If you heard our January episode of the TA Playlist Podcast you already know I'm a big fan of IO Interactive's Hitman series. At E3 this year I was fortunate to sit down and play 40 minutes of the newly revealed sequel ahead of its November launch date. While much of the demo played like an extension of the 2016 soft reboot, I did notice several changes that should ultimately be for the better when the full game arrives later this year. Here's what caught my attention in the World of Assassination.
It's no longer episodicThe most recent game's episodic release schedule irritated some players. I didn't mind it personally, because I hardly got to play before it all came out anyway. But for those that didn't like this piecemeal approach, rest assured that this sequel will come all bundled together. All six maps and levels will launch simultaneously on November 13th. That doesn't mean they don't plan on post-release content, either. IO has revealed there will be two sizeable expansions to the game after it hits stores, and it's safe to expect a steady stream of more regular updates too for Elusive Targets and the other timed events that kept 2016's HITMAN going strong.
Broader stealth mechanicsDisguises in 2016's game weren't impenetrable thanks to the keen eyes for observation belonging to some NPCs. If certain people spotted you, your disguise wouldn't work on them. In HITMAN 2, IO has added an important wrinkle that helps you stay incognito. Like some of the Assassin's Creed games, you can now hide in plain sight by standing among large crowds of people. Doing so will keep even the most eagle-eyed observers off your back as long as you can maneuver through crowds successfully using this human cover. It really helped open up new avenues of infiltration in my demo and should go a long way toward offering more ways to navigate the various busy environments this series so adores.
A more cinematic flairIn pretty much every other game in the series, it's easy for your perfectly executed kill to happen entirely off-screen. In HITMAN 2, more cinematics will be used to sell the drama for the player. In my demo, after I sabotaged a racer's vehicle, the game cut to a cinematic to show her wiping out as I succeeded in my mission. In previous games, that would've just happened wherever it happened, no matter if I was witness to it or not. Now the game will show you the... fruits of your labor with a greater sense of dramatic storytelling.
Subtly improved animationsThis is a small thing I noticed but it really helped the immersion of my mission. When in disguise and not moving, Agent 47 will now alter his posture to look more like someone who he is disguised as. Dressed as a waiter, I saw him stand politely with his hands behind his back, blending in as a server in a way you once had to prompt him to do — and only at certain counters or tables. You can still perform those blending actions, but now he'll also do something like them whenever you stand still, which makes the whole creepy barcode-tattooed guy with the empty eyes thing less obvious. Oh yeah, and he'll actually open doors now too, using his hands rather than the apparent telekinesis he displayed in previous games.
More assassination choicesA really cool moment came at the end of my demo when I, dressed as the pit boss for a racing crew, got to choose exactly how to sabotage my target's vehicle. Looking over some of the team's supplies before her next pit stop, I could've poured sugar in her gas tank, loosened her wheel so that it would fly off, or plant a bomb in one of her replacement parts. I went for the lattermost option but had I found the sugar and the wrench, any one of the solutions would've been viable. Typically the various means of elimination are stretched across the map. That was true in this case too, but for the first time, they also bunched several tailored assassinations together like this, which was a nice surprise. Not as surprising as when her car exploded on the raceway though. Almost no one saw that coming. Almost no one.
HITMAN 2 arrives on November 13th.
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