The Hitman video game series and its remorseless protagonist Agent 47 have a penchant for despatching villainous targets in inventive, often brutal ways. While the franchise has suffered its ups and downs critically and among the gaming public, the series has always provided entertaining ways to carry out hits.
Whether it's an elaborate set-piece, environmental trap or a simple Silverballer bullet to the cranium, the barcoded-assassin is one of the finest purveyors of death in the stealth genre. Thankfully, 2016's Hitman, an episodic release for Xbox One, PS4 and PC, promises a return to the luxuriously crafted open-world sandbox designs and opportunities of the series at its very best.
With the arrival of the next chapter in the Hitman story on 11 March, the IBTimes UK team has compiled a list of the best individual assassinations the franchise has offered to date.
Hitman: Blood Money – Curtains Down
Spoiler alert, Hitman: Blood Money will have a fair amount of representation on this list. Why? Because it was the first Hitman title that relished in not just giving the player a suitable target, but also providing a variety of devilish scenarios in which to murder them.
Case in point, the Curtains Down mission, set inside a Parisian Opera house during a rehearsal of Tosca. The target: an actor and famous tenor named Alvaro D'Alvade.
Sure you could use a sniper rifle or an AP-mine, but it seems a more suitably artistic to replace the prop handgun used in the rehearsal with a live weapon and watch from a plush box-seat as one of D'Alvade's thespian peers unwittingly seals his fate in a 'freak accident'.
Hitman: Contracts - Beldingford Manor
Contracts fell victim to the Hitman series's penchant for wild tonal shifts. Compared to the clinical, austere tone of the first two games in the franchise, Contracts was a dingy, neo noir-esque take on Agent 47's exploits.
One of the most memorable excursions in Contracts came in the Beldingford Manor mission, set in an old English country house with a grisly secret. The targets here, Lord Beldingford and his son Alistair, are suitably repulsive.
The younger Beldingford likes to sit by the fireplace on cold English evenings, and there just so happens to be a reasonable quantity of gasoline in the boiler room. It might lower your rating as the NPCs around also suffer from the blast, but dropping oil down the chimney shaft, incinerating a bewildered Alistair is a just punishment for the depraved aristocrat.
Hitman: Blood Money – A New Life
There are a multitude of sublime moments in the small, acutely designed Californian suburb that forms the setting for the Blood Money mission, A New Life. Tasked with infiltrating a child's birthday party, 47's target is Vinnie Sinisitra, a mob boss under the illusion of safety thanks to a witness protection program. The owner of gaming's shiniest chrome-dome can cosplay as an FBI operative, a pool boy or even Corky the Clown .
Alternatively, you could indulge in some garbage disposal of your very own and push a lone bin man into the back of his van, pinch his outfit and let the jaws of the truck do the rest of the work. A clean, efficient, but particularly nasty 'accident' that can befall an innocent bystander, all so the eponymous hitman can continue his dress-up modus operandi.
Hitman: Absolution – Shaving Lenny
The black sheep of the Hitman family, Absolution was a mess of grindhouse squalor, questionable gender politics and linear level-design that left most fans feeling short changed or flat out disgusted after the series took a six year break.
That said, it does have some inspired instances of the deadly craft of assassination. The game's most gruesome killing comes courtesy of an outside barbeque being held by target Mason McCready. The hit is happy to tell his guests that the hot sauce is a big hit, but for Mason it can get even hotter if you swap it out lighter fluid.
Hitman: Blood Money – You'd Better Watch Out...
There are plenty of opportunities to kill in the Hitman series that punishes the player's rating due to unwarranted casualties. Unfortunately, there are some that are too gleefully sadistic to ignore.
This Christmas-themed level from Blood Money takes 47 to the mountain estate of renowned porn tycoon Lorne de Havilland. A hit on both Lorne and the son of a local senator, Chad Bingham Jr, are issued at the mountain retreat high above sea level.
Wait until Chad retreats to the bubbling embrace of a glass-bottomed hot tub, make your way to a lower position and shoot out the glass. Yes, there will be some slight collateral damage, as he is never alone in the tub, but watching the slimy woman-abuser fall down the cliff face is enough of a reward.
Hitman: Sniper Challenge – Leap Of The Ninja
The Hitman: Sniper Challenge spin-off that preceded the release of Absolution in 2012 was an enjoyable fairground shooting gallery, where a concealed Agent 47 had to stealthily pick off multiple targets from distance armed only with a sniper rifle, 50 bullets and his own ingenuity.
One objective, titled Leap of the Ninja, drew focus away from the usual targets and towards the edge of a nearby skyscraper. Barely visible from such a distance, you can just make out a hunched figure, precariously perched on top of the building.
The eagle cry that sounds after a well-placed shot is almost certainly a playful reference to Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed franchise, although I am not sure whether a bail of hay is going to help this poor soul after falling from such a height.
Hitman Absolution: A Personal Contract
Possibly the cruellest kill in the series to date, this one also just so happens to be Hitman: Absolution director Tore Blystad's favourite death in the 2012 title.
Set on a clifftop mansion in the outskirts of Chicago, A Personal Contract acts as both Absolution's introduction and its first assassination mission. While the main target is 47's former handler turned-rogue Diana Burnwood, it is an early killing that makes this list.
With no other clear route through the mansion's grounds, the tuxedoed killer has no choice but to scale the edge of the greenhouse building, coming perilously close to the cliff edge. A sea-view window is occupied by an ecstatic NPC on the phone receiving the welcome news from his doctor that he does not have prostate cancer.
His celebrations are cut unceremoniously short, however, as he happens to be in the way of your route and with no other choice, you are left to pull the joyful character out of the window and watch him plummet towards the rolling ocean waves and jagged rocks below.
Cruel, darkly comic and quintessentially Hitman.