In 2016 Square Enix released a Hitman game in the form of an episodic series, which was a strange approach, to say the least. After two years of further development under the Warner Brothers umbrella, Danish developer IO Interactive has worked on six new sandbox levels and released them all at once under the title of “Hitman 2“.
If you have played the previous Hitman game, then “Hitman 2” will be extremely familiar to you. The gameplay is almost a carbon copy of the previous iteration, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, this is slightly disappointing if you are expecting the series to improve by leaps and bounds.
In “Hitman 2” you are dropped into six different sandbox levels: Hawke’s Bay (New Zealand), Miami (U.S.), Santa Fortuna (Colombia), Mumbai (India), Whittleton Creek (U.S.) and the Isle of Sgàil (North Atlantic). Most of the levels are absolutely packed with people, routes, disguises, weapons, objects, and opportunities to kill your various targets. Although there are only six levels, they are designed for a lot of replayability.
The previously known “opportunities” are now called “mission stories” (this is NOT a new feature). This mechanic is used to guide you to take certain directions within the level in order to carry out your contract. It is essentially IO Interactive giving you a wink-wink and a nudge of the elbow about certain conversations you may overhear.
In the last “Hitman” game, they improved the use of disguises and the overall AI. However, in “Hitman 2“, the functions and quality are practically the same. There are no visible improvements within these aspects. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it does make the game feel a bit of “more of the same” from 2016. Only certain people will suspect you and your disguise. People will order you to leave areas instead of killing you for literally stepping over a line. However, the AI does let itself down at times with people somehow witnessing murders around corners of walls. But to counteract this, NPCs can see what’s behind them in mirrors which is a nice touch.
One of the new gameplay mechanics is quite unoriginal, in the form of foliage. If you have played your fair share of stealth games (the “Uncharted” and “Tomb Raider” series) then you will be very familiar with this mechanic. It is OK, but there lies the problem. It is just OK. Blending in with the crowd is also a new feature, which is a nice addition and gives the sandbox levels an extra layer of immersion. Picture-in-picture notifications is a new addition to the gameplay which shows you live pictures of bodies being discovered or Agent 47 being recorded on security cameras. This gives you a sense of where the danger is coming from and helps with your decision making.
Sniper Mode is back, and it is quite a challenging but simplistic mode where essentially Agent 47 has a shooting gallery to play with for 15 minutes. Contract Mode is also back from the past 2 “Hitman” games. In this mode, you can create and partake in custom-made missions to upload to the online Hitman community. Elusive Targets make a return and the first installment will star actor Sean Bean, who will be the first target.
Ghost Mode makes a nice debut in “Hitman 2” albeit it is currently still in Beta. You are pitted against another player from the “Hitman” online community and are both dropped into a random level which is littered with randomized boxes full of items and disguises to use. Whoever makes it first to five unnoticed assassinations wins. This is quite a tense mode and it plays out nicely. It makes you think on your feet super-fast and the pressure can really affect your decision making which has to be spot on.
As per usual with Hitman games, the story is lackluster, and to be frank: uninteresting. The story is delivered via cutscenes between levels in the form of stylized still images, with some moving elements in the backgrounds. The story visits the pasts of Agent 47 and Diana Burnwood and finds a way to intertwine them together, however, IO Interactive just always seem to find a way to make the story secondary in these games.
The graphics in “Hitman 2” are improved from the previous 2016 title with the new dynamic lighting engine. Environments look more impressive than ever with the dynamic lighting and improved shadow effects. The character models have their usual cartoony look to them and with hundreds of these characters living within the worlds, the frame rates are solid considering all the action that is happening on the screen. There were a few times that pop-in was noticeable on objects around the levels, but it was hardly a major issue.
The sound is on par with the previous title, with bustling sound effects in busy levels. Multiple conversations can be heard overlapping, but the key conversations do stand out. The soundtrack is your trademark Hitman orchestra sound, but much like the story, it is rather forgettable.
If you are a stealth purist with loads of patience and loves a good puzzle, then “Hitman 2” is right up your street. If not, then it would be advisable to wait until the game drops in price.
To get the true value out of “Hitman 2” then you must dedicate your time to replaying the same sandbox maps repeatedly. Finding every way to kill your targets and discovering every area of the map, as well as keeping up to date with the elusive targets will be key to this. If you have played 2016’s “Hitman” title then you will get a very familiar feeling whilst playing “Hitman 2”, and that is due to a lack of any real progress in the core gameplay.
You have still got an endless supply of overflowing sinks, wardrobes and boxes like other Hitman games have had, and you will still experience that trademark dark humor charm of people dying in a video game. My main issue with all of this is that it is TOO familiar. It is pretty much just six new episodes that were made for the episodic 2016 title, with the same gameplay, released in 2018. Some will celebrate this because they loved the last title, whilst others will just wish to see a bit more innovation to the Hitman gameplay.
This review is based on a digital copy of Hitman 2 for the PlayStation 4 Pro provided by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.