Follically-challenged Agent 47 returns in the sequel to 2016’s episodic reboot. Changing outfits to a more recognizable release package, Hitman 2 is more of the same and that can only be a good thing.
For the uninitiated, Hitman is neither traditional stealth game nor shooter – but missions are all about excellence in execution. Each level in the franchise is a sandbox full of details and variables to be bent to the advantage of those cunning enough. The aim is simple – eliminate your target and escape.
The way in which you choose to eliminate your target is up to you – entering a room with an assault rifle is always an option, but to watch an experienced assassin is comparable to a conductor of an orchestra. They’ll move with grace when needed, and aggression when called for, but everything flows.
2018’s confusingly titled Hitman 2 (there was already a Hitman 2 before the reboot) carries on this tradition, featuring some of the most memorable missions in the franchise’s storied history. A combination of raceway and expo center in Miami allows for all sorts of maniacal schemes involving the sabotage of a race car or dressing up as a mascot. A secluded mountain getaway features ample sniping opportunities.
If all of this sounds like it could be overwhelming, you’d be right – at least in prior entries. Hitman 2 does a great job of giving players freedom to customize the experience to their tastes. If you’d like assistance on, you can have the game track “Mission Stories” (previously known as “Opportunities”) which are multi-stepped assassination options. You can increase difficulty by removing these assists, increasing guard awareness and even removing the option to use 47’s “Instinct” to track a target. Hitman 2 can be as difficult as you want it to be.
You can even dial back the game’s excellent autosave system. In a game full of trial and error (many, many errors on my part), it’s comforting to be able to be able to slip into a save state minutes before you stormed a room wearing the wrong outfit or pushed someone off of a balcony in plain view of a witness. Manual saving also allows more flexibility in your approach, and experimentation is a key component of the Hitman experience.
The story picks up shortly after the conclusion of 47’s last outing, with him and his handler Diana on the trail of the mysterious Shadow Client. Unfortunately, while the gameplay is all about taking risks and seeing whether they pay off, the plot here is a muddled mess of Bourne and Bond tropes filtered through the disappointing Hitman movies. It progresses in a strange fashion for such a grounded universe, and while the levels themselves are peppered with Hitman’s darkly comic undertones, the overarching story feels too serious. This is further hampered by cutscenes being more akin to a comic strip – while stylized and for the most part well-acted, it seems a shame given the beauty to be found elsewhere.
While its predecessor rebooted the series in an episodic fashion, Hitman 2 has returned to a complete package (albeit a significant portion of which needs to be downloaded even with a disc copy). While this tactical change in approach would make Agent 47 proud, it comes with some caveats. As with the prior entry, there are six locations. This is significantly fewer than older games in the series, while there is DLC to come.
That said, these maps are huge and stuffed with a ridiculous level of detail. NPCs are not only full voiced but convincingly so, and everything pops in 4K on Xbox One X. In fact, I’d say that Hitman 2 is one of the best looking games of 2018. Passers-by wander the streets and go about their days blissfully unaware of your intentions, and this adds to the new crowd-blending mechanic.
There are new additions bolted onto the framework of the 2016 reboot – aside from blending into a crowd, you can now be spotted from your reflections in mirrors. Blood Money’s picture-in-picture returns and allows for tracking of concurrent events more clearly, and new items such as the briefcase allow for new and more nefarious plots.
These changes make Hitman 2 a definite evolution of the pre-existing formula, and this is impressively shown by IO Interactive pulling every location from 2016’s episodic game and allowing players to import them. While this means there are new ways to play (each episode will be bolstered by the additions mentioned before), it also means Hitman 2 acts as a definitive hub for all twelve locations. While I haven’t been able to test this functionality, we’ll update this review when we’ve been able to do so.
Sniper Assassin, previously a pre-order bonus focused on long distance kills for score streaks, returns as part of the package. It’s a fun, forgettable experience and while it acts as a microcosm of sorts for the main game (killing people where their bodies can’t be found or making it look like an accident), it isn’t likely you’ll play more than a few rounds. It’s also playable in co-op.
More exciting, however, is the addition of Ghost Mode – the series’ first foray into competitive multiplayer. In this mode, players face off against each other on adjacent but identical maps – neither can interact with the other, but each must eliminate five targets before the opposition does. Bonus points are awarded for stealth and ingenuity, so don’t expect to go crazy with a shotgun and sweep the win.
Hitman 2 is surgical – it’s a focused experience that knows what it wants to achieve and exactly how to do it, much like its protagonist. All six maps are wonderfully replayable, and in reshuffling older content, IO seems to be on the cusp of the “games as a service” wave in a way not attempted by other developers. More locations would have been welcome, and Hitman 2 feels like somewhat of a supplementary package to its episodic brother at times, but there is nothing else out there like it.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.