Agent 47 continues the 2016 reboots good work, but by bringing judicious tweaks rather than any radical reinvention.
Since the 2016 reboot of Hitman – the venerable stealth assassination simulator – developer IO Interactive has been through a period of massive upheaval. Previously owned by publisher Square Enix, it underwent a management buyout to once again become an independent studio (Square Enix generously let it keep the Hitman intellectual property) and found a new publisher in Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
Not that you will find much evidence of changing circumstances in the first fruits of IOs new-found freedom. Apart from the fact that its six missions are delivered at launch, rather than episodically (presumably the episodic format was favoured by Square Enix rather than IO), Hitman 2 opts to build on the blueprint laid down by the 2016 game, rather than fixing something that wasnt broken.
So, if you liked the last Hitman, youll love Hitman 2 (especially if you played the first few episodes, then found your attention drifting off elsewhere). Hitman 2 does feel much more like a new instalment than a full sequel though, which is reinforced by its tutorial mission that, rather lazily, is pretty much identical to Hitmans one; although it does, at least, demonstrate that IOs graphics engine has improved since 2016.
Story-wise, Hitman 2 picks up where Hitman left off, with Agent 47, guided by handler Diana Burnwood, embarking on another round of globe-trotting assassinations, in which he must take out various members of a newly-discovered shadow organisation that has infiltrated world governments; all in a bid to reconstruct his early life which has been erased from his brain. This being a Hitman game, storyline is completely incidental but the story does generate some agreeably snappy dialogue between Agent 47 and Burnwood, along with a typically eccentric cast of villains and targets.
Hitman 2 pitches you into a prologue level (so theres no real need to reacquaint yourself with the replicated tutorial). It offers a pretty gentle intro as it takes place in a very flashy beach-house but lacks the trademark intricacy of the games proper levels. It does, however, offer a taste of some of the incremental improvements that have been made to the gameplay. Most notable amongst these is a picture-in-picture function that offers video notifications when bodies are discovered or Agent 47 triggers a security camera.
The picture-in-picture tweak makes Hitman 2 ever so slightly more forgiving than its predecessor, as does another new feature: Agent 47s ability to disappear into crowds, thereby avoiding the most suspicious security operatives – as signalled by a white circle that surrounds him. In counterbalance, security guards and enemies have had a small increase in intelligence so that, for example, they will be able to spot you if you move behind them while they are looking in a mirror or window. But describing Hitman 2 as more forgiving than Hitman is relative: its still a highly rigorous game, and if you make one wrong move, youll swiftly find yourself in an untenable situation.
As with the last game, the real star of Hitman 2 is the design of its levels. They are fabulously multi-layered and studded with secrets and unfolding sub-plots. As with any decent Hitman game, youll want to revisit them frequently, to test out different approaches and tick off challenges. It doesnt take long before youre getting to know them more intimately than your real-life surroundings.
As youve come to expect from IO, the levels are chock-full of character (and, indeed, characters), in a slightly over-the-top, Bond film-influenced manner. In Miami, for example, you find yourself in a motor race with an adjoining expo; the Mumbai level is a veritable rabbit warren, and the Colombian jungle offers a refreshing departure. A level set in US suburbia, appropriately, has all sorts of skulduggery taking place beneath its apparently anodyne surface.
IO has also rediscovered its sense of humour in a big way: each location contains distractions and sub-plots which will make you laugh out loud. In Miami, for example, Agent 47 can don a ridiculous flamingo suit, which triggers a hilarious diversion. Assassination has never before been such an amusing business.
Even when youve completed the six levels, theres still an awful lot to keep you playing. Via a Legacy Pack you can suck the missions from the 2016 reboot into Hitman 2, which throws up all sorts of possibilities with Hitman 2s new tools and weapons, plus Agent 47s crowd-blending. The Elusive Target time-specific assassination missions will return, with the first one starring the very recognisable Sean Bean.
Plus, theres a new mode called Sniper Assassin, which is similar to the spin-off mobile game and must be played co-operatively as it employs a clever device in which you and a friend wield different forms of high-tech ammunition. The new Ghost Mode sounds intriguing, since it encourages two people to competitively enact the same hit in parallel universes, but we were unable to sample it properly pre-launch.
Hitman 2, then, is very much a continuation rather than a reinvention, leading seamlessly on from the 2016 Hitman with a raft of tweaks which make it even more fun to play. The humour you find in it reinforces the general impression that IO had great fun making it (always a good vibe to get from a video game) and the six levels stand up well in comparison with those of its predecessor.
Sure, it refrains from offering any major surprises or gameplay-changing innovations. And as with Hitman games of yore, plenty of gamers will find that they lack the requisite patience to find the act of playing it particularly enjoyable. Hitman 2 preaches to the converted, but it does so in a well-honed and very moreish manner.
In Short: It feels a lot like the second half of the same season, rather than a true sequel, but Hitman 2 is still a beautifully crafted stealth game thats full of character.
Pros: Gloriously intricate new levels and picture-in-picture is a neat addition. Surprisingly humorous and lots of replayability. Ability to import Hitman 1 levels is great.
Cons: No major new ideas. Still too rigorous for those who arent dedicated stealth-lovers. Reused tutorial feels a bit shoddy.
Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, and PC
Publisher: WB Games
Developer: IO Interactive
Release Date: 13th November 2018
Age Rating: 18
Email firstname.lastname@example.org, leave a comment below, and follow us on Twitter