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No. of Recommendations: 14
I really wanted to like this game. I mean, I REALLY wanted to like this game. I'm so starved for good games that, with all the good reviews, I figured this game HAD to be a good replacement for Ghost Recon.

The problem here is that while I wanted to like Hitman 2, it really didn't want to like me. From poor user interface aspects to just weird system compatibility problems, it fought me the whole way.

Where to begin? (NOTE: Spoiler for first mission)

How about configuration? To configure some basic stuff like full screen, resolution and "use hardware T&L", you have to run a separate utility. That's right, you have to run Hitman 2 - Game Configuration, THEN run the game. You can't change that stuff within the game.

That pretty much established an ominous tone to the rest of my game play experience.

The next problem is that when going to fullscreen mode, Windows decided to pull my links toolbar off the bottom toolbar, and then it decided to push my task bar on the left edge of the screen. Um, huh? Then the screen was all flickery, with the taskbar flickering on/off on the bottom of the screen. THAT was annoying.

A reboot, of course, fixed THAT problem, along with shutting down ICQ and YM.

Yay, the game hasn't even started yet, and I'm already at Pissed Factor 2!

So the game starts. Cinematics kick in, and they're very well done. They get you into the flow of the game pretty quickly, and the tutorial is somewhat integrated with the gameplay experience.

You're Agent 47, retired hitman that wants to do good (man, what IS it with this storyline and movies/books/games?). Your mentor, Father Vittorio, is kidnapped by some local mafia types in Sicily, so you have to try to rescue him. That's your first mission.

The thing that made Hitman 2 get such rave reviews is that it's completely open ended on how you accomplish a mission. You can go in guns blazing, try to be stealthy, use a disguise, you name it. Very cool, because in many ways it's like an old school adventure game.

But that's the problem -- each mission really is two "mini-missions". The first part is coming up with a strategy. This strategy often can't be sorted out until you've died say, several dozen times. Hey, just like Ghost Recon! Once you get the strategy sorted out, you then have to actually execute it flawlessly, which is just as difficult as planning it in the first place.

In an adventure game, you just have to solve "the puzzle". You don't have to then go into arcade mode and then, knowing the solution, have to actually do it. That would suck and be frustrating -- hey, just like Ghost Recon and Hitman 2!

Let's use the first mission as an example. You have to get into the compound, and there are numerous ways to do it. The first way is to knock out the mailman as he walks down the path, take his clothes, and walk in.

But wait, that's an adventure by itself! See, you don't know what the mailman is doing. So the first time you see him, you have to observe him. By the time you figure out he's taking a leak, you're too far away to sneak up on him.

Reload.

Okay, there's the mailman, I better run (running = bad as a general rule) so I'm pretty close behind him. Okay, now I sneak up on him...knock him out, take his clothes, grab the flowers, woo-hoo!

I walk up to the front gate and...oh, crap, they're frisking me, I'm found out. *BOOM* *BOOM*

Reload.

Okay, let's look around a bit -- oh, hey, a delivery guy on the opposite wall! Jog jog jog...he's inside, but he's left his deliveries right here, and I have an option to place my weapons in the groceries. Ohhhh, I get it -- let him take them to the kitchen, and I sneak in as the mailman. Got it.

Crap, but the mailman is already at the gate.

Reload.

Sneak up to mailman, knock him out, take his clothes...run to the delivery truck, put my weapons in the groceries, run back to the path, walk towards the house. Guards frisk, I'm through -- woo-hoo!

Act cool. Walk up to the house, open the door -- hey, a maid takes the flowers...err, now what? Guard stands there glaring at me, now I'm all suspicious looking, dammit, I've been found out!

Reload.

All the above pretty much describes the game. Figure out what's expected of you, reload so you can do it, do it, then save. For a lot of people this is really fun. For me, it sucks. It's boring and tedious. The game radically fails the "perfect player principle", where a priori knowledge is not necessary to complete a mission successfully.

Here's another schizophrenic aspect of the game -- it emphasizes stealth, but then puts a time limit on some missions. Joy. So in the second mission, you have to RUN (but remember, run = bad) as much as possible to get where you're going, and you have almost no ability to stop and check out what's going on around you or to think ahead. If you stop and think, you run out of time.

So, of course, you do the "run around, learn as much as possible, reload" bit. Ugh.

Ahhh...saving! Another bit of "genius" on the developer's part. To them, apparently, saving games makes a game "easy" or "hard". So on normal difficulty (there is no easy one), they limit you to 7 sevens. On harders levels, you get fewer saves per level.

ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGH!

THAT is a good idea? Someone -- some TEAM -- sat down and decided that removing tedium and frustration from the game was a GOOD IDEA? Are you kidding me?!

Ugh.

Oh, and the save games aren't labeled. They only have the mission name and the actual time you saved them. No ability to leave notes to yourself.

It has an excessive positive feedback loop. If you complete a mission rated as "Silent Assassin" -- which is damned difficult -- you get goodies. Goodies that you probably don't need if you're a good player, but which the mediocre player could desperately use.

Why, oh why, don't they just give you the goodies? Good players want them, bad players need them -- why deny this to the vast majority of the players?

This is the best way to describe Hitman 2, and I think it applies to Ghost Recon as well -- great individual moments of gameplay weighted down by EXTREMELY poorly done overall mission structure/coarse gameplay.

The animations and agent interactions are really fun and interesting. It's amusing to see a guard go outside and take a leak -- but, of course, the first time you see that you can't take advantage of it, you have to reload, put yourself in position, then take him out AFTER you've learned that's what he's going to do.

Crap, I'm ranting again when I mean to summarize.

So anyways....the individual actions you take are fun. Sneaking around a house; capping some guy; knocking out the delivery guy; etc. All are well done and fun. The scenarios are well crafted. But the glue -- the actual missions -- that holds it all together is sorely lacking when it comes to minimizing frustration.

This is so disappointing to me, because it had awesome gameplay elements that were just completely and utterly weighted down by a few key, really poor design decisions.

Anyway, guess I'm selling my copy on half.com. The only way I made it through the first level was just to Rambo the damn thing guns blazing.

I may give Mafia a try.

-Hook
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No. of Recommendations: 0
Hook -
I'm glad you posted this. I just got Hitman 2 for my PS2, and I was wondering if I was just a complete moron or something. Of course, I hadn't put in a huge amount of time, but the levels were just so frustrating. I guess I'll go back to playing Buffy the Vampire Slayer, since that game is surprisingly fun, and I've got this strange attraction to the show.

Marc
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Personally, I haven't played this game, and Hook description certainly doesn't make me much want to try it, either. Just wanted to say I do have a couple of friends who are playing it, though, and they said they are really enjoying it. I can't give any more information, because I haven't even seen the game...Just wanted to say that I do know some people are enjoying it. :)

TMF Jokey, devils advocate
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I admit a total lack of familiarity with the game, as I don't own it. However, I have learned to rely pretty heavily on the ratings at GameRankings.com. And so a dissenting voice: This game on each of its platforms is scoring about 85% from 50+ different reviewers. So there's SOME decent gaming in there, at least, is my bet.

David
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This game on each of its platforms is scoring about 85% from 50+ different reviewers.

For perspective: what are some typical ratings for good, average and bad games on that site? It seems like most of the ratings you mention are around this level or higher, although that could be simply because you don't mention the lower ones. :)
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FogChicken,

Well, you can check it out yourself. Take a few titles you know well and look it over. While the numbers may be slightly pumped up by "fan sites," it's all relative -- and 85% is definitely well above average.

Some recent titles:

Guilty Gear X2: 87.1%
C&C Generals: 84.5%
Battlefield 1942 expansion: 80.6%
Unreal 2: 76.8%
.hack: 75.4%

... and the really very wonderful (so far -- this is my personal impression) Dark Cloud 2 scores a 89.3%. Splinter Cell for the PC, which I also picked up yesterday, scores a 92.6%.

David
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I can't give any more information, because I haven't even seen the game...Just wanted to say that I do know some people are enjoying it. :)

This is why I'm a sucky reviewer -- often times people don't agree with me, probably because I have very high standards when it comes to limiting my frustration.

Provide a challenge, but give me something that tests my skill, not my patience.

Hitman 2 has sold very well. It has reviewed INCREDIBLY well. And I bought it because a good friend of mine LOVED it.

When I mentioned my gripes about it, he basically said "Oh, yeah, I forgot how that all kinda sucked, I just got used to it".

So if you're the type of person that can get used to reloading constantly in order to get through a game, or if you're content with pure trial and error to solve a mission, then I think it's a great game. The feel of the game was just really smooth and polished.

But if you're impatient and don't like "learning by failing", then it's a frustrating game and simply not worth the effort. Ghost Recon was very similar to this, but with GR when I finally "got it" I ended up enjoying the game.

With HM2, because of the gameplay, that style of play would have really detracted from the overall experience.

-Hook
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Well, you can check it out yourself. Take a few titles you know well and look it over.

OK, I had a look at a few and most things seem to fall in the 70-90% range, with a few outliers. So 85% would seem to be above average, but not greatly so.

Vagrant Story and Chrono Cross (two of my PS1 favorites) got around 94% each. The Moon Project, which I picked up very cheaply on sale and didn't much like, got about 76%. Azure Dreams, an obscure quirky little game that I really enjoyed despite some evident flaws, got a 68%.

My conclusion is that it's more reliable for the better known games (although I have to admit that the database is impressive - I've yet to find one it didn't know) and also that you need to take your own preferences into account. I've already given an example of a game I liked that got a mediocre rating, and I can see a few in the 90+ range that are probably fine examples of their genre that wouldn't appeal to me.

On the whole it looks like a very good resource. (Did it, by chance, have anything to do with leading you to Vagrant Story and Chrono Cross?) Thanks for the reference!
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No. of Recommendations: 2
LongHook writes:

This is why I'm a sucky reviewer -- often times people don't agree with me, probably because I have very high standards when it comes to limiting my frustration.

Provide a challenge, but give me something that tests my skill, not my patience.


I will pipe up and say I thought your review was on the money. A co-worker LOVED it while I found it pointless. My co-worker loves to replay the same mission to get to perfection in all of the games he plays. He isn't frustrated by the tedium you and I felt; I think he actually likes that type of gameplay. I now look upon his gaming raves with a jaundiced eye. :)

Hitman 2 looks beautiful and plays pretty well, too. It just isn't any fun. It was like ... GASP ... working. Repeat. Replay. Reload. And the same thing happens again. I stopped after the first level when I read the walkthroughs online and they had all these nifty methods that took trial and error to figure out. I have a job; I don't want my games to feel the same way.

I may give Mafia a try.

I just finished up Mafia, and that was a treat to play, mostly. I liked the game better than GTA3, which it closely resembles. I was challenged but had to only occasionally replay the same level. I thought the save-game "feature" would bother me but I actually came to prefer it for the main quest portion. The save-game sucks for "Free Ride" mode, though. I'm not a fan of console gaming and the save-game systems are a big reason why (the other is I'd have to get a TV and probably a couch, too).

--ibbieta
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