Hitting the Sweet Spot
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He's a bald geezer with a barcode tattooed onto the back of his burly neck, but somehow he still manages to walk in the shadows and dispose of his targets with deadly efficiency. I am of course talking about Codename 47, who has returned to dish out some harsh justice in Hitman 2: The Silent Assassin. Step into the genetically engineered shoes of uber hitman 47 for some stealth and sinister underbelly of society type shenanigans.
When the game begins, 47 has hung up his silencer and retreated to the confines of a Sicilian monastery. But local mobsters have discovered his true identity and blackmail him into doing a few jobs for them. Mission briefs are given by a husky female voice and include video footage of clandestine meetings and crucial snapshots of your targets. You are given a pickup point for equipment and a map of the area.
The rest is up to you.
The name of the game is, don't draw attention to yourself and you'll be okay. This can prove difficult when you're a bald Goliath with a sniper rifle nestled in the crook of your arm. For instance, swap clothes with a postman, but leave the guns otherwise the guards frisk you and open fire. I guess postmen don't carry Desert Eagles, even in Sicily. Remember things like, guards don't run and waiters don't carry sniper rifles and you should be able to stroll about freely. Don a disguise and lap up the tension as you walk through a group of enemy guards who are all viewing you suspiciously. You're instinct is to run, but that will only blow your cover.
After the mission brief, you are left to your own devices and sometimes the myriad of possibilities can be overwhelming. Okay, "what if I try to snipe from the bell tower, instead of taking the guards out," or maybe "I can access the house via the sewers," are just some of the questions you'll be asking yourself.
This open-ended nature results in a lot of trial and error and restarting of levels until you happen upon a strategy that works. This means there is a lack of immediacy, coupled with the potential for high levels of frustration.
The menu system for accessing weapons, items and maps is unnecessarily complicated, which leaves you pulling out a kitchen knife instead of your AK at precisely the wrong moment. Hitman 2 is primarily about stealth, which means the silencer is king and the fibre wire for strangulation is tzar.
The fibre wire takes some mastering. I always managed to alert my victim when I pulled it out of my pocket. Then they'd run away, then they'd scream blue murder and I'd get shot to pieces. So far my missions have begun stealthily and somehow descended into a bloodbath, when I just shoot my way out of trouble and hurry to my getaway vehicle. Whatever gets the job done, I say.
Silent Assassin hits the spot when it comes to atmosphere, complete with office phones ringing and crackly Russian radio stations in the background. Whether it's a frosty night in Germany or the rainy season in Japan, the global settings are highly evocative with a dramatic score composed and performed by the Budapest Symphonic Orchestra for full cinematic effect. In every country the language changes accordingly, enhancing the whole international man of mystery feel, as you creep around India (rather conspicuously).
When it comes to weapons, 47's pretty much covered. His tool shed has a space for everything from a kitchen knife to an AK47. As the game unfolds various weapons and tools of destruction are made available to you including chloroform, night vision goggles, sniper rifles and remote cameras. Use them at your discretion.
The graphics are very solid and some lovely lighting effects add to the sense of tension and adventure. When a well-choreographed plan comes off, Hitman 2 is a thoroughly satisfying game, but there are moments when it's unforgiving nature has you reaching for the "off" button - but only after much swearing and pad hurling. The free reign turns out to be The Silent Assassin's Achilles heel, as well as part of its appeal, which is why it gets an overall 4 GiN gems.
On a final note, this game really goes out with a huge bang. It's probably got one of the coolest final missions of any game. I don't want to give anything away, but those of you who play a lot of games probably will figure it out way before the final bloody conflagration comes. As a hint, keep your tool shed sanctuary well stocked with weapons and ammo you pick up during your missions. You never know when you will have to make functional use of your wall decorations"
Chella is GiN's UK-based product tester. A self-confessed Cornish pasty addict, Chella is never happier than when she's slacking off to play a five-gem game. : firstname.lastname@example.org.