It’s been two years, but Agent 47 is finally back. In Hitman 2, IO interactive has shed the episodic structure and delivered an experience that feels complete from the start. If you were a fan of the 2016 reboot, Hitman 2’s murder-rich sandboxes are sure to please, offering an even wider range of ways to eliminate your target and escape unseen. If you’re a series newcomer, there’s never been a better time to dip your toes into assassination.
In some ways, Hitman 2 is the game that should not be. It was only a year and a half ago that Square Enix, then publisher for the Hitman series, announced that they would be letting IO Interactive go leaving the developer’s fate uncertain. In a surprising happy turn of events, Square Enix restored full rights to the franchise to IO, allowing them to keep control of Agent 47 and direct his future as a free agent (pun definitely intended). This is the kind of shake-up that leaves fans excited and apprehensive all at once. Many of us were left wondering what would come next, for good or ill.
Well, it turns out we needn’t have worried. Hitman 2 is more of the Hitman we loved throughout 2016 and into 2017, literally and positively.
In many ways, Hitman 2 feels a like an extension of its predecessor. Your toolset is largely the same and mechanically, there are few upgrades to be found. Yet, for all its similarities, Hitman 2 is a refinement of an already great recipe. Getting lost inside big, layered maps and trying new strategies to eliminate your target is as engrossing as ever and new additions, like Mission Stories, subtly guide you to opportunities you might have missed. It’s an effective scaffold and bit of direction for players like myself who find themselves overwhelmed when there’s too much choice.
The new locations are all good and offer hours and hours of replayability in discovering the different ways to complete your mission. The first mission, an empty beach house, makes for a great introduction to the game, throwing you into a real scenario to learn the core beats of the game: explore, recon, plan, execute. Soon enough that beach house becomes riddled with enemies, ramping up the difficulty as you go. You learn that you’ll fail and also that the auto-save system is generous, so it’s doesn’t hurt (much) when you do. Load times on PS4 are the biggest penalty but they’re hardly terrible.
Once the game opens up, you can explore five additional zones – and if you own the original Hitman, you can download each of those levels as free DLC. The locales in Hitman 2 range from the dusty sands of Mumbai, to a crowded Miami race track, and even to suburban America in Whittleton Creek. I loved the denseness of Miami the most and the quaint charm of Whittleton Creek, but each map changes the formula in a unique way that keeps things fresh and exciting. You can make your way through the campaign in a dozen hours but actually seeing everything the game has to offer takes many, many more.
The downside is that once you’re spotted (and sometimes it feels like guards have supernatural senses), you’re essentially through with that attempt. Better players than I might be able to hide and still complete their mission successfully, but often I found myself in gunfights that were a lost cause. Agent 47 is an assassin but he’s hardly bulletproof and it doesn’t take much to take him down.
The game also features several other modes to compliment the main storyline. Elusive Targets are returning, encouraging you to log in for your one-shot-stop assassination attempt. Likewise, Escalation Missions turn the tables with conditional missions. Fresher to the table is Ghost Mode, which adds competitive multiplayer to the game by dropping two players into the same map and given five targets to kill. It’s a novel idea and works well, but Hitman isn’t the series I look to for multiplayer and so didn’t spend much time with it before getting back into the campaign.
Hitman 2 may well be “more of the same” in some ways but it’s also a refinement on an already addicting formula. As time goes on, I do hope IO adds more weapons and tools to the sandbox as these would definitely have helped the game feel more like a sequel instead of a sprawling expansion pack. What’s here is undeniably good, however, and is exactly the kind of shot in the arm players have been clamoring for. Given IO’s track record for supporting the original Hitman, this is one that’s only likely to get better with time.
Good: Much better onboarding for new players, new locations are a lot of fun, hours and hours of replayability, Ghost Mode is a fun new addition for players looking for a little more competition