Hitman 2: Silent Assassin
by Polly

Our favorite well-dressed, bald, and barcoded Hitman makes his return to the killing game and he's out for a little bit of revenge this time. Sometime after the events at the end of Hitman: Codename 47, Agent 47's found a way to disappear from the life of a contract killer to ponder the meaning of his own existence. He's retreated to somewhere in Sicily, and has now become a gardner at a large church. When his priest and mentor, Father Vittorio is abducted from the church for unknown reasons, 47 finds himself digging up the past and falling back into old habits as he contacts the ICA to help him find his friend. Of course, information comes at a price...

And thus, 47 is thrust back into the world of contract killing in an orchestrated set of hits that slowly unravel a story that's a little hard to follow and doesn't really make a whole lot of sense in the end. But story can't be the only reason one would play a game like this, and thankfully this time there's a lot more to be happy about.

Right off, you'll notice that Hitman 2 looks much better than its predecessor. Of course graphics technology had quite a growth spurt between 2000 and 2002, so it's no real surprise that this game looks good. Even by today's standards, Hitman 2 at full settings is quite a damn good looking game. The exotic locales 47 ventures to are all represented very well and the environmental and weather effects look quite nice and believable. Indoor and outdoor areas alike are given a lot of really nice detail to help immerse the player, and the game makes really good use of lighting and real-time shadows.

Character models and animations have shown marked improvement as well, giving your enemies, and 47 alike, much more life than they had in the first game. Animations don't appear as jerky and robotic and the models are much smoother. An added bonus is that most guards in the game have their own looks going on aside from whatever uniform they may be wearing, giving each and every person you decide to kill or not kill a bit more of an identity. Weapon models are really slick, showing that the developers really sunk a lot of time into making the models look close to the real-world weapons they're based upon.

Hitman 2 is no slouch in the audio department, either. Weapons sound much more realistic this time around and there's much more variety going on than last time as well. Whether you're silently capping whatever unfortunate S.O.B. that's crossed your path in the head, mowing down your mark with a shotgun at close range, or spraying down an entire army of Russian police in a subway, it's gonna sound damn satisfying while you're doing it.

Voiceovers during cutscenes and in game were also given a bit more work, as dialogue doesn't sound quite as jerky as the first game and accents aren't nearly as mangled and overdone.

Jesper Kyd once again supplies the game's score and it's definitely the best in the series. Backed by an orchestra this time, a lot of the tunes are given much more of an epic feeling and help bring out the setting of whatever environment or situation you're in much better than a normal score probably could have.

IO Interactive seems to be a bit of a rarity in the game-making business. Hitman: Codename 47 didn't perform well with critics due to its very unpolished feel and unbalanced gameplay. While it did get a warm reception from gamers, complaints about the game's shortcomings were quite audible. Hearing these cries of "OH FUCK SHIT GOD DAMN ASS PECKERSHIT STUPID CONTROLS" and other various vulgarity-ridden phrases associated with other aspects of the game, IO actually LISTENED and managed to hammer out a lot of the bumps that plagued the first Hitman game.

Yes, Hitman 2 plays much better than its predecessor. The controls are much more intuitive this time and you certainly won't be fumbling around trying to select that one weapon you need to get your ass out of a jam. Getting out your weapon, utilizing it to do whatever you need to do, and re-concealing it is easily done now and certainly helps give 47 that slick "I just choked your bitch ass out and nobody saw" thing he was missing a bit of the first time around.

47's got a lot of toys to play around with this time as well. Along with a whole freakin warehouse full of guns he can get his grubby little mitts on, fire axes and Ninja Swords also make an appearance as well. You're allowed to collect these weapons as well and replay previous missions with them to try things a different way if you wish. It's not a huge part of the game, but it's certainly enough to keep those interested in having every little toy playing a little longer after the final mission is over. My only problem with this system is that it's pretty much impossible to do a mission perfectly the first time through the game without the right weapon collected in a later level. It's a small, but very irritating design flaw.

Hitman 2's mission setups are fairly similar to the first. It almost always involves infiltrating, finding your mark, disposing of him, and getting out. It sounds simple, but once again the way to get things done is complex and will take quite a few tries to figure out. Players of Normal and Expert modes are now given a limited number of in-mission saves to act as checkpoints to use whenever they wish. This helps make the game's learning curve and sometimes completely ridiculous AI a little less frustrating. Areas are much bigger than the first game as well, so getting to your target or targets certainly isn't as simple as it may have been in the first game. Oftentimes you'll find yourself running all over a map looking for a solution, and thankfully the in-game map has been given a vast upgrade making larger areas much more navigable.

The freedom Hitman 2 gives you in taking out your targets may actually be a bit overwhelming to some players at first. You'll be dropped into a big area and then it's basically, "Figure it out, [REDACTED]mo!" Once you come to grips with the area though, that freedom really turns into the game's strong point. There really isn't a right or wrong way to do any mission in the game. On the Normal setting most players, if skilled enough, can even choose to just blast your way through every mission if they feel so inclined. I've never really been able to pull it off on any difficulty level above this, but I do know from seeing videos that it is possible. However, the game is far more rewarding to those who decide to take the path of killing in the shadows.

The game employs a new rating system that's used at the end of each mission to determine how effective you were in taking out your targets. Performing to perfection and achieving the coveted Silent Assassin rating rewards players with even more new toys to play around with and take on future or previous missions. Sadly though, there's no real reward other than knowing you're a complete fucking sociopath for running and gunning your way through. I think there should be though, since it's probably just as difficult to be a raving fucking lunatic as it is a silent and deadly fart. (That's just a little head's up on the joke in the titlebar for you idiots who didn't get it. Trust me, I know my audience.)

Bet I fooled you into thinking that this game's perfect with all that ass-kissing praise up there, huh? Well, unfortunately one aspect of this game will completely ruin it for the easily defeated. The AI.

Now, I'm never one to bitch too much about bad AI. Hell I loved Doom 3 and Quake 4 and their AI was about as smart as well...you. The problem with Hitman 2's AI is that it's just way too God damned reactive. This AI's on the world's most heroic cocaine binge, snorting 27 lines per minute off your mom's tits, popping speed, and smoking crack WITH ITS DICK! You so much as blink in front of most guards in this game and they've got guns drawn and are filling your happy ass full of lead. Even in disguise and not doing anything suspicious, the AI just seems to see right through everything, even though you've done nothing to raise suspicion. The levels that take place in Japan are a clear example of what's wrong with this AI, and I wouldn't call ANYONE less of a gamer if they used cheats to skip these levels. It really is quite unfair how quick the enemy is to blow your cover and how you're swarmed with guards up your ass in less than 5 seconds. A lot of the time, you seriously just don't have a chance. Not ALL of the game's AI is super mega hyper-sensitive, but you better seriously keep yourself in check if you want to stay alive long.

Sneaking up behind most people is next to worthless simply because it's way too God damn slow. You're going to be WALKING pretty much everywhere in this game if you want to retain your cover for over 30 seconds and this can seriously make the game seem like a complete drag at times. More work seriously needed to be put into this aspect of the game or at least a patch.

But given the AI flaws, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin is still a great progression of the series if you can get the hang of it. It's easily got some of the most tense moments the series has to offer and features a lot of really good level design work to accomidate most peoples' playing styles. I especially thought the sniping was a strong point in this one. You can easily find this one for every format it was released for (PC, PS2, Xbox, GameCube) for $9 or less, so unless it's just not your kinda game, I can't see any real reason not to give it a go.

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