Hitman 2: Silent Assassin is the second game in the franchise and helped to establish many of the core aesthetics of the series. Addressing the biggest complaints about the first one, Silent Assassin is a solid and worthy sucessor. Controls are more solid and responsive, with better aiming, and wider options for the player to tackle the missions; and everything is bigger and better. The main new feature is the creation of the famous rating system, were the highest rank is Silent Assassin.
The briefing is now narrated by Diana, creating one of the most recognizable features in the Hitman series, which you can hear while watching the mission video (the first one, in St. Petersburg Stakeout, is glitched though, as it cannot transition to the second part of the video). Locations are more alive, more populated with NPCs and with more indirect approaches. The map is now more useful, showing real time positions of NPCs and critical elements like elevators and ICA caches. Albeit still mostly linear, Hitman 2: SA tries its best to give the player different options of approach and has more signature kills, with the most famous being the killing of Hayamoto Jr. with a badly prepared Fugu fish.
The story is a "back in the game" type, starting shortly after the first game with 47 peacefully tending the garden of a church in Sicily until being forced back into the killing business, in an epic adventure that will take our hero to exhotic locations such as a Japanese fortress and a rebel underground base in Afghanistan. Japan is by far the most epic in its visuals, soundtrack, design and plot; but also the most broken. The soundtrack by Jesper Kyd is amazing, superbly well syncronized with the atmospheres presented in the game. Characters will speak their native language, with Russians speaking Russian and Japanese yelling "Yame! Yame!" and shooting you for no reason.
Hitman 2: SA is noticeably much harder than all other games in the series, with trigger happy guards and inconsistent AI; plus longer missions containing more complex objectives. The gameplay is more slow-paced, with 47 now walking most of the time as running will attract suspicion; that you can manage through a suspicion metter that is somewhat useful but not much, especially because guards will now see through your disguise if you get too close, run or get caught doing something you shouldn't. But the AI is really underdeveloped and guards will spot you when they shouldn't and the frustration in this game is really present, worsening the trial and error basis of the gameplay. "A waiter running harmlessly far away in the distance? Not on my watch!"
Another bad decision is the painfully slow stealth mode. You cannot simply walk near people, they are going to hear you, so you need to go into stealth mode but it is soooooooooo slow as to be nerve wrecking. Enemies can simply turn back for no reason and now you are dead.
Nowhere in the game is this AI problem more evident than in the utterly broken Japan missions. Not only the trucks in Mission 7 – The Hidden Valley are glitched, stopping for no reason and forcing the player to keep restarting until the game gets it together, the bloody ninjas always come for you to check your ID; an irrational design decision, given the game's concept of hiding in plain sight. And this happens at any distance, with the guards either following you or shooting you outright. Basically, the game throws away its own rules in Japan, making The Hidden Valley, easily, the worst mission in the entire Hitman series.
Graphics are a great step-up from the original game, with far better character models; starting with 47's suit, the snow suit used in Japan, with a white heavy smock and thick combat boots. Agent 47 also dresses as an Afghan.
NPCs and guards are really varied, from Russian soldiers to Sikh guards and Afghan guerrillas. The Japanese Yoyimbos can be said to be the coolest guards ever designed. Lei Ling is really hot in her short kimono, and she looks the best as she has ever looked in the series – albeit the heavily-accented voice is a step-down from the earlier game.
There are little nods to the first game, either by mention in the story or by means of easter eggs.
If you are a stealth fan, very stubborn and determined, and want to check the Hitman series before it became casual, this game is for you. This game is cinematic, with advanced narrative and an engaging story, but the main product is the gameplay. Despite it's flaws, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin can be easily considered the best of the first three games.
I wrote this review on Steam, give it a thumbs up there if you liked it.
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