After two years of silence Mr Charming himself has returned, the guy we also know as 47. Hitman 1 was one of 2000’s more memorable games; because it let us assassinate people with a whole lot more depth and realism than what similar games could offer. Never before did we have to plan an assassination as much, and because of that Hitman 1 was also a very difficult game at times. In the time that has passed we’ve seen many great third-person action games, so many have speculated whether or not Hitman 2 would be even mildly interesting. Personally I find it amusing that so many people judge a game before it’s finished, because after having played it for quite some time I can tell you that it is indeed an interesting game, which to me is more fun than a lot other new games.
Unreal Tournament 2003 is another new very good game, but after having played Hitman 2 it’s clear to me what I prefer. UT2003 is a visually excellent game, but with its gameplay there’s seldom a need to think. You only need to have good eye-hand coordination, and a slight sense of strategy. In Hitman 2 you not only get a much bigger weapon assortment than UT2003, you also get the satisfaction of completing a mission: a satisfaction far more enjoyable than winning a simple deathmatch. Obviously, a lot of people could disagree to what’s the most entertaining game, but Hitman 2 does it for me – and in this review I’ll tell you why.
The story of Hitman 2, while not being Pulitzer worthy, goes as following: after a life of extreme violence 47 ended his career and went to live in a monastery in Sicily. A large sum of his hard earned money was donated to the owners of it, so there he would live in perfect solitude – or so he thought! Some bad people kidnap the minister of the church, so in order to sort things out you dig up your gear and contact your former employer. You need money and they need a legendary hitman.
At first glance Hitman 2 isn’t an outrageous improvement over the first release, mainly because it uses the same 3d engine (the glacier engine), a very improved one though. However, almost every aspect has been improved in some way. With better hardware than we had back in 2000 the developers have been able to include higher resolution textures and tossing in a ton more polygons. The result is a long series of great looking levels. Architecturally Hitman 2 looks spectacular, so it’s obvious that a whole lot of work has been put into house modeling, and level design in general. The characters look more detailed this time, and with a nice rag-doll physics implementation they respond well to being shot etc.
Those who have played the first Hitman should know that the third-person view has been used. This time you can also toggle a first-person view, which in some cases can be useful, but to me Hitman IS a third-person game, and switching has so far not been needed for me.
Finally, the well-directed cut-scenes are also worth mentioning. They aren’t pre-rendered, but the glacier engine shows what it’s capable of, so after maybe an hour of sneaking around they’re work as a nice reward for finishing a mission, and starting another.
Thanks to some very talented musicians Hitman 2 sounds as great as it looks.
Jesper Kyd composed and produced the music, while the Budapest Symphony orchestra and choir performed it. The musical score consists of a good, very catchy theme tune along with more subtle music that fits the environment you’re in. So, if you’re in Asia on a mission then you’ll hear music easily recognizable as Asian, while the same goes for Russian missions. A longer musical score would of course have been better, but what they chose to include sounds great, and does that little extra to help get the adrenaline flowing.
This time around 47 finally got good a real voice too. It fits him nicely, and gives him a slight sense of personality. Most of the other characters that are important to the storyline also sound good, and a nice detail is that the villains you encounter talk in their natural language. The only problem is that they repeat their one or two sentences very frequently, so that reduces the realism somewhat. Also, it could’ve been interesting if the guards chatted a bit, and maybe if you could talk to people and ask them for information. That might make it more of an adventure game, which it certainly isn’t, but in real life I’m sure assassins talk to people.
Besides from door and car sounds most of the sound effects come from the weapons you use, but luckily they sound great. With such a huge assortment of weapons it’s nice to hear that so much work has been put into making them sound as real as they look.
The difficulty was probably Hitman 1’s biggest problem. A lot of people weren’t willing to retry a mission from the beginning a billion times, just because a guard turned around a millisecond too early, usually resulting in the mission going bad. This has been heavily improved, so not only does 47 at normal difficulty have a good load of health, but this time around you can also save during a mission. At normal difficulty you get a total of seven save slots from the beginning, but depending on what you do during a mission you may be awarded with more. To make it even easier, you’re now given a map that not only shows the outside and inside parts of a given mission, but it will also show guards, innocents, VIPs and every other kind of people, in real time. Like in Project IGI this kind of a map helps a lot, but if you’d like a harder challenge then you can always try a harder difficulty, where you won’t be able to see people on the map.
The big gameplay idea is still to assassinate people. They’re usually in heavily fortified buildings, so since you’re neither invisible nor invincible you’ll have to do some thinking about how you want to approach the situation. The awesome thing about the Hitman games is the open-endedness of the levels. Some might want to pull out the guns and shoot everything in sight, while smarter people try to focus on stealth. The optimal hit is when you sneak in unnoticed, assassinate the bad-guy, and get out unnoticed. Unfortunately, there are usually a lot of guards roaming the levels, so that’s when weapons are handy. There’s a grand total of thirty five weapons in the game, ranging from kitchen knives to huge rifles. With this many weapons there should be something for anyone’s taste, and then some!
The use of weapons leads me to another important gameplay element: noise. You can usually forget about getting inside a building making a lot of noise, so if don’t HAVE to shoot someone, then use a close-range weapon instead. By using a knife or the fiber cord you can remain silent, and this will often be rewarded when the mission is complete. You see, at the end of each mission you’re given statistics over stealth, aggression etc, and more importantly what “type” of assassin you are. At best you can be a Silent Assassin, which will also reward you with a new special gun. Also, to get inside a building you will need to act a specific way. Often you will need to kill someone from the “inside”, steal his clothes, and hope the guards will let you in. 47 can run, walk, sneak and crawl, but unless you’re in an empty room you shouldn’t run too much. The guards are constantly looking for suspicious characters, so if some weird bald guy is running to his right then he might suspect something. The artificial intelligence has certainly been made more realistic than earlier, but it’s still not perfect. Wearing a “good” uniform you can often pull a knife on someone and they won’t react. Secondly, the guards do not climb ladders or do more advanced things than moving around in the normal way. There is room for improvement, but it’s still very fun and at times very challenging.
As an assassin the missions are obviously about assassinating someone, but sometimes you also need to retrieve important items or even rescue people. The missions have reasonable depth, but what makes them fun is actually figuring out the less obvious details. Every mission have one or more “right” way of solving them, so the “AHA!” feeling when you found that small detail that solves everything, makes this game so much fun. The problem is that a fair portion of gamers might not actually want to use their brain when playing an action game. That is certainly their choice, but have patience to play a game that’s deeper than most of the current crop, then you might find a game you’ll like a lot.
There is no multiplayer included in this title, so I can’t give it a score, but it might’ve been an interesting feature. Sure, sneaking around is what this title is about, but with such a huge assortment of weapons it could’ve been fun regardless. I’m not saying they should’ve included capture-the-flag etc, but a simple deathmatch might’ve been interesting.
This is one of those games that you either like or dislike. People play games for their own reasons, and even though one person likes a game a lot doesn’t mean the next person will do the same. Some may be appalled by Hitman 2’s violence, but others might see beyond that and see a challenging game that lets forces you to think before you shoot, or stab for that matter. It looks and sounds great, is played easily, and offers so much challenge and replay-value that justifying the purchase is easily do-able.