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Hitman 2 Is Best When You Break It

Illustration for article titled iHitman 2/i Is Best When You Break It

Hitman 2 is builtaround the idea that it’s an elaborate Rube Goldberg Murder Machine, and that the most optimal way to play is to carefully explore your surrounds, tinker with strange and hilarious ways to whack your targets then set everything off and revel in the results.

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That’s all fine and cool, and if that’s the way you play the game, then I admire your skill and patience.

But I don’t have time for that shit.

I’ve quickly found that the wrong way to play Hitman is actually the best way, and it’s turned what was already a great game into something truly wonderful.

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While Hitman encourages you to avoid guards and assassinate your targets anonymously, it doesn’t force you. There’s no failure screen once an alarm sounds, or checkpoint reset if a security guy notices that even though you’re in his uniform, you’re not actually his friend Dave (RIP Dave).

Instead, Hitman lets you wallow in your mistakes. Guards will rush the position of a crime (or discovery of a body), and if your cover is blown you can be escorted out or even gunned down where you stand. Escape is possible, but it’s frantic and you’re often flying by the seat of your pants, and while this makes everything sound stressful and maybe even broken I absolutely love it.

I get into situations like this all the time because, while scripted kills can be funny, there’s something appealing about doing things the old fashioned way.

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The pros of an approach like this is the grim satisfaction of doing things like a big screen hitman. The cons are that you’re waving a gun around and leaving a dead body behind, so more often than not despite my best efforts I’ll murder a target then end up triggering some kind of alarm.

I should feel bad about this, but Hitman is pliable enough that even the biggest fuck-ups—and I have had some absolute units—can be salvaged in the most heart-pounding of ways.

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So long as I’m quick on my feet and accurate with a few shots from my silenced pistol, almost every situation (barring all but the most heavily-fortified sections of the game) can be escaped by legging it to the nearest change of clothes, shimmying along a window ledge, hiding in a closet (or a combination of all three) and whistling as I strut past a bull rush of bewildered security guards.

That feeling of pulling off the textbook big screen hit, navigating a chaotic storm of confusion and gunfire then strolling out the front door with the bad guys none the wiser is a cocktail of emotions. There’s pleasure at a job well done, sure, but also a physical rush that I’d say is closer to the kind of thing you feel on the playground or sporting field than playing a video game.

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There’s a primal thrill at being hunted the way you are in Hitman, one that goes beyond a regular gamey instance of “a thing is after me” (Alien Isolation also did this, but went too far). The fact you were in a disguise that’s now blown, that you’re being chased relentlessly but there’s a small chance of escape, and that the pursuit is taking place in a confined space that’s packed with onlookers is one hell of a combination.

It’s a Bourne movie chase scene, a horror movie and a Michael Mann shootout all in one.

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What makes it so good though is that I shouldn’t be getting away with it at all! Plenty of games will just fail me automatically, or let a busted attempt degenerate into a mess, but the fact Hitman can take a broken situation and turn it into something wonderful speaks volumes as to how masterfully designed all aspects of its missions and levels truly are.

It’s not a Rube Goldberg machine after all. It’s just a toy box, and like a toy box, so long as I’ve got the tools at my disposal I can imagine my way out of any situation I want, no matter how tense or terrifying it might be.

Luke Plunkett is a Senior Editor based in Canberra, Australia. He has written a book on cosplay, designed a game about airplanes, and also runs cosplay.kotaku.com.

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DISCUSSION

I have one rule when playing Hitman games - it can’t look like an assassination.

Shooting someone in the head, even if you escape without anyone noticing? They’ll find the body eventually, it’ll have a bullet through the brain, and they’ll be like, “Okay, this is clearly a homicide.” That’s unacceptable.

Piano wire? Same problem. Poison? That’s gonna show up in the autopsy. Drowned in a toilet? Yeah, no, that typically doesn’t happen by accident.

I also don’t accept “accidents” that would, upon investigation, be revealed to be foul play. For example, dropping a chandelier on someone is fine if it can conceiveably be chalked up to poor maintenance or human error, but not if you have to use explosives to make it fall, because they’re gonna figure that out.

So what does that leave? Well, slips and falls are still in the game. So are “accidents” that can be made to appear to be the fault of the victim or someone around them, like faulty-wiring-puddle-electrocutions or gas stove explosions.

I do draw the line at things that would leave some sort of security trace in computer systems - no reprogramming some computerized device to go haywire catastrophically, since that stuff gets logged. If they see that someone disengaged all the safeties mere moments before the important person died, they’re absolutely going to put two and two together.

I also don’t tolerate kills that involve witnesses who could report a suspicious person being involved. Even if I’m in full disguise, if someone sees me tampering with something, and later can tell the cops that they saw some guy fiddling with the thing which just so happened to kill the target? Yeah, then they know it was an assassination.

Also, no non-target kills. Even worse, no non-target incapacitations, even from stealth. When the cops investigate a death, and the janitor tells them he got knocked out from behind and woke up naked in a closet, it’s clearly murder.