To say that Hitman 2 is an ambitious game is a massive understatement. The game puts you in the shoes of a retired Hitman codenamed 47 who's forced back into the job, when his priest buddy is kidnapped by a criminal organization. Using your connections from your former career it's your job to get him back, though you may need to do a few favors to get some valuable information and help. Along the way you have to carry out various 'hits', but what makes the game so interesting is that the game lets you decide how this is done, do you go for the stealthy approach? Or do you charge in both guns blazing?
I really did look forward to this game wondering what play style I would opt for, would I be sneaking around or would I be doing a Max Payne and gunning everyone down in my path. When I first played the game I was very surprised. I assumed the open ended approach to problem solving would be similar to the PC and PS2 hit Deus Ex, but I was very, very wrong. The game doesn't just give you a few ways of achieving you goals, there are many ways of doing so. Some of these will be obvious from the start, others are a bit more subtle. For example one level sees you having to assassinate a general and his Mafia connection as they meet in the park. You have several choices, do you sneak your way into the Cathedral and take out your targets with your sniper rifle, then battle your way to freedom, or do you move through the sewers, climb the radio tower and snipe from across the entire level. You could use car bombs on the cars and hide until the critical moment, or charge through tearing enemies to pieces with you twin ballers. One thing to note with the game is that 47 can't take as much damage as characters normally can in games, and also there isn't a health pick up in sight. This all adds to the realism of the game. The stealth element of the game is extremely well done. 47 can steal uniforms from his enemies once they have been killed. You can then walk around the level unhindered, but you must be careful, as enemies will notice odd behavior, such as running peering through key holes and carrying the wrong weaponry. Next to your health meter is a stealth meter, what this does is lets you know how wary your opponents are, When 47 gets very close to an enemy you will feel the dual shock vibrate, simulating 47's heart beat. This really adds to the tension in the game. Often you'll find yourself being forced to walk near to a soldier, and you'll have to drop your AK-47, in order to hit him with your silenced 9mm pistols.
Sometimes you'll have to give up your weaponry in order to go undetected. For example in the first level you can put your weaponry in grocery boxes, so that they will end up in the kitchen, once you have snuck in you can go on the rampage. An important point to note is that you will need to hide the bodies of your foe's, because if they are discovered the enemy will be on to you. 47 can use a wide selection of weapons, and to help keep the game realistic you can only carry one rifle at a time, also if you draw two pistols at once, you will automatically drop the rifle you are carrying. The range of weapons is well suited for the game, and on many levels you get to choose which weapons to take with you. The great thing with the game is that your not forced into what weapons you choose, and you can select weapons to suit your style. In between chapters you get to return to your home and practice with weaponry.
Patience is an absolute must for this game, as many things such as patrol patterns will need to be learned for you to exploit the situations. You'll find yourself failing the missions for all sorts of reasons, on your first few attempts. This does let the game down a little, you may spend a lot of time planning your hit from the pre-mission maps, video footage and intelligence, only to find that a spanner is thrown in the works that you could never have planned for. If you're not a patient person then you may not agree with this game. There is a phenomenal amount of replayability in the game, finding a new way to complete a level is a great experience, and getting silent assassin ratings will unlock new weapons.
The controls of the game work well. Most actions are done using a context sensitive menu, so if you're stood near a door you will normally be given the options, look through keyhole and open door. Holding down x and using the d-pad will allow you to select the option you want. This works similarly with weapons. This is one of the very few faults with the game, and it is a minor one. Let's say you're sneaking up on an enemy, fiber wire in hand, and he turns round, your going to need to draw your pistols and quick. As changing weapons is a little bit slow the alarm may be raised by the time your weapon is ready. This is only a very minor complaint though.
Graphically the game is very strong, the frame rate is healthy, textures fit well, characters are detailed, and animations are spot on with only one exception. This exception is when you pick a lock, if 47 isn't directly in front of the door, he will float across until he is level. There are also great examples though of when the animation is perfect. My favorite animation is when you are walking along carrying the AK47, as you walk along you change to the silenced pistol (this does take extremely nimble fingers to do) and dispatch an enemy in front of you. This animation has to be seen to be believed, it is perfectly executed, and looks phenomenally cool. A great addition to the game is the rag doll system. When you shoot an enemy he will fall in a heap, but this isn't your normal animation, each limb and the body will react independently of each other, so enemies can be slumped in all sorts of positions, and the bodies will remain on the floor until you complete the level. This brings me on to my next point, loading, once you start a level there is no further loading unless you fail the mission and have to retry, and this really helps immerse you in the experience. Little additions such as falling snow help pretty the game up, to prevent it from being bland.
Sounds for the game is generally well done, but the musical score really is good
This game has really raised the bar for stealth-em-ups, the AI nearly reaches perfection, and the game feels like it has everything, any of the above criticisms I have made of the game are minor annoyances and insignificant when compared to how much the game has achieved. Some people may bitch because it doesn't have a multiplayer option, but you have to remember this is a concept that would only work in single player, a multiplayer option would cheapen the experience, unless they could perfect a co-operative version of the missions.