Review by Soliduous

"Rag....Doll....Physics..... Kudos, Eidos. This game is WAY underrated."

Hitman 2 is one of the best games I have EVER played. Certainly the greatest Stealth Action game available. I decided to update this review and give H2 a 10 because I decided that its only weakness (Storyline) didn't take away from its other perfections. Specifically, no other game has earned a 10 from me in Gameplay.

PRESENTATION - 7

GRAPHICS - 6
Quite good. Objects are well-modeled, and everything shows up well. Agent 47's head has lots of polygons, which is good, because you're going to be looking at the back of it most of the time. Colors are muted, but each country kinda has its own look. Animations are good.
All the levels from Russia, for example, have a different design and feel from the Japan levels. Stages are believeable worlds, with vases and lights you can shoot out. Like in Splinter Cell, this will hide you, but the technique is useless because your score suffers from wasting bullets. Levels are big. Big and open. More on that, later.
Bloodsplatters are good; almost as good as those of Max Payne. Like MP, the circular spray of blood emerges from the point of impact and sticks to the nearest wall.
Other than that, there are no environmental or particle effects worth noting. Non-interfering clipping occurs sometimes. While collision detection is good, often during choking animations, it Agent 47's body is off by a couple inches from his victim. 47 also fails to connect when dragging a corpse; it looks like his hand and the corpse's are connected by an invisible rubber band. Something to fix in the (hopefully) sequels.

I can't comment on framerate, because I ran Hitman 2 on a low-end pc, and framerate for me was in the toilet. However, it was still an enjoyable game dispite this because:
a) it's a stealth game, running slowly is fine until I get discovered by the enemy
b) Rag Doll Physics compesates for ANYTHING! What is rag doll physics, you ask? Well...

Although Hitman 2 is a stealth game, if you ARE discovered, you may have to shoot your way out. When this happens, you get to see the most gorgeous effect ever seen in any video game: the aforementioned Rag Doll Physics.
There are no pre-programmed death animations. Instead, Hitman 2’s engine calculates the corpses’ trajectory and flailing limbs based on where and how you shot them. A silenced 9 mm to the head will drop the baddie into a tangle of arms and legs. Agent 47's signature dual ''Silverballer'' magnums will send them flying. Every death is different. Also, Agent 47 and enemies will often react temporarily to shots even before they die, doing things like sinking to one knee before returning to normal.
Ironically, one of the most beautiful effects ever is only found in a videogame where you try to AVOID killing. This is a satisfying consolation prize if your stealth failed, since you get to kill the idiot who discovered you. The joy of watching enemies realistically flip over railings or fly back, hit a wall, and slump to the ground makes me start shooting almost on instinct.
It's notable that Rag Doll Physics may soon be coming to a shooter near you. The abysmal Minority Report features a less-well-programmed version, and the upcoming Mace Griffon: Bounty Hunter advertises its Rag Doll IK System. Neither of these games are Eidos property, which means that one day we'll never have to deal with canned, repetative death animations again.
That said, Hitman 2's Rag Doll Physics engine works near-flawlessly. It fails slightly when a victim's head will sometimes vibrate strangely for a second before coming to rest. Worse, when you drag a body by any of its 4 limbs, the elbow or knee joint is RIDICULOUSLY loose and floppy. Still, the effect must be seen to be appreciated.

AUDIO - 6
All the guns sound good, and the only reason Audio got bumped down to almost average was the sub-par voice acting a day and age where videogame cinemas are becoming more and more professional. The protagonist is especially trite at times.

The score gets bumped up even more, however, by all the foreign language included in the game. The Italian mafia will yell at you in Italian (subtitles provided for us Americans), for example. There's Russian, German, Japanese, etc. Kudos, Eidos.

Finally, Hitman 2 has a moving, powerful score provided by the Budapest Symphony orchestra. It's perfect for this kind of stealth game. Oddly, all the tv commercials featured Andrew W. K.'s excellent song, ''Ready to Die,'' which appears nowhere in the game.

STORY - 5
I strongly disliked the in-game cutscenes, and WOULD have rated this a 2 or 3. The story starts out ok: The genetically engineered Agent 47, the world's greatest contract killer, has taken refuge in a monestary to atone for his sins in Hitman 1. He is forced out of retirement by his priest friend's mysterious kidnapping. From then on the ''story'' devolves into a mess that is both unoriginal AND very hard to follow. But hey, this isn't why you wanna play the game, right? If you WANTED a boring game interspersed with gorgeous cinematics, get an RPG.

The only reason Story didn't get a 2 is because of the way each mission is introduced. As your Agency contact voices the details of the mission, you can take a gander at random information ''gathered'' about the target. These include be spy video or satelite video or grainy photographs, etc. Little touches like drops of blood on one of the photos really help you feel like a true contract killer. Silent Assassin is almost a sim.

CONTROLS - 9

Control is beautifully simplistic (and customizable), although I needed to raise the in-game mouse sensitivity. The default configuration is virtually identical to that of Max Payne, minus the Bullettime.

R reloads, G throws away your current weapon (to avoid detection), Cntrl crouches, Spacebar toggles Sneak walking, Shift lets you run. E button brings up a context-sensitive quickmenu that will cover everything from collecting ammo to looking through keyholes to taking a downed person’s clothes.

Viewpoint is third-person, perfect for a stealth game. Hence the Max Payne reference. Z and C lean (for a better vantage point). You can't flatten against the wall like MGS2, but this can still give you a better look at the environment. Double-tapping them makes you...well...how do I explain this? You pop out to one side by throwing your weight onto that leg, although this move is pretty much useless, as well as hard to do, because the game's double-tapping recognition is iffy.

GAMEPLAY - 10
This is a Stealth game. You are a contract killer. The goal of each level is to get in, kill you target and get out. You are scored on stealth, so ideally, you need to kill only the target(s) and avoid alerting the guards.

That said, if (hah, when!) you are discovered, you can punish whoever saw you by killing him and all his friends, or if you get addicted to Rag Doll Physics. Levels aren't really designed for FPS-style killing, although you CAN complete most of the levels by killing and killing and killing. You just won't get a good rating. And you'll soon discover that stealth is far more fun and rewarding.

Unlike Metal Gear Solid 2, Hitman 2 is far more realistic in its approach to stealth combat, but not at the cost of fun. Agent 47 has no health pickups, and no instant-tranquilizer guns. You can only carry one rifle at a time. The map won't show you the guards' view cones (I turned the map off when playing MGS2). You do, however, get a suspicio-meter, which tells you how close the nearest guard(s) is to seeing through your disguise.

The major mechanic is the ability to chloroform (you could also garrot-wire-choke him for a permanent solution) another character, quickly don his clothes, and then drag the body into the bushes. Bodyguards will recognize you’re not one of them if you stand nearby for too long, but not if you’re dressed as the mailman. They are also attracted to noise, so equip that silencer, kids! Unfortunately, the AI is programmed to consider running suspicious, which makes the game slow sometimes. If the guards discover the body, they'll start looking for anybody suspicious wearing that person's clothes.

Thus, Enemy AI is relatively good when it comes to detection. Of course, they won't notice bloodstains or dropped weapons, but whatever. The AI, however, is too simplistic when it comes to gunplay. They just charge your last known location like lemmings until either you or they are dead, or until you escape and secure an alternate costume.

Furthermore, levels are BIG. There are generally 2 -5 paths to complete each of the 3 - 4 objectives. Buildings in Hitman 2 aren't designed with roadblocks that force you in one way and out the other; they have normal front and back and side doors and you can take any of them, or the sewers, OR the rooftops, OR snipe from a distance, etc. The biggest difference between taking one way or another is avoiding the patrolling guards. Guards don't spawn; they have set paths they'll only deviate from if they notice something.

What evolves is a dynamic, beautiful puzzle with a TON of replayability. Because you have access to an in-game map that tells you where important things, the target, and people are, you know which direction to take. It never feels like you're going in the wrong direction. It feels like there IS no wrong direction. Just so long as the target dies. Ah, ha. Ahahah. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA!!

In MGS2 and Splinter Cell, you had to sneak around enemies like ninjas. In Hitman 2, you walk right past them wearing their dead comrade's shirt and pants! The thrill of walking past someone paid to kill people like you, while they scratch their heads and JUST start to ID you before you go through the nearest door and they forget you, is indiscribable. That sentence was too long, huh? Yeah.

Length? Hitman 2 is HUGE! 21 big levels with a ton of replayability each. Furthermore, any weapon you escape with on one level can be used in subsequent situations. However, there are only 4 weapons you get as rewards for Silent Assassin ratings, so all you get for your 6th SA and onward is pride. Be warned, skip SA on level 7: the guards' AI is so buggy that it's not worth it.

This is a must-own game for ANYONE, even if you normally hate Stealth games. Why is it so underrated? Extended Play didn't even review it! I trust EP above everyone else, because their main concern is whether gameplay is fun, although they do tend to ignore that short games are too short.
IGN disliked the PS2 controls, and said the PC version was too short, but this is unfair. It's only too short if you shoot your way through every level, alerting everyone. You'll get 16 hours your first play-through, much, MUCH more if you want Silent Assassin ratings.
Gamespot gave it an 8.6, without ever complaining about anything or explaining why it didn't get a 10.
Ironically, virtually every established reviewer seems to think the story and voice acting is above average; NO, those are the worst parts of an otherwise perfect game.

Whatever. Play this.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/13/02, Updated 12/20/02


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