At E3, Eidos featured fully playable versions of Hitman 2 for the Xbox, PlayStation 2, and PC, and we spent some time with each of them. Though Denmark-based IO Interactive's Hitman 2: Silent Assassin was originally announced for the PC more than a year ago, the console versions were revealed relatively recently. Yet judging by what was being shown off at E3, all three of the versions are nearing completion--and all three are looking good.
The original Hitman game cast you as a bald-headed, genetically engineered assassin forced to rid the world of a number of villainous individuals, using any means necessary. It was more of a game about stealth than pure action--however, cumbersome controls, the inability to save midmission, and frustrating camera angles made Hitman a lot more difficult to play than it needed to be. The sequel addresses all of these technical issues yet retains the same sort of hard-boiled style, great level design, and impressive graphics as seen in the original. The result promises to make for a better sequel on the PC and a solid first offering on the Xbox and PS2.
Our expectations for the PC version were quite high, based on what we already knew about Hitman 2. By that token, we figured that the Xbox version would also look quite good, considering that other PC-to-Xbox ports of games, like Max Payne, have fared well. However, we weren't sure what to expect from the PS2 version--historically, shooters originally designed for the PC have had some decidedly mixed results when ported to the PS2. So we were surprised to see the PS2 version looking just about as good as the other two. All three versions ran at a nice, smooth frame rate and featured impressively detailed characters, environments, and animations. Though the PC and Xbox versions look sharper and richer than the PS2 version does, all three versions are visually solid.
The game features a tremendous arsenal of real-world weapons, though 47 (the main character's code name) can carry only a small number at a time. From fiber wire (used to silently strangle unsuspecting victims) and high-powered sniper rifles to devastating auto shotguns, the variety of weapons in Hitman 2 is impressive, and each one is modeled to look, act, and sound realistic. Since the controls in Hitman 2 have been improved, it functions better as a straight run-and-gun shooter compared with its predecessor. Yet for the most part, you'll need to choose your targets carefully, taking time to observe each environment and figure out exactly what you need to do to reach your mark. Hitman 2 is more of a game about stealth than about pure action.
Controlling the action, though easier than before, still takes getting used to. On the console versions, the default controls currently require you to press in the left analog stick to run, which was awkward. Pop-up menus let you choose which weapons to equip or which actions to perform. For instance, 47 might opt either to open a door or to peer through the keyhole to see what's on the other side. He may either take the clothes of a victim as a disguise or drag the corpse out of sight. We got used to the controls for all three versions soon enough.
Hitman 2 will include levels from a variety of real-world locations throughout the world. The game's violent theme and stylish presentation should appeal to anyone who likes Hong Kong action movies or anyone looking for an action game that requires a lot of thought in addition to some good reflexes. Hitman 2 is scheduled for release this fall. Stay tuned for more information.