Sometimes, video games can feel too similar to warrant excitement. A poorly executed sequel can often deflate the good work its predecessor has put in, and could easily sink a fledgeling franchise.
Thankfully, the return of Agent 47 in Hitman 2 is executed to perfection, with IO Interactive giving us the most polished, biggest, and most of all, enjoyable Hitman experience ever. Agent 47 never looked or played this good.
It is a testament to the developers at IO that in each of the open environments you will find in Hitman 2, there are a plethora of options that are ripe for trial and error. And if you can think it, you will probably be able to do it.
The entire gameplay loop of scouting, planning, and executing offers unprecedented replay value, and it does not hurt that it is entirely satisfying no matter which path you take to eliminate the many colourful victims on Agent 47’s list.
Gameplay is king in Hitman 2, and while there is more of a semblance to an overarching narrative that pits our hero and his handler against rival factions, along with the typical dossier of secrets on 47’s past, they are only worth what you put into them.
IO has fleshed out the world admirably, with optional conversations to eavesdrop on and environmental storytelling that offer plenty of surprises and easter eggs that reflect the excellent writing of the studio. Yet, you can easily ignore all these little touches and get to the meat of Hitman 2, assassinations.
Eschewing the episodic nature of the first game, Hitman 2 provides six huge levels for a start, each unique in flavour and style. Head to Miami and take in the sun, while plotting the death of a crooked CEO and his racecar driver daughter. Explore suburbia in Vermont, in an ode to Blood Money, or explore bustling Mumbai and seek out a criminal masquerading as a Bollywood producer.
Although there is plenty to ground the series, in reality, much of the fun in Hitman is down to the delicate balancing act of absurdness and believability. You could easily put a bullet in your target’s head or garotte them, and slink away undetected like the Silent Assassin you are, or investigate the often slapstick and hilarious options that await.
Every level becomes a playground of experiments, accidents waiting to happen to your victims that leave none the wiser. This is where Hitman 2 shines the most and offers a great deal of fun that is simply not found anywhere else.
The more you play, the more every action becomes natural, much like a certain bald and barcoded assassin. Dropped into a sprawling sandbox, the overwhelming number of NPCs soon give way to opportunistic moments that let you learn the lay of the land. These mission stories can help ease you into the game, and open up more creative ways of completing your objectives.
It all plays into the different challenges that you can complete for each level, which in turn, upgrades your mastery level for the level. Become a true expert, and you can jump right in with your preferred disguise and go nuts from there.
The gameplay may sound repetitive, but it is anything but. The constant experimentation is core to Hitman 2. Learning the systems at play will only give you a deeper sense of appreciation for the hard work that went into the overlapping mechanics that combine to form a living world.
And IO has made sure that, though the formula remains intact, the trimmings are fresh and creative enough to keep pushing players along.
There is also nothing stopping you from going all guns blazing, but that is the antithesis of the Hitman experience. Aside from the eventual score and ratings that appeal to the leaderboard chasing crowd, the game does not penalise you at all, but the initial mayhem pales in comparison to the real fun that you could be having.
Of course, for the experts, you can always do things your own way and ignore the helpful cues. However, for the newcomers to the series, it is great to see that IO continues to hone the experience for the hardcore while being equally accommodating to the more casual players. You can even save scum and try again if something goes wrong with the plan, as it often does.
Finish up the initial batch of contracts, and you can always fire up the other nefarious challenges that the community provides. Each comes with its own set of rules and constraints, so you have been warned.
The Elusive Contracts are back as well, the one-time-only missions that saw actor Sean Bean become a victim to many an aspiring assassin. Ghost Mode also adds a multiplayer aspect to Hitman 2, letting players compete to be the first to eliminate a target, and with IO’s track record of supporting the game, more good things shall follow.
With two more expansions in the pipeline coming in 2019 for a solid foundation, our fears that IO’s breakup with Square Enix would affect the series can now be allayed. With Warner Bro. Entertainment now onboard, the future looks bright for Agent 47.
Hitman 2 is a modern classic, retaining much of its endearing features wrapped in a modern sheen, it is a game full of surprises, delights, challenges, and secrets. Whether you play it once or are in it for the long haul, there is definitely something for you to enjoy, and frankly, no one earns a killing like Agent 47.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Agent 47 is back, bigger and better. Get ready to fall into the assassinating rabbit hole that is Hitman 2.
Gameplay - 10/10
Story - 6/10
Presentation - 8/10
Value - 10/10