After entering a world of assassination for the first time for the current generation, Hitman returned to widespread acclaim back in 2016 after the mixed reaction to Hitman: Absolution back in the PS3 and 360 era. So is Hitman 2 as good as its 2016 precursor? It sure is. But we’re lucky we’re even getting a sequel in the first place.
It was looking very dicey for everyone’s favourite methodical murderer, Agent 47, back in 2017, after Square Enix decided to take out Hitman’s owner’s and creators, IO Interactive, in news that shocked the gaming industry. Particularly surprising considering the success, critically and commercially, of the 2016 iteration of their interactive murder simulator. Well, after retaining the Hitman property, IO pressed ahead with a sequel, with Warner Bros. taking over publishing duties, and the results are once again, fantastic.
The plot as ever, revolves around the ICA and your handler Diana Burnwood, sending you out to kill many a target, but follows on from Hitman in that you’re working with Providence, enemies in the last game, to help take down the mysterious Shadow Client, whoever they may be. To delve any further would be spoiler-territory, and while still not the world’s greatest storyline, it’s deeper than last time round, and still fun to watch between rounds of meticulously-planned killing.
And meticulously-planned killing is why we play the Hitman series, and in this sequel it has never been better. The game looks and feels exactly the same as the 2016 edition, but is none the worse for it. Veterans of the series will be able to pick up and play immediately and get into the nitty gritty of a world of assassination. Newbies, however, will find just like last time a very forgiving prologue chapter to get you used to the basics, and learn about how stealth and patience are rewarded over all out gunfire once again. It looks the same graphically, but considering how well it looked last time round, it doesn’t really matter that they’ve not moved it forward visually.
The UI has been given a makeover, however, and looks as sleek as one of 47’s suits. Items and weaponry can be selected with the menu only taking up a small section of the screen unlike in the previous game, so you can see how you’ll use an item more efficiently once selected. Music is wonderfully operatic once a target has been successfully downed again, giving you that feeling of utter triumph after a perfectly planned hit succeeds.
There are some new features to the franchise that definitely have helped improve the overall experience, however. When blending into a crowd, a new indicator shows if you’re hidden or not, particularly useful when you’re on the run from guards if something’s gone wrong in your hit. You can also take cover in long grass with the same effect. Your radar will simply turn dark when you’re hidden, making it easier than ever to evade capture from the many, many, guards that are peppered around the game’s huge sandbox levels.
A window will also appear in the top corner of your screen if you are caught on CCTV, while somewhat helping you in locating cameras for future playthroughs of levels and securing those all important Silent Assassin ratings. The same will happen if a guard has heard a noise and comes to investigate, and once you’ve killed a target successfully. It’s a nice touch, and while most veterans won’t care or need the helping hand, it’s a welcome addition all the same.
Helping hands are also available in the game’s in-level story missions (renamed from “opportunities” like in Hitman ’16). More elaborate and convoluted than ever, they lead to spectacular kills. It could be argued that following these methods will lead to you killing your targets with relative ease, but with the option to turn them off if you wish, this is a problem that is easily negated. Personally, I found them to be a great way of learning the lay of the land of each map, before finding ways to kill my targets at my own discretion on second and third playthroughs. Nothing will ever beat the fibre wire as a means of eliminating a target in Hitman. It’s labelled as one of the “classics” in-game for a reason.
Another welcome addition is those aforementioned sandbox levels, this time available all at once as opposed to episodically, like in 2016. They range wonderfully in locale from the sun drenched racetrack in Miami to tropical rains of the Colombian jungle. They’re plenty big enough without feeling overwhelming, so how you choose to execute your hits is entirely up to you in these urban expanses.
Hitman 2 also includes the option of installing the “Legacy Pack”, which essentially is all the maps from Hitman 2016 with the new game’s mechanics and tweaks. You just need to own the original game on disc or digitally and you can install them for free (the only cost being some extra hard drive space). While veterans have no doubt played those original maps from Hokkaido to Sapienza to death, seeing them with Hitman 2’s new mechanics adds an extra challenge and longevity to this package at (potentially) no extra charge (you can still install the Legacy Pack even if you don’t own the original Hitman, but it’ll cost you).
Also returning are brand new elusive targets, (the first being a well-known actor prone to dying on screen), and the Sniper Assassin mode which players from the “Patient Zero” campaign of Hitman ’16 will be well familiar of, or if they pre-ordered this game in advance. There’s also the much touted “Ghost Mode”, which adds the first multiplayer element to the Hitman franchise, albeit online, where players can test their skills against a literal world of assassins, seeing who can kill the quickest and cleanest in a timed setting. You’ll be able to see how you opponent is doing via a ghostly-looking avatar on your map, but you can’t influence their game, and vice versa. There’s also the return of the popular fan-made contracts mode and escalation contracts for each of the game’s maps.
However, it’s the online element that still irks when playing Hitman 2. Like its predecessor, you have to always be online to truly get the full experience of the game, so good luck if your internet is a bit patchy, or god forbid goes down for a night. It’s a minor quibble, but it shouldn’t be necessary to always be connected to thoroughly enjoy a game that you’ve shelled out decent money for.
Hitman 2 is a perfect example of taking what went right with a successful property, then building on it, and creating something even better. Which, after seeing the franchise almost being tossed in the dumpster, is genuinely all the more impressive. It is fluid, tough but fair and gives you variety like you’ve never seen before. And with the myriad of other gameplay options to get stuck into, Hitman 2 will have you coming back for more.
Hitman 2 is, quite simply, brilliant. A near-perfect stealth game and a joy to play. You'll kill for more Agent 47 again and again. Microtransactions: none
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