A Nearly Flawless Execution
Coming just two years after the release of 2016’s excellent episodic reboot, Hitman 2 once again puts players in the shoes of the iconic ICA assassin Agent 47. Offering six fresh contracts that have you hunting your targets from the shores of New Zealand to the bustling slums of Mumbai, the game ups the ante with some of the most exciting, open-ended contracts yet. And while it may feel a bit more like an incremental update than a true sequel to its predecessor, IO Interactive’s latest murder simulator is one armchair assassins won’t want to miss.
Hitman 2’s campaign is easily the franchise’s most ambitious to date. Taking place immediately after the events of the previous game as Agent 47 works to hunt the elusive Shadow Client and his militia down. Though the story itself is a bit of a mess (more on that later), the missions themselves are absolutely fantastic. Each one is set in a sprawling sandbox just teeming with murderous opportunities that are just begging to be explored.
One mission set in the slums of Mumbai had me disguise myself as a member of a famous Bollywood film producer’s dancing troupe to infiltrate his compound. Then, after working my way through the production crew, I was able to take control of an industrial fan and send the hapless media mogul tumbling from the top of his skyscraper to the river below. Another mission began with me with crashing a neighborhood barbecue in a picturesque Vermont neighborhood and ended with me murdering an elderly spymaster during a medical exam.
Of course, I could have opted to blow him up by tampering with his oxygen machine and sneaking him a smoke, but that would have risked putting his guards on high alert. With so many different ways to do your dirty deeds, Hitman 2 will keep even the most seasoned assassins busy for hours on end as they try to uncover every available side story.
Killing Is My Business
The intel system from the previous game returns, which allows you to eavesdrop on conversations or uncover clues in the environment to gain access to your target. Each of the game’s six missions has three of these to uncover, and they prove to be by far the most satisfying ways to dispatch your targets. Mind you, they can take quite a bit of work to make happen as you jump from disguise to disguise and carefully orchestrate every facet of a murder like some macabre Rub Goldberg machine. But the payoff is almost always well worth the effort.
The game’s final mission was nothing short of a 3-hour marathon that put my skills to the limit. But I couldn’t complain when it ended with me hijacking the casket of one of my recent victims to murder my target right in the middle of a creepy cultist funeral. Likewise, I put hours into exploring a rustic South American village in order to decapitate a drug cartel. But it was well worth it when I watched as a giant bronze statue squashed my clueless narcoterrorist like a bug. Moments like this are where Hitman 2 absolutely shines.
Of course, less patient operatives can always go in guns blazing. However, if you do that you’re bound to get much less enjoyment out of the experience. Firstly, it makes the game far too easy as the enemy AI isn’t really the sharpest when it comes to gunplay. More importantly, however, it’s just not that fun to brute force your way through a mission. It’s much more rewarding to finesse your way to your target and earn that coveted Silent Assassin title.
When it comes to new additions to the formula, Hitman 2 is a bit lacking. However, there are a few welcome tweaks here and there. Mirrors are now wholly functional ways of keeping your eyes on a target from around a corner. However, you have to be wary that enemies can spot your reflection, too. Another new trick is the ability to seamlessly blend into crowds. The game also introduces a new picture-in-picture mode. This is most notable when spotted by security cameras which, when a crime is committed in their view, will dispatch guards to their location.
One thing I really like is the progression system. As you explore each stage, you’ll earn points for both Location Mastery and Performance. Location Mastery is gained by completing objectives like stories, assassination challenges, exploring new areas, and more.
Mastering each location will unlock new starting positions, weapons stashes, and more. And, as you’d expect, the really fun weapons are unlocked by reaching the highest mastery levels. Performance experience, on the other hand, is earned by performing moment-to-moment actions like stashing bodies, silent takedowns, and other similarly clandestine actions. It’s really satisfying checking off all of the various Mastery achievements. And the six returning Legacy Levels have also been tweaked to take advantage of these systems, which gives you further incentive to dive back in and try to see everything they have to offer.
Lastly, Hitman 2 also introduces a new Sniper Assassin Mode. This online cooperative shooting gallery is inspired by the popular Hitman: Sniper mobile game that tasks two players with assassinating targets from a cliffside perch above a massive manor. Despite removing the player from the estate itself, it’s still a surprisingly cerebral experience. Experimentation is key as you fire upon objects in the environment to lure out guards, send objects in the environment tumbling onto your prey, and more. It’s great fun, and I really hope it’s expanded upon over the course of Hitman 2’s DLC offerings.
So, are these game-changing additions? No, not really. But they’re welcome ones. And they do a solid job of keeping things fresh and exciting while fleshing out the series’ tried-and-true mechanics.
Screaming Bloody Murder
Don’t get me wrong. While I really enjoy these new additions introduced in Hitman 2, the game still doesn’t feel like a genuine sequel. In fact, it feels much more like Hitman: Season Two than anything else. This is especially apparent when it comes to the way the stripped-down way storytelling is handled. Each stage is tied together with barebones storyboard sequences that fail to pull you into its world of clandestine intrigue.
Then again, even the glossiest CGI or in-game cinematics wouldn’t make much of a difference in this regard. Hitman 2’s story is, in a word, ridiculous. From the cardboard characters to the painful voice acting, I found it impossible to become invested in the game’s convoluted narrative, which seems to end just as things are finally starting to pick up.
Then again, I’ve never really played the Hitman games for their stories. That being said, this isn’t a huge issue. Still, I feel a more coherent story to string each operation together would have been greatly appreciated. As it stands, each of Hitman 2’s levels feels like its own bite-sized vignette unrelated from the overarching narrative.
Dressed To Kill
Narrative qualms aside, Hitman 2 represents Agent 47 at his best. The game’s six stages are masterfully crafted sandboxes that will test your skills and your patience. And while the new features IO Interactive has introduced don’t quite reinvent the wheel, they certainly make the game all the more enjoyable. Add to this the inclusion of Hitman 2016 and the addicting new sniper mode and you have a package that will keep even the most seasoned contract killers busy for quite a while.
Simply put, if you’re a fan of the series and eager for more sadistic thrills, Hitman 2 should be at the top of your hit list.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC; Publisher: Warner Bros. Games; Developer: IO Interactive; Players: 1-2; Released: November 13, 2018; ESRB: M for Mature; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Hitman 2 given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.