There are few things in Hitman that give me more grins than doing a perfect run through a complex level. The second episode in the new Hitman season has 47 infiltrating the villa of a dangerously cunning chemist in the beautiful coastal city of Sapienza, in Italy, in quite possibly one of the franchise’s biggest levels yet.
While killing off a science nerd would’ve been easy enough, by simply trespassing into his imposing villa overlooking the resort, you’re also required to cap off another target and get rid of the lethal formula that’s located down in an underground laboratory, hidden deep within Sapienza. Access is obviously extremely limited, and everyone there is on full alert, which adds an extra layer of complexity to an already tense mission.
There are many different approaches to this one, just like it was in Paris previously, but even more than the season opener, episode two shows off the absurd amount of systems that are always working simultaneously in this game. I’m not simply talking about AI routines guiding all the characters from one point to another in the map, or how they can be manipulated in working in your favor; it’s the little details that are peppered in between that really shows the amount of thought that goes into creating a Hitman level.
Sapienza fits in well within the cannon of Hitman when it comes to its central theme and how it’s carried out within its confines – which really stretch the meaning of the word, because it’s a pretty big stretch of land. The people agent 47 is tasked with taking out are really awful, trust me, but even so, IO Interactive manages to throw in kinks that also turn them into indirect comedy gold. For instance, your main target is an insecure nervous wreck and carries a routine that has him zen meditating, giving you an chance for a drop in. It pays to be bald for once!
Still, you’re also given the chance to be creative outside of the pre-programmed opportunities. I was able to carry out both assassinations and the extra objective without resorting to any of those, through the same approach I always take with Hitman – that is, slowly observing and adapting in order to match some routines. Granted, the opportunities are as fun as ever to carry out in Sapienza, going so far as twisting the Hitman formula a bit in some instances, in ways that only Blood Money has managed to in the past. Definitely big praise.
It’s also worth noting just how gorgeous this new locale is. It’s a sprawling and extremely colorful level that aside from the core mission is full of of possibilities that are already being made into amazing user created contracts. People really feel like they’re going about their business, enjoying the weather and just having a good time, while others who are tied by their jobs, are carrying out their busy routines.
The only real thing that breaks the real world illusion is the fact that everyone in the game speaks English with an American accent. There’s no cheesy Italian mannerisms trying to convey words in Italian like Hitman 2 so brilliantly had, nor does anyone utter a word in the beautiful tongue. Perhaps that’s a deliberate choice in order to keep the weird tone the game carries all throughout, but it’s noticeable nonetheless. The score is still fantastic, with orchestrated pieces cuing in at just the right moments. Nothing beats pulling out an unnoticed kill in a crowded room and having the music grow behind you as you make your escape.
As with the previous mission and the base content that came before it, Sapienza is also full of extra challenges added in by IO in the form of special contracts that level in difficulty the more you complete them. Some are just plain ridiculous, requiring you to really dive in deep and really analyze the aforementioned character routines and the inner workings of the level. While the main mission can take you an hour or so to really figure it out, these additional tasks really add up to a lot of replay value.
We’ve just dipped our toe in this new season of Hitman, but the first two episodes have already delivered solid content. They are really proving how good of a decision it was for Square Enix to slowly drip Hitman in the form of monthly episodes. Here’s hope they keep it up and surprise us even more.