In 2016, IO Interactive released a reboot of their well-known franchise Hitman. They made something special, and by releasing their levels episodically fans would replay the levels over and over again until they mastered it. These levels were intricate, and there was always something interesting to do. Whether it was dressing up as a mime and sniping targets from a belltower to being a maniacal Santa Claus clubbing people with a variety of mechanical tools Hitman (2016) was weird and IO Interactive doubled down on that with the sequel. The foundation that IO Interactive laid out was great, but with Hitman 2 they expanded upon it and built something even more fantastic.
Hitman (2016) was one of the cleverest games of that year, and it caught people off guard with how smart it was. The open nature of the levels allowed for no two playthroughs to be the same. IO Interactive not only embraced both this and the classic absurdist elements of Hitman but actually expanded on them greatly. First in the 2016 remake and now to an even higher effect in the sequel. The game’s level design is not only expanded upon, but the maps now have sub-areas which feel completely different than the core of the map. For example, the Mumbai map is bright and colorful, and there is a slums area which is bleak and brown. The contrasting colors not only tell you a story, but they make the level more engaging. This change showcases the differing map design that the team brought to Hitman 2. These sub-areas lead to more creative options and can lead to more possibilities in how that particular mission can play out.
As I spent more time with the levels, I found myself exploring them just to see what disguise and what opportunity might be lurking, hidden away. The majority of maps have a grand sense of verticality to them, and in order to go to the next level you must find a new disguise or find an alternative way out. This is where Hitman 2 really excels, at making you think outside the box.
There is always an easy way where you can waltz right in, but the guards will tell you that you are trespassing in that specific area. Even if you have the right disguise, you must always be alert because Enforcers are littered all throughout the map. Enforcers are the elite guard, who is essentially the person in charge of whatever disguise you have on and they will see right through you. They know their crew and will be able to pick you out from a crowd. This complicates any plans you might have already made, which can change how you approach your mark. This forces you to think outside the box, and gradually you learn what is around at all times. This makes you adapt on the fly and becomes one of Hitman 2’s greatest strengths.
Hitman 2 returns the core mechanics from the first game while adding new ones which help improve the overall gameplay. One of the new things IO Interactive has added is the Briefcase, which quickly became one of my favorite items in the game. The briefcase is able to hold illegal weapons, which allow for bigger items to be hidden, like the Sniper Rifle for example. It is also a heat-seeking non-lethal weapon, which is one of the funniest things to come across when playing.
The other big mechanical additions are the ability to blend into crowds, as well as sneaking into high grass and shrubs. The high grass serves as an additional place to hide bodies, but if guards get too close to the grass then they will notice the body. It also serves as a great place to hide if you are trespassing and allows for an easy way to lure a guard over to take their disguise. The ability to blend into crowds allows for a quick way to hide if an enforcer notices you. Both are welcome changes so you don’t have to backtrack to a previous hiding spot.
Alongside these additions are changes to the mini-map. It is improved and tells you your status on the mission at any particular moment. Having a bright neon pink block with black text telling you your current status makes it extremely helpful to understand what is going on. As well as a bright yellow block with black text alerting you when you are trespassing, both of these changes make the overall experience more digestible and made me understand the status of the mission more.
Returning from Hitman (2016) are the fun and kind-of wacky ways to eliminate your target. They are called “Mission Stories” and they offer some of the most interesting ways for enjoying Hitman 2. From hiding remote explosives in a love letter, to showing a potential house for sale to a client then promptly blowing the target up in the panic room in the basement. These allow for unique situations to play out, and the combination of having some objects in the environment be destructible allows for some extremely unique opportunities to crop up. The more time you spend in each level, not only does your understanding of the environment increase but so does your knowledge of how to execute your targets using these “Mission Stories” also go up. This makes it fun to go back to a level and try out either a new load-out or another way to approach the targets.
The story of Hitman 2 isn’t anything remarkable. However, it does provide more information on who Agent 47 actually is. The story didn’t stand out to me, but I found myself more invested in the levels and the engaging mechanics.
One of the coolest things about Hitman 2 is the inclusion of the maps from Hitman (2016). This welcomes new players by introducing them to an already stellar set of levels and gets them up-to-date with what is going in the world of Agent 47. However, for returning players they are able to play through levels which they may have already mastered before. This is something which I was eager to play before the game released because I absolutely adore the Sapienza level. Playing it again brought back the nostalgia of playing it the first time and falling in love with it. Replaying that level made me want to explore every nook and cranny all over again.
Hitman 2 is more Hitman, and the small mechanical changes help make the overall experience better. IO Interactive has built another spectacular title, and this is due to using the already great foundation of Hitman 2’s predecessor. The level design is also some of the series’s best, with maps that are diverse and fun to explore. You can explore areas of the map which can unlock completely different options and avenues to your target. However, Hitman 2 has a story which follows similar beats of the original but still manages to show us the troubling yet interesting past of Agent 47. For returning players, IO Interactive is welcoming you back with open arms and introducing players to the game which made the first so special.
This game was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro system with a retail copy of the title purchased by the reviewer.