Review – Hitman 2
I have been a big fan of Hitman since Hitman 2: Silent Assassin in 2002 and while the series has had some highs and lows, they have always been enjoyable to me. I absolutely love stealth games and Hitman is the ultimate stealth game. I love the idea of being able to hide in plain site since most stealth games like Thief, Dishonored, Splinter Cell, and many action games only require you to hide in shadows or just stay out of the enemies line of site. Hitman still relies on those normal stealth elements, but allows you to take down characters and use their clothes as a disguise to blend in. It adds a whole other element to stealth and Hitman 2 continues that trend.
Foregoing Hitman’s episodic release (thank goodness!), Hitman 2 is a full release with all 6 locations ready for you to dive into. Each location has 2-4 targets with 5 or so story related assassinations that uncover more of the story. Hitman 2 directly follows the first game with Agent 47 tracking down the Shadow Client and his militia. This will take you through some fantastic locations taking down multiple militia leaders per map. Agent 47 will go through some personal growth during this journey that feels a bit rushed and cliched, but honestly there aren’t many ways to end a “cloned assassin” type story.
Luckily, the gameplay is where Hitman 2 shines and is ultimately the most important part. The moment to moment gameplay has remained largely unchanged since the first game, but I’m convinced that is a good thing. I felt right at home starting up Hitman 2 getting right into the action. The freedom to explore, the excellent level design, the numerous ways to complete your assassination targets are all fantastic. I will say that the initial impression comes off like this is just an expansion to the first game. They re-used the same home screen and even the same epilogue training mission. However, the careful crafting that was put into each mission is worth the price of admission.
I wouldn’t want to spoil much, so I’ll refer my examples to the Miami mission since that is the one they seem to be advertising the most. It makes sense why they would advertise it, considering how great it is. When first starting any location there aren’t many options to customize your loadout or starting area. The first playthrough is used to explore and try and discover any story missions that may pop up. When in the vicinity of these story moments, you’ll receive a notification to track the story to follow its steps to the assassination.
For example, while exploring Miami, there is an underground shower and locker are under the track for the crew. Here is where I found a confused man on the floor talking to another employee how a man snuck up on him, knocked him out, and stole his flamingo mascot outfit. Exploring more around this area, I came across a man in a flamingo outfit who was on the phone telling someone he was able to get the mascot outfit, but lost his keys to the van in the confrontation. He then asks me to find his keys and return them to him. I found the keys near the knocked down man and returned them to him, but decided to follow him and see what he was up to. Apparently he had some incriminating evidence that he was going to blackmail one of my targets with. Unfortunately, he went into a secured area so I couldn’t follow him to see the ending, but doing this at least brought me to another story mission where I had to disguise myself as a nurse.
After killing my targets I decided to play the mission again, but this time I decided to knock out the flamingo man, stole his outfit, stole the evidence out of his van, and got to finish that mission where I was able to uncover more of my targets story and kill her in a new way. See, the is the brilliance of Hitman 2. It may not have a ton of areas, in fact if running through it may only take a handful of hours. But with how many different ways you can assassinate your targets, plus the fact that each way uncovers more story beats, it encourages multiple playthroughs of each location. This works out extremely well considering I never played the same mission in the same way twice.
After completing a mission, rewards are given depending on many factors. Whether Agent 47 was spotted, if any bodies were found, if the surveillance tapes were destroyed, if innocent people were killed, and how the targets were taken out. These rewards will level up Agent 47 and unlock more items to pre-plan missions with. Along with the missions themselves being open to how they can be complete, the difficulty is very customizable and will fit any play style. From casual settings that provide story hints, dumb guards, and easy tracking of targets; to settings that cater to the hardcore that remove all of this and requires you to have a keen eye of observation and know how of hat disguises to use.
If there is one aspect of the gameplay that annoyed me was that it wasn’t always consistent, possibly due to bugs, however. There were a couple times where I would change into a new outfit and I wouldn’t be able to blend in with anyone. Typically, only the leaders of the group I was blending in with would be able to notice me, but when this would happen, I wouldn’t blend in at all. I at first thought I had an item equipped that these characters shouldn’t have, but I unequipped everything and it still happened. There was a couple of times that a story mission got hung up due to the character bumping into me and changing their dialogue. I’m not sure if this is an audio queue issue or the AI, but they will deliver a normal line and if you get too close, they will get annoyed and it will throw off what they were doing.
Hitman 2 also features bonus content in the form of the custom contracts that first appeared in the last game. With the fantastic new levels, I’m glad to see this feature come back since it can essential expand the content forever. A new feature for Hitman 2 is the Sniper Assassin mission that can play in co-op. This mode places up to two assassins on a sniper perch overlooking a unique location where you have to snipe all the main targets and their guards. It requires a considerable amount of planning and coordination between partners to successfully take down targets.
Another new feature is the online Ghost Mode. This is where two assassins will go head to head in the same map and whoever assassinates the most targets first, wins. I only got to play a few of these matches and while I ran into some networking issues, it was actually pretty fun. I was fully aware of where the other player was, but we could not affect each others game. It was an interesting mode and while not my favorite addition, it was fun for a couple rounds for some competition.
What I am most excited about are the Elusive Targets that are frequently added to the game. These are unique high stakes targets that are only around for a limited amount of time. They will re-use current locations, but will provide more opportunity to explore and flesh out these areas. Not only does it provide a reason to get back into a location, it also will introduce new characters with a story and a new assassin tool. For example, the first Elusive Target is Sean Bean and the community decided to unlock an explosive pen. These are fantastic reasons to continue to return to the game every now and then.
As for graphics, I played on a couple different computers and I’ll give my impressions of both. I played half the game on my old computer that had an i7-2600k and a GTX 960 and for the most part, this rig played it on everything low to keep a stable framerate. At low setting, Hitman 2 is not exactly terrible looking. The graphics engine is fairly decent as it has a noticeable art direction that works well. IO Interactive isn’t going for photo realism and this bodes well for less powerful rigs.
About midway through, I built a brand new computer with an i7-9700k and a RTX 2070 (my impressions will come soon on this). I also upgraded to a 1440p 144hz monitor and boy does it run Hitman 2 like a dream. While the low settings aren’t terrible, the ultra setting reveal fantastic details, especially in the reflections. The tech used here for reflections was not seen in the first game, and while the first mission is really the only mission that shows this off very well with its large windowed house, it is an impressive look. The lighting is also extremely impressive even though shadows can sometimes render strangely on some objects. Even on ultra settings the crowds often repeat character models which is very noticeable considering the emphasis on crowds in this game.
The cutscenes for the story main story mission that follows Agent 47 are done in an interesting limited animation screens. While there isn’t fully animated cutscenes for the characters and their dialogue, certain things in the screen will be animated. It is an okay effect, but fully animated cutscenes would have been better for the overall feel of the story they were portraying.
Video recorded on my low settings rig listed above.
The sound design is mostly great with a some fine dialogue from the main characters and assassination targets. There are some over acted lines and delivery issues, but for the most part it’s good. What throws me off is the issue I stated above in which they will be delivering normal dialogue and then can switch to a pissed of line. For example, in the Miami mission I was meeting with my target for a business deal. He welcomes be cordially, excitedly tells me about his product, and then immediately tells me to back off out of his face because I was standing slightly too close. Besides that, the general ambient noises and crowd chatter is well done, but unfortunately there isn’t much of a soundtrack here.
Hitman 2 is the pinnacle of the series, offering fantastic gameplay and extremely replayable locations. As well as the additions of a co-op sniper mode, an online competitive mode, and new targets and items updated frequently makes this well worth the full price admission despite it sharing the same bones as the previous game. Hitman 2 is perfect for the causal and hardcore stealth player.
Crowd character models aren’t all that great and often repeat too often, but the crowd density has improved a lot from the first game. While general lighting is well done, shadows can often times render strangely. Reflections are extremely well done and make a large difference in some levels.
The gameplay is where Hitman 2 and really Hitman in general really shine. There is a ton of variety in how you play easily catering from the causal to the hardcore Hitman players. Each level features a handful of main ways to assassinate your targets and these are tied to some story as well beats.
For the most part the voice acting is fine, but the triggers that instigate dialogue needs to be worked on. Various sound effects and ambient sounds and NPC chatter is precisely done.
Between the fantastic gameplay, online mode, co-op missions, community custom contracts, and wonderfully designed levels that offer so much variety, Hitman 2 is filled to the brim with high quality fun.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Hitman 2 is available now on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.
Reviewed on PC.
A copy of Hitman 2 was provided by the publisher.