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Hitman 2: Silent Assassin

Score: 90%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: IO Interactive
Media: GCD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

If you can't pick up the concept behind Hitman 2: Silent Assassin by just reading the title, then stop reading now.

No, really -- just go play Mario Sunshine or something...

Okay, now that we've lost the dead weight, on with the show. Hitman 2: Silent Assassin is the follow-up to the Hitman: Agent 47, which was released a few years ago on the PC. Though the previous game looked great and delivered excellent concept, control issues and a high difficulty level kept it from being the killer app it could have been. With the sequel, IO Interactive has gone back and retooled the game, making it much more player friendly without sacrificing the elements that made the first title enjoyable.

Although they may pale in comparison to the visuals found in the Xbox and, to some extent, the PS2 versions, Hitman 2 is an excellent looking game. Each of the game's environments are beautifully rendered and finely detailed. I was especially impressed with the amount of life the developers were able to squeeze into each level, making them look almost realistic. Weapons and character models are just as good, if better. Surveillance is a big part of the game, and it's kind of neat to watch the game's characters go about their daily lives as you try to choose the best way to complete your mission. Though things may not be as grand in scale as the Grand Theft Auto series, the subtle things are what really make the game worth it. One of the more impressive aspects of Hitman 2's engine is the rag-doll physics engine that was employed. Whenever you kill someone, instead of going through a scripted 'death sequence' (you know, the over-the-top deaths all game characters seem to go through) they instead fall down in a more 'natural' fashion. However, since this is still a relatively new concept in gaming, it does lead to some more comical moments, such as when an enemy flip-flops on the ground like a recently caught fish. This beauty does come with a few downsides though. The game's framerate tends to chop up at times, which can become distracting when you're trying to carefully sneak up on someone or while you're trying to escape a botched mission. I also noticed a bit of 'shimmer' in some areas when looking in the distance, but this is really nothing to be concerned with since most games seem to have this problem. Hitman 2 features the ability to play in either first or third person views. While the third-person view allows you to better appreciate the game's gorgeous settings and slick animations, the first-person view does come in handy during firefights.

Hitman 2's impressive sights are complemented by equally impressive sounds. Without question, the real star of the audio package is the game's fully orchestrated score. Often times, people forget just how important a game's soundtrack can be, and Hitman 2 proves this point. The atmosphere the soundtrack gives the game is phenomenal and really gets you into the game. As you move through your mission, the accompanying music flows with the on-screen action -- tensing up when situations get become tight, and then slowly fading away after your knock off your target. I want this soundtrack! Accompanying the impressive soundtrack is some excellent voiceover work, which not only helps set the game's mood but also adds to the atmosphere by having characters speak in their native language. Realistic weapons sounds round out this department.


Gameplay:

Like it's predecessor, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin chronicles the adventures of enigmatic hitman, 47. Encompassing 20 missions, set in exotic locales such as Japan, India, Russia and Malaysia you'll employ all manners of disguises to infiltrate heavily fortified compounds in order to eliminate targets.

The game opens with our protagonist retiring from the life of a hitman to enjoy the calmer, simpler life as a gardener at a Sicilian church (how one goes from killing people in cold blood to making sure his roses aren't bruised is a entirely different story). 47's retirement plans soon come to an end when one of the priests at the church is kidnapped. After contacting his former employer in order to find out about the disappearance, 47 is forced to once again enter the life of a professional hitman. The purpose behind the game is simple: get in, pop a cap in someone and get out. How you do this is completely up to you. If you decide to charge head-first into the action like a Hollywood action star, go for it. If you'd rather slip in and out quickly, that option is open to you as well. It's all about choice and discovery. However you decide to accomplish your goals, always keep in mind that for every action there will be a reaction, which makes a Rambo-style commando raid not seem as appealing since the target will try to escape if he knows you're coming for him.

During you mission you will have access to all of 47's tools of the trade, ranging from piano-wire to chloroform to his dual pistols. You will also have the added benefits of finding weapons during your mission to help spice up the deal, such as katanas, axes and golf clubs. You can also get your mitts on an extensive cache of firepower, including shotguns, machine guns, assault rifles and the always popular sniper rifle. As you collect new weapons during missions, they will be added to your arsenal and available for use in other missions. The trick is that you can't carry everything at once and must carefully select which weapons fit the situation you're going into. Walking around with a sniper rifle strapped to your back isn't the best way to quietly infiltrate a well-guarded base. As with the last game, infiltration is one of the more important aspects of the game. As you knockout (or kill) enemies, you can steal their clothing and use it as a disguise (provided you're smart enough to hide the bodies so the guards aren't alerted). Sneaking into a base isn't as simple as changing clothes; you'll also have to act like the person you're trying to portray. So if you steal a delivery person's uniform, you better have a package and know who it's for, otherwise you may end up dead before you set foot into the door.


Difficulty:

As previously mentioned, the torturous difficulty level found in Hitman: Agent 47 was a major turn off. As a result, IO Interactive has gone back and decreased the game's learning curve, while not taking the challenge from the game. The most significant addition to the game is the inclusion of mid-game saves. Depending on the difficulty level you're playing on (Normal, Expert and Professional), you'll have a set number of saves during each mission. This ends the frustration of having to start over from the beginning, without cheapening the game by allowing you to save every three steps. The game's open-ended mission structure also lessens the game's difficulty since you can adapt your tactics around your current situation. Changing difficulty settings will obviously make things more challenging. Not only will enemies have a little more fight in them, but helpful elements like auto-aiming and a real-time map (similar to the one found in Metal Gear Solid) are also removed.

Game Mechanics:

All of the control problems that plagued the original have been overhauled and fixed. Even when taking my well-documented dislike of the GC controller into consideration, I found Hitman 2: Silent Assassin very easy to pick up and play. This is not to say the trip was uneventful, but most of the problems I encountered were more of an issue with the Nintendo's shortsightedness (i.e. limited number of buttons on the controller) rather than a fault of the developers. You make do with what you have to work with. Hitman 2 does an excellent job of explaining the ins-and-outs of the game to beginners while not bogging down veterans with needless details. Since this was my second time playing through the game (I previously played the Xbox version as well as a short demo on the PS2), I was rather surprised that I was able to discover tricks and tactics I hadn't realized existed in the game. Although the game may seem a little overwhelming at first, the overall feel of the game is almost natural -- especially to anyone who's ever played a third- or first- person shooter. Aside from typical movements like walking and shooting, 47 can also sneak, crawl, crouch and run during missions. Though it may seem rather mundane to mention these actions, they play a really big part in the game. Running up to a guard post, even if you're in disguise, is a sure fire way to arouse suspicion. One of the challenges in Hitman 2 is knowing what to do since how you do something is just as important as what you're doing.

Though I am usually rather harsh on ports, especially ports that come out months after the original and offer nothing beyond the original package, I found very little wrong with Hitman 2's translation to the GameCube. If you have played the original on any system, there's really not reason to give Hitman 2 a glance. You've already seen everything the game has to offer. For those who haven't stepped into the shoes of 47 and are craving something that's a little different from the usual kid-friendly fare found on the Cube (something this game certainly is not), Hitman 2: Silent Assassin is a great place to look.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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