I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Hitman’s Agent 47; in fact I’d go so far as to say that he’s one of my all-time favourite video game characters – a cool, calculating contract killer able to bump of targets in all manner of situations. As the title suggests, Hitman 2 follows on from 2016’s reboot as the follically challenged assassin and his handler Diana Burnwood continue to track the Shadow Client and the sinister Illuminati-like conglomerate known as Providence.
Hitman 2 jumps straight into the action as 47 tracks the Shadow Client’s Lieutenant Alma Reynard to her beachfront safe house in New Zealand. The mission introduces some new game mechanics, including concussion gadgets that render NPCs unconscious and concealment within vegetation (I can’t understand why it’s taken the franchise this long to fully embraced this well-established stealth genre trope) to name but a few. NPCs are more aware of their surroundings this time around and can look through glass or into reflective surfaces, giving you one more thing to worry about. How you take out Reynard is up to you, though as always there’s more than one way to skin a cat, especially if you take the time to fully scout the location and take note of little tidbits of conversations.
Once Reynard has been eliminated the game’s story mode progresses onwards to a host of other exotic destinations and increasingly nefarious targets, though this time around IO has elected to ditch the episodic format, with each new chapter unlocking upon completion of the last. As with the first season, each chapter comes with a mission briefing that provides key information on the location and the target(s). At the conclusion of each chapter, you’re ranked based on your performance as well as how many mission objectives you completed before a series of static CGI rendered images progress the story. The decision to do away with animated scenes is a risky gamble in this day and age, though luckily the blend seamlessly with the aesthetic, helped along with superb vocal performances from franchise stalwarts David Bateson and Jane Perry.
For those that skipped Season One, Hitman 2 also gives players access to the former’s prologue at the ICA training facility as well as all locations and missions from Season One with The Legacy Pack, which can be downloaded for an additional cost from your relevant platform’s online store. The Legacy Pack’s price is fairly reasonable when you consider it essentially gives you the entire game. The packs are remastered to include the newer features as well as buffed graphics and light sourcing.
Each location is huge and feels alive with plenty of NPCs going about their business. 47 is able to pick up intel by finding documents and listen into conversations within the environments that will help him to get closer to his target. Whilst it’s not hard to complete each mission, the real fun comes from fully completing each chapter by revisiting them time and time again in order to kill targets in every which way you can. Personally, I’m a sucker for accidental kills, setting up a bizarre chain of events that will lead to the mark’s demise. There are a lot of cool callbacks and Easter eggs to previous entries in the franchise, which long-term fans of the franchise will no doubt appreciate.
Aside from the main story missions players can try their hand at community-created contracts and elusive targets. The contracts are always fun as they focus on taking out the most random characters such as a bellhop or plumber, more often than not using a specific method or disguise. The first Elusive Target is already live, featuring Sean Bean as a talented assassin known (very much tongue in cheek) as The Undying. As in Season One, the contract is timed and has a one-time window of opportunity to complete. Die or miss your chance and the target’s gone forever. The Elusive Targets have always had an air of tension for me, as there’s no option to reload as one might in the main missions. Further targets will be revealed in the months to come.
In addition to all of this, IO has taken the world of assassination online with multiplayer options – Ghost Mode and Sniper Assassin. Ghost Mode is a 1v1 with both players starting from the same point at the same time, completely unarmed. The objective is to take out a random target before your opponent (who exists in a parallel environment). Weapons and disguises can be picked up from weapons crates dotted around the location. A kill must go unseen and unnoticed for twenty seconds to count. The mode is great fun, although slightly stressful when your opponent registers a kill as you have a limited window in which to catch up. The round ends once one player has registered five successful kills.
Sniper Assassin mode is solo or co-op experience, as ICA agents Knight and Stone take to sniper’s nests in order to take out a number of high profile targets using nothing but their rifles. In order to avoid detection players must use a range of specialised rounds to conceal bodies within the environment, such as shooting a fire extinguisher to set off a concussive blast that causes the mark to be flung into a nearby fountain, thereby hiding the body. Whilst viewing the world through the sight movement does feel a little unwieldy, though this may be as I’m unaccustomed to using it in the main game.
Considering all that it has to offer, Hitman 2 is quite possibly the definitive edition of the game. The game’s difficulty is easy enough for newcomers to enjoy and has enough depth to keep fans invested. The only criticism I can level is that going from a darkened environment to a lighter one or vice versa causes light bloom which leaves 47 momentarily exposed whilst the lighting adjusts, something I found incredibly off-putting. Aside from that one grumble the game is a must have for anyone that has even a passing interest in stealth titles.