Why Hitman 2 is the best game in the series

Continuing the discussion from How did you get into Hitman?:

It has regrettably come to my attention that some people cannot fathom why many prefer Silent Assassin over Hitman: Blood Money. I will now attempt to explain the timeless appeal of Hitman 2. It really comes down to one concept, but just for fun I’m going to explore other aspects of the game that put it a cut above its sequels.

This might be long, you guys.

story / setting / music

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. The story is the best yet because it perfectly includes 47’s personal and professional character (YES THEY ARE DIFFERENT) and because it has a seemingly unrelated variety of hits that ultimately add up to a cohesive story. The only other game that can compete on story is Codename 47 because Absolution’s plot was a shit-show and the other two games are Greatest Hits montages with no story besides “one time some guy almost got 47.”

The environments are fantastic, even Nuristan (which is only guilty of overstaying its welcome). The soundtrack is eclectic, classy, and perfectly complements the scenery. I love the full orchestra, especially when it knowingly evokes the theme from Lawrence of Arabia as 47 treads across the desert in a silly turban.

mythology

Hitman 2 introduced some unique ideas that are now mostly forgotten or at least under-appreciated. My favorite is the idea of 47 as a legend– not an “urban myth” as in later games, but a beloved figure in his own profession.

The random Agency contact in Nuristan who gives you the .50-cal rifle greets you as “Mr. 47” and says he’s “very honored.” The guy at the beginning of Temple City Ambush instantly recognizes 47 and is similarly cordial. In Hitman 2, the Agency operates all over the world and by extension, 47 has friends all over the world. It’s a bit campy, sure, but it’s more appealing to me than the brooding “fuck the world” 47 that we see so often.

It’s also neat how we hear from two Agency staffers besides Diana– the infamous Clera and some woman who answers the phone when 47 calls in at the beginning of the game.

mission briefings
Speaking of Diana, the mission briefings in Hitman 2 are the best in the series by far. Not only do we get videos and photos that help characterize our targets, and not only do we get to study the map beforehand while Diana talks about the geography, but the tone of the briefings is distinct. Diana is far less laid back in Hitman 2 than in subsequent games and details the enemy security in such detail that most assignments sound incredibly intimidating to a first-time player. She’s also more apt to scold 47: “watch your moves in there!” and “keep it clean!”

IMO the mission briefings have progressively become more… phoned in… and they’ve certainly taken more of a backseat to the rest of the presentation.

artwork
Hitman 2 has the best level loading screens of the series. It’s almost embarrassing how Contracts tried to continue the tradition but mostly recycled generic promotional art for each screen. Back in the day, everyone on this forum wanted a badass avatar of 47 holding a scalpel or something really awesome from the H2 loading screens.

sniping
There hasn’t been a good sniping mission since Hitman 2. Every “sniping mission” since has been along the lines of, “well there’s a sniper rifle on the map somewhere but really you’re better off using poison.”

TENSION . . .

Hitman 2 was a game of tension and suspense, about moving carefully and dealing with the consequences of your actions. This is where later games have really dropped the ball. This is the main reason why Hitman 2 is the best.

"paranoid" guards
You rarely felt safe in Hitman 2. This is a good thing. In later games, it’s hard not to feel safe unless you’re doing suit-only sneaking. In many ways, Absolution was a step in the right direction in this area.

slow sneaking speed
The sneaking in Hitman 2 could stand to be a little bit faster, but if you’ve ever tried to sneak up on someone in real life, you’ll know it’s the most realistic in the series. Shouldn’t there be some danger and difficulty in sneaking up on someone? Blood Money and Absolution have made sneaking as fast as a brisk walk and I’ll never understand it. Sneaking has become purely aesthetic; 47 hunches his shoulders a little more, and he’s bookin’ it. In Hitman 2, it was impossible to sneak up on some patrolling guards, and you had to worry if the slow-moving ones were going to turn around just before you got within range.

slow walking… and no running!
Even more important is the slow walking speed. Why? Because that’s where the suspense comes from! When you walk by some guards in Hitman 2, and you see the suspicion meter fill up, you have no choice but to keep walking at an excruciatingly slow pace and hope— pray!— for the best.

This kind of helpless suspense is why the vault scene in Mission: Impossible is so much more compelling than any action sequence in which a protagonist is in control of the action. Compare with Taken— a highly entertaining movie, but one that never quite achieves that sort of emotional engagement because Liam Neeson is always in control.

The paranoia of the guards in Hitman 2 also makes them more satisfying to outsmart. Blood Money has oblivious NPCs who don’t realize you’re not actually a guard until you do something stupid in plain sight. Hitman is supposed to be about pulling things off right under everyone’s nose. Isn’t that more satisfying when everyone else isn’t a moron?

anaesthetic
Adding to the tension were the limitations of the anaesthetic. You had to be strategic about who you subdued. You could subdue a guy for 5-10 minutes, or numerous guys for 1-2 minutes. But then you were on the clock— if they woke up too soon, it could compromise your mission. That added a sense of urgency to the rest of the mission.

Blood Money and Absolution have completely removed this element from the game. Now, 47 can effortlessly subdue infinite NPCs and they never wake up. Hiding bodies is no longer suspenseful, either– there’s a “hide-a-body box” in every corner of every room. I completed a particularly difficult section of Absolution by subduing literally every guard on the map and then sneaking up on the targets effortlessly. Silent assassin!

body dragging / no hide-a-body boxes
Do you even remember the last time you dragged a body more than 10 feet? It was probably in Hitman 2 or Hitman: Contracts because I’ll be damned in there’s any reason to do it in the more recent titles. Because usually the guy you have to kill is already halfway leaning into a hide-a-body box. Again, dragging a body is a suspenseful experience. It allows tension. Tension is good.

Also good is when the state of the game changes after you kill someone. Killing someone— much like in real life!— should be an irreversible action that often affects the dynamics of the level. Killing someone and instantly throwing him in a box where you know he will never be found just doesn’t have the same effect. It effortlessly maintains the status quo. Hell, even in “Anathema” you have to worry about the don’s brother eventually returning to the upstairs office. This shit adds tension. Tension is good.

picking a damn lock
Do you remember the last time you picked a damn lock and sweat about it? It was probably Hitman 2 or Contracts. Lockpicking is super-fast in Blood Money and Absolution’s Instinct lets you know damn well there’s nobody around the corner before you start picking that lock. Worrying about getting caught mid-pick adds tension. Say it with me: tension is good.

epilogue
Nobody’s going to defend the glitches in Hitman 2, least of all the psychic Japanese guards. But you know what? I’d rather have super-paranoid Japanese guards than half the guards in Blood Money, who might find a dead scientist, turn their back for one second, then turn back around to see the body has disappeared and some guy they’ve never seen before has come out of a wardrobe and is now standing in the blood pool wearing the scientist’s clothes, and the guard says “this looks legit.”

Hitman 2 also made some creative missteps. Was “The Graveyard Shift” really necessary? Probably not, although it doesn’t bother me. But it’s clear they were trying to make every mission unique and the game the best it could be. I’d rather have that than 20 missions that are a variation on “drop heavy shit on someone’s head.”

Blood Money is also outstanding for many reasons. There’s a reason why so many fans call it their favorite. I would too if not for the complete lack of tension in most of the game. If we combined the general style of Blood Money with the paranoid AI and suspense of Silent Assassin I think we would have something really special.

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Well done. I prefer SA to BM (I even prefer C47 to BM) because I love the hardcore no-frills stealth challenge that you can’t get from any other Hitman game (not even Absolution, which is basically built as a pure stealth game), but I have to admit if I was introducing a new player to Hitman I’d show them BM every time. It’s much more polished and accessible. So I can definitely see where people are coming from when they can’t understand how anyone would prefer the older games in the series to the sleek, laid-back sandbox fun of Blood Money.

Bravo, i could not have written it better myself. I also think of Silent Assassin as the best in the series, where Contracts and Absolution shares a second/third place (still don’t know which i prefer of thoes two). One of the things i love about Silnet Assassin is that it kinda got a Cold War feel or early James Bond feel (from ‘Russia with Love’ springs to mind here, aslo my favorit Bond movie), the deal with 47 having to invade a Russian bunker and kill a general, to free a C.I.A agent. It could just aswell have taken place in the 60’s.

Plus there is a diversity in levels, there are levels where your best option is sniping, non target missions, a level where other Assassins are on the look out for you. Where in Blood Money every level is the same, go in kill someone and get out. It gets dull. The only real level where you have other objectives then kill is ‘Flatline’ and even “saving” Mr. Smith does not even feel like a big deal, all you do is go in and poke him in the neck with a needle. Sure there are levels in Blood Money where other Assassins are there for you, but they don’t feel like a thread, because they won’t do anything unexpected, you are not trying to avoid them, does not mather if they see you. Where in Silent Assassin the hit-men in ‘Temple City Ambush’ will go for you if they see you.

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Well written.
I agree with many of your points especially mission briefings,story and mythology
However I still think Contracts and Blood Money did some other things better.
For me Blood Money is the best then Contracts and Silent Assassin that share the second place

Usually if I agree with someone I just like the post. But damn, this is so fantastically written and correct that I have to post a reply myself. Especially about the dragging bodies and tension part, the last titles have made hiding bodies far too easy. And I think that a body is hidden doesn’t necessarily mean it should be in a box or a closet. Also the timed knock-outs are far better than what we see in BM and Absolution. You really reminded me how there used to be more tension in the past titles. That thrilling feeling when you might get caught picking a lock or dragging a body… I loved that. And oh man, did Kyd’s masterful soundtrack compliment that thrilling feeling! I want to give you three fucking likes for this post, Agent_17. You said it better than anyone could.

The only one thing I don’t agree with is the sneaking. Yes it’s too fast now, but damn it was really way too slow in SA. You could barely catch a guy walking past a corner even if the distance was like one meter! And then he’d get further and further and your masterplan was all ruined because your timing at that one corner wasn’t 100% precise and you couldn’t sedate the guard. You couldn’t even catch the slow moving ones! Then again, it was extremely thrilling to sneak up on someone who was standing still and could turn around at any given moment.

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I also agree with most of @Agent_17 arguments, specially the one about tension. Tension is definetely something that latter games did not impose as much as SA. However, I firmly believe we will never get a Hitman game designed like that again, for the simple reason that IOI is being forced to make the games accessible to casual gamers; and the essencial way to do that is to remove the paranoid AI that @Agent_17 mentions. Another feature that I doubt will ever make a comeback is the anesthetic, for the same reason that I said for the paranoid AI.

However, there are two points in which I disagree: sneaking and mythology. Like @Aybro said, sneaking is just way too slow in SA and almost impossible to use with moving NPCs. As for the mythology, I think it is perfectly acceptable to portrait 47 as a myth because whereas in SA we see 47 from the perspective of many characters that are familiar with the Agency, in later titles we see 47 from the perspective of other characters that are not affiliated to the Agency. Therefore, even though 47 is indeed a legend within the inner circle of the Agency, its secretive nature is ought to render 47 as a myth for anybody outside of that circle.

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Very good post Agent_17! Hitman: Codename 47 and Hitman 2: Silent Assassin were both classics of their own. What sets them apart from the other Hitman games is their approaches to social stealth, immersion, level design and the targets. Contracts was a rushed game, though still good, Blood Money just got too cartoonish, and Absolution had very restrictive levels and was limited by its intrusive and bad story.

If the applause that post deserves was given, hands would explode.

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I understand your points, and having played all of them besides C47, I still think Blood Money is still the most fun to play.

Silent Assassin was a really good game, but it is so riddled with bugs and feels way too tedious compared to Blood Money, but that’s more of a gameplay preference I guess. I disliked the Japanese guards more than anything I could possibly dislike about any facet of Hitman. The over-paranoia is just stupid to a point where they can hear you jogging whilst standing behind a wall during truck run-bys, while you proceed to restart the level, because game saves aren’t available to you on Professional. (Not to mention they also cause more glitches during that certain level)

Silent Assassin is mostly memorable to me for the level design. It was interesting and colorful. But still not as functional as Blood Money. To put it simply, I think Blood Money is all-around easier to love than Silent Assassin.

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Then make a thread talking about Blood Money that’s as well written as this. I’d love to read it!

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I wish I had the dedication, time, and the same way with words as Agent 17 did on the OP.

Very well written, even though I don’t agree d;

Maybe somebody will beat me to it.

You made a lot of excellent points! While I think that sneaking was too slow in Silent Assassin - I like a challenge, but I don’t want the game to be 100% realistic, 47, wether you want to believe it or not, is a mythical, supernatural being that would never exist in real life. That, to me, is part of his appeal. I like the fact that 47 is a little overpowering. The idea that he can sneak up behind anyone swiftly without them ever knowing what was coming. I think 47’s skills are supposed to be a little exaggerated, with the game being harder in other areas to balance things out, such as a puzzle architecture that makes you think “How can I get this guard to turn his back to me so I can strangle him”, rather than “how long am I going to take to reach him”. The type of challenge that you’re looking for can be found in Splinter Cell, a more realistic stealth game which I find to be a bit boring. It’s a good game, but most of the fantasy and exaggeration that makes Hitman great goes out the window.

Where I agree with you, the enemy AI and the disguise system. In Blood Money it was way too lenient. There was hardly any challenge. What’s more ironic is that with the introduction of hiding crates and permanent sedatives, the AI should’ve been harder to balance it, not easier. The temporary sedative in Silent Assassin added an element of strategy. Okay, I put this guy to sleep, now I have to complete the mission and escape or find another disguise before he wakes up. Although, I’‘m not an expert on sedatives, I can’t say whether Blood Money or Silent Assassins’ approach was more realistic.

That being said, those are the only things I liked about Silent Assassin, and the story but I don’t play Hitman for story. Blood Money just has more replayability. Silent Assassin’s missions were too linear, the levels were boring and the game as a whole hasn’t aged as well as Blood Money. But that’s just me.

But you just said something I’ve been saying for a while. The next Hitman game should have:

Blood Money’s features (accidents, poison syringe, customizable weapons, inventory and briefcase from the start, hiding spots, coins for distraction, more manipulation of the environment, etc.) + Silent Assassin’s AI and disguise system = the greatest Hitman ever, + some new features.

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Silent Assassin’s levels were a highly mixed bag, but I don’t feel that they are boring as a whole.They tend to have overarching plots, common themes to tie connected levels, sniping levels with large sniping distances, some well built(not the same as well designed for the level purposes) locations like the Anathema villa(besides it not having bathrooms of course), some interesting balancing with disguises, like the fireman and pizza boy disguises in Basement Killing. A lot of this isn’t found in Blood Money or even Contracts.

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I don’t follow you, in Blood Money you could disguise yourself as a garbage man, a psychiatrist, a bird? I don’t see the point your making.

My main point is that Silent Assassin was just too linear, or not as open-ended as Blood Money. To this day I replay Blood Money to find different ways to approach a target. In Silent Assassin there really isn’t much reason to revisit other than to replay the story and collect a bunch of weapons you’re never gonna use.

I’ll reopen my argument about the settings we once bumped heads on, as far as interesting levels go, talking strictly about video games here, not movies. The idea of playing as a Hitman in civilian levels like in Blood Money is fresh (don’t bring up GTA, that’s a joke). There are plenty of games like Metal Gear Solid, Splinter Cell, etc., where you’re pretty much infiltrating the same environments. If it’s not Russians, it’s Muslims or drug wars in South America, or Yakuza in Japan. Silent Assassin just feels very familiar, while in Blood Money the levels are just fresher and more exciting, at least to me.

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I’m talking about disguise mechanics, not disguise looks. In Blood Money, you typically tend to have a slew of disguises which let you to some areas and not others, but typically, there’s generally always that one disguise that lets you roam the level freely. The VIP guard disguise in A Vintage Year, the policeman disguise in Curtains Down, … The big problem is that often there aren’t many challenges involved in getting these disguises, and they tend to trivialize the levels a bit.

Why should I not bring up GTA, it’s a very popular game series. A lot of the civilian levels in Blood Money are often seen in games, maybe not stealth games but definitely in a variety of games. GTA has them, Max Payne has them, Sleeping Dogs has them, hell even Splinter Cell has you go through civilian locations, like the Police Station level of Splinter Cell 1 or the New York apartments in Chaos Theory. American locations have been seen and used plenty of times, they aren’t much more unique than Russian bunkers, Afghani villages or Japanese retreats. That doesn’t mean they are bad, just that they aren’t unique. Speaking of the Yakuza, when did Splinter Cell or Metal Gear Solid ever cover them?

[quote=“Dev_Chand, post:15, topic:667”]
Why should I not bring up GTA, it’s a very popular game series. A lot of the civilian levels in Blood Money are often seen in games, maybe not stealth games
[/quote]BINGO! That’s the point I was making. You don’t see stealth games (REAL stealth games) in civilian environments as much, most of the civilian games are all explosions and shootouts. In Silent Assassin, for the most part, you’re just disguised as another generic goon. Blood Money and Contracts had civilian settings more civilian settings, which opened up more possibilities with disguises and just made the levels more colorful.

Well the disguise mechanics I agree with. I said that in my original post. Silent Assassin had a dynamic disguise system. In most levels, a guard disguise would conceal you, but in some cases disguises didn’t work, such as in Hidden Valley and At the Gates. I prefer the disguise system from Silent Assassin.

They don’t have to, Hitman did more than enough of that with Codename:47, Silent Assassin and Contracts. 47 even retires in Japan at the end of Blood Money.

Those places had triads, not Yakuza. Yakuza are a completely different group. As for 47 retiring after Blood Money, there’s no evidence that it occurs in Japan. It looks like a Chinese or Japanese establishment, but we don’t know and won’t until IO decides to cover it.

I don’t know, that’s beautifully said and I understand why you’d prefer Silent Assassin over Blood Money, but in a lot of things you consider strengths, I couldn’t help but think “Yeah, but that’s why Blood Money is better”

The great gameplay, the consistency in great levels, the fun of exploring that just wasn’t present in Silent Assassin, the different options and different way to mess with the level, all things that were pronounced in BM.

As for “tension”, there were some good maps that had tension, but often times they were just annoyance, especially now looking back at the game when you have the much superior (in my opinion) Contracts and Blood Money to compare it to.

What’s your opinion on Contracts since it’s a lot more open ended compared to SA. I think it’s the best one to this date :slight_smile: .