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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Eidos

 

Developer

IO Interactive

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q4 2002

 

 

- Good story immerses you in gameplay
- Sharp graphics take advantage of Xbox’s abilities
- Multiple-branching gameplay options

 

 

- Twitchy controls take some getting used to
- AI is uneven in its reactionary response to player’s actions
- Constant replaying of levels (due to defeat) can get frustrating

 

 

Review: Hitman 2: Silent Assassin (Playstation 2)

Review: Hitman 2: Silent Assassin (PC)

Review: Splinter Cell: Conviction (360)

 

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Hitman 2: Silent Assassin

Score: 9.0 / 10

 

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Unless you attended Sopranos High School, odds are being a hitman wasn’t one of the career choices your guidance counsellor talked to you about. But with the release of the excellent Hitman 2 for the Xbox, you can get the opportunity of finding out what it’s like to live and work as a deadly gun-for-hire.

Hitman 2 (H2) is the much-improved sequel to 2000’s PC release, Hitman: Codename 47, which despite attaining generally positive reviews, contained some control issues that had definite room for improvement. H2 still has some twitchy controls, but after the first mission you’ll quickly get the hang of playing. Once you get past the controls, you’ll discover that H2 is one of the better games to appear on the Xbox this year, joining the ranks of Max Payne, Metal Gear Solid 2

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Substance, and Splinter Cell as another must-have third-person action title (that can actually played in the first-person as well).

I guess the lead character, 47, never heard the old saying about living in the criminal underworld: once you’re in, you’re in for life. After being sent into retirement in Sicily following the first title’s storyline, you are again called to pick up your

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guns and try to rescue (with the help of the Agency that served as your employer) your priestly keeper, who is abducted for unclear reasons. But the Agency’s help comes at a cost. In order for them to help you track down the kidnappers, you must “hit” a number of Agency targets all across the globe deep in the lawless pits of the criminal underworld. Not that you’re looking forward to killing again, but 47’s loyalty to the whisked-away priest requires him to extract his sense of justice on the dopes stupid enough to incur his wrath.

47 is almost an anti-hero, being a killer and all. But unlike GTA: Vice City’s Tommy Vercetti, 47 isn’t malevolently and inherently bad, and villainous in his actions. He does what killing he does because he has to (you can kill everybody including innocent bystanders, but the goal is to only kill the bad guys); it’s his job and in the case of H2’s storyline, his loyal responsibility. The story running through H2 is one of its strengths. Untrusting of anybody, 47 knows everything isn’t as it seems, and when you get to the last chapter of the game, you will discover this fact also. It’s never directly implied that the Agency’s intentions are as rotten as Denmark. It’s left up to the gamer to decide if that is indeed the case.

You’re sent globetrotting to many exotic and deadly locales: From Sicily to St. Petersburg, to Japan, to Malaysia, to Nuristan, to India, back to St. Petersburg and finally returning full circle to Sicily. Here’s another strength of the game. So many different locations allows for incredible diverseness of levels. You’ll never feel like you’re playing the same level twice, with plenty of eye-candy thrown in. Most of the stages are huge too, giving you a lot of area to explore while sucking in the good-looking visuals.

Sensually, the game is a real treat. The visuals are sharp all over, from the characters to the levels, taking advantage of the Xbox’s graphic abilities. The only negative I encountered was on the St. Petersburg level. In the distance, you could see the pop-up rendering of a far-away building appearing and disappearing as you closed in or distanced yourself from that area of the level. But I didn’t see it occur anywhere else in the game. The sound effects are great, but the voice work is a little over-the-top for some characters. 47, though, has the icy voice of a killer that will send chills down your spine.

 

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Basically, the game’s action has you getting a mission from the Agency (and the lovely-sounding-but-never-seen Diana) and then going to a location and attempting to compete the required goals. Most missions have a few side goals, and they can be confusing to complete, but always in the end somebody winds up dead, riddled full of your bullets. Another great feature of H2 is that there isn’t only one way to complete your mission – it’s completely open-ended.

The only negative with open-ended gameplay is that it does take several tries to come up with a viable option to complete your mission. The main missions are broken up into a few smaller mini-missions so that you don’t have to go back too far if you happen to succumb to the enemy. The in-game save function, which was scarce in the first game and a major source of complaints from gamers, now allows you to save often.

But yet again, H2 gets creative. To make 47’s appearance less apparent, you can kill anybody and take their clothes, thereby giving yourself an unrecognizable disguise that blends in with the situation. The only strategy involved here is making sure that nobody sees you killing the fashion victim and that you hide the now-deceased body. If the corpse is discovered a message will pop up such as “guards now looking for a suspicious bodyguard” (if you killed a bodyguard), which makes other characters more wary and it becomes harder for you to go undetected.

(A way around that however is if you ever get the above-mentioned message, kill a different character, take his clothes, and while they are looking around for a suspicious bodyguard, you’re donning the clothing of a doctor, for instance.)

The controls are one of its somewhat negative features, at least at first. H2 uses a similar control scheme as Halo, using both thumbsticks to control all of 47’s movements. Unlike Halo, H2’s controls are a little too loose and twitchy. In the heat of a gunfight, you can run into some problems trying to pivot around and shoot somebody, because the controls aren’t as tight as desired. After the first mission, the controls become less of a problem. Like any good shooter game, H2’s weaponry includes a collection of different pistols, machine guns, and, the prerequisite weapon of choice for a hitman, sniper-type rifles. Also included are effective weapons that you wouldn’t necessarily expect, like kitchen knives, poisoned fish, and crossbows.

Throughout your travels as 47 you run into a bunch of different characters, some with definite ethnic ties to the region that 47 is in, and that did actually cause a controversy already for the game’s publisher, Eidos. The representation of the Indian Sikhs in the game caused an uproar amongst the Sikh community so much so that H2 will be altered in this respect when it appears on the GameCube.

A feature of the game that can be both good and not-so-good is the artificial intelligence of the interactive characters of the game, especially the bad guys. On one hand, you have to be careful around everybody. If you run up to a civilian, you will cause them to flee away from you, and in some cases they will alert the authorities or enemies you are trying to avoid about your presence. The best method is to walk through all areas of the game where you will be interacting with people. Even walking can get your cover blown. If you walk past a guard, even if you are disguised, he will look at you and utter, “Hmmm….,” like he suspects you shouldn’t be there, but he’s not really sure. If the guards are on high alert, you may well start getting shot at even with a disguise. And if you set off any alarm, there’s gonna be group of angry gun-toters after you. They just don’t run into your gunfire either. They will take evasive action and hide to avoid letting you kill them easily. The AI can be tough. But it also doesn’t make sense sometimes. There could be two guards together. If you happen to shoot one with a silenced weapon, the other one won’t react, even though a dead body just dropped near his feet. He will continue on his way, and many times you can walk right past them. H2 has an uneven mix of AI, but overall presents a good challenge.

Despite some schizophrenic controls that can be annoying at times and which will definitely take some getting used to early on in the game, Hitman 2 is very good, one of the better Xbox titles I’ve played this year. This game has it all: a solid story, good graphics, sound, level designs, and the ability to choose different paths to complete your mission. If you like your action heroes flawed and bad to the bone, then target Hitman 2 on your gaming hit list. It’s a worthy addition to your Xbox library.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(November 24, 2002)

 

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