Play it again, Agent 47.
Hitman 2 is basically a whole bunch of Hitman DLC, and that’s perfectly fine with me.
Under the watch of IO Interactive, 2016’s Hitman was one of the best games of the year and praised by both myself and Hamish Lindsay in our multi-chaptered review. IO split from Square Enix, secured the franchise IP and moved on to Warner Bros. with this sequel, though those behind-the-scenes changes are really the only ones evident; in-game, everything else is exactly the same. IO has clearly adopted the motto of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ with this new release.
Well, for the most part — the only real change I feel IO made between Hitman and Hitman 2 is an added emphasis on diversity. At the end of each scenario, you’ll be presented with a screen that shows you what you accomplished compared to what you could have accomplished. Sure, you garroted your target, but did you know you could drown them in a toilet instead? It’s a simple little addition but one that adds to replayability – I had a strong desire to achieve 100% completion in each district I played in. As a result, you’ll easily get 4-5 hours of gameplay out of each location.
IO excels at the sandbox, a literal playground filled to the brim with lead pipes, poison, driftwood, lockpicks and more, each equally as useful to protagonist Agent 47 as the next. Every single one of the game’s scenarios — from a patriotic race track in Miami, USA to the secretive, exotic Isle of Sgail – are teeming with life… and multiple ways to end said existence. You might opt for a stealthy approach, finishing off your prey with a well-aimed, silenced headshot, but the real joy in Hitman 2 comes from adopting disguises and keeping an eye out for the opportunity to manipulate everyday social interactions. Some of IO’s brilliance doesn’t come from the actual act of the kill, but information gathering – I spent far too much time than I’m willing to admit learning about a huge dog named Max in New Zealand.
Best of all – and while the business of assassination is definitely a serious one — IO manages to inject Hitman 2 with an almost infinite amount of delightful dark comedy that will constantly bring a wicked grin to your face. Come for the murder, stay for the absurdity.
Despite a move away from the previous game’s episodic format, Hitman’s segmented DNA remains – the base game download is a meagre 11.3GB, but the edition I was sent by Warner Bros. for the purpose of review was comprised of an additional 22 downloads – each scenario is carved out as a separate piece for some reason. This segmentation is straight up confusing, making it hard to tell what you actually own. Those who have the 2016 version of Hitman should be entitled to a Legacy Pack which brings those missions into Hitman 2, but there’s also a GOTY Legacy upgrade that… well, I’m not sure what it brings. I had access to the Sniper Assassin game mode, though Hitman 2 initially prompted me to buy an additional mode called Ghost… until I realised I hadn’t delivered the Miami DLC that also included it. Wut. Just sell the lot as one package, IO.
Once I could play it, I discovered that Ghost mode is crazy fun, a 1v1 affair that challenges you to be the best assassin you can be. Essentially, each player is placed in an identical map – though you can’t impact the other – and tasked to eliminate targets as quickly as possible. If one player manages to eliminate a target, the other is giving a time limit to reciprocate. Players will also lose points for killing non-targets, so strategy is very important. Sniper Assassin is less fun — as franchise enthusiasts would know, the mode has you sniping targets whilst trying to remain undetected. It has its moments.
Story-wise, Hitman 2 excels at an in-scenario narrative and fails in an overall one. Static image cutscenes were (hastily?) incorporated to try to weave the scenarios together, but they’re weak and reek of low budget. Thankfully, Hitman 2 is about the stories in the scenarios themselves — like the aforementioned dog, Max, in New Zealand — so all is forgiven.
Despite IO’s assertion that Hitman 2 has improved AI, I don’t see it – this simply feels like new content for Hitman — and as I said, I’m very okay with that. If you want an in-depth look at Hitman’s mechanics, head to our 2016 review. Otherwise, let’s put this one to bed: those who reveled in IO’s last Hitman title will delight in a return to Hitman 2 and those who gave the soft reboot a miss will find a pleasant surprise in this title. It’s hard to go wrong with Hitman 2.
Hitman 2 was reviewed using a promotional code on Xbox One, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.