Agent 47 kills again, and again, and again
A hit or a miss for Agent 47’s return? Here’s a hint: the sharp killer never misses a target…
Confidence. If you’re going to waltz into a room with a fish in your hand, brain a man with it, take his clothes, and then use his identity to get into place to loosen a race car driver’s tyre so they die midrace, you need bags of it. Happily, not only is it the kind of confidence you easily begin to exude behind the steering wheel (so to speak) of professional assassin Agent 47, but it’s a quiet ease of confidence that Io Interactive has shown with the entire Hitman 2 release as a the new de facto Hitman platform.
This time around, the episodic release schedule of the first in this line of new Hitmans has been eschewed in favour of releasing an entire package of content. But with the stages still separated in the menus in much the same way, and having their own trophy lists, each one feels like a little episode in its own right. That’s not such a bad thing – it means that every hit that comprises Hitman 2 feels fully developed into its own experience. Play just one level in Hitman 2, and in its own small way it’s enough.
And you’ll want to play each level again and again. What were previously called “opportunities” are now “mission stories” – surmising what they are: these little guide-posted stories take you through outlandish assassinations of your targets, nudging you to discover new Challenges (which aren’t as guide-posted) for your next attempt. Mastery is quantified too. More XP gives you new Mastery Levels, which in turn allow you new gear to smuggle in, new disguises and starting locations. In short it makes your life a little easier the next time, and makes experimenting feel more rewarding. Each time you play you’re getting a little better. After completing missions, Hitman 2 even prods you on which mission stories to do on replay to get the most out of each hit-friendly map.
At a glance those unfamiliar with the Hitman series might expect a violent killfest, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Agent 47 is a professional killer, yes. And sure, he can hold his own in a gunfight. But getting caught usually ends in getting overwhelmed quickly. Silent but deadly is the approach to take, and the quiet route often requires a hint of patience. It’s the learned practice of doing each map, and the lessons learned in the one before it, that let you unravel the layers in each new environment.
Hitman 2 has more in common with a puzzle game at times, and offers a type of social stealth that very little else can match. The thrill of being where you’re not meant to be, killing your target, and
“THE THRILL OF KILLING YOUR TARGET AND THEN ESCAPING IS UNMATCHABLE.”
then escaping with nobody any the wiser, is unmatchable.
The core principles of Hitman 2 are very much the same as the original. It’s more an upgrade than a fully fledged sequel. Ostensibly this is the second season that first game seemed to promise, but wrapped up in this new platform. Things like foliage coverage, crowd blending, picture-in-picture view of important moments, and actual mirrors add a lot to the game, yet don’t really revolutionise things – they don’t need to.
There’s not a weak mission among the new ones Agent 47 undertakes this time around, and they all connect to and expand upon the story from the first game (which ended on a cliffhanger). Familiar faces return, the areas feel incredibly dense and well-designed with things to do, and there’s a wealth of hugely satisfying kills to uncover, and little intel diversions to just stumble upon completely on your own.
If it’s story you’re after, you may feel like you have the rug pulled from under you when you find that Hitman 2 ends in much the same way as its predecessor – with very little resolution, setting things up for more to come. The Hitman 2 platform even hosts legacy content from the last game, updating the maps with the new upgrades. There’s plenty to this package, beyond the great content offered in this release. This is a new home for Hitman, a platform that can play host to plenty to come. For now, it’s completely on target.
We certainly wouldn’t want Agent 47 as an enemy at our barbecue.
Below Blending with crowds feels so right. 47 is hiding in plain sight.
Right Play with fire and you’re going to get burned. Some kills are pretty spectacular.
Above left There are plenty of approaches to killing your targets.