"Death is his business. And business is good."

Hitman 2: Silent Assasin is a third/first person strategy shooter developed by Io-Interactive (www.ioi.dk) and distributed by Eidos Interactive (www.eidosinteractive.com) and released in 2002. The game is the anticipated sequel to Hitman: Codename 47. It is available on PC, PS2, and XBox.

The game starts by introducing Father Vittorio, the Hitman's mentor and only friend aside from Diana, the woman who serves as his contact with the agency (Merces Letifer: Latin for 'paid death'). The Hitman now lives in the Gontranno Monastary in Sicily after his retirement from contract killing. The priest is soon kidnapped by Don Gullianno and held for a ransom of $500,000, which the Hitman cannot pay. He decides to contact the agency so that they might provide him with information on who took Vittorio. The agency does not give out information for free, however, and the Hitman is forced out of retirement in order to save his friend.

The main focus of the game is not to shoot everything in sight, a la Doom or Duke Nukem. In fact, following this course of action is extremely likely to get you killed...fast. Guards are reasonably good shots and they aren't dumb, either. The best bet is to disguise yourself and infiltrate the ranks. Walking around with the enemy is dangerous, however, and getting caught usually means death, though it is possible to shoot your way out and/or elude the guards and change clothes.

The major highlight of the game is its top-notch graphics, bested only by a few PS2 games (GT3 comes to mind). The movement of characters is also extremely realistic. The fact that Io-Interactive used motion-capture technology to aid in programming the movements of all its characters, coupled with ultra-realistic physics modelling makes for a visceral experience; especially when in the heat of a shootout or quietly sneaking up behind your target with a garotte for a silent kill. The music is completely original. Composed by Jesper Kyd and performed by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra and Choir, the sometimes haunting classical music sets appropriate moods, wherever you go. Reacting to in-game events, the music will alter itself to better suit the activity at hand.

The enemy AI is very good (reminiscent of Medal of Honor, the first truly intelligent AI ever created in a shooter, in my opinion), with guards diving behind the nearest object for cover, civilians running into bathrooms and ducking to escape shooting, and behavior/uniform/weapon recognition. What this last part means is that, to effectively utilize a disguise (say you kill a guard and take his uniform), you have to act normal. If you run, you're suspicious. If you are dressed as a civilian inside a military complex, you will be shot at. If you're carrying a gun that the enemy doesn't use, you will be recognized as an infiltrator and summarily dealt with.

A big plus for the game is that snipers are actually good at what they do. Usually video games do not do justice to this commonly misunderstood group. Though real snipers prefer to be completely hidden and heavily camoflaged (and not silhouetted against a window in a tower...), at least in Hitman 2 they have proficiency with their weapon. That said, the snipers in this game are accurate with head shots at extremely long distances, will lead a running target, and the damage from just one shot is devastating. Really, the only way to take out an alerted sniper is to hide and use a sniper rifle of your own. Damn straight.

The maps are awe-inspiringy detailed. Guards have overlapping patrol routes, civilians perform tasks appropriate to their roles, the texturing is unsurpassed, the landscapes are beautifully done, and all the buildings were designed to be structurally sound. Most maps in the game are modelled after actual places in real life. Guns and ammunition aren't simply laying around - they appear in places where you'd expect to find such items (armories, on guards, etc). You'll be amazed by just how stunningly crafted they are. The only maps I've ever seen that have surpassed them are some player-created maps for Jedi Knight (those guys were nuts).

One downside of the game is that it, like its predecessor, is too short. There are many missions where it would be fun to go back and do things differently (and this is encouraged since you need to do this to acquire all the weapons) but, overall, more content is needed. This is forgivable, however, since one must take into consideration the detail that went into every level.

Another issue is the loading/saving interface which leaves much to be desired. The way it currently works is confusing, disorganized, and provides little way of differentiating save files. Poor showing in that respect.

All in all, this game is an improvement on its predecessor. I was worried, initially, that the new saving mid-mission feature would ruin the difficulty of the game but I was proven wrong when I learned that the highest difficulty level did not allow for in-game saves. I was extremely disappointed, however, to learn that Edit4o7, the third party level editor for Hitman 2 that was going to be released with the game, was not included and it does not seem like it will be released since all information on the subject practically disappeared. This type of addition would provide a serious boost to the game, as it allows players to create any mission they want and distribute them, thus increasing the replay value. But, for its flaws, it is still an extremely worthwhile game.

See also:

www.hitman2.com

www.hitman-codename47.com

If I may be so bold as to node a dissenting opinion...

I picked up a used copy of Hitman 2: Silent Assassin from a bargain bin for fifteen bucks on a whim one day.

I must say, I got roughly my money's worth.

Admittedly, the box for the game made it look *BADASS*. "Travel around the world, meet interesting people... And kill them" proclaimed the review on the back. A picture on the front of the Hitman himself, looking like death-incarnate in his impeccable black suit with black leather gloves, with his two chrome Ballers gripped firmly in his hands. And on the back, a picture of him crouched with gun in hand, the light darkening his features into something very, very scary indeed.

Oh yeah, this is definitely my kind of game.

Several hours later...

My avatar is walking s-l-o-w-l-y through the well-lit hallway of a building.

I'm wearing, I shit you not, a pair of khaki short-shorts with a matching button up shirt, along with a pair of knee-high black socks, and a jaunty black beret.

I look like a gay, geriatric Boy Scout.

Underneath my close-fitting khaki shirt is the following weaponry:

First, this is not NEARLY as badass as I envisioned it. Secondly, what in God's name is a precision killer like myself doing with this much weaponry when I'm trying to run a covert job?

This is just the beginning of the problems with what I will admit is an absolutely stunning idea for a game. I just think this could have been done *MUCH* better.

Graphical Problems

Color me underwhelmed.

The graphics for this game are extremely... OK. I gave it a good sporting chance, but I just did not see anything that impressed me at all, and quite a bit that did the exact opposite.

For starters, everwhere that the Hitman walks, and do I mean EVERYWHERE, his head is tilted at the exact same angle to the left.

Everywhere. For the entire game. It gets annoying faster than you would think.

Ragdoll Physics. Yawn. I've yet to see this done in a way that impresses me. I'll gladly trade it in for some halfway decent lighting effects and textures.

As for the rest of the graphics... Well... It isn't so much that they're BAD, as much as they just aren't all that GOOD. The character models aren't particularly stunning, and the levels aren't awe-inspiring at all. Everything just looks kind of low quality. And if you ever want to give yourself nightmares at night, swing the camera around to look at Hitman's face while he's climbing a ladder. Horrifying.

Gameplay

Graphics are the least of the problems I've found with this game. There are a number of things that make this game not-much-fun to play.

The first problem is that the HUGE barcode tattooed on the back of Hitman's skull kind of makes that whole infiltration-through-disguise thing a mite bit implausible. For chrissakes, can't he use makeup on it or something? If it isn't clear from the review above, taking out various people to steal their clothes and disguise yourself is a large part of the game mechanics. Aside from the barcode, Hitman just doesn't seem to play off some of these roles very well.


"Sir!"

"Yes, Jones?"

"The pizza guy is here. He's bald, and he has this big barcode tattoed on the back of his skull. He looks a bit like a gay geriatric Boy Scout, and he also appears to be concealing about seven or eight handguns and some ungodly amount of ammunition under a shirt that's entirely too small for him. Should I send him in?"

"For God's sake, Jones, are you crazy? Make sure he remembered my chicken strips first!"


Needless to say, I don't exactly feel immersed in my role here.

Aside from the fact that many of the disguises make a patentedly cool character like the Hitman so damned ridiculous, trying to navigate a level while wearing one is an exercise in frustration. I know it's supposed to be much of the point of the game, but the problem is that if you run while wearing one, you'll be assaulted by the guards.

So you're left with walking.

V--e--r--y s--l--o--w--l--y.

I understand that it is realistic that the aforementioned Gay-Geriatric-Boy-Scout-Pizza-Delivery-Boy/Contract-Killer wouldn't be sprinting through the building, but the walking speed is just *tedious*. It doesn't take very long before I snap, whip out my .45 Ballers, and start wasting civilians and guards alike out of pure frustration and impatience. Besides, I figure if I waste enough people, I'll get my target, eventually...

To make things worse, Hitman even ACTS like he's infirm. He doesn't do a whole lot besides walk, run, shoot, and climb ladders. Sure, you can move bodies, but you'd imagine that someone as badass as the Hitman would just sling them over his shoulder, and carry them off, right? Nope. He drags them along by one arm. S-l-o-w-l-y, of course. LAME!

So, when everything is said and done, there is really only two things to do. Get a disguise, walk at a infuriatingly snail-like crawl to your target, and waste them. Then leave. Either that, or switch into FPS view, and start blasting...

Stealth action? Disguise and infiltrate? Great idea. Horrible execution. I do, however, have high hopes for Hitman: Contracts.

As for Silent Assassin, however, just put a sticker on the front that reads "Pwn3d by Sam Fisher", and call it truth in advertising.


Considering that this is the 15th best selling game for Xbox, YM, of course, MV.

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