's regularly cited as a cult classic that didn't quite get the acclaim it deserved at the time, but it bears repeating: Blood Money is io's stealth game at the peak of its powers.

As thoughtful as it is playful, it's also one of the more forgiving entries in a series that's been all over the place. Forgiving in an entirely positive sense, however: what I most enjoy about Blood Money is that it lets me adapt on the fly, without necessarily having to resort to outright violence in the event I cock something up.

Ad-hoc ingenuity can win the day, and what might seem at the time like a series of comic pratfalls, ill-timed costume changes and panicked strangulations can wind up as a successful mission after all. You won't get your silent assassin rating, but you will feel like you had an experience that was just for you, rather than to meet someone else's rules.

Of course, this is all set within a framework of glorious setpieces and devious action-puzzles. Cleverness, craft and impressive variety is woven into almost every mission, and each one seems like its own mini-movie with its own strong supporting cast. It's terribly sad to think about the dour, snarling place that Hitman went after this sky-high watermark.

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