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Hitman 2

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: IO Interactive
Release Date: Nov. 13, 2018

About Andreas Salmen

I'm sure this is all just a misunderstanding.


PS4 Review - 'Hitman 2'

by Andreas Salmen on Nov. 13, 2018 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Hitman 2 will see players perform contract hits on powerful, high-profile targets in exotic locations around the world.

Buy Hitman 2

There are few franchises still in existence that tickle my nostalgia itch quite like the Hitman games. The series is so firmly rooted in exploring, exploiting and experimenting with its gameplay mechanics that even its shortcomings were an integral part of the experience. Developer IO Interactive may not have consistently delivered industry-defining masterpieces, but it has been experimenting and inching closer to the perfect formula for Hitman.

The Hitman reboot, which was released as episodic content in 2016, showed how well the concept worked. It gave us access to relatively open sandbox levels that offered a vast amount of possibilities. IOI wants to improve upon with the release of Hitman 2, an experience that is still episodic — but all released at the same time — and adds some new features. The question is whether Hitman 2 takes a meaningful step forward and goes far enough to be a full-price sequel.

Hitman 2 continues the story of the two-year-old reboot with six more story chapters. The story isn't conveyed in an engaging way, and it's easy to ignore if you choose to, including a minor "twist" at the end that doesn't feel impactful. There's surely a reason to travel the world and creatively kill people in exotic locations under the instructions of Diana; we just don't care, and the game makes it very easy to ignore.

Speaking of ludicrous stories, the main ones will probably be written by yourself. Hitman was always at its best when it promoted weird characters, kills and motives. Hitman 2 offers up quite a few absurd situations, especially when we seek them out. The general premise for all six contracts is simple: Get in, kill your targets, and get out (preferably unseen). Over the course of the game, we'll visit a small beach house on New Zealand, a Formula 1 race in Miami, a Columbian drug cartel in Santa Fortuna, a crime gang in the incredibly busy streets of Mumbai, an idyllic suburban neighborhood in the U.S. (not necessarily dressed as a clown, if I'm allowed the Blood Money reference), and a super-secret society event in a castle.

All of the levels are incredibly different from one another, and while six may seem like a low number, bear in mind that some chapters are a major step up in size and density. A single playthrough on most of them will last an hour, and that only reveals a fraction of what the level offers. All stages are layered in a way that makes repeat playthroughs consistently challenging and interesting, either through guided story missions or by exploring on your own.

Similar to the 2016 reboot, Hitman 2 fuels the player's creativity by offering a ridiculous number of everyday objects as potential weapons in the game world. The many different gameplay systems overlap and encourage experimentation in stealthily killing a target: a bullet to the head, back room strangling, a poisoned drink, a falling chandelier, electrocution, a gentle push from a roof, or one of many special signature kills. We can use any "normal" environmental object to kill our targets, but IOI has stuffed quite a few signature events into the game that are absurd, satisfying, and brutally epic.

Most importantly, events are guided unless you turn them off. While it may seem counterintuitive (just like opportunities in previous Hitman titles), the added guidance is usually a welcome way to learn the ropes by following a few markers. They won't guide you every step, but you won't have to guess where the next over-the-top assassination opportunity awaits. Signature kills are plentiful, and there are many other opportunities to murder a target — and they're all important if you want to master a level.

Hitman 2 encourages repeat playthroughs with special achievement mosaics that check off challenges once we accomplish them. With increased mastery, we may unlock new equipment, start points, or deposits for smuggled weapons, offering us the option to plan more effectively with every walkthrough. After we complete an episode, the game usually urges us to return and seek out the remaining story missions before moving on. This is where it's most apparent that Hitman 2 has a similar structure to the 2016 offering, as all six episodes have self-contained trophies. Each episode can be installed and uninstalled separately, which may be good news if you're running out of hard disk space, but it's also a reason the game can feel a bit disjointed at times. No matter how great the individual chapters are, they're great for their own sake and not necessarily as a building block for the overall game.

The level design is incredibly good, with great heights and minor lows. While the first mission in New Zealand felt slightly restricted, the other episodes feel so much grander and more exciting than most of the maps I've ever played in the franchise. Maps like Miami and Columbia, which were often shown in the promotional material, still offered surprises and felt fresh. The undefeated champions are Mumbai and Whittleton Creek. The former takes the concept of crowds even further while also offering the largest and most dynamic map of all. The latter is a perfect depiction of an American suburban neighborhood that's filled with tightly patrolled houses, barbecues, and sinister residents. Mumbai also scores bonus points for offering three targets — and one must be identified first before we can take him out.

There are some gameplay improvements, of course. Mirrors and windows are now reflective, and NPCs spot us when we appear in one behind them. This seems a no-brainer, but it hasn't been part of the package before. Similarly, the option to blend into crowds or hide in foliage has been added, finally giving us proper tools to hide when things are heating up. Hiding a lifeless body in a hedge is finally a valid option. Another new feature is the picture-in-picture mode, which alerts us of important events by showing us video footage. While this improves situations where a body is found by offering context about where it occurred, there will still be plenty of times when the smaller image makes it impossible to understand what's going on. To everyone's relief, the suitcase is also back. It occasionally has the properties of a homing missile, as it can fly around corners when thrown at enemies, but it's great to see its return nonetheless. (Enjoy it before it gets patched.) Even better, if you purchased the previous season of Hitman, you can download a legacy pack that contains all of its missions revamped with these improvements, making Hitman 2 the ultimate hub for everything Hitman that was and is yet to come.

Hitman 2 is still a refreshingly normal video game that doesn't push for realism but is a charmingly flawed experience that works like a well-oiled machine. The AI has been improved, but it still isn't consistent or smart. In one level, I was repeatedly discovered by a guard when loosening a chandelier cord behind him, but throwing a screaming victim down a balcony in the same position didn't bother anyone — except the guard who broke her fall. That's part of the fun — exploiting the AI, finding the gaps in routes, and pulling off daring maneuvers just barely out of sight of a guard. It's all here, it works better than ever, and it's fun even though it may not be as much of a step forward as we may have hoped. If you own and enjoyed the first season, Hitman 2 is a great way to own a revamped and extensive collection of great Hitman levels, and a few more are on the horizon with the planned DLC.

There are a few more distractions beyond the main campaign, such as the Sniper Assassin map Himmelstein, which has been available to early backers for a while. It offers the usual Hitman gameplay from afar, so players must create distractions, hide bodies, and cause accidents, but all with high-caliber bullet. It's more inventive and fun than it has any right to be, even though many have played it prior to Hitman 2's release. It also includes a co-op mode where two players receive sniper rifles with different bullet types, making it a decent distraction from the usual approach.

The main multiplayer attraction is Ghost mode, which is an online 1v1 mode that has players competing to take out several targets. Both are assigned the same targets, and the winner is the one who kills five of them first. The twist is that both assassins play in their own world without any overlap, so while both are assigned the same target, taking it out or wreaking havoc will only impact their own game. If you're spotted while killing a target, you lose the point, and once you've taken someone out, the opponent has 20 seconds to react. The only connection between both player worlds are items such as ghost coins and ghost crates. Crates contain three items, and both can pick up exactly one of them, making it inaccessible to the other player. Ghost coins work like all coins in the sense that they attract enemies, except they attract them in both worlds.

It sounds complicated, but it's really not. While it isn't a breakthrough mode for the series, it can be incredibly fun. It encourages spontaneity in a time-sensitive environment that creates tense situations and funny moments. Ghost mode is currently limited to the Miami stage, but we'll see more maps added over time.

Hitman 2 can occasionally look very similar to its previous iteration. There are plenty of moments where the new release is a clear step up in terms of lighting, NPC numbers and reflections, but overall, it retains the clinical and clean look we expect from a Hitman game. The only constant bother are a few low-resolution assets or assets that don't load quickly enough and potentially create a blurry picture. Otherwise, the game offers 1080p and slightly below for PS4 and Xbox One, 1440p for PS4 Pro and 4K for Xbox One X, both with capped 30fps and an unlocked frame rate option.

All in all, Hitman 2 is the series at its best without shooting for the stars. It's an incremental update to a working formula that is fun to play, but it can sometimes feel underwhelming. Based on its level design and gameplay opportunities alone, Hitman 2 is one of the best entries in the series — and that's all you need to know if you're a fan of the franchise.

Score: 8.4/10

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