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Hitman 2: Silent Assassin

Developer: io Interactive | Publisher: Eidos
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 09/30/02 | Genre: Action

Back in black and ball as a cue ball, the assassin so deadly and precise he is only known as Agent 47 has returned and has been given a greatly anticipated overhaul in Eidos' latest, Hitman2: Silent Assassin. It's 2-year-old, PC-only predecessor had some serious gameplay issues that overwhelmed its impressive technical elements and intriguing story. But rather than strangle itself with the rope of miserable failure, Eidos set out and successfully mastered the art of the assassination simulation game.

Determined to live a kill-free lifestyle, Agent 47 has traded his arsenal for gardener's tools in Hitman 2. But when Sicilian gangsters kidnap his kind caretaker, he is forced to once again don the suit and equip himself with both familiar and new deadly weapons. Not the greatest story, but it serves to justify why Agent 47 must embark on multiple missions across places like Japan, Malaysia, Russia, and India eliminating targets. To get his first lead on the whereabouts of the minister, 47 must contact his former employer. For those who didn't play the original and/or for those who need to brush up on their craft, the employer provides training and, of course, is willing to offer information?Ķfor a price.

Though mission objectives vary slightly from location to location, they feature mainly the same system: get in, eliminate target, and get out. How you do it is where the enjoyment is. Unlike the original, the forceful, barbaric approach is much easier and quicker in Hitman 2. On normal difficulty, enemies don't handle themselves very well in straight gun fights, but can overcome you simply due to sheer numbers. To discourage this, missions are graded according to stealth and brutality. Sure you can go in guns blazing, but you will earn significantly less style points and a lower assassination rating. Really authentic assassins can walk away from a successful mission with one corpse and no shots fired. The path to objective completion is up to you, which is what makes the game appealing to each type of gamer.

All this sneaking around requires disguises, which is a huge element of Hitman 2. Similar to the prequel, 47 can remove just about any killed or unconscious male's apparel and drag the body out of sight. The task of "changing clothes" is still unrealistic, being one minute in the black suit then "pop", perfectly fitting attire. Still this isn't necessarily a negative, since seeking out a tall, skinny man with size 36 waste would be more of a nuisance than interesting add-on. More realistically is 47's need for better concealment of himself. No longer can he dress in native clothing and walk among the people. A bald, 6'-4" white man will definitely need more than a turban to disappear in the streets of India. Both actions and equipment can also spell discovery. A suspicion meter will fill up as guards become wary of your activities and give you an idea of how "hidden" you really are. Keeping an eye on local perceptions and attention to you is very important.

A successful assassin needs tools with which to assassinate targets obviously. Hitman 2 has one of the coolest collections of weaponry and gadgets available. Prior to missions, you can chose to lug your impressive arsenal around with you, or pick and choose which specific ones you want to take with you from your stash tucked away in your Sicily headquarters. While most weapons can be concealed, sniper rifles cannot be hidden and can make for some tense situations. Our bald killer is no karate master so has no martial arts moves, but he can silence enemies by slashing them quickly in the throat, chock them to death with his trusty fiber wire, or knock them out with chloroform. Every type of pistol, assault rifles, shotguns, and submachine guns are available. Outlines of guns indicate which ones you currently to not have. 47 can pillage the firearms from foes that he has eliminated. He can also carry poison, remote bombs, and night vision goggles, which are primarily issued only for specific missions.

Controlling 47 is much improved in Hitman 2 seeing that this was one of the major issues in the original. You can easily flip in and out of sneak mode, which puts 47 on his toes and sacrifices speed for stealth. Walking is the mode of transportation throughout most of the game. Anything else will make too much noise and/or draw unwanted attention. Hitman 2 can be played in first- or third-person view, and controls are comparable to those of any first-person shooter. Third-person allows you to see 47's smooth animation sequences when he subdues foes with his fiber wire or knife to the throat. The camera, in this view, can also be used as an extra pair of eyes, giving you quick peaks around corners and of what is ahead. First-person mode looks and feels like a standard first-person shooter, which is extremely nice when the shooter gets heavy. Hitman 2 conveniently adds the use of a context-sensitive menu, which lets you easily pick locks, don disguises, climb in windows, pick up items, etc.

Aiming can be a bit fudgy and erratic at times, however. With exception of the sniper rifle, even with crosshairs directly on an object a bit off in the distance, you'll miss. On the flip side though, sometimes you'll be credited hits when you weren't even close. Couching greatly increases 47's hit percentage when shooting.

Though the game looks similar to its predecessor, its graphical presentation is impressive. Strong, colorful environments can be seen whether indoors or outside, though outside textures can get repetitive at times. Character models, though not varied too much, are distinct and react natural to what is going on around them. Weapons are detailed right down to the reloading animation. Cutscenes transition from mission to mission and look like surveillance copy. The lighting falls a bit short of greatness as shadows are jagged and sometimes in the wrong place Hitman 2 incorporates the impressive "rag doll" animation, which allows enemies to die convincingly.

Sounds in Hitman 2 are done as well as the visuals. Characters speak in their native tongue and shots differ clearly from each firearm. Agent 47's voice acting is much better in comparison to the original. The Budapest Symphony Orchestra lends its talents to the music heard throughout the game. It follows the flow of gameplay perfectly, varying according to intensity and action.

Hitman 2 can be played on three different difficulty settings: normal, expert, and professional. The game allows you to save anytime, but only seven times per mission on normal, two on expert, and none on professional. On normal and expert, you have access to a real-time map, which shows blips on the screen as to where enemies are. This is eliminated on professional level, increasing the game's longevity significantly in addition to open-ended mission design and end-of-mission ranking system.

Eidos and IO Interactive have bounced back greatly from their earlier travesty in creating Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. Superb graphics, outstanding gameplay, and great replayability give this title everything it needs to stand above other stealth-action games. Hard enough to challenge experienced assassins, yet simple enough for newcomers, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin is a well-recommended title for anyone who can set their convictions aside and lay their morals down for a little while.

By Peter Humpton - 10/21/02
ESRB Details: Blood, Strong Sexual Content, Violence
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Screenshots for Hitman 2: Silent Assassin

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