Hitman 2: Silent Assassin Review
publisher: Eidos Interactive
developer: IO Interactive
PII 300, 32MB RAM, 16MB Video Card, 800MB HD
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Oct 01, 02 (released)
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In the game of professional assassination, there are rarely any second chances.
But it is said that if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. And so they did - IO Interactive that is. The original exploits of Hitman's Agent 47 were well conceived and featured top-notch visuals, but it just lacked that killer punch - some spit-shine if you will. There were a few annoying things about it that turned me off from playing the game (the rather clunky controls and camera work for example). So you can imagine how thrilled I was to see those nagging issues gone in the sequel! Right off the bat the game felt right - the controls, camera, and the smooth animation of the main character - everything was as it should be, or rather should've been. This time around, IO Interactive obviously had plenty of time to perfect the gameplay mechanics and deliver a game that's both challenging and entertaining at the same time - a deadly combination that should appeal to every true action-adventure fan out there!
Just admiring the lovely surroundings.
In Hitman 2, the game begins with Agent 47 as a 'born again Christian,' in a small monastery in Sicily where No. 47 likes to do his gardening and hide from the cruelty of the outside world. For that, he has the full support of the local 'man of the cloth' who believes in the old Christian doctrine that no matter what you might've done in your past life, God will forgive you if you show true repentance. So you can imagine how pissed off No. 47 gets when he goes out for a bit of gardening one day only to find out that his beloved padre has been kidnapped by a ruthless gang of thugs. Well, they say that professional killers never truly shake their old habits, and I gather the same goes for our friend, No. 47. However, it appears that Hitman has a little thing called conscience this time around, and won't resort to senseless killings unless he has to. Then again, you are given the freedom to act like a mass murderer if you want, but that's just one of the charming things about this game. Your job in Hitman 2 is to track down the organization that forced you out of retirement, and the game has many twists and turns that keep No. 47 on his toes searching for his true enemy.
From this point on, our bald-headed, genetically enhanced killing machine is on a mission to rescue Father Vittorio and pull off a few lucrative side-jobs to boot. After all, you never know when a thought of owning a small tropical island off the coast of Costa Rica might sound like the only sensible option for an aging hitman. The action takes players from a picturesque monastery in Sicily to the cold and harsh streets of St. Petersburg, Russia where ex KGB Generals in need of a good lesson are running the show. And who better to teach them that lesson than No. 47?
The missions in Hitman 2 are beautifully designed, versatile, and exciting. Each mission offers several alternative means of achieving your goal, which stimulates players to think about how they want to proceed before actually carrying out the assignment. So you see, Hitman 2 will not only test your reflexes; it will also force you to think of the rational ways one would choose in any given situation. This sort of gameplay perfectly justifies labeling the sequel as a true action adventure. Hitman 2 can be all about action, but it can also be all about stealthy movement and using your wits rather than guns. A lot of effort was put into making sure the game appeals to both action-junkies and those of you looking for more elegant solutions to a problem.
Sadly, the single-player won't take you THAT long to beat, and the lack of a multiplayer facet may further affect the game's replay value, but it's this rather non-linear design of the missions, and a constant thought that you might've missed a more subtle way of handling the situation that should make you come back to this game even after you've finished it. As I said, the designers have done one hell of a job on making the gameplay as smooth as possible, while at the same time enriching it with plenty of imaginative ways to achieving your mission goals. I mean it's just very fun to be able to 'ice' an ex-KGB big shot by putting his chauffeur to sleep, taking his clothes, and then planting a bomb under the car while the General's bodyguards are looking the other way. (I prefer neutralizing one of the idle guards and sniping both him and his General friend at the same time while enjoying a manly embrace. 2 Marks, 1 Bullet. Yeah. - Six) But, be careful! You mustn't run while you're in their sights, or linger on the same location for too long, or they'll suspect something and eventually raise the alarm. The original AI has had a significant makeover - the enemy soldiers, bodyguards, etc. are very environmentally aware. They are quite suspicious and in a sense act very true to life. Once the shooting begins, they'll be sure to duck for cover and generally make your life as an action hero miserable.
I have a vision...
Ho, ho, ho!
The intelligent mission design combined with some very enjoyable AI routines, and the limited number of save games should keep you on your toes throughout the game. As I said earlier, the controls are now quite intuitive and so is the camera movement. Consequently, this means that the action portion of Hitman 2 is very enjoyable, especially since the animation of the main character and the opponents has been so greatly improved over the original.
From what I've said about the game so far, you can easily infer that I really enjoyed playing Hitman 2 - and I did! The whole experience was made even more enjoyable by some very nice 3D graphics. The environments look rich and moody. I must admit I was impressed the most with the appearance of the old Sicilian monastery, but I think you'll find the rest of the game just as pleasing to the eye. This especially goes for the excellent work on the texturing, which gives the in-game world a crisp and vivid look ... or a murky and colorless one, depending on the location. The game looks best with antistrophic filtering and full-scene AA turned on, and though I played Hitman 2 in high-resolutions, I must say my frame-rate didn't take that much of a dip when I turned on the best possible texture filtering and FSAA. It appears that IO Interactive concentrated on heavily modifying the old 3D engine code, rather than building a new one from scratch. As it turns out, this was a wise decision by the development team - at least if we were to judge it by the quality of the end product.
In contrast to the excellent visuals, the sound effects leave plenty to be desired. Some of the voice actors sound unconvincing, which can really ruin the otherwise excellent in-game atmosphere. Granted, not all voice-overs need work, but some just sound a bit too detached and amateurish. The musical soundtrack on the other hand is quite good, and it excellently follows the action on screen.
In the end, there isn't that much more that can be said about Hitman 2. It deserves high marks for its excellent game design, and some highly dedicated work on getting rid of all the nagging issues from the original game. Sure, it could've been longer, and a multiplayer option wouldn't have hurt either, but even as it is, I really couldn't find anything wrong with the game - it's fun, intense, and most of all, highly enjoyable. Surely, you'll agree with me when I say that these just happen to be the most important prerequisites for any game to receive a positive review.
8.9 Very Good
Excellent mission desing; very solid AI. Everything that the original game should've been and more.
Because of the lack of multiplayer some may question the game's replay value. The game could've been a bit longer. Some fairly unconvincing voice acting. The models could use a bit more polys to look just right.
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