When I think of what life would be like to be a professional hitman, I imagine calculated setting up in a remote and safe position, with a high powered rifle, waiting for the perfect time to silently take out my target from a distance. What I don’t imagine, is dressing up as a chicken and beating someone to death with a wrench.
Thankfully, whatever your fantasy (?!), you can live it out in Hitman 2. How you want to take out your targets is the real appeal here. Each level is a sandbox, containing a variety of NPCs all going about their day to day lives. They get cakes from a stall which they love, they will often go outside to have a cigarette. They might have secret rendezvous or even go to get their haircut. Figuring out these routines is the key to being able to achieve the highest award a hitman can – the ‘Silent Assassin’ rank. If only it were so easy.
If you’ve played any of the previous Hitman games, you will know what to expect. Especially if you’ve played the last Hitman game, as this is nearly exactly the same. More of a ‘Season 2’ than anything else (I wonder if it was destined to be this before life changed for the developers), there are a few additional bells and whistles. You can now blend into crowds which is helpful, and carry around concealed things in a briefcase – the most obvious and initial use for which would of course be a sniper rifle.
Hitman games are really defined by the quality of their levels and like most, there is a mixed bag here. Subject to preference, obviously, the best levels are the first at a Grand Prix race in Miami and a later one in a suburban town. Here the blend between the realistic and the absurd clash nicely and you can decide how far you want to go with it. Other levels such as a remote castle (too restrictive) or a market square in Mumbai (too overwhelming) don’t quite hit the spot. There are some clever bits, one generic level set somewhere hot (shows how notable it is) has a cool moment with a statue unveiling, and the Mumbai one has a movie set stashed away but it doesn’t quite feel like it hits the spot as nicely as the more standout levels.
One of my main issues is that although each level is big, where multiple targets are to be taken out they sit apart and it can feel really like a few mini levels have been stitched together. Even the Miami one, once you’ve killed the racing driver, you make your escape towards an office complex and onto the next target. Sure, if you go crazy shooting then yes people will chase you between them, but it can feel disjointed.
Another peeve is that most of the targets have a bodyguard follow them around. Should you not elect for one of the more elaborate deaths, trying to remove the bodyguard is frustrating and sometimes completing it your own way can feel cheesy – blocking a bodyguard in a hallway so his protected person has enough distance so you can then sprint ahead and pop them doesn’t quite tickle you the way it should.
In respect of the various elaborate ways to kill your target, these can be quite hard to find but the game does a nice job of including some signposted breadcrumbs so you can experience these. You still have to find the kick off titbits, and you can disable these tips if you’d like but it’s a nice help.
With regard to other ways to play, the time limited targets return with only one chance to tackle them (the first was Sean Bean), as do Escalations – a series of increasingly complex assassinations to complete. There’s a sniper mode, with one map (which can be played co-op) which requires you to snipe three targets and all of the bodyguards. Finally there is Ghost Mode, a vs mode where you have to race to kill the target.
Ghost mode is odd. You both exist in the same world, sort of but can’t interact with each other. You can use ghost coins to distract people in the parallel world and sabotage their attempt whilst completing yours. Once the target it down its on to the next one. What could be amazing sort of just feels like a rush to shoot someone in the face and move on, with all sorts of carnage kicking off. It highlights a weakness in the Hitman gameplay – the combat – and a couple of goes were enough for me. I’d like to see a Hitman mode where hitmen try to take each other out, but then this has kind of been done in Assassin’s Creed before. At least they are trying something new.
Like previous Hitman games, there is a lot of content here with replay-ability being the key. How much you’ll get out of it depends how much you like playing with these sandbox type games. Should you elect to buy the Legacy Pack, you get the first game/season levels included with the new mechanics of Hitman 2 (all in the same package). My progress didn’t carry out which was a bit of a shame, but it’s nice to have all the levels in one place.
Reviewed on PS4