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Paid To Kill

Terrorists on the loose and you're a mercenary? Time to make a killing

It's true that games enable you to live out your otherwise-unreachable fantasies. Win a million on World Poker Tour. Save the world as Jack Bauer in 24. And scamper down the wing before incompetently ballooning the ball into the crowd as Djibril Cisse in Real Football 2006. The world is your oyster, albeit on a two-inch screen.

With this in mind, Paid To Kill is tailor-made for anyone whose dream is to travel the world and meet new people. And then shoot them.

You play globetrotting assassin Ramon Spectre, who's getting paid sacks of cash to bump off a bunch of terrorist leaders. What this translates into is a top-down action-adventure set across three different terrains - snow, desert and forest.

The graphics are small but pixel-perfectly formed, with more than a whiff of the old-school gaming days when people had home computers, not consoles.

Each level involves sneaking and shooting your way past dozens of henchmen to reach a boss character, which you have to terminate with extreme prejudice. The controls that enable you to do so are dead simple, showing that Rovio has put a lot of work into ensuring the game works well for mobile.

For example, you don't have to actually aim your gun to shoot people. Instead, if you're pointing in the right direction and they're in range, you'll automatically start firing. It's great for lurking behind a wall in wait for a hapless bodyguard to walk past.

Lurking is important in this game. There are plenty of shadows to hide in - an approach which often pays more dividends than an all-guns-blazing approach. You can even hide in closets, which is a good way to get out of a tight scrape when your energy level is low.

There are bags of neat touches in Paid To Kill, including a novel upgrade system in between missions. Killing the bosses gives you cash that you can then spend on beefing up Ramon's shooting accuracy, body armour, walking speed and his stash of C4 explosives. It's not RPG-level character development, but it does mean you can tweak Ramon to be an expert sniper (the accuracy), a tough man-mountain (the armour) or a great big cowardly custard who would run away rather than say boo to a goose (the speed), and adjust your tactics accordingly.

The other thing worth mentioning about Paid To Kill is the marvellous dialogue, as demonstrated in the following exchange from the start of the game:

Falkov: "Get a grip, man. You are the hard-boiled assassin Ramon Spectre. And I'm Falkov, your assistant... Damn it."

Ramon: "Shut it Falkov or I'll shoot you. Well now, am I on a mission?"

Falkov: "No, we are on a skiing holiday, you moron..."

There's more in this vein throughout the game, and it's always a joy.

Paid To Kill is that rare beast - an action-adventure game with a sense of humour. As such, it deserves to appeal to a wider audience than the camouflage-clad nutcases who watch Ultimate Force. Although they'll probably like it too.

8 / 10

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