The sequel to IO Interactive's PC action game Hitman is getting a PS2 installment. The original game, which cast you as a genetically enhanced assassin, received equal shares of praise and derision. Fans loved its gritty tone, ultrasharp aesthetics, and tense pace. Critics cited unresponsive controls, an awkward camera system, and vague mission objectives as the causes for its downfall. Needless to say, IO has pledged to address all of these issues in the sequel. The PS2 version we saw was too early in its development for us to determine whether this is indeed so, but one thing is for sure--it looked very nice.
The demo we were given focused mostly on Hitman 2's pre-mission area--an elegant, abandoned monastery where your character spends his off time. This structure was expertly modeled and was already showing signs of beautiful environmental lighting--sources would bleed into multicolored, stained-glass windows, and the effects were subtle and impressive. The level of antialiasing was also impressive--edges seemed soft, smooth, and organic. Even more impressive, though, is that the game ran at 60fps, with all of these frills in effect. Even after the demo exited the confines of the monastery's main chamber, there was nary a stutter. The environment outside was a complex and well-modeled courtyard area, complete with foliage, ambient creatures, and all kinds of substructures, including a pigpen and a shack (where, incidentally, your character keeps his grip of weapons).
The demo soon shifted to another environment, to one of the game's later stages, set in a hospital in India. Your job in this stage is to assassinate a German doctor, thereby foiling an operation whose success would mean bad things for your employer. The outside of the hospital, as well as its interior, is amazingly modeled, with an excellent attention to detail. Turban-wearing guards are posted at the hospital's entrance, while one is wandering around on patrol. This presents one of two ways to infiltrate the compound: You can take out the wandering guard, steal his clothes, and walk in through the front door, or you can simply sneak to the entrance of the sewer system, which is just a few yards from your starting point. Our man chose the former and quickly snuffed the wandering guard with a pair of fiber wires. The animation representing this was a bit early, but we definitely got the gist of it. Once the guard was suitably dead, his clothes were stolen, and the very Nordic assassin waltzed through the front door wearing a turban. IO mentioned, incidentally, that Hitman 2 will feature a "tension system," which determines just how much (and for how long) certain guards will buy your disguises. Walk past them quickly, for instance, and the tension bar will only slightly stutter, and you'll be safe. Linger about, on the other hand, letting the guards examine you closely, and the meter will shoot down quickly. This will greatly endanger your life. In any event, we were shown a bit of action in the India stage, and it seemed to react as favorably as could be expected from a game in such an early state. Guards were shot down, and the hit man took fire--two functions that seemed to unfold more or less as intended. The early state of the code would not allow for more-involved combat, so it wouldn't be fair to comment further.
Hitman 2 looked pretty impressive, though, which, given the game's spring 2002 release, definitely bodes well for the game's future. The PS2 version will feature all kinds of console-centric niceties, including auto-aiming, streamlined interfaces, and the like. We'll have more on the game as soon as it becomes available.