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Game Over Online ~ Hitman 2: Silent Assassin

GameOver Game Reviews - Hitman 2: Silent Assassin (c) Eidos Interactive, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Hitman 2: Silent Assassin (c) Eidos Interactive
System Requirements Xbox
Overall Rating 88%
Date Published Friday, November 8th, 2002 at 05:51 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

Early on, there is a scene in Hitman 2 where we see the genetically engineered assassin, 47, in plain clothes, outside of his trademark suit and praying for redemption for the sins he has committed. It's a great touch to the overall narrative because it illustrates character growth in someone who found out he was but one of many identical assassin replicates; the 47th one to be exact. So the story begins with 47 confiding his past to Padre Vittorio. But the skeletons that 47 tried to lock up in his closet eventually come out to find him and the ensuing story has 47 trading with his former employers to rescue his friend.

The original Hitman title was critically acclaimed on the PC. Despite suffering some debilitating flaws, it was intriguing and the plot elements really leant meaning to tie the whole corpus together. The sequel is much more elaborate, both in the planning and the action, but most importantly in the setup. Some assassinations take not one, but two levels for you to even get remotely close to the target. In that elaborative scheming, however, the developers have truly outdone themselves. Some of the planned assassinations are immensely clever. One target is scheduled to go in for heart surgery and 47 can potentially position himself to ensure the heart (and some other body part) gets a heavy makeover.

In close contact with you on the field now is Diana, who makes a return to help 47 get himself up on his feet. Because 47 is such a cause célèbre these days, he gets all the tough assignments from the Agency. These employers are always vague. John Mullins from Soldier of Fortune worked for one simply called The Shop. You'd think people with multi-million dollar Swiss accounts could be a little more creative. Before each mission, Diana ensures that 47 gets all the GPS data he needs, including videos and photographs of the target. Like most things in life, they never go as planned but Diana's close contact on the radio ensures 47 is never out of the loop. One early assassination 47 makes involves a room full of generals but no positive ID. As the clock winds down, Diana is frantically checking a database and detail by detail, you'll be able to narrow down the target. The tension is nail-biting in that instance.

A good, clean and professional hit, the developers claim, will leave nothing but a dead target and a silent escape. This was something that wasn't rewarded enough in the original Hitman but is now duly noted through grants of style points. Disguises are a necessary requisite to achieve this. Not only do you have to ensure your attire is correct but your weapon is too. Or in some cases, where you'll be frisked, being unarmed is the best solution. Creative use of weapons, from kitchen knives strewn about to poison can help as well.

For those who are starting to feel a little worried, Hitman 2 is not an exclusive exercise in sneaking. It's still an action game and where stealthy quiet approaches fail, or more likely, go horribly wrong, shameless violence can cap off most missions with a resounding exclamation mark. On easier levels, Hitman 2 doesn't punish the gun blazing 47s at all and you could, for all intents and purposes, murder, maim and kill every living thing between you and the final target. There are some built-in exceptions. One mission tasks you to simultaneously kill two people. Another target, if jumped upon with a melee weapon, will challenge you to a duel. There are as many outcomes as there are paths to achieving your mission in Hitman 2.

Another offshoot in Hitman 2 is weapon collecting. Before 47 embarks on his missions, he is headquartered in Sicily where he maintains his growing arsenal of weapons. Weapons acquired on the field can be taken back home and used on another mission. You literally have a trophy case of guns at your disposal. Usually, the Agency is kind enough to discretely drop off hardware required for you to complete your mission. Sniper rifles or car bombs are usually hidden in out of way places for you to discover.

As the narrative progresses, Hitman 2 dwells upon a pretty ho-hum device to keep 47 in action. It seems like all the missions involve eliminating whoever comes in contact with some black market weapons of mass destruction. Yes, you got it boys and girls, the infamous (or famous?) nuclear weapons smuggling comes to fore again. However, the majority of the missions have twists to them, which makes the overall plot less predictable. In fact, you could say the final few missions will lead 47 to come full circle, metaphorically and geographically speaking. Something from 47's own past, the dreaded confrontation with his birthplace, also manages to work itself into the climax; very clever, indeed.

On the Xbox, Hitman 2 doesn't suffer from any visual blemishes. The orchestra and choral soundtrack makes a stunning, if not better, transfer to the Xbox. I'm not sure what kinds of setups people play on but my receiver in the living room is infinitely better than the A/V setup attached to my PC. The art and architecture is a mixed bag. The Soviet-style structures in Russia are hardly what you would call aesthetically pleasing. On the other hand, you have some visually impressive indoor environs that are bright and colorful. The only thing I thought was missing was abundant conversation amongst the indigenous population. There simply isn't any to stumble upon in some cases with guards being about as mute and mechanical as your cloned genetic brothers. That's something where story-based first person shooters, like No One Lives Forever, Medal of Honor and Deus Ex have the upper hand.

Then there's the stealth motif. Hitman 2 has 47 doing a lot of things. You can tell by the number of fluid animations (best represented by the dead limping bodies you drag around) endowed on 47, that he can perform many actions. When you combine many actions with a console controller, you run into problems. A lot of times, the stealth is about pretending to be like someone; a guard, a waiter, a postman in the first level. That involves walking around with no weapons drawn and it will try your patience, particularly because you know if you pull your guns out, those guys giving you hassle by making you walk halfway across the block will be dead in no more than two seconds. Even if you do manage to minimize the collateral damage, there are few rewards other than bragging rights on message forums. Instead of finishing the game in twenty hours, you spent forty because you walked and didn't shoot for twice the amount of time.

The frustration comes because your cover is sometimes blown for no apparent reason or from unrealistically far away distances. On simpler levels of difficulty, in addition to providing more saves (a great decision by the developers), there should be a stealth indicator, not unlike Looking Glass' excellent Thief series. Using that, you could gauge whether your behavior, possessions, motion and appearances will signal any alarms. No aids of that nature are to be found in this title.

In spite of this, Hitman 2 makes great strides in improving every inch of the original. This is a longer, deeper and more rewarding experience. Still, 47's celebrity status means he can't perform the simple café-window hits he used to pull off. Sometimes, I wished for missions that weren't so long, targets not so elusive and objectives not so important. In that sense, its cleverness proves too smart. However, there's no denying that the morose theme of redemption in Hitman 2 makes up for any shortcomings. You develop a strong attachment to 47, dare I say, even some pity. And I hope the developers will one day run the full course with this theme. The assassin, who always gets the last laugh, may just well find his own comeuppance in the third installment of the series. Hitman 2's obvious strengths guarantees there will be another one.


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