Hitman 2: Silent Assassin Updated Preview
We take a hands-on look at Hitman 2, and discuss the game with IO Interactive's Thor Froelich.
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The last time we saw the mysterious assassin known only as "47," he had just retired from active duty as a professional killer and had sequestered himself in a secluded monastery in Sicily. But 47 has been called back into service--his only friend, the quiet priest who presides over his new dwelling, has been kidnapped, and 47 must rescue him. Armed with a newfound sense of purpose, a powerful new arsenal of weapons, and as bald a head as ever, 47 sallies forth from Sicily to track down his enemies and his only friend in the world.
That's the background for IO Interactive's Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, a sequel that already seems to be well on its way to improving on the original game, Hitman: Codename 47, and fixing most of the original game's problems. Like in the previous game, in Hitman 2 you'll be sent off on various missions around the world to take down important enemy characters, though this time around, 47 can use anesthetic to knock his opponents unconscious instead of killing them outright. We had an opportunity to play through an early build of the game and see a few of its levels: the initial training level in Sicily, a posh Italian villa, and an evening party at a German consulate. Even at this early stage, each level is extremely colorful and detailed. For instance, much of the German level takes place in a large, richly furnished building, while the Sicilian monastery is gently lit by impressive lighting effects that filter through stained-glass windows. Hitman 2 will apparently attempt to be more colorful than the original game--for instance, all three of the levels we've played have outdoor areas, and the Sicily and Italy levels open with brightly lit, sunny areas that are populated by ambient animals and civilians who will go about their business normally until you spook them with a weapon.
As with the original game, there are a few ways you can deal with your enemies, including going in with guns blazing, taking them down from a distance with a sniper rifle, sneaking up behind them and eliminating them, or fooling them with a disguise. In Hitman 2, you'll want to be as precise as possible, especially when you're trying to break into heavily guarded areas--if you rub out one of your enemies but leave his corpse lying about, any other guards who happen upon it will sound an alarm. Fortunately, 47 can still drag his enemies' corpses off into the shadows and can also relieve any fallen enemies of their clothing in order to disguise himself.
In order to get the job done, 47 will have access to an expanded arsenal of weapons. We haven't been able to play with all of Hitman 2's toys just yet, but we've already been able to try out some very powerful weapons, including 47's signature dual .45-caliber hardballers, which come in both standard and silenced versions. The hardballers seem just as effective as ever--they're fast, they're light, and they pack quite a wallop--though they're not quite as damaging as Hitman 2's heavier weapons. 47 can also equip himself with the classic H&K MP5 submachine gun (either standard issue or silenced), the powerful Colt M4A1 assault rifle, and the heavy-duty SPAS-12 automatic combat shotgun. The Colt and the combat shotgun don't come with silencers, but neither weapon is intended to be subtle. They tear through enemies quickly, and the combat shotgun has remarkable stopping power. We've also been able to get our hands on some subtler sidearms, including the silenced Ruger .22 pistol and the 9MM Beretta (standard issue and silenced), as well as the Russian Dragunov sniper rifle--which has three very useful zoom levels--and 47's old standby weapons, the garrote and the serrated pentagon combat knife.
Silence is Golden
We've also been able to see some of Hitman 2's improvements in action. For instance, the original game had only a third-person behind-the-back view, which could lead to problems with the camera. Hitman 2 has a full first-person view that you can switch to by pressing F1. Also, in order to help 47 get around undetected, he has a stealth meter at the top of the screen and a regular sneaking mode as he did in the first game, as well as a new ability to crouch to get into tight spots, take cover from incoming fire, and conceal himself while taking potshots with a sniper rifle. 47 can also be a bit smarter about approaching closed doors, since he can not only open the door in front of him, but he can also pick locked doors and peek through keyholes to see if any enemies are in the next room.
All things considered, Hitman 2 is shaping up to be a much-improved sequel and a pretty impressive game in its own right. Still, we haven't seen all that the game has to offer--we have yet to experiment with Hitman 2's entire arsenal of weapons and items, or to explore Hitman 2's many different levels, which we've been assured will be huge. For more information, we sat down with IO Interactive's Thor Froelich.
GameSpot: Thanks for taking the time for this interview. How is Hitman 2's development coming along? What specific areas is the team working on now?
Thor Froelich: We're in the process of eradicating the last bugs standing in the way of a gold master. Also, the artists are putting in last-minute eye candy, making sure everything is looking fantastic.
GS: When we last checked in with you, you mentioned that the sequel will have about 20 missions, but that many of the levels will be large and complex. What kind of new features can we expect to see in Hitman 2's environments? Will Codename 47 be able to interact with the sequel's environments in any new ways?
TF: The most significant change stems from the new engine's ability to draw a large amount of geometry. This has given us the opportunity to not only up the ante on detail per object but also greatly increase the drawing distance on our outdoor locations, pushing back the pesky fog. In some levels, you'll be able to see as far as 400 meters, which is ideal should you choose to utilize a sniper rifle to get the job done. We've also been working quite a bit on different weather effects like snow and rain, which will greatly influence the player's ability to accurately distinguish features far away.
GS: Speaking of which, we know that Codename 47 is an expert killer and a master of disguise, but what kinds of new tricks will he have in the sequel? We know that Hitman 2 will have new sniper rifles and new close-combat weapons, as well as lock picks and night-vision goggles. Can you discuss how these new items will come into play?
TF: For instance, since all lamps are breakable and 47's visibility is dependent on the amount of light on him, night-vision goggles can be a great ally should the player choose to sneak around in the dark.
Our intrepid "hero" is also now able to peek through keyholes to get some idea of what to expect should you decide to enter the door in question. A very useful feature, indeed. As is the lock pick, which allows the player access to restricted areas. However, picking a lock takes time and is often performed in plain view, so it puts you at risk. If detected, the player will naturally face immediate retribution from nearby guards.
The Finishing Touches
GS: We know that Hitman 2 will let players incapacitate their enemies, rather than simply kill them. What purpose does knocking your enemies out serve in Hitman 2? Is it simply a quieter way of bumping someone off, or will Codename 47 actually be able to use this new tactic to take prisoners or rescue hostages?
TF: The ability to nonlethally subdue enemies or civilians was implemented to provide players with an increased opportunity to go for the "clean hit," so to speak. That is, to sneak inside the perimeter of the target unseen, kill the unfortunate person in question and escape while adopting the now-legendary "low profile."
GS: We asked you previously whether you'll be able to add multiplayer options to Hitman 2. Any progress since then, or does the team still plan to focus on the single-player game and consider multiplayer after the game's release?
TF: We've chosen to focus on making Hitman 2 a really solid single-player game. Whether multiplayer capabilities will be added later as an expansion or perhaps be included in a sequel, should one be made, I'm not at liberty to say.
GS: Though the original Hitman was stylish and gritty, it was also criticized for a number of issues, like its control scheme, its vague mission briefings, and its camera issues. We were glad to hear that Hitman 2 will have a full first-person perspective, but what other specific improvements is the team making sure to add to Hitman 2?
TF: First of all, we've addressed all the control scheme and interface issues. Everything in this department is very smooth, user-friendly, and intuitive. Also, we've improved greatly on the mission and story coherency, so the objectives are clearer to the player. The player will now have to focus on how to do things instead of wondering what to do.
GS: When we saw Hitman 2 at E3, we were impressed--not only because the game looked good, but also because it looked good on the PC, as well as the Xbox and PlayStation 2 consoles. Has the team run into any particular challenges developing Hitman for both the PC and video game consoles?
TF: If all but rewriting the engine constitutes a challenge, then yes. Also, setting up the workflow for the artists to allow us to create graphics for all three formats simultaneously has been somewhat of a challenge--both for the programmers who create our proprietary systems and for the artists who had to adapt to this new way of creating content.
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Hitman 2?
TF: It's an amazing game. We're very proud of it and we're confident players will enjoy it immensely. We've taken great care to preserve and improve upon the elements that worked well in Hitman: Codename 47 and discard everything that might stand in the way of these features.
GS: Thanks for your time, Thor.