|System: PS4, Xbox One, PC|
|Dev: IO Interactive|
|Pub: Warner Bros. Interactive|
|Release: November 13, 2018|
|Players: 1-2 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Use of Drugs, Use of Alcohol|
by Jenni Lada
Flow is important. Games and stories need proper transitions, leading from one scenario to the next and making everything you are doing in this virtual world feel plausible in the moment. When you go through an adventure that doesn’t have a same sense of consistency and connection, it can leave an experience feeling “off” even when everything else works. Hitman 2 is that sort of game. It does what it is supposed to do well and builds off of 2016’s episodic Hitman, but some design decisions can leave things feeling off. This isn’t bad, especially if you come to a Hitman game to pick at various locations and take on specific contracts, but it might throw some people off.
It is something evident when you first download and look through Hitman 2. Unlike 2016’s Hitman, 2018’s Hitman 2 is not episodic. Everything is available together at launch. However, this does not mean it is like Hitman: Codename 47 or Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. It retains the structure of the episodic release, from locations each being downloaded separately, When you load up the game, you start with a Featured screen that doles things like Story, Ghost Mode, the current Elusive Target, Sniper Assassin, Contracts Mode, Patch Notes, and Load Game, as though you were at a Windows 10 PC with various buttons to press. Going into the other spaces similarly divides things up. While this is efficient, it is a little jarring to head to the Campaign page and see all of the story cutscenes and major missions laid out there in their little cubes, with someone able to jump through them in any order. (I would not recommend this, but tested to see if it would allow me to flit between modes. It did.)
This is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, one of the best things about a Hitman game is the freedom to enjoy what is essentially an assassination sandbox, attempting to complete challenges or explore destinations. It just makes it all feel very obvious that things were planned to follow a different course. Having a Hitman tab in campaign for the 2016 release’s episodes is a constant reminder that this is a second part of something and you are probably missing out if you did not see the previous lore. It is just with the story segments, it can make things feel like things are separate parts of the whole.
Really, the only way I felt its disjointed nature hurt Hitman 2 was when it came to the campaign’s story segments. When I headed out on a mission, Diana’s commentary about the assignment was interesting and some of the motivations and behaviors of people genuinely made me want to investigate further as I prepared to eliminate targets. But the cutscenes are a stark contrast to its immediate predecessor. It uses static images with dialogue and narration over them. There are no actual animated segments. These pieces can sometimes feel like they might not connect as well to the on-location assignments you just worked your way through. What we learn about Diana, Agent 47, and the groups they are following do add a lot to the series’ lore, but I sometimes found them less interesting due to the execution.
While I have been going on about how things can feel disconnected, there is one area in which Hitman 2 does offer a strong sense of consistency. Its overall location structure is better, with areas being of similar levels of quality. Hawke’s Bay is an outlier, since it is a tutorial level, but the Miami, Santa Fortuna, Mumbai, Whittleton Creek, and Isle of Sgàil campaign locations and Himmelstein Sniper Assassin locations are well realized. There are lots of rooms and places to discover and explore. If you take the time to learn about them, you can find new starting locations, people of interest, places to hide, spots with good vantage points or tools, and places to hide bodies (yours or your victims). I especially appreciated the cover options, as being able to walk into a crowd of people without crouching is a fantastic way to hide Agent 47 in places like Miami or Mumbai. This isn’t like the previous game. When I tried bits and pieces, thanks to IO Interactive’s various free packs, I noticed some disparity. Marrakesh felt less detailed and fun for me than, say, Sapienza.
Another way Hitman 2 does foster connections is by how it ties back to past games in terms of mechanics, costumes, and equipment. Agent 47 has access to his sniper briefcase again, which makes it possible for him to slip weapons he couldn’t normally hide past people that would otherwise be suspicious of someone carrying a very large gun. It also has the same sorts of silly costumes you would expect and unexpected ways to kill people. Those who liked Hitman: Absolution’s chipmunk mascot costume will probably be a big fan of the flamingo costume present in the Miami map.
But in terms of gameplay, it otherwise tends to build more on what worked in the episodic Hitman, rather than try to deviate from an established formula. There are some changes, certainly. As I mentioned earlier, Agent 47 can blend in with a crowd of people just by walking into them or quickly find cover in overgrown grasses by crouching and walking through it. It also feels more like Diana might be piping information in to you, as there is now a picture-in-picture options that displays important clips of information. Let’s use Alma Reynard as an example. She is in the Hawke’s Bay house where there are plenty of bodyguards and her boytoy present. After you complete your mission and assassinate her, you will see a brief video clip appear on-screen when her body is discovered. The game also doesn’t take too long to introduce new equipment like concussion grenades, which allow you to knock out someone in an area without directly contacting them or killing them. But for the most part, things will feel familiar. Having a coin or some wire on hand as your smuggled-in item is always handy. Knowing which legal and illegal items are around will work out well for you.
It just can feel like the real fun with Hitman 2 comes from exploring the destinations at your leisure, pursuing Elusive Targets, and taking on Contracts. As I mentioned earlier, these locations are well thought out. Even though some will be larger than others, compare Miami and Whittleton Creek as an example, they all have the same amount of layers and afford you opportunities. The game also allows you multiple difficulty options, from a very forgiving casual mode to one that expects you to be an experienced master assassin. You can turn guidance on or off, have lots of options when planning a mission, have various supplemental challenges that can be pursued, and can even turn on or off various HUD and options to make things more stripped down and difficult or extensive and accommodating.
While I mentioned the standard Hitman modes tend to be more of the same, but with a few refinements, Hitman 2 does have two new modes present in it. One is the competitive Ghost mode, while the other is the cooperative Sniper Assassin. Ghost almost felt like the Hitman Reality Show to me, in that your experience is separate from someone else’s but you can see the ghost of what they are doing, it has an announcer, and there are special Ghost Crates and Items. The Ghost Crates let you and your opponent get usable items or disguises, but if say one person takes a coin from a crate, the other person can’t get that coin. The Ghost Items are the only things that do have an impact on the opponent’s mission, so someone using a Ghost Coin could throw it and have it draw attention of NPCs in both versions of the match. It is interesting and has its moments, but also feels like the sort of mode you should be playing after completing the campaign and having a feel for the locations, since you need a certain level of awareness to succeed. Also, it can take quite a bit of time to accomplish anything or win, due to not knowing where you or your next target will spawn.
I feel like Ghost is the better of the two modes, to be frank. It is not that Sniper Assassin is bad. It is just more limited. We had access to this mode ahead of launch, but it still only has the one Himmelstein map at launch. Being able to work with another player, having players use Agent 47, Knight, and Stone, to take out a target before time runs out has potential. It just feels like it was not fully realized at launch. Which felt odd to me, seeing as how people who pre-ordered the game have already been playing it.
Hitman 2 is for people who liked the episodic Hitman and wanted to see maps that were more even and consistent, have access to additional equipment for Agent 47, and generally get more of what they wanted. It does have some issues where it can feel disjointed, but this is really most noticeable in the campaign and will not be an issue for folks who want to take on contracts, hunt down Elusive Targets, complete challenges, and learn everything they need to know about each of the locations in the game. The Ghost Mode has potential for those who feel like they are going to put upwards of 30 hours into it, but I feel like it could be a while before Sniper Assassin hits its peek. If you are an Agent 47 fan, it is time to grab your briefcase and put on your suit again.