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I think Hitman (2016) is one of the best games in the franchise. I feel it truly defines what the Hitman experience is and being a soft reboot, it’s a perfect gateway for newcomers. Unfortunately, the game failed to meet sales expectations and Square Enix dropped IO Interactive, the developer of the franchise. As a result, they had to limit the scale of the sequel and also decided to abandon the episodic model. Developed by IO Interactive and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Hitman 2 was released for PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Stadia in November, 2018. For this review, I played the PC version.
Following the events of the previous game, the International Contract Agency has formed an uneasy alliance with Providence, a secret organization that essentially governs the world behind the scenes, and Agent 47 seeks out the Shadow Client who is trying to destroy them. As the story unfolds, we learn more about 47’s past and that he and the Shadow Client have something in common. The tone and atmosphere are pretty consistent with the previous game but, unfortunately, the production values are not on the same level and I’m guessing it’s due to budget constraints.
Many cut scenes have the same look and style as those in the previous game but don’t feature animated characters which can be kind of jarring, especially if you play this directly after playing Hitman (2016). It’s not a huge deal but as a result, the game does not convey the same type of cinematic quality in its storytelling. However, the missions that come with the expansion pass do feature animated characters during cut scenes which is, needless to say, not consistent with the rest of the game. Overall, I enjoyed the story but the way it’s presented is a drop in quality compared to its predecessor. Knowing what IO Interactive went through behind the scenes, I can somewhat forgive it.
Despite the fact IO had to limit the scale of Hitman 2, I feel it is an overall better game than its predecessor. My only real complaint with it is that it doesn’t innovate or experiment with the formula at all. It feels like a continuation with small refinements. This was the first time I played this and I do own all the DLC. The base game comes with six missions and the expansion pass adds two more. If you get the Legacy Pack, you get all the missions from the previous game, extending the length of Hitman 2 significantly.
From what I understand, Hitman (2016) was designed as a foundation and IO Interactive had planned to release more episodes. I’m guessing their plan was to keep everything contained in one game using the episodic model. As time went on, more episodes and more of the story would be released. Again, I’m guessing that was the plan. Obviously, that didn’t happen but Hitman 2 definitely feels like the same game. The same game with new missions. What I’m saying is the missions in Hitman 2 feel like they could have been additional episodes for the previous game. No effort was really made to hide that. The gameplay feels the same, the mechanics are the same, and the progression and unlock system is almost identical. In fact, my research tells me the development of Hitman 2 progressed quickly because they used the foundation of Hitman (2016) which was originally designed as a platform for the developer to quickly add content.
Despite the lack of innovation and feeling like more of the same, I am actually impressed with what IO did here. From a gameplay standpoint, I think the missions here are better than those in the previous game and the fact you can play through those missions here is very cool. But it does beg the question, should you buy the previous game at all? After playing this, I would say no. However, the missions from both Hitman (2016) and Hitman 2 can be played in the sequel, Hitman 3. I haven’t played that game yet but following the same logic, I might even suggest skipping this one and, instead, buy Hitman 3 and all of its DLC but I really can’t say that with certainty until I play it. Just know before you buy any of the games in the World of Assassination trilogy that you can play through all missions from all three games in Hitman 3. At this point, you might be wondering why I’m reviewing these individually at all? For two reasons. One; I already own them all. And two; despite all the content being carried over into each sequel, each release is still technically an individual game.
Hitman 2 is stealth game. To be more specific, it’s another puzzle game disguised as a stealth game. Each mission puts you in a different location around the world and the maps are huge. You have the choice to take an all-guns-blazing approach or the quieter approach to reach your targets undetected. The stealthy approach is the heart and core of the gameplay and that is always a puzzle – figuring out how to reach and kill your target undetected or unnoticed. You can shoot, snipe, strangle, and stab your targets and even stage accidents. You can push them off ledges, poison food, smother, drown, and discover numerous other ways of elimination. As expected, you can get creative with kills and even though many of the methods here have been done before, they still remain fun and rewarding. Loosening the tire on the target’s vehicle and watching them crash, planting an explosive on the target’s water scooter and then blowing the target sky high, playing dead and stabbing the target as they get close, posing as a barber and giving your target a “shave” – it’s all rewarding and primarily because of the steps you took to get into those positions to pull off the kills.
Hitman 2 is another entry without a mission I don’t really care for. In my opinion, every mission is phenomenal. I would argue the first mission set in New Zealand is probably the weakest but it’s not bad by any means. At least I don’t think so. It’s just not as big or intricate as the missions that succeed it and is more or less designed to introduce you to the experience even though the same training missions from the previous game are present here. As you explore each map and eliminate targets you earn experience and after earning enough, you level up. Furthermore, the Mastery system returns and essentially acts as a measurement of completion for each map. As you increase your mastery for each location, you’ll unlock things like weapons, equipment, starting locations, and stashes. The whole game is designed to be replayed. There are numerous ways to eliminate your targets, challenges to complete, and things to unlock. One difference between this and the last game is that all the difficulty levels are unlocked from the get-go this time around.
One thing I love about Hitman (2016) is Opportunities. They essentially guide the player through missions with a series of objectives to complete and are completely optional. I feel they are great way to introduce new players to the Hitman experience and show them some of what’s possible. I also think they are implemented in a way that’s not obnoxious. It’s made very clear that the maps are large sandboxes and you’re free to take care of business however you see fit. They have been carried over into Hitman 2 but have been renamed Mission Stories. They are optional and you can turn them off completely. Many of them do reveal information pertinent to the greater narrative and the game will recommend you complete certain ones because of that.
Mission Stories do hold your hand but can be helpful if you get stuck. They put objective markers on the HUD so you know where to go. Stories are typically revealed by eavesdropping on conversations. Completing a story usually gets you close to your target and sometimes even puts you in a situation for a creative kill. In general, it’s a nice form of accessibility because the maps are big with plenty of items to find, things to interact with, and people roaming around that they can come across as overwhelming and daunting. The Stories just give you some direction so you don’t roam around aimlessly unsure of what to do or where to go. But the best part is that they are optional and you can always figure out how to reach your targets on your own. As mentioned before, the game is meant to be replayed. You are encouraged to replay through the missions multiple times.
Escalation Contracts and Elusive Targets make a return and actor Sean Bean portrays an Elusive Target and I like how it’s basically a nod to the fact that man is frequently killed on-screen. The Contracts mode also makes a return and it essentially makes the game infinitely replayable. Players can assign up to five NPCs and eliminate them by any means necessary and even configure certain conditions to make it more challenging. Hitman 2 did introduce competitive multiplayer in the form of the Ghost Mode which I didn’t get to try because the servers were shut down. From what I understand, two players would compete against each other in trying to assassinate identical targets and whoever did it more efficiently and faster was the victor. A Sniper Assassin mode has also been implemented and can be played solo or with another player. The objective in this mode is to eliminate targets but you are restricted to using a sniper rifle.
Hitman 2 will take players to numerous locations around the world including a house in New Zealand, a race track at the Miami Bayside Center, a small town in Colombia where a cartel operates, Mumbai, a suburban neighborhood in Vermont, and a castle at the Isle of Sgail in the North Atlantic. With the expansion pass, you’ll get to break into a bank vault in New York and eliminate targets at a luxury resort in the Maldives. The destinations are large with plenty of areas to explore and challenges to overcome. You’ll also get to snipe targets in Austria, Singapore, and Sibera in the Sniper Assassin mode. I loved every single mission in this game and that’s because each location is exceptionally well crafted and fun to explore and the reward system can be addictive. You’re rewarded with experience for all kinds of things including discovering new locations and there’s usually always something to discover around almost every corner. And, remember, if you own the Legacy Pack, you have access to all the missions from the previous game as well so, needless to say, there’s plenty here to keep players occupied.
Much like the previous game, the visual presentation is gorgeous. The character models look great, many backgrounds are beautiful, and the presentation is colorful. Each destination is beautifully detailed and I would say they all feel like realistic locations. From the heavily populated streets of Mumbai to the gorgeous tropical island in the Maldives, every location is distinct and very pleasing on the eyes. The soundtrack is also excellent with a lot of tunes that help convey a somewhat cinematic quality and also elevate tension. On the technical side, I did not encounter many issues and it should be noted that to get the most out of Hitman 2, you’ll want to be connected to the internet. You can play offline but you won’t have access to certain features.
I had a great time with Hitman 2. My only complaint is that the developers didn’t experiment with the formula all that much. I’m sure all the stuff that happened behind the scenes played a role but, ultimately, there’s not a lot here we haven’t seen before. It feels more like a continuation than a new experience. Regardless, what is here is excellent and since you can play through all the missions from Hitman here, I would argue Hitman has basically been rendered unnecessary. It’s not necessary to buy or play through it since you can experience it all here. That said, I basically feel the same way about Hitman 2 as I do Hitman. I love it for the same reasons. The only reason I think Hitman 2 is the better game is because I enjoyed the missions here more. And I really enjoyed the missions in Hitman so that’s saying something, at least to the quality of the mission design.
I would definitely recommend Hitman 2 or at least the missions. If Hitman 3 is just like this, you’re probably better off just buying that along with the DLC instead since you can play through all the missions from its predecessors. It’s essentially the entire World of Assassination trilogy in one package. I can’t say Hitman 2 is a step forward but it’s also not a step back. It’s more of the same and that means the same awesome gameplay from Hitman (2016) and with a bunch of cool new missions. Definitely check it out.