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Hitman Facebook game under fire for encouraging cyberbullying

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Hitman: Absolution (Credit: Square-Enix)

Agent 47 just can't seem to avoid trouble.

Just months after the newly released stealth game Hitman: Absolution got into hot water for a risqué game trailer, the game's publisher is finding itself on the defensive once again for a PR gaffe that some say encourages cyberbullying.

'Hire Hitman' is a Facebook game created by Ralph, a British advertising firm, to help promote Hitman: Absolution. Players (and we use that term loosely) can use it to threaten their friends with "termination" based on a variety of insulting reasons, including things like "her big ears" and "her annoying laugh." Square-Enix deemed it a tongue-in-cheek experience, but no one was laughing at a few particularly offensive characteristics, such as "her small t**s" and "his small penis" -- especially since it's then posted in a video format on the target's wall.

It didn't take long for Twitter to explode in outrage. Cyberbullying experts condemned the game, prompting publisher Square Enix to quickly pull it down (Rock, Paper Shotgun snapped a few pics of it in action, however).

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Hire Hitman (Credit: Rock, Paper Shotgun)

"Hey, it's the grossest gaming news story of the year! Congrats, Square Enix!" tweeted Polygon editor Griffin McElroy.

"This is a really mean-spirited and open to abuse FB promo," agreed Twitter user Matt Muir.

At least Square-Enix was prompt in apologizing.

"Earlier today we launched an app based around Hitman: Absolution that allowed you to place virtual hits on your Facebook friends," Square-Enix said in a statement. "Those hits would only be viewable by the recipient, and could only be sent to people who were confirmed friends. We were wide of the mark with the app, and following feedback from the community we decided the best thing to do was remove it completely and quickly. This we've now done. We're sorry for any offense caused by this."

The Hire Hitman brouhaha is the second surrounding Hitman: Absolution. In the weeks leading up to E3, Square-Enix released a trailer for the game where protagonist Agent 47 faced off against (and violently dispatched) a group of latex lingerie-clad, machine gun-toting nuns. The trailer's depiction of violence against women -- including a slow motion shot of Agent 47 crushing of one of the nun's noses — upset so many people that the developers said the scene was changed after the show.

Hitman: Absolution itself has received solid reviews since its release last month. The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions currently average an 82 on Metacritic.

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