Reviewed: January 17, 2003
Released: October 1, 2002
Hitman 2: Silent Assassin by Eidos Interactive and Io-Interactive is the follow-up to the PC game Hitman: Codename 47 that was released back in November of 2000. While I didnít have the pleasure of playing the original I had heard mixed things about it. The fact that we're now playing Hitman 2 means that there was enough interest and large enough sales potential to warrant a sequel. I am not entirely sure this was a great idea. I will get into all of my likes and dislikes throughout my review but first I would like to set up the story of the infamous 47.
The character 47 was introduced in Hitman: Codename 47 and was portrayed as one of the finest killing machines in the world. That is of course if you guided him correctly throughout his various quests. In Hitman 2 we find the focus of the game has retired and is living a modest life in a monastery in Italy. 47 has found a peaceful existence where he can try to make up for his less than perfect previous life. Unfortunately 47ís peaceful existence is shattered when his past tracks him down and forces him back into the service of the Agency that assigns him his missions.
While reluctant to pursue a life of killing again, 47 decides that he must begin working so he can illicit help from the Agency to help track down his kidnapped friend and eradicate any traces of his evil past in the process. Lucky for him he kept a whole shed full of the tricks of his trade.
47ís missions will take you through many different cities in many different countries. You will travel the world and see places like Italy, the Middle East, Russia, Japan and India. While traveling through these countries you will have little time to enjoy the scenery because you have plenty of killing to do.
The gameplay in Hitman 2 suffers because of one critical factor; its reliance on stealth to complete the game with the best possible rating. Unfortunately for me this was a huge issue. For those of you out there that love to sneak around then this game will be just what you are looking for. I was hoping for assassinations and narrow escapes or rolling up on a bunch of rivals and gunning them down like Al Capone. I do not have the patience to creep down from the foothills for 20 minutes in order to have my cover blown. I want to break into my targetís room and slaughter him like the animal that he is. Oops, sorry about that. I guess I have a little unresolved anger I need to address. Anyway, letís continue critiquing the gameplay.
Other than the heavy emphasis on stealth the game is quite good. The controls are very good, the interfaces are okay and the storyline is well done. While some work could be done to improve your access to your various tools of the trade, overall the designers have put forth an enjoyable title.
The controls in the game are a little awkward when you first start playing, but you can master them rather easily and even begin to enjoy them. My only big problem with the controls is the fact that you must rely very heavily on the right analog stick to control your view and direction of travel. Being both the camera stick and the direction stick often causes problems when you are trying to line up some enemies to kill. I canít count the amount of times that I was in the middle of trying to defend myself only to be looking at something else unintentionally. While this little problem can be overcome with practice it is not the only problem.
It is sometimes very difficult to select the right weapon to use against your targets. If you happen to blow your cover and you want to shoot it out with the Russian army you may have problems accessing your stash of weapons. Because there are so many weapons available to you, you have to scroll around whenever you have emptied one weapon and need to choose another. I know this is really the best way to allow you to choose your weapons, but it doesnít help when you have a guy three feet from you with an AK-47 and a full clip and youíre getting shot at while trying to find a weapon with some ammo left in it. If your weapon automatically changed to the next one on the list when it was emptied it would probably save you a lot of reloading of saved games.
Other than the weapon selection and the camera / direction control problems there is very little wrong with this game. The story line of Hitman 2 is exceptional. It is easy for you to immerse yourself in the character and feel his anger over the kidnapping of his friend and his hatred of his former employers. You almost take it personally as you track down the people that are responsible for dragging you back into a life of killing when you have finally found peace in life. While the Agency directly controls your missions you always have that underlying mission to keep you focused. Along the way you are able to employ many techniques and weapons in order to reach your final goal.
The array of weapons available to you is staggering. You have close combat weapons such as chloroform (for temporarily disabling your target), fiber wire (for strangling) and knives. There is also the huge assortment of handguns, sub-machine guns, rifles, shotguns and sniper rifles. The use of binoculars, night vision goggles and various incendiary devices that are given to you for selected missions are all helpful in completing your final mission. The great thing about the weapons is that you can collect them during the mission and upon completion of the mission you can store these weapons in your shed back at the monastery. Before each mission you can select the weapons you will need to complete your objective. Sometimes you must leave all of them behind and use what the Agency has stashed for you.
The missions themselves are very flexible in the way you approach them. Each mission has an unlimited number of ways in which to reach your objective. This fact alone makes Hitman 2 a must have game for the stealth enthusiast. In the first mission there are several people you can dispose of to gain access to your targetís home. You could strangle the postman or the deliveryman and take their clothes. Being able to change clothes with someone you have disposed of is a most valuable tool in this game. The disguises and the open ended gameplay make Hitman 2 a game that you will keep around for a while. Even if one approach doesnít work you can always try it again or scrap the whole plan and go in from another angle. The open play is truly a joy and a change from the plethora of linear scripted titles we are forced to play.
The characters that you will encounter throughout the game also help to enhance the gameplay. The additional characters act very realistic, which can be a bad thing. If you are spotted by anyone you can pretty much call it a day and reload your saved game. It is amazing how much a bald man in a dark suit carrying a gun can freak people out and send them screaming for help. Lesson to learn here: stash those weapons and wear a disguise whenever possible. When you kill someone and borrow their clothes it is a very wise thing to take some extra time and drag that body to a secluded place. Nothing will ruin a mission more than being deep undercover only to have the guards stumble upon a corpse that you left out in the open.
At this point I feel the only other aspect of the gameplay that needs to be discussed are the exotic locations you get to explore throughout the game, but I feel these will be better explained in the graphics portion of this review. Although they are at the heart of the gameplay in the fact that they are massive and extremely detailed, the greatest things about the locations are their stunning beauty.
The good folks at Io-Interactive have made a most stunning and visually appealing gaming experience. Nothing sucks you into a game like beautiful and realistic settings. From the snowy squares of St. Petersburg to the modern extravagance of Kuala Lumpur, designers have created a masterpiece of eye-catching beauty. You actually can feel the cities in which your missions occur. The designers have put together the perfect combinations of detail and lighting to give each city its own uniqueness. That is very rare in games that have multiple locations. You can usually notice how each city has some resemblance to others in a game. Hitman 2 makes each city feel like a different game.
The graphics excellence also extends to the animations of your prey. There is a lot of blood and gore in this title if you want it. If you want to shoot your way through various missions you can see plenty of the red stuff. Of course I know this is not the way to play the game, but I figure whenever my cover is blown and I have to reload anyway I might as well get out some of that anger I was talking about earlier. What better way to release some tension than shooting anything that moves? Again I digress. The animations of shootings and strangulations are all very well done and add yet another level of realism to this game.
Silent Assassin's excellent visuals are enhanced by a most enjoyable soundtrack. Since the Budapest Symphony Orchestra and Choir did the music in Hitman 2 you can guess that it is probably good and it is. The music effectively sets the mood throughout the game and is a pleasure to listen to. It creates an atmosphere found in many good mafia movies and works well with the story in this game. There is an almost soothing yet eerie quality to the soundtrack that is definitely the kind of music you need when youíre whacking your enemies. Classical music and murder is a proven combination that has been used effectively in many movies and games and it works perfectly in Hitman 2.
The ambient and action sounds in Hitman 2 are also done very well. Great attention to detail has been paid to the sounds of the various weapons and their interaction with the environment. These sounds also go hand in hand with the superb voice acting. There is a cast of unknown actors that voice all of the characters throughout the game. It is good to hear voices instead of having to read the story. The voice actors also do an excellent job on the sounds of death. The grunts, groans and gasps for breath are very realistic and enhance the illusion that you are 47.
As far as value goes, Hitman 2 has a ton. Because of the openness of the gameplay and the various ways to approach each mission you will be coming back to this title many times. Even if you make it through the game initially, you will still most likely need to gain Silent Assassin status on more than a few missions. Replaying the game with a new approach might just get you that coveted status that you need for 100% completion of the game.
I found myself very frustrated at several points during the game and this is good for the value. Because this is not an easy game to play there will be people that will play it for a very long time. When the going gets too tough you can set it aside and return to it later.
If you are a stealth fan you will love Hitman 2, but if you are looking for an action packed shoot-em-up you should look elsewhere. This game takes a lot of strategy and planning and only in a few instances do you get to dispose of your enemies with extreme prejudice.
While I didnít enjoy this game as much as I had hoped to doesnít mean it is a bad game. The people at Eidos and Io-Interactive have created a beautiful and very well designed game. With excellent graphics and sound Hitman 2 takes advantage of the PS2ís power efficiently and this makes for an outstanding gaming experience for fans of the genre.
Even if you aren't sure about this type of game you should at least give it a rental just for the experience. If other companies polished their games as well as Eidos does before releasing them then the gaming community would be a very happy place. Because this game was so well done, Eidos has me drooling for the next Tomb Raider. Bring it on and keep up the good work.