Hitman 2: Silent Assassin
George Clooney may blame himself for the demise of the Batman movie franchise, but the truth is the rot set in a long time before ER-boy got his buttocks into the moulded rubber suit. The problem began when someone in Hollywoodland fell under the assumption that vacant pretty boy Vai Kilmer was capable of producing the tortured emotional range that characterised the Keaton-era crimefighter. No one does pent-up violent mental instability as well as Keaton and Kilmer manages the demanding role about as well as a boiled potato on a damp piece of string. So, with one fell Schumacher-led coup (that’s Joel, not Michael), a character rich in eminently challenging twisted psychosis is rendered as shallow as the most banal of Schwarzenegger action 'heroes’.
That sage of our times, Steve Hill, made a very insightful point in last month’s review of the otherwise-forgettable Beach Life - about most forms of contemporary malaise being acceptable to today’s game producers, with the exception of drug references. It goes a bit deeper than just drugs though. Other forms of storytelling media are free to explore the darkest recesses of modern society, taking chances with convention and tapping a rich vein of commercial and critical success as they go. Which storyline do you remember and value more, Batman or Batman Forever?
There is simply no reason why modern games cannot treat their subject matters with as much depth and maturity as the rest of the media and not still reap the rewards. Instead we get publishers afraid to take chances and we end up with games like Hitman 2: Silent Assassin.
Think Once, Think Twice
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Hitman 2 as a game, save for the fact that it’s as soulless a sequel as any number of summer blockbuster movies with numbers instead of titles. I still remember the thrill of playing the first Hitman, the breathless nerve with which developers IO Interactive threw traditional morals to the wind and forced you to explore an extrapolated, fanciful, but nevertheless gritty and realistic portrayal of life in an assassin’s shoes. OK, sci-fi elements abound, what with cloning, genetic engineering and whatnot, but it still remains the only game to date to make me question my motive for killing a hapless security guard, to make me pause and feel uneasy about my violent actions. A good thing.
There was a genuine sense of character development in the original story - something sorely lacking in this sequel. It doesn’t seem that way at first. You begin, as I’m sure you’ve read in the many previews published over the last few months, having turned your back on your past life, tending gardens in a Sicilian monastery, searching for repentance. We’re shown a shadowy pair reviewing your past exploits and trying to track you down, efforts that lead to your spiritual protector, Father Vittorio, being taken hostage. This is the trigger for you to return to your violent ways, attempting to secure his freedom. Indeed, the final sequence of the game does point towards a strong story of 47’s (that's you) inner search for self, for his true meaning, avoiding a conclusion filled with the expected cliche.
The problem is with just about everything in between these promising bookends. It should have been a potentially engrossing story, a psychological battle of wits as your new-found morals are probed and tested by this mysterious pair for their own ends, and as the character of 47 realises his true place in the world. This tale is unfortunately replaced by the most banal of modern techno-stolen nuclear warheads and government agencies trying to do right by the world.
Hitman 2 is almost devoid of the first game’s sense of real-world assassination motifs. Instead we have the sort of levels that could appear in any game from Project IGI to Rainbow Six. This is best illustrated by the game's adherence to openness, allowing you to complete most levels in any number of ways, including an all guns blazing shoot-out. It's hard to pull off (and there are bonus rewards to be had for being stealthy), but just the fact that you can complete any level by mowing down everything in your way is antipathetic to the very nature of 47's being. Again, it's a deceptive game in that the first three levels (starting with the one most of you will by now have played via the unofficially released Internet demo) don’t indicate this is the case at all. They suggest the glories of the first game have been kept intact, dubious morals and all. After that it rapidly goes downhill into the stereotyped dismantling of rogue terrorist groups, under the auspices of your so-called 'Agency' controller, Diana. Conceptually it's practically a carbon copy of Project IGI's relationship between David Jones and Anya, right down to the whole nuclear weapon hunt scenario. 47 has become little more than another Bond clone.
What’s most annoying about it all is that there is so obviously an exceptionally talented team of creative individuals at IO Interactive and this overall restriction of plot dynamics needn’t have been the case. The cut-scenes and dialogue throughout the game are of exceptional quality and not just from a technical standpoint. The opening and closing FMVs in particular contain some genuinely stunning writing regarding 47's relationship with his mentor priest. It’s maddening that this genius creativity wasn't allowed to guide the project design as a whole.
Bald In Japan
They would certainly have had the practical backup to support it. This revamped and retuned Hitman engine is nothing short of a marvel. Gone are all the stifling problems that affected the first game, replaced with breathtaking visuals, refined controls and perhaps the most authentic levels of Al seen in any game to date. That’s authentic as in the NPCs behave in realistic - ie flawed - ways, levels which vary from one person to another. The disguises are no longer absolute, with your barcoded, hairless head needing to be covered to ensure total anonymity.
An example would be one of the Japanese levels. You might kill a Yakuza guard (another cliche: all Japanese villains have to be either Yakuza or ninjas) and steal his pants and T-shirt, but the fact you don't a) look remotely Japanese or b) have a body covered in tattoos will be a dead giveaway. Run around a fire-alarmed office building in a full fireman’s uniform, complete with gas mask though, and no one will give you a second glance. Should said fireman be observed picking locks and peering through keyholes mind you, suspicions will be raised. A clever little touch, and again it's indicative of how much thought and talent 10 Interactive can be capable of if they let themselves try.
As I said near the beginning, there is nothing technically wrong with Hitman 2. It’s as solid a game as you’re likely to see for many a month. It’s just ironic that as the titular character’s signs of exploring the nature of his own soul are stifled, so the game stifles its own soul. The indication is that there will be a third in the series. If so, then I implore both 10 Interactive and Eidos to look towards the Godfather rather than the Batman model for how to approach a sequel. Take a risk. Treat us like adults.
Download Hitman 2: Silent Assassin
Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen?I don’t think so. The roads might be wide, and the standard of living high but have you seen how much the locals charge for a pint of beer? And have you trekked for miles down deserted industrial walkways in search of the mythical Little Mermaid just to find a 4ft high statue perched on a pebble in a murky river? Admittedly the moment was saved by the sight of a pack of tourists returning from said monument with faces like they’d just indulged in a spot of collective lemonsucking, but still...
Thankfully though, Copenhagen has one hidden treasure: IO Interactive, developer of the fantastic Hitman game. We loved it and a first-hand look at the soon-to-be-released sequel was well worth the short-haul flight.
The Frolich Manoeuvre
The original Hitman, Codename 47, was a peculiar beast. Succinctly amoral, the idea of the game was to kill a target by any means necessary, disposing of anyone else that gets in your way, innocent or otherwise. It led to a mass of forehead-slapping in development houses across the world ("now why didn’t we think of that") and although it delivered in certain areas (graphics, musical score and concept), it was somewhat sullied by over enthusiastic and injudicial use of cut-scenes, hampered by technology restraints and hamstrung by the lack of a save game option, which meant you had to keep playing the same bit of the game over and over again.
Talking with Thor Frolich, the self-styled Ninja Extraordinaire at IO, and watching the game in action it’s obvious that Silent Assassin is almost like the director’s cut of the first. Everything that was good about the original has been kept and improved upon (concept, visual style, stirring music - see boxout for more information - freedom of choice and lack of general moral overtone) and everything that was bad has been rectified. So, you won’t find any cutscenes in the middle of intense gun battles and you’ll be able to save you game during each mission.
Gracias Agimus Tibi
Graphically, the engine has been poked to provide almost five times the level of detail as Hitman 1, and that means you can expect to see up J 200-300 metres in your line of sight. Dramatic real-time lighting has also been introduced, which provides much greater immersion and a more 'real’ and natural feel to the graphics. I The game kicks off in a Sicilian monastery, where you are trying jo make some sense of your life by pending the gardens and chatting with : your spiritual mentor Father Vittorio, hankfully, he gets kidnapped and lefore you can say Ave Maria you have been sucked back into your previous profession.
Cue missions with locations as Bverse as St Petersburg, Japan, lalaysia and India, with a simple central theme running through each: kill your target and get the hell out. How you do this is up to you. As with the original the game isn’t supposed to be about running around with a rocket Buncher, but although stealth is the Meanest way through, guns-blazing is anoption if that’s all you know.
One of the levels we were shown ted this perfectly. You’re told to inate a general and given certain al clues. Unfortunately, as you ach your target you’re updated ith news that he’s in a meeting with other generals. More clues are given such as "he smokes", "he’s right-handed’’ and using these and other aids you have to make sure you take out the right one. As Thor Frolich explained: "this is obviously much I harder if you decide to break the door down and take the direct approach. You’ll only have a few seconds to react before the element of surprise is gone."
And, in deference to the hordes of FPS fans who got on IO’s back after the first game, there is a first-person perspective you can switch to, although the team is adamant that most of the game plays best in the third person, with the new perspective being good for pixel-perfect shooting and sniping.
Al is being tweaked as we speak, and although the code we played wasn’t advanced enough to illustrate the point, guards will supposedly check you out if you’re acting in a suspicious manner, and they’ll be far more adept at spotting a second-rate disguise. To help you keep your distance you can lie flat as well as crouch down, and if slaughtering innocent security guards made you feel a bit queasy in the first place you’ll be pleased to hear that you can use your weapons to pistol-whip others into a submissive state of unconsciousness, or you can use a range of non-lethal weaponry such as chloroform and stun guns.
Extreme and unprovoked violence is still the way we’ll play the game though. And after talking to IO the only criticism I’ve got is that the team has deliberately curbed some of its more extreme ideas in order to stop the game being banned in several hotspots across the world. It’s almost enough to make you want to take out a general contract on religious bigots and conservative moralists the world over. Maybe in Hitman 3...
Last year's ground-breaking stealth 'em up Hitman was and still is an excellent and onginal game, still widely played despite its age. Rough around the edges and a tad tedious in the jungle missions, many nonetheless claim it's better than Max Payne. Certainly it's a close run competition between the two.
Pretty much a case of more of the same, Hitman 2is set to re-acquaint us with the lonely life of the assassin, with a much updated 3D engine offering even better character animation and a choice between first and third-perspective modes. Thankfully, the non-linear mission structure of the original will be retained, though there will be a slight shift away from purely gun-based assassination. As well as putting holes in your targets, you'll be able to poison them, electrocute them, perhaps even trip them up on a bar of soap, make them rattle down the street on a roller skate, where they'll end up plunging through panes of glass, giant cream cakes and finally into the suffocating bosom of a matronly lady in her middle years.
Rewarding players for well executed kills, the game will offer plenty of new weapons - even virtual play areas for you to test out your new kit between each level. We wouldn't be surprised either, if developer 10 has a stab at incorporating some sort of Bullet-Time mode, a la Max Payne.
It did, after all, have slow motion in the original Hitman well before Remedy came out with it.
Curiously there are no plans to include any multiplayer modes, but then considering the prospect of having 16 would-be assassins camping behind flowerpots and inside cupboards, it wouldn't be very interesting anyway.
I can see how Hitman's smartly dressed assassin-for-hire grabbed our review crew alumni when he put a hit on the PS2 last fall. This hairless antihero's contract kills are ingenious. Need to knock off a Yakuza kingpin but can't find him? Poison his son's sushi and trace the corpse back to papa-san. If arsenic isn't your bag, you can just put a bullet in his back. The way you complete each mission is limited only by your sick creativity. Unfortunately, getting close enough to deliver your sordid calling card can be more frustrating than fun. Your mission briefings are so obscure that vexing trial and error is unavoidable. Half the time, I had no idea what I was supposed to do. Flaky A.I. makes maintaining secrecy a total chore, and seemingly innocuous actions often brought the whole town of Hindustan down on my bald head. But each time I circumvented the immeasurable odds and made the crucial killing blow, Hitman 2was briefly a blast.
While Hitman may not receive Metal Gear or Splinter Cell's hype, it certainly approaches their level of stealth-action greatness. Once you adapt to the slightly weird controls and learn to deal with the unpredictable enemy A.I., you'll find a good-looking game that does an excellent job of putting you in a hitman's shoes. Shawn is right about the difficulty, but I enjoyed the challenge--the open-ended, try-anything nature sucked me in. It's good to see the Cube get a tough and satisfying experience like this.
Hitman 2's biggest lure: the ability to incapacitate nearly any male character and steal his clothing. This fabulous feature allows you to impersonate flower deliverymen, waiters, soldiers, etc., in order to reach your end goal undetected. It's a play mechanic that forces you to think inventively, and it helps to keep you from concentrating on the game's hiccups (like occasionally choppy visuals and awkward controls). Throw in a solid narrative and surprisingly good voice acting and you have an engaging adventure title that rewards patient players.
The snow drifts slowly down from the ash-white sky as you lean on the cold metal of the radio tower's rail. The men pace nervously across the frozen earth a thousand yards away, their heads only visible for a few seconds as they pass by a crumbled section of wall. You take a breath and time your aim with the rolling movements of your sniper's scope. Your shot is true, the Mafioso falls, and minutes later his companion, the general, climbs into the armored limo where you've planted a bomb. You silently walk from the devastation and prepare for your next mission.
Hitman 2 is the perfect game of cat and mouse, hunter and hunted, genetically modified assassin and the dead. In this sequel to Hitman: Codename 47, 47 is forced out of retirement by the kidnapping of a friend and priest. Although not heavy on plot, Hitman 2 makes up for it in every other way, from sublime graphics and sounds to its perfect use of the Xbox controller.
The game now allows players to go through levels in the fashion they choose. If you want, you can try to blast everything that moves and hope your target is in the kill zone. Or try drugging a delivery man, swapping clothes and silently garroting your victim from behind. This is what makes the game such a pleasure to play, it's as close as you can get to feeling like you have total control of what you do and how you do it.
The game includes quite a selection of weapons, from the two types of sniper rifles, to machine guns, to the garrote and kitchen knife'47 will never tire of new ways to kill. Other improvements to the game include a limited number of in-game missions saves, the ability to play in first or third person and my favorite, the ability to look through the keyholes of just about any door.
Bottom line, Hitman 2 is a must buy, must play, must try to force yourself off the 'box to get a wink of sleep because it's so damned addictive.
The more astute gamers out there may be wondering where the heck a console version of the original Hitman ended up. Were afraid it took a hit after the PC release. It had a novel premise (a no-nonsense bald mercenary with a barcode on the back of his neck, killing people) and undeniably entertaining gameplay (involving costume changes, stealth or all-out gunfire). It also had lots of problems, such as the lack of an in-game save, the clunky control that left some gamers wondering if the hero was wearing concrete boots, and doors that required an entire SWAT team to open properly. But as lo Interactive takes another shot at the hitman simulation and swears theyll fix these issues, were more than prepared to believe them, jet off around the world to a variety of exotic locations, meet interesting people. And kill them.
You are Agent 47, a genetically engineered assassin currently resting in a Sicilian monastery, suffering from pangs of guilt and wondering if offing organized-crime syndicate bosses is really his lifes calling. The answer of course, is yes, as gamers arent going to line up for a Franciscan Monk simulation. Agent 47 has little time to ponder his eternal damnation, as a horrendous act of treason forces him back into the business. First stop? A mansion bursting with black-suited goons, a fat mob boss and a variety of mission plans to ponder.
After an exhaustive playtest on both the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, were pleased to report that both games look amazing. Not Splinter Cell amazing, but pleasantly impressive, with crisp, clean (and large) environments. But its the novel game-play concept thats likely to entice you: At the start of each job, youre briefed, Mission: Impossible style, about just who needs shooting in the head. In addition, if some secret plans need snaffling, youll be shown what these look like. Then its on to the ordinance closet for a spot of gun polishing. Yes, you get to choose the weapons for the job, and you can carry five. So if you want to cover the walls of your preys mansion in a fabulous new color called hint of brain, pack the SPAS 12 Shotgun. If, however, long-range sniping is your bag, stuff a Dragunov SVD rifle into your overcoat. After youve packed enough heat to star in the movie Heat, its off for a bout of bad-guy culling.
Depending on how bloodthirsty youre feeling, actual missions vary a great deal. You could spot The Don taking golf swings from his mansion balcony and plug him in the eye with a sniper bullet.
You could trek through the mansion itself, where silenced machine guns provide a quick dispatch method without the facilitys entire goon population overwhelming you. Or how about tagging an innocent so you can steal his outfit for a disguise? Just be sure to hide the body; semi-naked corpses tend to make the Mafia a little suspicious. Then explore the mansion safely until you locate your target and do him in. The point is that the use of stealth and a little creativity is absolutely required to be successful in any of Hitmans levels. Although the control is initially cumbersome (every button on the joypad is utilized), and negotiating the in-game menu system is sometimes problematic (choosing to open a door or look through a keyhole while youre being shot in the backside kinda sucks), the grand scope of Hitman 2 looks to thrill and excite. Just how grand is the scope? The Bucharest Symphony Orchestra was hired for the soundtrack. Just how diverse are the assassination targets? This time they range from ex-KGB Mafia man Rinat Rumyantsev to Mujahedin madman Abdul Bismillah Malik. Make no mistake; Hitman 2 looks set to provide more gang banging for your buck than ever before.
Some people like to blast everything in sight. Others do it with more style. Hitman 2 is a shooter that emphasizes stealth and technique over mindless action (hey, you're a "silent assassin," not a space marine). For example, you'll have to figure out how to infiltrate a drug lord's heavily guarded estate, then take out Mr. Scarface without alerting every bodyguard within earshot.
Stealth rocks. Stealth sucks. I'm eternally divided between loving and hating stealth games. They can be insanely fun, giving you the ninja-esque feeling that most gamers love about them, or they can be intensely frustrating, leaving you to repeat large sections of the game over, and over, and over. Hitman 2 is a mix of both, but I think it manages to stand out where I think other games failed, and for good reason.
First off, in Hitman 2, you'll return to the role of 47, the legendary assassin, in the employ of The Agency. Drawn out of his seclusion when his world is threatened, and one of his friends is kidnapped, 47 is forced back into the life he's tried to forget. The life that requires him to kill. His mission, his search for redemption, will take him across the world, from Sicily to St. Petersburg, to Japan, and elsewhere.
Good graphics, and excellent motion capture provide a distinct realism to the cutscenes. In particular, the designers really knew how to handle shadow and light to create a good scene. Audio is similarly well done, although the voice acting can be just so-so at points. Weaponry and gameplay are the same as ever, controlled now through a first 3rd person perspective. However, it's the missions that really highlight the game's strength, and that's the very stealthy nature of 47's job. With each mission presenting various methods for solution, you may become frustrated at first, but if you're willing to learn from your mistakes, this game gives you a good shot at winning.
Hitman 2, like all stealth games, requires a lot of patience. However, presenting clear and well thought out ways for entry, deception, and escape gives it a boost over the norm making it significantly more enjoyable. If you can stomach the story, which is a bit weak at times, you'll probably like this one.
Even though the original game was only for PC, Eidos and developer 10 Interactive promise the sequel will be just what console gamers want. In May, you'll take the role of an amnesia-stricken hitman as you travel to exotic lands, meet interesting people, and kill them. This is a gory, globetrotting mystery. Be sure to pack a sweater and some heat.