Review: Hitman 2: Silen Assassin
Posted 25 Jul 2003 at 04:14 by James
Ah, killing people. When it comes to gaming, murder is one of the finer things in life (no pun intended). Whether it's an evil grin before unleashing a Swarm Bore on an unsuspecting Sleg warrior in Turok, or mercilessly murdering guard after guard from the shadows with a sniper rifle in Nightfire, we all love a bit of virtual murder when life gets frustrating. You know you do. Unfortunately, Nintendo (bless their little hearts) do not realise this, and while games like Zelda and Mario are all well and good, they often fail to deliver when it comes to mature games (with Metroid Prime being an admirable exception).
Therefore, it falls to third parties to deliver the goods, and many have not disappointed. The GameCube has about 10 FPS games, a war sim, a few vehicle-based shooters, a couple of stealth games, and several other games suitable for all you gun-toting psychos out there. But Hitman 2: Silent Assassin really comes into its own as being the only proper 'assassination sim' out there. The object of the game is to use cunning and intellect to assassinate a target and escape without being caught. But does it live up to expectations? How good is it? And most importantly – is it worth spending £40 on? Read on and find out.
The graphics are decent. In fact, they're pretty darn good, but there are a few graphical glitches (I've seen instances in which Hitman glides across the ground without moving his feet, for example) and a few others I could mention, but these glitches are not only minor, they are few and far between, and if you ignore occasional blips in quality such as these, the graphics are still very good. However, with both the glitches and occasional lack of detail, it is obvious that this was originally a PS2 game. Effects are very good however – lots of blood on walls and floors when, say, an unlucky Mafia don gets his skull ventilated from 500 feet away with a sniper rifle, or when you take out a room full of bad guys with a submachine gun. Overall, the graphics are very nice, no major complaints.
Suitably chilling music for the most part, very dynamic, and also keeps you on your toes. Nothing wrong with the soundtrack at all really – very nice indeed. The guns all sound authentic (not that I'd know much about using real ones), and the voices are satisfactory too, and in come cases quite amusing. For example, the first level takes place in and around an Italian villa, and when (and if) you start firing at the guards, I have heard them unmistakably swear in Italian (though what they say I shall not type here for the sake of our Italian friends, and those evil people who want to swear in public and get away with it). This makes the feel of the game more realistic, as were you really try and take a group of heavily armed Italians by surprise and start shooting at them, they'll swear at you too. Before killing you, of course.
If I had to describe Hitman 2's gameplay in one word (and believe me I can think of several) it would be 'freeform'. That is the best word to describe this game, as Hitman 2 gives you complete and utter freedom. There are multiple ways to kill a target and you can choose any one you like. Take the first level, for example. As I said before, it takes place at a Mafia don's villa, and you are immediately presented with a variety of ways to sneak in and assassinate the Mafia boss in question. Do you strangle the delivery boy, steal his uniform (yes, you can steal the clothing of virtually any individual, but you have to shoot/strangle/knock them out first), and put your guns in his grocery box? Use anaesthetics on the postman delivering flowers, and hope the guards don't catch on? Or murder the guard with the weak bladder taking a leak just by the side entrance? The choice is completely up to you, but the best way is, as the subtitle 'Silent Assassin' suggests, you should choose the option you deem the stealthiest. Of course, you could just charge in, shoot everyone, and complete your objective once everyone's killed.
But you won't get far in your adventure before realising that this is the wrong approach. In fact, if you use this approach, you probably won't get far at all. Yes, you can gun down everyone you meet, and depending on your objectives, still complete your mission. But if you do so, you are a) more likely to be killed and b) not going to get a high rating. You get ratings, see, at the end of each level, which are based on how sneakily you completed the mission. Gun down all your foes, and you'll most probably get a rubbish 'Mass Murderer' rating. But kill no-one bar your target, and you'll get a coveted 'Silent Assassin' rating, which in turn unlocks extra weapons. Of course, you don't have to get one, and if you're bored you can go through a level carelessly murdering guard and civilian alike, and you won't get penalised for it. But the real skill and joy of Hitman 2 is being good enough to earn a 'Silent Assassin' rating. Do that on a particularly difficult level and you'll be smiling for days.
There is a large variety of weaponry on Hitman 2, for all your assassinating needs. Loads of pistols, sniper rifles, rifles, and many more. But, yes, you find all of them in virtually any FPS nowadays. But do you find fibre wire, anaesthetic, and other equally stealthy equipment in most FPS games? Here's a clue: no. Hitman 2 allows you to strangle at will anyone you'd care to strangle, thanks to the fibre wire, which also gets past weapon searches, so you can take it anywhere, as your 'default weapon', if you like. Also, the anaesthetic allows you to knock out people at will (d'uh) and gives you a few minutes to nick their clothes etc and escape before said person wakes up in their underwear and wonders where their clothes are.
The last thing I'm going to touch upon in the 'Gameplay' section is the AI which is absolutely excellent. Guards react to civilian cries, and if they think that you're acting suspicious (a tall, evil looking bald man isn't exactly inconspicuous, even in a disguise) then they'll start firing at you. Which is why, when you don a disguise, you've got to act the part. Pretend to be a delivery boy, and hide your guns in your grocery box. Trying to pass off as a Russian soldier, then you are allowed to carry guns, but you must walk, not run, and try not to stare at other soldiers (though they do look funny in their woolly hats). Those last two points in particular are important in any situation. Run and guards will be suspicious of your actions and shoot you. Stare at guards, and they'll do the game, and maybe call their comrades for assistance. These are just a few examples of the AI's intelligence, which is better than a lot of other similar games I could mention (*cough* Red Faction 2).
The game is a joy to play, and you'll really work hard to earn the Silent Assassin rating, and be, as they say, 'well chuffed' when you get it. The controls take a bit of getting used to, but once you've picked them up they become second nature. Once you've got the hang of things, you'll pull off assassinations without too much trouble. Sneaking up on people, though not too difficult, can occasionally be annoying, as if you run or walk they'll notice you, so you have to sneak up on them. This is largely OK, but sneaking up on a moving target is tricky, because when 'sneaking' Hitman moves veeeeery sloooooooowly. In cases such as these, you have to wait until your target pauses before sneaking up on him/her.
A little tricky from the start, and the weapon-switching system is a bit strange, but this is largely satisfactory. As mentioned above, the controls soon become second nature and you won't even stop to think 'Now how exactly do I get out a weapon?' Which, admittedly on my first play on the first level, I did. Right in the middle of a firefight. Ouchie.
Ah, here we go. Hitman 2 is quite a long game, with 20 missions to earn a 'Silent Assassin' rating on, and 3 difficulties: Normal, Expert and Professional. But because the game gives you so much freedom and so many different ways to complete the levels, you'll want to play through them again and again. Not just because they're fun, but also because you'll experiment with other strategies and methods of eliminating your target. And that is arguably the best feature of Hitman 2. You'll get so much enjoyment out of finding these new methods of dispatching your targets quickly and quietly that this game will last you absolutely bloody ages.
This game is truly fantastic. The first level is no pushover, yet immensely entertaining and freeform, as is the entire game. This is a must have, unless the site of blood makes you squeamish. But this game is excellent, and an essential part of any GameCube owner's collection.
N-Europe Final Verdict
An exciting, engrossing experience and an enjoyable twist to the FPS genre. Get it in.
Great fun to play
Some graphical glitches