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Games that break themselves: Hitman 2

Posted on 9th Feb 2009 at 06:58 by Joe Martin with 12 comments

Joe Martin
I bought a game last week – the Hitman Triple Pack. It’s got Hitman 2, Contracts and Blood Money in it, all for £15.

It’s an odd, old purchase admittedly, but the buying habits of game journos tend to be quite different from regular customers in my experience. I already get sent and get to play all the new games as they come out, so any money I spend in stores is dedicated to collecting older games I missed out on before.

Hitman 2 though is a game I have a turbulent and colourful history, mainly because of one aspect of its game design. I've tried to complete it four times now and each time I've given up when I got to the Japanese levels.

Playing Hitman 2 over the weekend, I again got to the second Japanese level (the one with the ninjas, where you have to infiltrate the castle) and I thought of giving up on it again.

Games that break themselves: Hitman 2

The reason I’ve never managed to get past this level properly is quite simple; it’s here that the game betrays itself in my eyes.

The Hitman games have always been about puzzle-solving and adaptation in my eyes. There are multiple ways to tackle every mission, with each one having at least two ways to complete them in a perfect way – using only one or no bullets. There are special poisons and traps on each level and the process of finding them and springing them is fantastic.

At the same time though, you never feel like you’re going through a linear event because your plans always go awry the first few times. You have to improvise, taking down alerted guards and swapping disguises if bodies are discovered. It genuinely feels creative, emergent and realistic...until you get to the Japanese canyon level with its ninjas and snipers who shoot you in a second.

This level breaks the game for me in two ways. Firstly, it breaks the suspension of disbelief to think that there’s only one path into this Japanese mafia boss' castle and that he has it guarded by more than 70 men – especially when the target is supposed to have been in hiding for years.

Games that break themselves: Hitman 2

Secondly, the awareness and vigilance of the ninjas and snipers breaks the back of the game. This level isn’t about springing a trap; it’s about finding a singular path through the snowy tunnels with no apparent reward. It strays too far from the formula the game builds up of being about a silent assassin. It feels more like a badly made shooter than a well made sneaker.

It’s something I’ve noticed in other games too, where they stray too far from the actual concept and disappoint players. It’s like that bit in Mirror’s Edge where you have to fight all the soldiers while you wait for the lift to come and you ask yourself; wasn’t this game about running, not fighting?

This time I’m pushing on with the game however, forcing through this shoddy bit to see if the game can pick up – mainly because I’ve heard the later games correct this fault. The question that’s bothering me though is, if everything I’ve heard about the later games is true, then why did it take IO Interactive so long to realise what players wanted from the design they came up with?

12 Comments

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Jamie 9th February 2009, 08:43 Quote
I couldn't get past the first few levels of this game but I really want to go back and play it again.
steveo_mcg 9th February 2009, 10:45 Quote
I remember playing this game ages ago and loved it, i still play some games too stealthily thanks to 47, i still have to remind myself that i can run and gun and not be penalised.

Now i think about it i don't think i got passed the ninjas either... Must go do that.
liratheal 9th February 2009, 11:32 Quote
It's been so long since I played that game, I've clean forgotten the levels you're refering to.

I feel that Blood Money betrayed the whole.. Sneaking around aspect with the final level. I enjoyed it, no question, but it seemed very.. Unlike 47.
CardJoe 9th February 2009, 14:07 Quote
It's worth saying that since I wrote this I've actually pushed on with the game a bit and it definitely redeems itself. I just did the Jacuzzi Job mission and loved every moment of it - shutting out the lights and walking past everyone with Nightvision was absolutely classic.

That said, I do wonder why the bikini-clad babes in that level were all packing .35s...
Paradigm Shifter 9th February 2009, 15:26 Quote
That was definitely the oddest bit of Hitman 2. The most irritating, as well - those snipers suffered from the 'omnipotent AI' syndrome that is still making appearances in a rather large number of games... you know the drill - can see in pitch dark from a mile away, through solid objects... *bang* ...reload... *bang* ....reload... *bang* ...sod this for a game of cowboys... quit. :) Hitman 1 did it as well - one level in particular where you sneak into a Coke Lords' mansion, and then have to off him with a pistol while he's running around calling guards and firing M60 rounds at you. Bah.

Despite the flaws, though... the Hitman games were some of the most fun I had at the times they were released.

They suffered in the replayability stakes, though... by the time I figured out how to do each level as a 'Silent Assassin', I'd reloaded so many times and tried so many different tactics that there wasn't really any reason to go back and play it again... unless for the amusement factor of going in with all guns blazing just for the hell of it. :D
steveo_mcg 9th February 2009, 16:22 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paradigm Shifter
... unless for the amusement factor of going in with all guns blazing just for the hell of it. :D

Twin ballers, when you know you've mucked up but still want to have some fun (or when you absolutely positively have to kill every last mother-of-pearl in the room.....)
CardJoe 9th February 2009, 16:45 Quote
I have to say I loved the Iran motorcade level too. Hiding on that rooftop with the car coming towards the town, directly towards me.

BANG - over the shoulders of the UN guards and straight into the head of the target. Awesome.
Paradigm Shifter 9th February 2009, 17:39 Quote
*is in process of reinstalling Hitman 2 due to this blog post*

I forgot about the motorcade hit. Setting that up was awesome. :D
zimbloggy 9th February 2009, 17:43 Quote
The game did seem to cheat me too many times, especially in that level. Too many levels turned too easily into an all out shootout. The worst thing was that it seemed that once your cover was blown, you really couldn't recover.
Paradigm Shifter 9th February 2009, 18:18 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by zimbloggy
The worst thing was that it seemed that once your cover was blown, you really couldn't recover.
So, really, that was fairly "realistic" (for a given value of realistic) then? I mean, it's not likely that any security forces are going to magically go, "Oh, I haven't seen anything strange for the last five minutes... must have all been my imagination!" the way they do in some games. ;)

I quite liked the "get caught and you've basically failed" angle, as it always made me very, very cautious about doing anything that could get me spotted.
O O 7 9th February 2009, 22:55 Quote
I remember those Japanese levels. They were some of the hardest.

So I simply decided to take them out. ALL of them! I remember taking out all those 5 ninjas in that photo.

As far as I remember, in the first stage of the Jap level, if you shoot the tower snipers in the head, they fall backwards, but if you shoot them in the stomach, they fall forwards and they drop their sniper rifle.

The most amazing part was fighting the ninjas once you get inside the castle!

The best moment of the entire game for me was when I came out of a corner and a ninja who was right in front of me took his sword and ran at me. I tried to shoot him in the upper body, but he ducked and continued to run at me while ducking!! I just managed to hit him about 1 second before he could slash me up!

That was the coolest big of the whole game for me. I was like WOW! This guy has skill! RIP!
PureSilver 13th February 2009, 07:32 Quote
I should state that I'm biased about this; I firmly believe Hitman 2 to be the best stealth-shooter I ever played on PS2, perhaps ever ever. I must've completed it about four times, which might be a worrying indication about me.... But undeniably it struck the just right balance between sneak and strangle, and to top it off it was nail-bitingly tense waiting to see if you'd get sudden bright red suspicion bars and foreign-language shouting.

I'm with you on the Japanese levels, though. In some respects three whole levels - the last three in Japan - are just too damn difficult because of the snipers and the way the game forces you to follow certain linear routes. The final assassination of that section, too, was almost impossible to complete to Silent Assassin standard because of the scripting :(

Still - brilliant game, and since it's about £1.99 these days GO AND GET THE DAMN GAME!
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