Hitman 2 sheds light on 47’s mysterious past, and delivers gameplay in spades

The fact that we’re getting a new Hitman game so soon after the last entry is already a surprise for itself, but considering all of the drama that went on between its developer, IO Interactive, and Square Enix, the distributor, it’s a miracle that it’s coming out at all. Now under the Warner Bros flag, 47’s adventures hit a new stride in Hitman 2, continuing the fantastic streak that started with 2016’s soft reboot of the franchise.

Not to be confused with Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, the excellent follow-up to the very first Hitman game from back in 2002 that pretty much cemented Hitman as one of the top video game series in my book, Hitman 2 builds upon the incredible foundation of the original reboot, bringing back some elements from older games, such as the inclusion of the suitcase, which allows you to portably carry prohibited weapons into security-heavy zones with ease. Unlike 2016 Hitman, though, Hitman 2 doesn’t follow an episodic roadmap and delivers all of its levels right out of the box, as well as the option to buy a season pass for future content.

And man, Hitman 2 sure blows things up with a brilliant set of missions set in huge, detailed maps full of possibilities and targets to take out, along with some varied objectives thrown in for good measure. IO Interactive seems to have taken notes from a few of their 2016’s more complicated elusive target hits — one go, one chance, limited time hits activated every few weeks — and decided to make some of Hitman 2’s scenarios a little more complicated. Like having one of them kill a target you lack any sort of physical description of, forcing you to do some detective work before pulling the trigger, all while dealing with other assassinations and a huge crowd of people in Mumbai.

Sniping can often be the safest way to take out targets.

That’s only one example out of a handful of fun hits you have to carry out throughout Hitman 2, and I didn’t even touch upon the numerous possibilities that can come out of one of the 2016 game’s best returning features, the contracts, which add a ton of variety and replayability to Hitman 2 and its maps. More people means more targets, and the sheer number of ways you can off people serves to pump the ways you can carry these out even further. Hitman 2 even adds an extra layer of replay in the form of ghost mode, a multiplayer mode that can be played online with random opponents or by inviting a friend, which puts the two of you head-to-head in the scoreboard, offering a number of targets to take out in your individual instance, timing and scoring you along the way. It’s an exciting game mode that I’m anxious to play more of as the game is released to the public and the real Hitman sharks are out and willing to play.

There’s also a special map that’s inclusively for sniping targets and can be played both solo and in co-op. It has you eliminating a gang of former thieves as they get together for the first time in quite a while in order to attend a wedding at a manor. 47 — or the duo of assassins — stand at a cliffside armed with a rifle as the party goes on, the three targets each going about their merry ways until chaos ensues and they start running away. So unless you plan out your approach, you’re likely to fail this level a lot, since they’re quick to run to safety or just book it out once their buddies start dropping. It’s always been a cool twist to Hitman having a more limited set of mission parameters, especially so when it puts you behind a sniper rifle. The bonus of making it cooperative is a welcome addition, for sure.

The main thrust that makes the Hitman games so fun is their flexibility in regards to realism, and IO’s willingness to be silly and at the same time dead serious when it comes to game design. Targets behave in compromising ways, and if you know when to act, there’s a phone book (do kids these days even know what those were?) sized list of possibilities as to how you can deal with them. With each game, levels have become bigger and bigger, each more detailed and full of possibilities than the last entry. Hitman 2 is even larger, and even though the number of levels is small in comparison to the previous series, each map is absolutely chock full of content that’s clearly designed for multiple playthroughs, and if you hope to see all there is to be seen, you’re gonna have to pick these locations apart and really learn their ins and outs. It’s certainly to its benefit that Hitman 2 also offers owners of 2016 Hitman get to replay that game’s levels, which were converted to fit the updates to the engine for Hitman 2. They include NPC behavior scripts and intelligence, such as the way can now react to mirror reflections, which might sound minor at first, but can absolutely change the way you approach these missions.

Ghost mode is the most exciting addition to Hitman 2.

Hitman 2 brings back a suite of difficulty options, allowing you to tailor the game as you see fit. It’s initially extremely hand-holdy, pointing you towards critical mission objectives and essentially leading you to completing missions quite easily, but that particular guide option can thankfully be turned off completely, or tuned to only show some elements, like developing ‘mission stories’ that introduce ways to potentially complete missions as you play and overhear conversations, or read important documents.

Veterans to the series might turn their nose at all the playability that was added to 2016 Hitman that make a comeback in this, but considering that they can basically turn everything off, even to the point of playing without even being allowed to save the game during missions, there’s no reason to write Hitman 2 — if fact, these help bring new, more casual players in that can potentially turn into more dedicated followers thanks to just how malleable the game manages to be.  

If you’re a fan of Hitman lore, you’ll find that there’s a fair share of it to be found in the in-between briefings during Hitman 2. It finally reveals just who the heck that guy who’s always been a step ahead of 47 in 2016 Hitman was, and he himself sheds some light on our bald friend’s mysterious past, culminating in a shocking revelation that’s bound to be explored further in whatever DLC ends up coming out under the season pass. The series has never been shy about trying to tie events games, but it feels like Hitman 2 is even more tightly connected what came before it than anything that IO Interactive has done before. It’s by no means page turner, but it’s cool to have more than a mere list of suckers to pop out and call it a day.

Crowds are even bigger and more realistic this time around. You can even blend in to escape from detection.

Funnily enough, it seems that the budget went on to make the game look absolutely bonkers, and it sure does, but the cutscenes that were so well made in the last game are now mere slideshows with very limited animations. It’s by no means a huge loss to the game overall, but it’s quite a departure. Still, Hitman 2 more than makes it up by offering some of the most beautiful visuals you’re likely to see this year — each of the locales carries a ton of atmosphere, be it the sunny and extremely saturated Vermont suburbia, the musty, polluted, crowded streets of Mumbai, or the bustling race track in Miami.

Characters sometimes still animate a little weirdly, but I can certainly forgive that due to the ridiculous amount of people that populate each one of these locations, every one of them going about their own routine, or simply standing there only to serve as cover in one of Hitman 2’s new features that borrows from Assassin’s Creed, crowd blending. Underbrush also comes into play for that effect, allowing you to hide yourself, as well as bodies and other items. It might sound minor, but these new visual shines add much to the already robust gameplay “hood” of Hitman 2.

You most likely already know that I’m a giant fan of the series if you have been reading Entertainium for a little while. I’ve played all of Hitman ever since the first one, and I can attest that Hitman 2 is the franchise’s pinnacle in terms of gameplay and design. IO could keep building upon this foundation and I’d be happy playing for a very long time. I can’t wait to see what their elusive target schedule will look like from here on out, and would be remiss not to mention that I’m very glad to see that the franchise has landed a new home and is likely safe from limbo for the likely future. Welcome back, 47. It’s like you never left.

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