This "47" dude always looks grotesquely displeased.
Hitman 2: The Reckoning took a long time to arrive on GameCube, but it was worth the wait. You play as a professional killer who takes out contract "hits" in various locations and situations. In each mission, you are basically given free reign to sneak in by whatever means necessary, take out your target as cleanly as possible, and then get the hell out. And for the most part, the game presents this high-tension experience with great style and polish.
The graphics are great. Although nothing is completely mind-blowing, these are very high quality visuals that show a high amount of effort. The models are well-constructed with clean textures. Framerate is consistent, with the animation also being very fluid and realistic. For example, when you use the Ballers (very high-powered handguns), dead bodies fly back several feet and splay their limbs about in death throe fashion. Quite impressive amounts of detail, even if there are visible texture seams here and there.
The music and sound effects are very satisfying. There are some good tracks and some forgettable ones, but it's mostly enjoyable music (Japanese castle, opera, Soviet march stuff, etc.). Sound effects are surprisingly accomplished, with clear gunshots and thumps (dead bodies, heh). Voice acting is quite abundant and well done. Overall, the game's sound is quite superior.
Gameplay is godly. Most, if not all missions are carried out at your leisure and discretion. You choose your method of attack on your intended target, and execute in the manner you see fit. There are several solutions to any problem, and there are no less than three ways to carry out any given mission. For example, there is a party at an embassy and your target is inside. You can do one of three main ways to assassinate the target. You can A) drug a waiter, steal his clothes, and serve the general a poisoned drink, B) knock out/kill a security guard, wait until the target separates himself from the party and then strangle him with a wire, or C) steal an invitation from another socialite, and simply walk up to the target and shoot him. And there are even more ways to carry out the mission if you want to get really creative. The game emphasizes stealth but does not overly penalize you for failing to keep undercover. You get bonus weapons for finishing the mission with a Silent Assassin Rating, where you only kill your intended target and do not get discovered. I had a blast figuring out new ways to execute my target and escape with minimal/no detection.
Up until now, everything is coming up roses for Hitman 2. But alas, I must now switch from that which is good, to the overbearing gripes and pointless flaws that stifle this game from greatness. First off, why in the blue HELL is the save file 59 blocks?! And no, you don't get three saves on one file; each time you save the game as a different file, it's 59 blocks. What is it saving, you ask? Just your position in a level. And it takes a long time to save each time. If that wasn't enough, the save files have an unusually high corruption rate.
Although I praise the gameplay design's openness, actually figuring out one of the ways to complete each mission often becomes a purely trial-and-error process. Much of the mission is dependent on your choices, but sometimes it is really just a crapshoot whether you succeed or fail. And when the saving and loading time is so long and you die a lot, the frustration table gets high.
The AI in this game is the most bipolar I have ever seen. The guards range from pattern-driven goons to superhuman logic machines who can see right through disguises, as if they had X-ray vision. For example, in a certain mission, when you hit your target, the citizens and police start a pointless fight between each other that causes numerous guards to start shooting anything they see, including you. For no reason. On the other hand, the AI is almost impossible to disguise against, sometimes rendering the "disguise" portion of the gameplay utterly useless. It can be enough to make you want to go on a (virtual) killing spree and damn the good mission rating. For example, in the very first mission, you can assume the role of a grocery delivery man and insert yourself into your target's abode. For some reason, should you attempt to quicken the pace from a slow walk to a little trot up to the house, you will be fired upon by the security guards. The AI has reasoned that you are a professional hitman because you are running to the house with a box of groceries. They went from Point A to Point C without going through Point B. It doesn't make any sense and cheapens the experience. And somehow guards can see through concealing disguises as if they were psychic. Overall, the game is brought down by trial-and-error antics and cheaply difficult AI.
In all honesty, I enjoyed Hitman 2: Silent Assassin immensely. However, some very major problems hold Hitman 2 back. It's a shame, too, because if just a few things were tweaked here and there, Hitman 2 would have achieved the greatness so few games attain. That said, I did quite like my experience with Hitman 2, and am waiting to see what they do with the next game should there be one. Hopefully in the flaws stated herein are fixed in the next game, and the result would be a game worth recommending to anyone.