Before leaving for missions in Hitman 2, you can choose to bring a handful of gadgets and gear. You have your trusty silenced pistol, remote controlled mines, and lockpicks. These dastardly tools of the trade pale in comparison to the game’s most deadly accessory: the humble and unassuming coin.
Coins have been a part of the Hitman series for some time and serve a very simple purpose: toss them near any computer-controlled characters and they will turn to investigate the sound. This isn’t as dramatic as setting a proximity bomb but the ability to disrupt the world around you is a powerful tool worth more than any poison syringe or garrote wire. It can allow you to slip through doors unnoticed, make guards look the other way, or provide just enough time to pick up a key item.
Hitman 2 offers elaborate scenarios for disposing of targets. In the first full level, set at a car race in Miami, you have to assassinate a driver and her inventor father, Robert. I’ve engaged in lengthy schemes to dispatch both. I’ve sabotaged Sierra’s car to make it crash, and I’ve rigged the pyrotechnics on the winners’ podium to explode. In Robert’s case, I’ve reprogrammed his experimental military robots to gun him down, and I’ve poisoned his eye drops. My most shocking kill was only possible because I used my coin.
I lured Robert out of his office complex by posing as a food cart vendor and poisoning the delicious coconut treats he loves. Robert stumbled away sick and made his way to the edge of a nearby pier to vomit. Throughout the mission, he’s always accompanied by a bodyguard. But as the faithful guard went to follow him, I tossed a coin nearby. When the guard went to investigate, I sprinted by him and kicked Robert into the water where he died instantly. The guard picked up my coin, wandered back to where his protectee should have been, and decided that nothing was out of the ordinary.
The coin’s distraction ability buys valuable seconds in a game where the slightest bit of additional control can mean success or failure. Delaying a guard for even a few seconds can allow you to murder someone in broad daylight. Hitman 2’s levels are meticulously composed, with miniature stories and character routines playing out with reliable consistency. Throwing the coin is like interjecting a handful of additional notes into a pre-written musical score. It breaks the established pace, with countless applications for the ensuing pause in action. Is that one mechanic who can see through your disguise standing too close to the tool you need? Throw the coin in a corner of the room and grab what you need. Need to have your target stop underneath a precariously placed construction instrument? Throw the coin right underneath. In certain games, the coin could even be used offensively. Is that informant’s wife swimming in the indoor pool, which is conveniently beneath a glass roof? Throw the coin and, believe it or not, that little coin will break the glass.
You can’t take a gun most places in Hitman 2, but you can take the coin anywhere. No one is going to frisk you for your pocket change or report you to the guards for flicking a quarter to the ground. It’s so simple, so amazingly elegant and humble. As a result, the coin becomes a perfect encapsulation of Hitman 2’s design philosophy. Each level is a machine, and our goal is to break it.
Agent 47 can disguise himself as the most innocuous and unassuming individuals. Likewise, there’s nothing particularly special about a coin. And it is who or what they least expect that becomes your targets’ undoing in Hitman 2. That waiter might be the most dangerous man in the room. That coin clattering in the corner might be the most dangerous weapon. It’s both ridiculous and terrifying. Hitman is as much a dark comedy as it is a hardcore stealth game.
Throw a coin, change the world.