2016 Hitman felt like it went under the radar, but secretly it was one of 2016’s best games. It felt like a game finally figuring out what it’s supposed to be. Big, open playgrounds that give players a hundred different ways to approach their target. So, it’s only natural that Hitman 2 follows up with six brand new murderous playgrounds. This time around, they've dropped the episodic release plan in favor of release a full round of six brand new maps. It's a shame because I feel that 2016 Hitman really benefitted from the episodic format as it gave the developers a chance to respond to fan feedback while designing the next map but it did seem to turn some people off.
The story of Hitman 2 quickly follows on the heels of 2016’s Hitman. In its predecessor, 47 assassinated a list of seemingly random targets only to discover he was a pawn in a coordinated attack on a secret organization known as Providence. In Hitman 2, 47 and the ICA are working for Providence to help them take down possible threats to Providence while trying to track down the Shadow Client who ordered all the kills in 2016 Hitman. One thing that initially stands out about Hitman 2’s story is the cutscenes. 2016 Hitman featured some nice, fully rendered cutscenes but Hitman 2's cutscenes are just still images with dialogue playing over the top.
Look, it’s hard to talk about Hitman 2 without talking about 2016 Hitman but the truth is that Hitman 2 doesn’t make any major changes to the formula established by its predecessor. Instead, Hitman 2 doubles down on everything that made 2016 Hitman so good. It can be kind of daunting on the first time you load up one of the game’s levels. When you load up the pause menu and realize just how much there is to do in each map. There’s a ton of ways to approach your targets with unique story missions that can provide a window to get closer to your target and even unique ways to kill them too.
To support this is Hitman’s unique approach to stealth mechanics. Sure, you can crouch and make use of those suddenly silent footsteps, but Agent 47 is somewhat of a chameleon. After taking out random NPCs, 47 can usually take their clothes and use them as a disguise. Each disguise gives you access to different areas as well as certain perks. The bartender or similar disguise lets you stand near a bar and blend in to avoid raising any suspicion. You can also poison drinks to incapacitate or kill whoever is unlucky enough to drink it. Other disguises can allow you to openly carry weapons, move through more secure locations or on a few occasions you’ve even been able to pose as specific people. While there are elements of sneaking, Hitman has always been a game about hiding in plain sight, and Hitman 2 takes full advantage of this.
Hitman 2’s biggest strength though, is that there’s no specific way to do something but multiple different opportunities to complete your goals. In the first map, Miami, you can pose as a doctor and poison your target while they’re just getting a routine injection, sabotage their car and cause them to crash while racing or pose as someone trying to blackmail them to meet them in private. Each level is littered with secrets, Intel and other details that make them worth exploring.
One thing that truly improves Hitman 2 is that it finally finds its sense of humor. Hitman has always been a very serious game, but it’s filled with slapstick and dark humor. Agent 47 can make use of many objects to achieve his goals, such as throwing fire extinguishers across a room, topped out with hilarious impact noises. Even 47 seems to find his sense of humor this time. In the aforementioned mission, as 47 describes the injection he’s about to administer. The target notices that one of the ingredients is potentially poisonous. When she expresses concern, 47 assures her there’s nothing to worry about as she “won’t feel a thing.”
Performance wise, Hitman 2 gives you the choice between locking at 30 or 60 fps. Since I was playing on a standard PS4 the game was often unable to hold a steady 60 and I’d often see frame rate drops in more populated areas, as well as some slightly longer loading times.
Aside from the main missions, Hitman 2 has plenty of activities on the side to play. There’s a new Sniper Assassin mode that challenges you to kill multiple targets on a map from a distance without letting any of them escape. Of course, there’s plenty of factors at play here. To start with, you’re far away so you need to work out how long the bullet will take to reach the target as well as accounting for bullet drop. You won’t be able to hide the bodies of your targets, so you’ll need to pick them carefully to try and avoid alerting anyone else. It’s a fun challenge and like regular Hitman maps, there are different ways to approach it with different strategies. I’m sure there’s a way to do with it without alerting anyone, but I am yet to accomplish that.
Then there are Escalations, like normal Hitman levels but with added tweaks. Each one usually features 5 levels. The first level usually just tasks you with killing this target, but then with each additional level, a new modifier is added. They can range from requiring certain outfits or weapons used to kill a target, time limits or other elements that can add pressure to the level. Each level usually features multiple Escalations and other challenges so you’re never short of things to do in each level.
There's also Contracts mode, a custom mission maker which lets players pick a random NPC from any map and set the details of the mission. Players can set specific requirements, such as requiring the player to kill the target while in a specific outfit or with a certain item among other modifiers. I’m not one for custom content making, but I do get a kick out of attempting the more difficult creations.
Hitman 2 introduces a brand new competitive multiplayer component called Ghost Mode. A 1v1 mode that sees players compete to earn points by silently eliminating their targets quicker than their opponent. It's not a simple as it sounds though, first and foremost the two players can't really interact with each other so there's no cheap shotting the other player. Both players compete in somewhat alternate universes, so you can see the other player but can't really mess with their world. Players are given the same target and have to find a way to kill their target while making sure nobody finds the body within the first 5 or so seconds after killing the target to score a point. Once one player kills their target, regardless of whether they score the point or not the other player then has 20 seconds to kill the target as well before it resets and both players are then given a new target. It's important to note that killing an innocent NPC or getting killed will cause you to lose a point.
It's a fun mode, one that provides enough of a challenge that you can't quite speed through it, but one that needs you to move quickly if you want to gain the lead over your opponent. I'm hesitant to pass too much judgment on Ghost Mode since its still considered to be in beta, but early signs are promising and I can see it being very fun.
Hitman has a ton of range in the designs and colors of each map. Supported by the sheer density on NPCs that can be seen in maps like Miami. It's not afraid to shake things up between levels, one map sends you to Columbia complete with low-quality houses, caves, and vegetation all around. Another map is set within a castle on an island that blends old school, gothic design with slick and stylish near-futurist looking bars. Each Hitman 2 level is vibrant, colorful and almost entirely different to other maps giving plenty of variety.
Hitman 2 has a solid dynamic soundtrack that can get mysterious, almost James Bond-inspired when 47 is sneaking around or using Disguises to blend with whatever environment or location you're in. Noise can also play a vital part, throwing objects like coins around can be used to lure people to isolated areas while the music gets more dramatic when you engage in gunfights. It's most important aspect is overhearing conversations, but the VO work isn't perfect and can sound a little off from time to time.
Hitman 2 feels like an evolution of 2016 Hitman. It takes the free-flowing, creative nature of its predecessor but doesn’t necessarily evolve or enhance what 2016 Hitman got right, instead merely improving upon that foundation with some new levels. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s not a great thing either. Still, it’s a fun thing, and if Hitman 2 will get the same amount of post-game support 2016 Hitman got, then you'll have plenty of reasons to keep coming back.
On one final note, if you haven't played 2016 Hitman then I'd highly recommend picking up the Hitman legacy pack DLC for Hitman 2. It lets you play the six 2016 Hitman levels in Hitman 2 and there's some really fantastic stuff in there.
|+ Open, Varied Level Design||-- Bland, basic story|
|+ Ghost Mode||-- Performance issues on normal PS4|
|+ Plenty of Side Content||-- Only one Sniper Assassin map|
|+ Full of slapstick and dark humor|
|+ Rewards creativity and ingenuity|