In 2016 developer IO Interactive managed to surprise us with Hitman. After the poorly received Hitman Absolution, Hitman was a soft reboot that actually did everything right. However, there was one aspect that worked against the game, and that was the episodic structure in which the levels of the game were released. While this plan of action did the game itself very well, gamers were less charmed by it. So once the game hit the shelves as a complete "season", many gamers had already lost sight of the game. Sales were disappointing and Square-Enix unfortunately had to let go of IO Interactive. But do not be sad; the 170 employees of the company continued as a large indie studio and were given the rights to the Hitman IP by Square-Enix to get started with a second Hitman game.
Although with Hitman 2 you immediately get all levels from the moment you slide the game into your console, the episodic structure of the first part is still there. Hitman 2 consists of five and a half levels (five large levels and one smaller practice map) in which you can do whatever you want. As long as you ultimately eliminate your targets, preferably unseen. A good choice that immediately provides gamers with a complete product, and from which there is still just as much 'replay value' as the first part. Actually, Hitman 2 is mainly more of the same, and that is certainly not wrong. Hitman (2016) is a real hit.
A light bulb in the moonlight
For those who have not played the Hitman reboot: in these games you go out as Agent 47, a bald marble with a head like a billiard ball that shines like a light bulb in the moonlight. 47 is a very good assassin, but suffers from amnesia that prevents him from knowing why he is so good at taking out his targets. Although this is a "soft reboot", in Hitman and Hitman 2 the story continues, meaning that we have been following the story of our hairless friend for 19 years now. Even though the story is not really to write home about, it is something that ties the different levels together in a fun way. Where in Hitman this story was provided with very nice moving cut-scenes, in Hitman 2 these have unfortunately been replaced by a kind of slideshow with some animating elements in the background. It is not really a loss, but it is good to see that IO Interactive has left the Square-Enix wallet behind. Fortunately, we don't see any of this in the game worlds themselves.
In addition to the tutorial level in New Zealand, Agent 47 in Hitman 2 travels to Miami, Colombia, Mumbai, Vermont and some castle on a rock in the sea somewhere near Scotland. A wide range of locations in which you can rid naughty people of their lives in every level. In addition, the game has one unique "Sniper Assassin" map, in which you have to hunt a bullet through their eggshells from a fixed location as secretly as possible. Enough to do in Hitman 2. But how exactly do you do that?
Well, dear reader, that goes without saying. You can know for yourself. Each location contains a large selection of disguises, weapons, objects to throw or hit, secret passages and story sequences with which you can plan the various murders in great detail. Do you want to smash that annoying multi-millionaire in India dressed as a clown with a didgeridoo? Then you can. It is difficult to get past his security, but if you are a real hitman then this will work. And there is probably a challenge attached to this as well. It is of course easier to dress up as one of the members of his film crew, but you also get less points for this than if you beat the entire level in your tightly cut two-piece suit, for example. After taking out your targets, it's up to you to get away unseen; all to the accompaniment of an Avengers-like soundtrack. What else do you want?
Millions of ways
To help you on your way and to familiarize you with this, there are so-called Mission Stories. This is basically the same as the "opportunities" in Hitman (2016). When you walk through the streets of the different locations and listen to your surroundings, you regularly receive useful information. For example, a statue is unveiled, but it is still a bit loose on the base, or you can smear the trophy with poison during a race in order to poison your target. The latter is also a good example from the first level. If you make progress in that level in the usual way, your target will not be first in the race, and therefore will not drink from the trophy. To get this done you will first have to take out the racer that comes first, which really can be done in many ways. You can disqualify him dressed as a race marshall during the race, you can shoot him in the head with a sniper during the race, you can dress up as someone from his pit crew and fill his gas tank with junk and then his car explodes and so on. You can't think of it as crazy or it is possible in Hitman 2. And not even all possible ways to complete the levels have been incorporated in Mission Stories or the many challenges that the game has. Hitman 2 is therefore absolutely not a game where you go through all levels once and then throw the game in the cupboard or on Marktplaats. This is of course possible, but you will be done quickly. The power of the Hitman games is in repetition.
When you are first allowed to explore the different locations, you have no idea where to go, where everything is, what happens at what time in the level, where your targets pass and you name it. You have to blend in with the environment and study your targets in order to work out a plan on how to make them unseen in the best or most creative way. Sometimes it is even possible to disable several people at the same time or to kill each other. In addition, the levels are really full of secrets and funny things, which you can easily overlook when you don't investigate. For fans of Hitman (2016), Hitman 2 is a feast of recognition. References are made regularly to an incident from the previous part. For example, people talk about the locations, or you can hear the music from the Paris-level fashion show in the distance from the speakers.
But what exactly is new in Hitman 2, besides a handful of new locations? Actually not that much, but what is new is important. For example, Hitman introduces 2 working mirrors, to which the AI can actually see and react to. This time there is also grass where you can hide in. Very useful for hiding unconscious guards or waitresses. In addition, the AI has been tightened up a bit, guards are now used when you are spotted by a camera and some of the levels are more vertically oriented; which provides new playing styles full of alternative routes. Finally, the famous suitcase, in which you can smuggle things in, is making its comeback. And best of all? Owners of Hitman (2016) will have free access to remastered versions of the levels from the first game, complete with these new additions. Certain objects are also in different places and enemies sometimes walk along different paths, so these older levels can all be played with a fresh look. If you don't have Hitman (2016), you can still download all content from that game in Hitman 2 for the soft price. Something that more than doubles the playing time of Hitman 2.
Although Hitman 2 is basically more of the same, there is a lot of news going on behind the scenes. The new levels are all fantastic and a lot more consistent in quality than those from the previous part. If you play through the levels once, you will be done with Hitman 2 in a day. But if you want to see everything the game has to offer, you can easily spend more than 100 hours. Hitman 2 is an absolute winner that clearly shows other stealth games who is in charge.
Hitman 2 is a bloody costume party full of surprises. It's everything you can expect from a Hitman sequel: more levels, more ways to take out your targets and most importantly, more crazy adventures with Agent 47. Fans of Hitman (2016) should definitely not pass up this second part, and for newcomers there is the optional Legacy pack for the optimal Hitman experience. So put on your clown suit and grab your didgeridoo because it's time to take out naughty people.