Hitman 2 Review
The Hitman series, and its star — Agent 47 — have been around since the release of Hitman: Codename 47 in 2000. Across the course of six main games, plus a couple of minor tangential arrangements, we have seen a lot of murder, death and kill. A stealth game by nature, the intent has always been to pull off assassinations in ever-increasing bizarre and varied ways. Hitman was the sixth game in the series and a reboot of sorts where IO Interactive, the Danish developer responsible for Agent 47’s back catalogue, reimagined what the game was. Instead of a contained piece of narrative within which kills were embedded, they decided that the story was the murder. Yes, there was a plot of sorts but it was there to string together an episodic release of multiple maps, each of which was a sandbox of death. Hitman 2, the latest and seventh release in the main series, takes that tenet and just plays with it more. The end result is an absolutely barnstorming slice of entertainment with eminent replayability which is guaranteed to provide hours of fun to all who play, regardless of experience.
An example of my first playthrough, then. An early map saw me in a Latin American village full of fishermen, travellers, locals and a drug cartel. I was tasked with the assassination of three key players working for, or running, the drug cartel in that region. In my time I blew up a garage, killing the mechanic, in order to get some glue he was unwilling to share. I found a bus made of cocaine after breaking into a hippie’s hotel room. After that — which I managed with the use of the one crowbar I could find after excessive exploration — I realised I could distract the hotel owner and borrow his master keys. I killed a shaman to disguise myself as him, allowing me to use a cement mixer to kill and bury someone in one go. I fed some poison to some travellers and I pushed a lady off a cliff. I stole an injured submarine engineer’s uniform and ran a grounded submarine into a bad guy killing him dead. I glued the bus of cocaine back together — as it was broken — and gave it to a chemist. After he was happy it was cocaine I stabbed him and ran. I did more, but this finished my game. I’d won. On reviewing my performance I’d completed 15.3% of the level. There was so much more to do and I’d had one go at it.
The game is pure sandbox. In any map there are so many ways to accomplish your objectives, with no two playthroughs ever likely to be the same. The game guides you through options but as you become more adept, you begin to see opportunity in everything. The directed options the game proffers to you are by way of mission stories. As you wander a map you might happen upon an individual or group of people who are talking, or doing something. This intel gives you a lead to follow. Perhaps you can find a plant to take you into a secure meeting, or realise that somebody you need to kill is going to be meeting a wannabe blackmailer. In one mission there will be multiple mission stories and it’s up to you whether you follow one all the way to its conclusion. This can be massively helpful early on but as you progress you’ll start to learn how Agent 47 best sets up and executes his kills, and you’ll see those neon signs can be loosened, or that pair of scissors combined with a distracting coin and some sedatives can help you finish your target in the most amusing of manners.
The sandbox play does lend itself to fun, too. You are encouraged by the developers who have marked many tens of challenges on each map and unlocked if you do certain things to meet specific requirements. This can be as simple as killing your target after disguising yourself as X, or maybe it’s about making sure the person you’re assassinating dies in the most embarrassing way, or most elaborate. This all adds to the replayability value when you can play a mission with different kills, completing more of the challenges and finding new things on your third, fourth, fifth playthrough of your favourite area.
The whole package is really slick, too. A lovely dashboard-type home screen shows all your options, which includes the maps from Hitman, available as a DLC pack. Alongside this is the prologue from the first game and an extra campaign. There’s the full Hitman 2 story of course, plus a co-op sniper mission with a time limit in which to complete the objective. Over time there will be various elusive target levels, where some big bad will be there for the kill, but with only one chance to get it right. Permadeath missions then, the first of which stars Sean Bean as the man you need to kill without being caught, without saving and without dying. If you fail, you’re done. No second chances. The graphics are worthy of this stage in this generation and have been jazzed up compared to the original too, to take advantage of the extra time IO has had since the previous game came out. Part of what makes the presentation good is the incidental dialogue from the titular avatar as well as the handsomely populated world in any given area. The whole thing is just a sumptuous treat. That’s not to mention the online Ghost mode which is still in beta now but has you in a world with another Hitman competing against each other as you try to take down the map’s targets.
Hitman 2 is pure fun. Everything in the game is an enjoyable challenge, either in terms of the stealth, or the combat, or perhaps just the problem solving. You can drop the difficulty and still have to find devious ways to off a particularly challenging target but without worrying so much about the execution of your chosen method. If you want it all to be rock hard, that’s there too. The game caters for all needs and provides lavish dollops of fun and joy to all who partake in the delights offered. With the mission stories, the delightfully vibrant maps and the challenges there’s just so much to keep you coming back for more too. Add to that the seemingly infinite methods of killing, the variety of tools to help you achieve that perfect death and all the other fun things you can play about with (throwing coins is one thing, but blueberry muffins?), then the Hitman 2 package demonstrates its brilliance with alarming regularity. This is the best Hitman game and perhaps the finest sandbox game around. It’s not new, but it does what it does fabulously well.
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