Have you ever been asked to do something and totally nailed it, only to be told your efforts weren’t good enough? In March 2016 the first instalment of a new Hitman game was released from IO Interactive and was, at the time, published by Square Enix. There had been much speculation (and a sprinkle of pessimism) as to why this latest Hitman game was being released in episodic form. We now know (we kinda knew anyway) that this was due to later content not being in a finished state. This actually worked very well in my opinion, because it let players focus on one level at a time and to master it before the next one came along. The remaining episodes came out in a steady stream with numerous ‘elusive targets’ to take out. In October 2016 the first season was complete with a final version being released in January 2017.
Then the news came that the next Hitman game was in jeopardy due to Square Enix’s decision to sell off IO Interactive and the Hitman IP. After an uncertain period for the bald assassin, IO Interactive bought out the rights to Hitman and effectively became captains of their own ship. Work continued on the new Hitman game and thankfully Hitman 2 released on November the 13th with Warner Bros as Publishers. The 2016 Hitman received critical success and yet sales, unfortunately, didn’t reflect this at all. Were people put off by the episodic release method? It does really concern me when I see a company fight through bad times, produce the goods and still see little reward. So, let us take a look at what this full game has to offer all those would be assassins out there.
Lick of paint
It feels like Hitman 2 doesn’t miss a beat from where we left Agent 47 last year. I did review the first game and so when I logged in, both the new missions were available and in addition, every mission from the previous game was ready to play. If you buy the legacy edition of Hitman 2 then you will also get the entire catalogue of content from the previous game, including all the enhancements and improvements (I strongly urge you to do this).
When you look at the new game you could be forgiven for thinking that Hitman 2 was, in fact, just an elaborate missions pack. However, there have been some subtle improvements to the game as well as some interesting additions. I will cover the technical aspects later, but overall this new game runs noticeably better and has a more polished aesthetic. The developers at IO Interactive have also worked on the combat AI which now offers a broader experience. Some enemies, for example, will be more prone to panic and when unloading a full clip at you hit everything but their mark. Others will move to flank you which makes a nice change from many game enemies that simply close distance and shoot.
More than one way to skin a cat
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the 2016 Hitman for me was the incredibly diverse game systems running under the hood. A reactive spiders web of cause and effect, all unfolding in real-time around you. Communication happens organically and within the rules of a real-world system. So when one guard spots something amiss, you won’t also see every guard in that area become instantly alerted. Similarly, when a civilian catches you in the middle of some rum doings, they have to actually run and let a guard know what dastardly act they have witnessed. If you happen to have changed appearance in that time, when the guard arrives on scene they won’t instantly know it is you they seek. I really appreciate these robust rules because once you know they are there, you can start to use them to your advantage.
For example, if you need to get a weapon past a security checkpoint you can just leave it in the path of a guard. If they spot it they will have a grumble to themselves while taking it to a safe place, a safe place past the security barrier. You can then slip through and reacquire your favourite pop-gun at a later time.
These systems are also integral to making the many ways of dispatching your target so satisfying. In the first proper location of Hitman 2, Agent 47 finds himself at a racecourse in Miami and is tasked with bumping off a wealthy businessman and his headstrong daughter. There are so many ways to assassinate your target, it can be a little overwhelming at first. To help you get a handle on how the level is structured, there are small stories to uncover which will guide you to a specific outcome. In one instant I impersonated a General (after throwing the actual General in a wood chopper) and attended a weapons demo of prototype robots. As my target walked onto the firing range I discreetly used a picture of him (that I’d ripped from a magazine outside) instead of the target dummies. In another instance, I messed with the air conditioning, which left the target needing to use his eye drops (which I had already laced with deadly toxin). Each area is also packed with options for opportunistic assassins, a loose glitter ball or a nasty fall from a balcony. This is all part of what makes these scenes so enjoyable, they are not just set checklists to tick off, but an authentic playground for you to master.
Rinse and Repeat
The levels in Hitman 2 are designed to be replayed many times as it’s just not possible to get everything done in one playthrough, maybe not even a hundred. With each setting, there is a vast tapestry of challenges, feats and discoveries to explore. The stories are a good place to start as they will take you on a tour of the level and some of it’s more obvious mechanics. Feats are like one-off achievements to tick off, they could be anything from impersonating a main character or knocking someone into the sea with a bloody big fish. These extra goals are not only well thought out and often hilariously fun to try, but also give you an even greater understanding of how a level ticks.
The more successful runs you have and the more of these challenges you ace, the higher your mastery of this level will become. Each time you raise your mastery, new starting places and weapons become available which in turn will give Agent 47 a new angle to consider. Each new location starts by pushing you into the dark, surviving by your wits alone. However, by the time you have beaten most of the challenges on offer, you will have an intimate knowledge of the level. You will know every guard location, every source of lethal poison, every single security weakness that you can exploit in order to bring down your target and escape.
Even when you have completely mastered a level there are still more ways to test your new found skills and knowledge. Contracts are effectively player designed missions set within the levels created by IO Interactive. These work incredibly well because the more popular ones will naturally rise to the top and so you rarely end up trying a dud. There are also escalation missions to take on, which place you back in a familiar level but then add increasingly difficult constraints on weapons and win parameters. In what could be the ultimate test of level knowledge, the elusive targets have made a return in Hitman 2. In this mission you are dropped into a level you should have played many times before, however, this time you have a specific target and you must take them down in one shot. If you fail then you have blown it and you will not get another chance. In what I think was marketing genius, the first target was Sean Bean, who is well known for ending up dead in his on-screen roles.
As well as the suite of missions that come with Hitman 2 there are also some new toys to play with. One of my favourite of these is the new picture in picture mode, which lets you enjoy the fruits of your labour while slinking off to your next objective. This feature basically opens a small video feed of a significant event, which gives you a birds-eye view of your handy work. There have also been some other nice additions, such as the crowd blending skill and the return of the infamous silver briefcase.
I will fully admit, that when I first saw the new sniper mode I wasn't keen, especially when I discovered that you are stuck in a static location. Obviously at some point, for the sake of the review, I was forced to give it a whirl: I love it. Yes, this is certainly a mechanically different mode to free roaming, but the exquisite level design that permeates the main game's locations is also present here. You will have main targets to pick off, of course, but there are so many ways you can go about doing this. Knocking guards into water to hide the body, shooting a wooden support on a crumbling statue or just sending a round through a gas canister. There are also many hidden ways to take down the targets and their bodyguards. The developers have even included a similar challenge system to prod you in the right direction and in addition, your sniper rifle will improve as you master these challenges. As an added twist you can also play this mode with another player, which works really well if you don’t mind sharing the glory.
Is it PC?
Hitman 2 feels like it is cut from the same cloth as the previous game and in many ways it is. The game still runs on the Glacier 2 engine and if we are honest, many assets from Hitman 2016 are here for the sequel. Is this such a bad thing? Not at all and in fact, the obvious parity between the two games lends a certain level of consistency when reviewing the package as a whole. This bond between new and old is further strengthened when you consider that all the improvements made in the new game have been retrofitted onto the original levels. My only dislike, in terms of visuals, is the way Agent 47 carries himself, because like the previous game he walks around like he's has a corncob stuck up his arse. This is a very minor complaint, but I would hope any new Hitman game in the future would add a bit of fluidity to his movements.
The lighting engine has been improved now, adding a greater degree of lens flare and bloom. This might not be to everyone’s taste and in some ways, the games overall colour range is diminished. This, of course, gives the game a more realistic and dusty look, which I personally prefer. Reflections have also been given some extra oomph, with metal and glass now having fairly decent reflections. Cloth physics have also been improved on items such as flags and even clothing, which makes the many outfits Agent 47 can wear look all the better. Overall this is a very PC friendly game with all the options you could wish for both in terms of aesthetics and gameplay.
Hitman Blood Money was by far one of the standout moments in the series but I do believe that Hitman 2 is now the very best Hitman that has ever been made. This new game builds on the success of the 2016 game, refines the formula and gives us so much more in the final product. There is so much quality gameplay to be enjoyed within Hitman 2 it is hard to fault. If you then add the previous game, you have a huge body of work to delve into. When you have so many publishers and developers treating their customers like cash piñatas these days, I think it is worth celebrating developers like IO Interactive that not only provide the goods, but do it in style. If you have ever enjoyed the Hitman games or action/stealth games in general, then you should really check out Hitman 2.
Thank you for reading my review of Hitman 2 on PC, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoying writing it. If you like my website please come back soon to find more reviews and content about PC gaming. You can also follow me @riggedforepic for all my content updates.