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Hitman 2: Silent Assassin
Score: 95%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Eidos Interactive
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Shooter

Graphics & Sound:
Albeit subtle, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin has actually got a vast amount of perfect sound. The excellent voice acting in the game is capitalized by the little things that make this a near-perfect game. Each step you take, each bullet you fire, each door you open... everything in the game makes just enough noise to bring you into the action, but doesn't distract from the feel of the game. But what I find most impressive is the almost unnoticeable ambient background music. It is present just enough to give you the feeling that you are playing a movie, and not a game.

The graphics of Hitman 2 are, unfortunately, a bit dark and dingy. Is this the effect that Eidos was going for? Possibly. But the fact is that you may need to turn up the brightness on some monitors in order to see where you're going. (Of course, to fully appreciate the game, you should probably just strap on your night vision goggles instead.) The player models and graphical textures may not be the best in the world, but the huge environments with multiple levels are equally as impressive as the music and sound fx. It's so great, in fact, that there isn't any loading time when switching levels (like when you pop into and out of the sewers). And you'll notice from the first time you pop in Silent Assassin that player models actually cast realistic shadows cast from lights within the environment. Even more, you can actually darken things up a bit by shooting out lights, which can be used to your advantage.

Without a doubt, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin is one of the best games released this year. Kudos to Eidos for finally creating a new franchise that doesn't involve a big-breasted English adventurer. In Hitman 2, you take control of an assassin-for-hire who uses his stealth as much as his firepower to take out select targets in each of the levels presented to you (hence the title). But this isn't just another shoot 'em up. Sure, you'll see your fair share of blood splattered on the walls. But using your cunning wit is as effective as busting into rooms, guns blazing.

What truly sets Silent Assassins apart from every other game on the market (including Metal Gear Solid 2) is the way you go about completing your missions. True, you will eventually have to complete each objective in order to move on to the next level. But you have free reign on how you approach each objective. Nearly every mission allows you to find your own style of play. It's this somewhat open-ended gameplay that makes Hitman 2: Silent Assassin one of the best games I've ever played. The developers paid close attention to details, too. After you kill an enemy, not only can you take his weapon and drag him off to an obscure area of the map (so that guards don't find him), but you can then steal his clothes and use them to your advantage. These factors alone contribute a great deal to the excellent open-ended style of play.

For example, if your objective is to take out two Generals in an embassy, you really could work your way through the entire building, shooting everything and everyone in sight. Or, you can try the sneaky approach and wait for guards to turn their back before crossing the hallway. But you also have a third choice. You could initially take out a person working in the kitchen, steal his clothes, and just walk right up to the Generals and quietly strangle them. And if you do get noticed, when the guards start looking for a bald service worker (namely you), grab some guards' clothing and simply waltz your way out of the embassy without incident. However you approach it, there are many different ways to accomplish the same missions.

Hitman 2 includes 3 difficulty levels, allowing for a vast variety of gameplay styles. With each difficulty upgrade, enemies will get smarter, more accurate, and less easy to spot on your maps (which are extremely helpful if used properly). What this means is that each time you up the ante, it is going to be more difficult to make your way through each level, unseen and unscathed. But maybe the most notable difference in difficulty levels is the amount of saves you are given. In Normal, you're given 7 saves per level. In Expert, you only get 2. But when you grow a sack and try your hand at Professional, it's one shot, and one shot only. Die, and restart the level. (Some levels allow for 'bonus' saves to be earned.)

Game Mechanics:
I don't think that a game's button layout could be any better than it is in Silent Assassin. Every button is used... every one. Even the L3 and R3 buttons (you know, when you push down on the analog sticks?) are used. Yet, even with what seems at the surface a layout of mass confusion, the game delivers a flawless formation of button-pressing goodness. After only a few minutes of playing, you'll really become one with the controller.

I'll tell you right now. If you only buy one game this year, buy Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (from what I hear). But if you do fork out the dough for two games, make Hitman 2: Silent Assassin your game of choice. It will bring you a style of play that allows for very open-ended gameplay, and you'll soon realize that it will be hard to put the controller down. Despite a very small amount of graphical clipping when bodies are on top of each other, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin is for all intents and purposes, a perfect game.

-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

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