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Hitman 2 Review

by William Schwartz

Welcome to Murder Town, population 47.

It wasn’t long ago that we had no idea if we’d ever see another Hitman game from IO Interactive.  After the Danish developer was cut loose by Square Enix in 2017, it was unclear what the future would look like for the long-running franchise.  It was a weird series of events that followed the release of Hitman in 2016.  The game seemingly did well in terms of sales.  It was certainly one of the studio’s most ambitious games to date in terms of gameplay and visuals.  IO delivered and made good on just about every episode of 2016’s Hitman, releasing great maps and adding new content in the form of elusive target challenges and seasonal events for months and months after release.   It ended up being a pretty impressive final product when all was said and done.

With all of the Remastered Hitman 2016 Content this game feels massive

If the episodic content kept you away from it in 2016, you’ll be happy to know that Hitman 2 arrives with a full slate at launch.  In terms of new content, the game features one smaller, tutorial mission.  It has five full-sized locations, a Sniper Assassin map, online multiplayer, and all the challenges and contracts that you could ever want to tackle.  Then you’ve got all of the maps, bonus missions and Escalation Challenges from the last game for good measure in the form of “Legacy Content.” In one word, Hitman 2 is massive.  For anyone that had been thinking about playing the 2016 release but never got around to it, this is the time to jump in.  Some corners have been cut in terms of the quality of things like cutscenes that play between missions, but that feels like the only real sacrifice that’s been made here when you compare Hitman 2016 to Hitman 2 and there have been plenty of improvements and additions to make up for it.

hitman-2-miami-sniping

Hitman 2 is structured exactly like its predecessor.  You can sit down and play all the new content in one evening.  Follow the prompts (that are on by default) and you’ll breeze through each mission in about 20 minutes.  You could do that, but you shouldn’t, because the real value of Hitman 2 is in the depth of the game.  These Mission Stories (the stories that reveal themselves to you) are just a primer to get you familiar with each level, to learn things about the characters and the map, to give you an idea of what’s possible.  Each level is a massive puzzle to unravel, each playthrough giving you a little bit more color for the world.  The overarching story may pretty much be set in stone, but you can learn so much about this world by replaying the levels and tackling new challenges.

The value is in each level’s depth

While five levels might not sound like a whole lot when it comes to the overall package of new content, each one of them has so much to take in, rules to learn, techniques to master and gear to unlock that totally changes the experience on any given playthrough.  Mixing and matching Mission Stories, Exploration Challenges, Mastery Challenges, and Assassination Challenges make each level feel like it has infinite possibilities, with opportunities opening and closing depending on the choices that the player makes.  There’s a good bit of variety in the new locations of Hitman 2, and IO has doubled down on their size.  You’ll hit a seaside racetrack in Miami, a Columbian village, the congested slums of India, a suburban Northeastern United States town, and a secret meeting of the richest people in the world.  The scope of each level in Hitman 2 feels much bigger than the last game, to a fault at times.  If you felt that the first season of Hitman’s levels were too big, you’re really going to dislike some of these levels.

hitman-2-hawkes-bay

But with this size comes a lot of ways to murder. Want to poison your target?  Find poison in the level and then look for the opportunity to present itself.  Want to hide in a bush or climb to the top of the tallest thing you can find and wait for the perfect moment to snipe your target?  You can do that too.  You can be stealthy, you can be brazen, you can wear a giant pink flamingo mascot suit and fling a fire axe at your target if you want.  The point is, there are plenty of options and it’s a game that allows you to be both creative, and explore the creative ways that the developers want you to experience the game.  It’s the best of both worlds in terms of sandbox stealth gameplay.  This is old news though, all of this is a carry-over from the foundation that was laid down in Hitman 2016 and it still feels rock-solid and fun.

A bunch of new gadgets, weapons, and your briefcase

The gameplay has changed ever so slightly.  Agent 47 can now blend into crowds and hide in dense foliage. A stealth game at its core, this gives you the opportunity to hide or get out of enemy sight lines quickly without having to completely abandon your current course.  You also now have the option to bring a briefcase on your mission in Hitman 2.  This allows you to smuggle weapons like a Sniper Rifle into a mission without having to carry a cannon on your back and risk being instantly hunted by every guard on the map.  There are now picture in picture notifications in the user interface that allow you to keep track of targets when they are in key positions.  The updates here are incredibly smart, especially on the briefcase front because making sniping a more viable method of killing is just as fun as you think it would be.  Couple these new options with a bunch of new gadgets, like concussive grenades, tasers, and flashbangs and there’s a lot of new stuff to master in Hitman 2.

hitman-2-suburbia

On the game engine front, Hitman 2 has a revamped lighting system, and is generally a prettier game than its predecessor.  The crowds of NPC characters are far more massive, and Agent 47 can weave in and out, brushing up to them in what looks like a natural manner (most of the time).  If there’s one downside to the new crowds and the way that NPCs will interact with one another, there’s a lot of clipping going on between characters.  It’s a small knock, but it’s certainly noticeable.  All of these new features that we’ve listed above also make their way into all of the legacy content as well.  So not only do the new levels get all the goodies, the old ones have been remastered to include this as well.  So all the maps have the gameplay improvements and visual improvements.  It’s definitely worth going back and taking a look at whether you’ve played the last game or not.  And if you haven’t played Hitman 2016 you’ll want to start at the very beginning with that content before you dive into the Hitman 2 levels.

The potential outcomes for a mission are exponential

Hitman 2 continues to make a very strong case for IO Interactive being the best developer on the planet when it comes to the combination of sandbox and stealth.  The detail in each level and the sheer number of possible outcomes each time you start a game can be overwhelming at times.  To see everything they’ve tucked away in this world, you’d have to play each level to exhaustion and still may not have seen every costume, character, weapon, or completed every challenge.  You most certainly wouldn’t have ran out of ways to kill your targets and get away cleanly because the tools that you can use have an exponential amount of outcomes.

The Verdict

The momentum that Hitman had coming out of their Complete First Season release continues with Hitman 2.  IO has seemingly listened to fans and given them exactly what they wanted with a ton of new gadgets and items to use.  The new levels themselves are massive and will take hours of trial and error to work through the numerous difficulties and mastery challenges.  Hitman 2 is the series at its very best — players can play with a razor sharp edge and cut surgically through a level or take a blunt approach and make hilariously bad decisions and deal with the brutal outcome.

"loved"
loved

Hitman 2

  • Available On: Xbox One, PS4, PC
  • Published By: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
  • Developed By: IO Interactive
  • Genre: Stealth
  • US Release Date: November 13th, 2018
  • Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
  • Quote: "Hitman 2 is the series at its very best."
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