Review by Fuma

"Tap into your inner psychopath. Or don't. It's entirely up to you."

Setting/Concept:
You play as, well, a hitman. In exchange for information to help you find someone close to you, you’ve agreed to perform various hits for your old employer. These missions will take you to many international locations. And that’s about all I can go into without massive spoilers.

Graphics:
The graphics are very nice. Easily some of the best I’ve seen. Things are pretty clear even at long distances (assuming it’s daylight out) and there is no popup whatsoever, basically. Lighting effects are also very well done.

Character design:
Each area has one or two different types of enemies to fight, so there isn’t a lot of variety there. Most everyone has a pretty similar body type, presumably so your character can steal their clothes without it being just plain silly for him to do so. The models look nice enough, there just isn’t a tone of originality. Important characters do have their own design, at least. I guess you can’t really complain, as it makes sense for the thugs/military men/etc. to be wearing uniforms.

Control:
The controls are pretty straightforward, and the starting area of the game has a nice little tutorial that will pretty much tell you what you need to know. The only thing I’ve ever really had trouble with is turning. Sometimes if you want to turn around quickly during a fight, you may as well give it up. Of course, you’d have some cover under optimal situations, but occasionally things get hinky. Your inventory is nice, because it brings up a little menu. So even though you will have to take a moment or two to switch weapons in the interest of realism, you won’t lose time trying to find the right weapon and you won’t have to memorize a lot of hotkeys.

Gameplay:
This game is hot. Before starting a mission, you receive a briefing, and the option to customize the equipment you’ll take with you. Sometimes you’ll do multiple missions in the same location, and thus will not be able to reselect equipment each time. However, this isn’t a big problem, since there are only a few staple items that you usually need. For the stealthy among you, there are binoculars, sniper rifles, a few silenced guns, fiber wire (for throat slitting, in case you were wondering), and anesthetic. For everyone else, there are shotguns, machineguns, your massively powerful signature dual handguns (the Ballers), and a few violent melee weapons (golf club, combat knife, katana). From the start of the first mission, you’ll only be able to use a few. However, you can replay missions once you obtain new weapons, if you so desire. On the subject of new weapons, there are two ways to obtain them. When you complete a mission, any new weapon in your inventory is added to your stash. On that note, you may have to replay the same level a couple of times to get all the weapons, since you can only carry one rifle type weapon at a time, due to their size. You are also awarded new weapons as you attain the rating of Silent Assassin on more and more levels. Now on to the missions themselves.

In most missions, you’ll either have to eliminate a target, find an item, or just make it through an area in order to get to some more important place. There’s a ton of variety when you factor in the unique elements of each level. Admittedly, if you always go in guns blazing (which is an option on Normal and Hard, but not quite as viable on Expert) all the time, things will start to feel pretty similar. However, if you take the time to learn character patrol areas, what items are where, etc, and do things with some stealth, each mission will prove to be unique. There are often numerous stealth options in the same mission. In the very first mission, at the very beginning, you can either disguise yourself as the mailman and sneak in the front door, disguise yourself as the grocery boy and sneak in the back, or kill a urinating guard and go in the side. As a somewhat disturbing side note, if you use the rotating camera angle to look at a urinating guard, you can clearly make out an “extra” finger. An actual finger, with a fingernail and all. I guess the developers didn’t think anyone would really care - or look, for that matter. In any event, there are generally a number of ways to get in, a number of ways to do the job, and a number of ways to get out.

You can not play this game without loving the physics of it. If you play, you really must try crouching down, sneaking up behind someone, going to first person mode, aiming upwards, and shooting them with the Ballers over and over. They will juggle so, so very high. Also, when using any powerful weapon, expect a lot of flailing, a lot of flying, and a lot of flipping.

Sound:
The sound effects are good, but nothing spectacular. Similarly, the music is appropriate, but not super great. The voiceovers, however, really shine in this game. Random guards will yell when they see you (in their native language, even), and the mission briefings always include a good deal of spoken word. As with most games, the voices can be a little cliché at times (wow, I sound gruff!), but they’re not bad.

Replay value:
This game has a massive amount of replay value. You can spend a ton of time collecting every weapon, trying for Silent Assassin rating on all missions, or even just trying different routes. If you intend to play the game without a guide, you’ll likely invest quite a lot of time in trying to figure out what to do and when to do it.

Overall
Setting/Concept: 8 - Surprisingly original, considering.
Graphics: 8 - Easily above average.
Character Design: 7 - Subdued, but appropriate.
Control: 9 - Easy to use.
Gamplay: 10 - This game is hot.
Sound: 9 - Above average voice work.
Replay value: 9 - Even once you have found everything, it’s still fun to pick up once in a while.

Summary
If you like those stealthy type games at all, there’s really no good reason why you don’t own this.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 06/19/03, Updated 06/19/03


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