Agent 47 is the ultimate killer. This much is evident in the dozen-or-so contracts featured in the latest title featuring the bald-headed, barcode tattooed and immaculately dressed assassin. Hitman 2 is a game about killing, and it does so in the best possible way. It is a stark departure from where it is “fun” to gun down hundreds of people in the streets in Grand Theft Auto, or where one must stealth through a crowd and stab someone in the neck during a festival in Palermo, Italy, in Assassin’s Creed. Hitman 2 has proven that it can be just as much fun to do all of that, in the most refined and classy of ways.
Hitman 2 takes everything the first instalment did right, and improves on it tenfold. There is a certain beauty in the way the game allows the player to go through a huge locale, before allowing the player to plan and perfect the ultimate kill.
How well do you know Agent 47 in Hitman 2? [Story]
When compared to the traditional games in the Hitman franchise, the newer titles do take a step back in terms of the narrative focus. Although less heavy in terms of story, they still manage to keep the overarching narrative together and interesting. In Hitman, Agent 47 and the organisation he works for became aware of the Shadow Client. Hitman 2 follows the events of the 2016 title tightly and introduces a spate of new clues about the current state of the International Contract Agency and its targets. Including sharing more light on the mysterious Shadow Client.
The first few campaign missions are light on story. Agent 47 can uncover a few secrets here and there that allude to his past, and offer snippets of who or what the Shadow Client is about. However, the story only really comes into its own by around the third and fourth contracts. Showcasing how Hitman 2 is a proper follow-up to Hitman. It must be noted that Hitman 2 is first and foremost a game about finding creative ways to eliminate targets in various situations. The fact that there is a bit of a story intertwined in-between makes it all the more satisfying.
With that said, IO Interactive must be commended for the plot twists they worked into Hitman 2. While gamers might be able to ascertain certain plot elements surrounding Agent 47 and Diana’s upbringing, it was quite the surprise to hear and see it unfold. Anyone who has played previous titles in the series – most notably Hitman: Absolution (a personal favourite) – will see some of the plot points come from a mile away. While this means that the story is by no means original when it comes to Agent 47’s story and origin, there are notable differences in the execution of the narrative that makes it a brand-new experience. The interesting narrative coupled with the exceptional gameplay, makes for a really enjoyable and memorable game.
As effective as a rugby ducky to the head [Gameplay]
Anyone coming from Hitman (2016) will be surprised with the new title. Most notably because Hitman 2 is not an episodic title. Unlike the previous game that was built to deliver content on a monthly basis, Hitman 2 gives players everything from the start. This means that players no longer have to wait between episodes and contracts. However, now players can rush through all six locales. In so doing, they might forget to take a moment to smell the roses. The change in Hitman 2 from the former game’s episodic nature was a legitimate worry of mine. Especially after how much love Hitman received for its episodic nature, and how much IO managed to pack into every episode. I am glad to say that those worries were for nought.
Hitman 2’s very essence is about strolling down a crowded street or moving through a public area. in slow and well-groomed fashion. One of the first contracts of the game takes you to Miami. It is a huge area with multiple, fully explorable buildings, and an entire automobile festival and race going on in the background. Another takes you to a mansion – a huge building that has secrets hidden away in nooks and crannies, and just as many people, cameras and security guards wherever you look. While the game is not episodic, and while I could do my own thing and pass through areas quite quickly if I wanted to, Hitman 2 sort of forced me not to do that; thanks to the way the game is presented.
Before every mission, the player needs to plan their contracts. This means that Agent 47 needs to choose where his gear will be dropped off. From there, players can jump into a different section of the menu where they can get briefed on the targets and get some guidance on what to do or where to go. The game offers players hundreds of ways to take down targets. Three or four of those ways are briefly suggested at the start of every mission, just in case the huge locales and sheer plethora of content begin to overwhelm.
In terms of content, IO Interactive made it clear that players would not be locked into either gunning or bombing a target down in Hitman 2. Instead, players have access to poisons, fancy James Bond-like explosive pens and rubber ducks; cans and bottles that can be thrown at targets or around corners to distract people; and multitudes of disguises that will make it easier, and/or harder to traverse through certain parts of the huge locales.
There are even multiple little “sidequests” baked into each locale, where Agent 47 can follow a linear path that will eventually take him straight to his target. Want to act as a broker and arms dealer, there to bid on the most expensive of bioweapons and befriend the target? Sure, go ahead. Simply grab the correct disguise, make it to the second floor and start bidding away with the rest of the scummy bunch in the room. Then wait until the female target comes around, see how she walks and where she goes. Alternatively, you could act as a photographer or a bartender, and eventually poison the heck out of the signature drinks her partner chugs away on, or maybe even act as a personal bodyguard on break during a very important meeting! The possibilities truly are limitless. The best part of Hitman 2 is the fact that Agent 47 is not locked into any one of these routes at any time. The moment the player is tired of this particular branch of the mission, they can leave the disguise behind and attempt to do something else.
The locales are also very varied and distinguishable from one another. Miami is a sunny locale with tourists everywhere, while Mumbai offers unique looks and views on the cultures there. Seeing how IO Interactive weaved the hundreds of possibilities of taking down Agent 47’s targets into the very areas he can stroll through, is absolutely incredible.
Of course, it also helps that the Hitman 2 Legacy Pack effectively remasters the entire 2016 Hitman title and all of its episodes. For this review, we received both the Hitman 2 Legacy Pack and the Hitman 2 Deluxe Edition for use as review assets. Thanks to this, I could go back and replay a few of the key moments of the previous title to catch up on the events of the last game. A neat little touch, for sure. The fact that anyone who owns the previous game gets the Legacy Pack for free, is a huge bonus.
Beyond the Legacy Pack, IO Interactive is actively pushing “live content” updates to the game as well. Every month or so, a brand-new Elusive Target enters the scene. These Elusive Target contracts are limited-time contracts that stay around for a few weeks at a time. Most of them stay around for about ten days, after which they disappear until those pesky targets surface once more. Another neat thing about them is that the contracts can only be started once. Once a player starts the contract, they have to complete it in one sitting. If the contract is failed, or if the player decides to quit, the missions go away, regardless of whether it was started on the first day or the last.
In order to ensure this Hitman 2 review is fair to both the studio and readers, I decided to hold off on publishing it until I had the opportunity to experience the all new Elusive Target system from the game. With that said, I can say with heavy delight that they are incredibly challenging, and in the best ways possible.
The first to arrive was the heavily advertised and hyped The Undying target – played by Sean Bean. I failed this one merely because I could not find the man in the first place. I ended up killing some racing chick (before I found out that she is actually the campaign target) and went on a tirade *on the other side of the map* before I had to quit because of time constraints. The second target went a lot smoother, and would have been a successful assassination, had I not forgotten to hide a single body way back at the start of the map. I was, however, found out when this guy’s guards found his body, after around an hour’s worth of gameplay. I learnt a very valuable lesson from this mission: always cover your tracks.
These Elusive Target contracts also go hand-in-hand with the likes of Hitman 2’s brand-new multiplayer option, Ghost Mode. In this online-only multiplayer mode, players can take on the exact same targets in the same locales, and try to see who gets the job done the best. While both players can see each other and change the other players’ worlds, one player’s mess ups will not affect the other. This means that one player can make an entire crowd disperse and possibly even become a hunted target, while the other can still make their way through the locale without even being noticed. I played a few of these and while fun, it was wrought with a lot of latency and disconnect issues. I have no idea whether the issues were on my end or server related.
IO Interactive revealed the game’s roadmap in December 2018, and announced a new elusive target, more outfits for Agent 47, and a few more gameplay additions. I suspect that this will be the name of the game going forward. Constant live content updates for a game delivered in full capacity at launch? Yes, please.
As smooth as a dirty Glock [Performance & Visuals]
Hitman 2 looks quite good, in a weird way. The game will not win any awards for its visual representation, but it works. It is hard to explain, but Hitman 2 reminds me of older generation games. Think of a very good looking Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 title, but with updated assets for the current generation of consoles. It is a unique aesthetic that I am not sure is deliberate or an accident. Whatever the case may be, it fits the world of Hitman 2. Visuals are by no means the be-all-and-end-all, but it is nice when the game fits its aesthetic well, and Hitman 2 does so with aplomb.
On that note, I must say that animations are of top-notch quality. These extend to random people in huge crowds, and individual guards or security dotted around every locale. Targets have their own sets of unique animations, and they are usually followed by a retinue of unique guards or VIPs with their own sets of animations as well. I know this sounds weird, but there really is no better way to describe it. Little things stand out everywhere you go. Besides obvious outfit differences, you know that you are walking near someone with good status or authority just by looking at the way they walk, talk, or stand around. Idle animations in this game are a wonder to look at!
The game also performs amicably. Loading times are short enough to not be an issue, but there was a noticeable uptick in loading screens throughout the various missions that took me to even bigger locales with larger crowds. Frame drops were also evident in some cases. Even so, the game handled crowds very well. Oddly, whenever gunfire erupted, frames would dip. While not game braking, these frame rate issues were noticeable.
Agent 47 will see you now [Conclusion]
Hitman 2 is by no means a game of the year contender. Rather, it is one of those games that you will return to every month or so, just to challenge yourself on how fast you can take out a target or see how good you are at taking out an Elusive Target.
It is a fun game that truly offers limitless ways of play. While the very nature of it is repetitive, the outcomes are usually so vastly different that the gameplay does not feel the same at all. A famous Ubisoft villain once said that the very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, in the hopes that the outcome would be different. Hitman 2 is very much the image of that phrase, and it is incredible.
|Time Played||10+ hours|
|Acquisition||Review copy courtesy of IO Interactive|