The latest Hitman is available as a complete package on day one with seven completely new locations to explore right from the start.
When it comes to Hitman, we've come to expect nothing short of greatness when it comes to stealthily taking out targets in a myriad of ways while dressed in often silly disguises. Hitman 2 delivers all of this and more while being wrapped in a personal story as well as featuring many technical and gameplay improvements over the previous Hitman release.
The short clips between missions in Hitman 2 do a good job of explaining where we're at in discovering who was contracting the assassinations from previous games. They also dig deeper into Diana's intentions (Agent 47's handler) and how the two are actually more closely linked than you may have thought. The story takes Agent 47 through seven different locations around the world including the New Zealand coast, a car race event in Miami, a dilapidated village in the Colombian rain forest, the busy city streets of Mumbai, a quiet suburb in America, a creepy castle on a secluded island in the North Atlantic, and finally, a giant mansion in Austria. All but the last one present gigantic maps with many areas to explore. Plus, there's an in-game challenge for exploring all of the areas.
If you were impressed with the fidelity and variety of the previous Hitman's graphics, you won't be disappointed here. Every location has been designed to be vastly different from the others with each doing an amazing job of immersing you into their respective scenarios. This is especially the case when it comes to the crowds. Being one of the largest cities in the world, Mumbai is densely populated and you'll often find yourself walking through crowds. Hiding in crowds is a new gameplay element that helps you avoid guards. On top of that, you can now hide yourself (as well as bodies) within shrubbery.
In my review of the previous Hitman game, I mentioned that I didn't much like the snarky comments from people as I walked by because they often bordered on being offensive but thankfully, I didn't notice the same chatter in Hitman 2. There were still comments from people who were wondering what I was doing by reacting to my silly movements when I wasn't trying hard to be stealthy but they were fitting with the scene and complemented the onscreen action as opposed to taking me out of the experience.
When it comes to taking out a target, there are many ways to do so from setting up traps around the scenery to stalking your target and taking them out in a secluded area and even following missions that you can discover by hanging around NPCs' private conversations. The latter was also present in the previous Hitman but it's handled in a more streamlined way here by allowing you to follow a mission story from the start by choosing it within the menu. Completing all of the mission stories is also a challenge and there are up to seven to unlock per map. I particularly enjoyed one mission story in the creepy castle where I followed the advice to wear the clothes of a dead man and lie in his coffin waiting for my target to say their goodbyes then stabbing them when they got close. There are many steps to complete in order to set up the scene properly and achieving all of them can be quite thrilling.
Along with the mission stories, there are dozens of challenges to complete per level. When you finish a level, you're presented with a screen that highlights all of the challenges that you managed to complete and every time, I was in awe by how many there were. Specifically, they focus on different ways to take out your targets, finding and equipping various costumes, and using items in creative ways. The more challenges you complete, the higher the score you get. Reaching higher scores grants you more unlockable items such as agency pickups, starting locations, and other tools which become available to you the next time you play the level.
A new addition to the gameplay is the picture-in-picture view that notifies you when a camera has spotted you and shows you what they saw. This also pops up when someone notices you acting suspiciously then comes your way to investigate further. These touches do a good job of keeping the experience engaging and challenging you to complete your mission without alerting anyone along the way.
There are many smaller presentational improvements that have been made in Hitman 2 such as better lighting, mirrors being used as a means of seeing around corners, and crowds that have more detail such as accents that fit with the location. On top of this, some new items have been added to Agent 47's arsenal including tasers, concussion grenades, and, of course, the famous briefcase that fans have been asking for. The briefcase can be selected as an item to equip and you get to choose what to put in it. You can also use it as a weapon as well as throw it over fences to keep it with you throughout your killing spree. Being able to hide a large weapon is very handy as long as you don't need to get through a search at a guard post to reach your destination.
Two new gameplay modes have been added to Hitman's repertoire including the Sniper Assassin mode and Ghost mode. Sniper Assassin has you shoot at targets from a distance and it can be played either solo or via online multiplayer. It's unfortunate that there's only one level to play on launch day. Plus, I had a lot more fun taking out targets up close and personal than I did trying to shoot from afar and take my targets out without alerting the hundreds of other guests at the party.
Ghost mode can only be played online. Essentially, you start on the map with another player and you race to take out targets as quickly as possible. The first to get to five undiscovered kills wins. I had a lot of fun playing this mode even though there is only one map (apparently, there will be more maps available later). That being said, it's easy to get frustrated because trying to navigate the large map with a timer in place while trying not to alert the wrong people can be very challenging.
One issue I had with the previous game was that the menu system was confusing and unfortunately, it's the same here. Thankfully, I was used to the old game so I managed to orient myself with it quicker than in the past. The two additional game modes were added in a separate section but the layering of boxes and menus is still confusing regardless.
With three difficulty levels, Hitman 2 should appeal to new and veteran players. I found it was too easy to attack someone without any reactions from nearby folks on the default medium difficulty setting but in the harder difficulty option, NPCs are more sensitive to sounds, they'll find you suspicious if you wear a disguise with blood on it, and they're more ruthless when it comes to close combat.
Hitman 2 offers stellar stealth gameplay that lets you complete your goals in countless entertaining ways. The additional modes expand on this fun formula and I look forward to seeing more maps become available. In short, this is a must-buy game for genre fans.
- + Varied, beautiful, and huge areas to explore
- + A couple of new online modes provide interesting changes to the formula
- + Vast amount of challenges and replay value
- - Menus are just as annoyingly confusing as they were in the previous game
- - AI can sometimes be much dumber than you'd expect them to be