Hitman 2 is like a fine wine. You open the bottle, have a little patience while letting it breathe, and then dive in and enjoy. Hitman 2 will occasionally frustrate, while letting players enjoy a sandbox world filled with things to use and do. Players looking to get the most out of their time will want to take in the six included chapters slowly, digesting each corner of each area and taking in the secrets it holds.
That’s not to say that Hitman 2 doesn’t give players the freedom to play the way they want. Quite the contrary. Hitman 2 is very open about giving players any opportunity they can create for themselves, but the most memorable moments of gameplay will come from thirty plus minutes of preparation for an assassination. Players who want to go in with guns and remote explosives should absolutely do that. People that want to play as stealthy as possible should do that too. Hitman 2 rewards all styles of play with not just an arbitrary level, but also new opportunities for level completion as players level up.
These rewards are what entice the experimentation in each level. As players complete challenges and feats in each area, options to smuggle new items into a level open up, or new starting locations for Agent 47 are available. This doesn’t just change how players engage with a level, but also help with locating new areas and story chapters. Something Hitman 2 does that’s really smart is facilitate sub-missions in each area that help complete objectives. One of my favorites was poisoning a hippie group’s pot of tea in order to steal their leader’s outfit. This allowed me to help a target perform a ritual on a burial site in a construction zone and then bury her in concrete. The preparation in some of these levels can get a bit long-winded, but end up with some creative kills. Instead of these missions guiding players through each kill, they open up after getting the target in the open, allowing players to run through an interesting scenario, and then take out the target how they please.
Unlike the 2016 Hitman reboot, which was released episodically, Hitman 2 launches will most of the content available. Elusive targets will be released periodically to keep players engaged, but Hitman 2 at launch feels like a more complete package this way. The amount of replayability in each level is almost staggering, especially when considered with the other two modes available, Sniper Assassin and Ghost Mode. Releasing everything at once, I feel, was a better design decision, as players can explore more of the worlds they want to and not focus on one they may not care for early on if it had been released episodically.
My biggest complaint with Hitman 2 revolves around the barebones backstory for Agent 47. The story honestly just isn’t all that interesting, and it isn’t even told in an interesting way. None of the cutscenes are animated, instead opting for story-board tiles that fade away when different characters speak. It’s a bland narrative of hunting Shadow Clients, reinforced with boring design choices. It’s easily the most unimaginative aspect in a game that revolves around killing creatively.
Hitman 2 also does a great job at varying locations players will explore. Mumbai is an absolutely packed city, with a roaming gang “The Crows” hounding Agent 47 as he navigates the tight city streets. Columbia is filled with a luscious jungle allowing 47 to hide in plain sight. The level design as well as the areas are top notch, and helps facilitate that creativity. Each area has a handful of the story missions that I talked about before scattered around the level, and at most each level playthrough can see three of those stories play out. Hitman 2 looks pretty similar to the first outing. That isn’t to say it doesn’t look great, because it does, but the aesthetic hasn’t changed much in the last couple of years. Some of the supporting cast looks better than others, so it’s a little hit or miss on character design.
On top of the visuals, Hitman 2 just hasn’t seen much change in general. Mechanics are the same, gameplay is the same, and the way Agent 47 interacts with everything is the same. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies here though, and focusing on more creative ways to complete stages seems to be the biggest focus of Hitman 2.
In a game with so many revolving pieces, I wasn’t surprised to see Hitman 2 have some AI issues. This is more apparent when something doesn’t go your way during an assassination setup and players have to reload a save. In the lead up to one target on Mumbai, I was tasked with taking the disguise of an American actor. In order to take him out, I had to take out a member of “The Crows.” When the actor came to throw up after eating street vendor food, I often found him walking away from where he was supposed to go. Another time in Colombia, my target literally stood in the same place instead of examining the cocaine refiner he was supposed to huddle over. Players trying to play as stealthy as possible will often find themselves reloading saves in order to get Hitman 2 to just behave like it’s supposed to.
This isn’t as much of an issue on the two lower difficulties that allow as many saves as possible in each stage. However, the highest difficulty only allows one save per stage. The occasionally wonky AI can ruin an hour long stage if players aren’t careful, which is incredibly frustrating. Luckily, the other two game modes can help alleviate that if players want to take a break from the story mode of Hitman 2.
Sniper Assassin was the mode I spent a ton of time in. In Sniper Assassin, players take control of Agent 47 perched high up on a ledge attempting to take out three targets and their guards. It’s not the most complicated of modes, and can be finished quickly, but there are a ton of hidden objectives and ways to complete this mode. At most, each run of Sniper Assassin takes 15 minutes, but it usually ends quicker. These short bursts of Hitman-esque gameplay lend well to short breaks from the longer, fleshed out campaign. This mode can be played solo or with a partner online.
Also on display is the all new 1v1 Ghost Mode. Ghost Mode pits two players against each other as they attempt to take down a target. This mode is a lot faster paced as each player attempts each run faster than the other, and takes the creativity and experimentation out of the game. It doesn’t mesh well with the other modes, but is still a pretty good distraction from the other modes if players need a break from the stealth gameplay.
Hitman 2 is at its best when players really take their time with each area and uncover everything each stage has to offer. This means going through each area multiple times, discovering new stories and gadgets to use to take down targets, and planning your exit strategy. A couple of other modes provide some good moments in between the long levels, but the most memorable assassinations will come from setting up complicated kills. But who am I to tell you how to play a game? Enjoy the time with Agent 47, but remember, Hitman 2 rewards creativity and experimentation with new stories, areas, and means to taking down your targets.
Hitman 2 is available now for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC. This review is based on an Xbox One copy provided by the publisher. Purchases are available here.