First Impressions – Hitman 2: Sniper Assassin

There’s more to being an assassin than only just stealth. Sure, it forms a huge part of the craft, but composure, creativity, precision, and planning are all the finer skills needed to complete the formula. The Hitman series has always established itself on such traits, and the Sniper Assassin pre-order bonus for IO Interactive’s upcoming Hitman 2 seeks to keep up the trend – through a thrilling, stylish shooting gallery of sorts, no less.

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I add “of sorts”, because it’s more than that. The game starts out with Agent 47 perched on a lofty cliffside overlooking a large, grand mansion, where he’s tasked to take out three targets within 15 minutes. Armed with a primary sniper rifle, alongside two or three other special firearms, players will also have to eliminate the bodyguards with nothing but pure sniping prowess at their disposal.

It sounds easy, but as most things in life, it only appears to be so in theory. Taking out the marks would be no issue for veterans of the genre – if not for the torrent of innocent civilians located around the premises. There are various objects lying around to be used as distractions as well, and the fun of that is figuring out what exactly hitting them does. Sometimes, shooting at a particular flower vase helps to lead targets to somewhere near say, a pond, where the player can subsequently snipe them off and knock their body into the pool of water; other times, the objects do next to nothing. In a way, the process works on a trial-and-error basis, and it’s this organic discovery that makes the chase thrilling.

To spice things up, a score system is also implemented, where solo players can compete for the leaderboard. Chain shots, environmental kills, and headshots, among others, are the key to racking up extra points, and gamers have the freedom to decide on their modus operandi: speed-snipe through everything like in a shooting gallery, or take on the hurry-up-and-wait approach and explore different ways to kill the mark.

A neat gameplay mechanic is the Instinct feature (right trigger on the PS4), which allows for the distinction between the targets and the innocent. The three big fish are indicated by means of a red aura, and the bodyguards yellow, so players can easily locate the one leaning over the rail for a silent kill. Alternatively, they can plan for the route ahead to lure the marked individuals into an ideal sniping opportunity, as objects are labelled white as well.

There’s no denying the sense of gratification from taking down someone, although it’ll take some time for novice players and newcomers to get used to the gameplay mechanics. Unlike Call of Duty and PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, sniping is a more realistic affair in Sniper Assassin, meaning the scope teeters a little to the left and right in accordance to what’s seemingly Agent 47’s breathing pace – with no option to turn that off – alongside a slight lag time between the moment the bullet is fired, till when it hits the target. In other words, there’s a need to aim slightly ahead, and one unintentional misclick can easily spark off a whole chain of chaos, and avalanche into the ‘everything will go wrong’ category.

Case in point: In one of my earlier shootouts where I was tracking the enemy, I accidentally over-extended the scope crosshair and shot at an explosive barrel. While two of the three main targets were killed, many other civilians got caught in the blast as well, and I saw my score plummet all the way down to -25,000. Yes, with a negative sign in front. There’ll bound to be quite a few of such instances, but if one observes carefully enough, they can be avoided. And once the mission is completed? Ah, that sense of satisfaction has never felt sweeter.

Beyond that, Hitman 2: Sniper Assassin is an immensely enjoyable experience, especially for those who enjoy the thrill of the hunt. It’s also scarily addictive – despite the mission’s short time of 15 minutes, players will find themselves picking up their consoles and mice time and time again to play. The in-game setting may appear to be restrictive, and it’s anything but, with plenty of unexpected surprises, collectibles, and secrets in store. It gets even better with completion rewards, such as larger clips and an increased fire rate, so the fun never really truly stops.

The co-op mode is still in beta, but already the possibilities are off the charts. Alone as Agent 47, there’s only so much that can be done to distract the targets, and the odds are definitely doubled, or even more than that, with the teaming up of another friend. It can be a double-edged sword, however, because the score will naturally be dragged down if the other player performs poorly, although that shouldn’t be a problem if you’re solely looking for fun and excitement.

Catch Hitman 2 when it releases on December 13, 2018 for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC.