Review by Smirnoff

Reviewed: 12/07/02 | Updated: 12/07/02

A stealthy killer that's thankfully not just MGS2 rewarmed

Now this is a game with style. Codename 47 is an assassin, not just another butcher with a dustbin-sized holster of rocket launchers. Here, you need brains and cunning more than you need a gun. You can kill people with a cheese wire and your suit is particularly dapper today.

Hitman 2 is based around a series of missions, each with one or two targets, although it's all linked by a fairly detailed story. The game begins by explaining what happened to 47 after the first game - it was PC only, in case you were wondering - and why he's now a gardener in a Sicilian monastery. Fortunately, he doesn't stay that way for long since no one is waiting for a real-time gardening sim. But the grounds of this religio-house act as your base for the cause of the game. It's all planned much better than the first game - weapons you collect stay with you at your shack from mission to mission. You can also download maps, video footage of your targets and photos. It's not only possible but often desirable that you only rub out the intended victim, so this helps you plan ahead. Bloodbaths are to be avoided.

Once you get going, you might find yourself dead quite quickly. Or at least restarting pretty frequently, depending on how clubfooted you are around levels, as it does at least take quite a few shots to take your man down. Restarting a section is even more of a pain than it should be too, as it takes roughly six ice ages for things to get going again. There are even points where a loading bar measures out the loading of...another loading bar. This is annoying.
On the upside, it is possible to save mid-level now, as this was impossible in the original. And seeing the levels are quite huge, this is a god's gift indeed. Also, the game is very well designed once it's running, which at least reduces the necessity for reloading levels in the first place. Getting discovered doesn't end the level for example, but does make it harder (and messier). Even missing certain deadlines won't always spell the end. For some hits you must be in position before the protagonists leave, but usually there'll be a last-ditch option if you mess up. So it's rare that the game forces you to restart, but if you have any pride in your job, you'll frequently do so anyway. Make some sandwiches while it loads or something.
You'll put up with it though, because the game is just so entertaining. There's an amazing amount of ways to achieve your goal, and it's fun figuring them all out. You can kill anyone and steal their clothes, which can fool the guards - but it doesn't just let you run amok unchecked. Break into a run, start shooting or head into the wrong area for your appearance and you'll quickly find how remarkably itchy their trigger fingers are. You can choose from a multitude of routes and just avoid the guards rather than having to kill them and hide their bodies. You can use the sewers. You can snipe from a distant tower. You can use use car bombs. You can...

There are so many ways to get the job done that it's unlikely you'll get stuck, especially if you take advantage of all your info and resources. And, when it comes down to it, firepower will still rescue you from a lot of nasty situations. if you're anything like me, you'll want to come back and explore these detailed and often massive levels even after you've completed them, simply to take out the target in as clinical and professional a way as possible. Your ratings and statistics at the end of each mission only encourage such replay.

If you have any heart you'll use non-lethal means to take down civilians, as 47 is just too icy to be slicing through everything like a redneck lumberjack with rabies. The people here behave remarkably authentically, so you'll find delivery boys actually making deliveries and kitchen staff washing up, rather than random people standing senselessly behind each door waiting for you to stumble in. Try following them and they'll turn to see what you're doing. Some will even pause to take a piss or have a smoke, the shirkers, leaving themselves open to a surprise attack and will scream and run should you give yourself away first. They won't forget about you.

You've no excuse for stumbling in anyway, as 47 can peek through keyholes and use the laptop to check on guards. There's no problem with longer distances either, as the game stays smooth and crisp whatever the size of the vista. In fact, bar a few minor graphical blemishes such as flickering on certain distant structures and the odd over-repeated texture, Hitman 2 looks fantastic. It might not have the rich lushness of MGS2 and the like, but it's solid and stylish all the way through. The movement of bodies is brilliant as well. Hitman 2's denizens behave with remarkable realism when they're alive, but it doesn't stop when they die. Powerful handguns transfer a lot of their velocity to the unfortunate on the other end. or their remains will scrape along the ground. Just check the realistic way the limbs slither and rebound off the environment. Look at that dead guy go.

All of this is boosted by impressive ambient sounds with top orchestral stirrings, beefy weapons and of course, that sharp black suit. Hitman 2 is the perfect antidote to the mindless shooter - the more you play, the more detail you notice. If you like brain as well as brawn, this is your pick. This is a game with real style.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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