A train station- as expected, lots of people prowl about. With a flourish and a step, the bald men stepped out into the platform. Keeping his head bowed, as if in deference, he steps out and away into the world.
later, a guard falls backwards onto the snow, struggling against whatever holds him. Slowly, he fades away.
The guard later walks into the warehouse, and away into the snow. A pair of clothes is found, and the guard nowhere to be seen.
In yet another time and place, a man walks into a bar… and is gunned down by the security there. Wrong suit, or wrong man?
There is blood on a secluded ladder, and a bloody knife. Spent casing litter the scene in another locale, a mobster’s hands bloody from holding his bullet riddled chest.
A man lies in a pool of soup, puffy from eating the fugu fish next to him. The chef was later found frozen, delirious and amnesiac.
A man makes a step on a squeaky floor, and all hell breaks loose: bullets, blades and blood, everywhere all at once. The man never stood a chance.
Another man decides to jog, and he is gunned down by the army; justice was served…. Or was it?
The above are examples of what transpired on my playthrough of Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. It is quite an interesting game; in that it was trying to build on its Predecessor (Hitman: Codename 47) while still limited by the technology of the time.
Hitman 2 Silent Assassin was the sequel to Hitman Codename 47, and improved upon the previous game in many ways. It was a significant game in that it got a much wider release than its predecessor, and thus reached more people, especially on the Personal computer (PC). It is pertinent to note that at the time, this game was a product of the contemporary engine, which frankly weren’t very powerful. the team at IO Interactive had to get creative with this sequel.
The game possessed many new features, which we will lest below.
An awareness meter tied to new Disguise system was introduced as a new thing, that allowed the player an idea of how aware characters are to the player depending on the area status and type of clothing. For example, being in civilian clothes while going to a military cordon area would get 47 instantly killed.
A disguise system that could be broken by NPCs but BAD AI compounded the problem. In Hitman: Codename 47, disguises were an item that were in use and could never be compromised. However, in Hitman 2 SA, this could be broken. The problem is that the awareness meter would be a random chance dice roll that would just randomly compromise the disguise.
The AI was, effectively, sabotaging the system itself based on dice rolls. This effectively neutered the disguise system because of the randomness of it all. Many players even thought this was a bug at first. Bad Artificial Intelligence (AI) was therefore causing the following:
Knocked out people will rush to nearest guards and then the guards will find and kill agent 47, even if 47 is in a completely different disguise in the other side of the map. This happens every time, without fail. This breaks the game, basically.
More levels– 21 in all, but some were too small. this made the game actually feel like it had less than 21 levels. For example, the snow levels seem too expansive and coupled with the problems previously mentioned, became more shooting gallery than stealth map. The Afghan markets featured too many open areas and lacked the sense of completeness, due to the empty areas and confusing roads. Engine limitations meant most areas could not be populated either, so these areas were essentially wasted.
Better map- Non-Player Characters movement data and marked areas of interest:
- Disguises- multiple disguises were in the levels allowing for more approaches- and they could be broken too.
- Equipment- different equipment meant better tools of the trade.
- Opportunities were now varied, and multiple ways to finish a mission were viable.
Non-lethal option– chloroform does knock out targets but is temporary BUT the problem is that once the target is up, it informs the entire security on the level what Agent 47 is and at that point, they all have a divine epiphany and hunt him down from the other side of the map. This is simply very bad in so many levels, where a whole mission will just go awry because of a single revived waiter or soldier. A sniper can hit agent 47 from across the map because someone at another corner of the map informed everyone of agent 47. The disguises, at this point, just become useless. The game turns into a shooting gallery at this point. The problem is that since each mission is rated from “Mass murderer” to “Silent Assassin”, unnecessary fights just botch the whole process up.
Interesting mission design with varied objectives– it is so detailed it is in fact intimidating. For example, one would need to study the map in order to strategize; The introduction would be A new voiced partner in the form of Diana, the handler of Agent 47 from the International Contracts Agency. Also, her voice was stern and kept track of how Agent 47 did on the mission. This gave a real sense of worldbuilding to the game, where the player feels immersed.
A system of saves– thought limited in number to enhance tactical thinking. This was new and important, as in the previous game, there were no save or check points.
A larger plot line that expands the origins and character of Agent 47- both as a person and a legend- explored the way Agent 47 impacted the world around them, meeting both friendly and unfriendly faces.
No hide body boxes & Very slow sneak: huge tension markers in the new game. To hide bodies meant simply stuffing them in a corner and hoping that no one comes across them. This meant there was quite a difficulty in getting to keep your cover being blown, especially given that some knocked out non player characters (NPCs) keep come awake and ruin everything. Dead bodies would just alert everyone. Sneaking itself was very slow, matching a more realistic style. This also added tension as normal, walking NPCs could walk in on the player and all hell would break loose.
No walking allowed– it was positively deadly to run anywhere! The problem was that the system made running sort of illegal, any person running in disguise was grounds for straight up murder, no questions asked. This slowed the game down significantly, and forced the player to adapt a more patient approach.
Lockpicking was slow, tedious and dangerous; the act of lockpicking was a gamble on timing and precise planning. If the timing is off, the whole mission would go awry in a bad way.
Custom load screens– just not a thing anymore, more generic these days. Hitman 2 SA introduced wicked cool custom screens during load times, such as a bloody scalpel or agent 47 perched up high with his trusty sniper rifle.
Different music that defined later music modus operandi- focus classical style with emphasis on heavy strings and booming chants. This changed the landscape of Hitman, as this became the signature style that heralded the arrival of Agent 47 and provided the score to his many deadly adventures.
All in all, we see that Hitman 2 Silent Assassin provided many new features over its predecessor. These features would later be refined and tweaked to the penultimate experience that is found in Hitman 2016 and its sequel Hitman 2 (2018).
Hitman 2 Silent Assassin improved on its predecessor in many ways, and laid the groundwork for the style choices to come. Rarely has a game managed to both improve its predecessor yet still manage to fall short of expectations. Many fans and reviewers would agree the AI was frankly broken, and needed fixing. The bad design of levels, the lack of gunplay refinements, lacklustre stealth, and oversized maps only meant the way to go was up.
Since then, IO Interactive have improved their games significantly, even if they did suffer some problems along the way for each new entry. To their credit, it is a testament to their vision that they took the very basic formula of Hitman 2 Silent Assassin and built it into a behemoth.
They have refined every aspect of the game, such as better stealth, disguises, awareness meter, weapon and object usage (e.g. throwable coins for the purpose of distraction), introduction of hide-body boxes, refined combat, and a major emphasis on well-designed large maps full of things to do. For example, in the Showstopper map, there are several ways to dispatch the targets by accidents, now called “Opportunities”, and multiple vantage points from which to shoot or cause accidents. A new scoring system with unlocks and various starting points has also been introduced. The number of AI NPCs on the maps is frankly staggering. In the newer Hitman games, its quite amazing to keep the chaos in one corner of the world, and walk away to the exit with other NPCs none the wiser. A whole firefight can take place in a house, and potentially none of the NPCs outside would know what went down. Level design has improved so much that Agent 47 can complete his contracts in just his iconic suit alone, never once having to change it.
The above is not an exhaustive list at all, which shows the transformation of the series from simple stealth game to sandbox stealth experience with a lot of replay-ability.
New mission types can be made by players, challenges and escalations are now a new mode of play, and the new Elusive Targets are a brand-new feature which allows the player to flex their skills and precision to master the act of murder in style.
Hitman as a series has come a rather long way since 2002, and 18 years on, it is still going onwards.
The significance of Hitman 2 Silent Assassin is that it laid the groundwork for future improvements, and without it, the world may very well have a very different trajectory for the games. In particular, the engine limitations of the time forced the studio to be extremely creative in what they could or could not do. The game, for its time, did the best it could with its resources. Even the broken disguise and AI system would eventually mean a much better scrutiny on AI and the varied disguise system in future installments. It is now a game, in 2020, known for its extremely sophisticated sandbox experiences with tens of hours of enjoyment.