The Nintendo Gamecube has worked up a bad reputation as being a system for the kids. Compared to the Xbox and Playstation 2, Gamecube has very little mature games that appeal to older gamers. Nintendo has tried several times to get third party developers to make mature games for the Gamecube, and has been relatively successful. However, most third party developers have been scared away because they don’t want to compete with Nintendo’s excellent first party games.
Eidos released Hitman 2 on all platforms, but it was released on the Gamecube a few months after the other systems. By releasing Hitman 2 on the Gamecube, Eidos has shown that it has faith in the system and that the Gamecube is very capable of having mature games. Unfortunately, Eidos’ faith has dropped and it has recently decided to stop making games for the Gamecube. Hitman 2 was the last Eidos game made for any Nintendo system, quite possibly showing a disturbing trend in how gamers and third party publishing companies feel about the Gamecube.
Firstly, if you aren’t up to a great challenge, don’t even bother reading the rest of this review. Hitman 2 is extremely challenging, but also extremely rewarding. The main reason why it is so hard is because of the open-endedness of the missions. Much like Grand Theft Auto, Hitman can carry out each mission in a different way. The open structure of the game isn’t very forgiving, because the slightest mistake will mess up the entire mission and failure is not an option. The only goal is to kill your target and get out alive. There are no waypoints, no helping NPCs, and no hints as to how to finish the mission. You must study the map very hard and make out a plan that you think will work. And always remember, if at first you don’t succeed, try again. Unfortunately, you will have to try again many times. And again. And again. Patience is extremely useful if you want to beat the whole game.
We’ll use the first mission as an example of how the game works. The only thing you are given is a map, the locations of people in the mission, and a few guns and tools. The rest is up to you. The mission is to take out a mafia Don in his Sicilian villa. He is heavily guarded and all the entrances are guarded as well. You can see two delivery men, one bringing flowers for the Don, and the other bringing groceries into the kitchen from the back.
A neat feature of the game is that you can knock out a person and take their clothes. You can sneak right past the guards if you’re dressed as the delivery man, or even take out a guard and sneak in as one of them. However once you get into the villa, depending on what you’re wearing, you’ll only have access to certain parts.
Delivery men aren’t allowed into the Don’s room or office, for example, so you’ll have to find a way around that obstacle. If you search around enough, you can find a sniper rifle and take out the Don from afar. Once the target has been eliminated, the guards are on high alert, so escaping without notice is the next challenge. You could try to take the keys to a car in the garage from one of the Don’s right hand men and escape in the car, or you could simply try to walk out the front door.
Being such an open ended game, there are many ways to complete a mission. The most rewarding but harder way is to sneak past all the guards and kill the target while only killing a maximum of one person other than the target and not being detected. The easiest but least rewarding way is to run in with guns blazing hoping that the target cannot escape before you reach him. Both ways usually work in the end, but the harder route gives you a bigger bonus and the feeling of a job well done.
The storyline takes place a few months after the first game ended. Hitman has hung up his signature dual Ballers and has given the money he made from the jobs to a Sicilian church to repent for his sins. For some reason or another, the priest that Hitman has been working for is suddenly abducted by some mafia men. To bring back the priest alive, Hitman asks his former employers for information about where the priest is being held. They give him the information if he promises to carry out a mission for them. The game must be played fully to get the entire story, because much of the story is revealed throughout the game.
Graphics are very well done, however the animations could have been better. Hitman’s animations are a little choppy when he runs and stops, and that can get a little distracting. The maps are huge and extremely detailed, with sewers and buildings and nooks and crannies all in place for you to do your deadly deed. The shadows are extremely well done and look crisp. The style of the graphics is nice, but a little bland at times. Each map has its own mood, depending on the location and the nature of the mission. The levels are very different and have different feels and moods, which really get you into the game.
The soundtrack is a nice classical mix with the music fitting the mood of the mission very well. The music intensifies with the in-game action, and adds a “dark elegance” to the assassinations that you must carry out. Mood plays a very important element in the game and the music pretty much makes the mood. The art style fits perfectly with the music to help the game feel like what it is. You are a hitman, and you carry out assassinations, and the mood of the game reflects that.
Controlling the game is just like any other third person shooter, except that this time around, you can control Hitman in the first person perspective. This view is mainly for those who prefer to run in shooting everything that moves a la Doom, so it’s more of a gimmick than anything.
Gameplay, however, has its ups and downs. First off, the A.I. is fairly good, although a little unbalanced at times. For example, I ran on the opposite side of a road (supposedly running makes you look suspicious and alerts the guards) in my Hitman suit and tie, and passed by undetected. I tried running in the same place but with a guard’s uniform on, and was shot at while all the guards were alerted. This is only a minor detail and doesn’t detract from gameplay too much, if anything. In combat, the A.I. performs spot on and is very fair and intelligent.
There isn’t really any replay value unless you want to get the best possible score on every level (which is no easy task) and unlock some very cool weapons. With each mission topping out at about two hours, and a lot of missions to play, the length is admirable. Unfortunately, if each mission is played Doom-style, then the length is shortened significantly.
To get the true value out of this game, the player must play each mission thoughtfully and strive for perfection. Although the learning curve is pretty steep, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin is a very deep game that is an excellent example of how open-ended games should be made. It is a shame that the Gamecube has gotten such a bad reputation, because it has handled the depth and complexity of Hitman with ease.