Although a lot of people were sceptical about how the first season of Hitman was presented, it did work out quite well in the end, allowing you dispatch targets in multitudes of ways, with different challenges that were quite well setup and at times, elaborate to achieve. After a strong season, and the shaky start to the sequel with IO Interactive leaving the shadow of Square Enix, it is time to see if 2nd time is still a charm.

Whilst the sequel is called Hitman 2, with all its base episodes released at once, it is still very much another season rather than a radically different sequel, one that truly works for the procedural nature of the Hitman series. Hitman Absolution although is one of my favourites and was a necessity for the development of 47’s character arc, was still panned by a lot of hardcore Hitman fans. Mainly because with a series such as this we don’t need much of an upgrade, which usually hinders the final product but instead just more elaborate setups with dynamic AI like it was present in Blood Money would have done the job, and the job it has done this time around.

The AI definitely has been more refined, one that now logically seeks out answers for the change in their surroundings. I appreciate the fact that whilst I might not be able to poison food dressed as a civilian or a guard, no one bats an eye when I do it as a chef, as for all they know I am just seasoning the food. It’s clever and prompts you to not rely on just one disguise all the time. Not to mention, no single disguise is always the best one and there will always be supervisors or the like who will not recognise you as being part of the staff since they have been there longer or don’t take too kindly with you being in a place you are not supposed to, no matter if you are security or not. Then we have the certain stories that only play out if you don a certain disguise.

“The AI definitely has been more refined, one that now logically seeks out answers for the change in their surroundings.”

As you can imagine from that sentence, stories have returned in the sequel which are similar to guides that present to you a situation developing in an episode, allowing you to use it to your advantage. For example, in the first mission, one of the stories follows an engineer who is about to quit due to issues with management. This of course leaves a little room open in the roster, and makes the said engineer expendable, allowing you to steal their disguise and show up as a helping hand. This of course gets you closer to the target, helping you seal their fate. What I really appreciate is how cinematic some of the outcomes feel, it truly feels like you are in a very sophisticated espionage movie at times which have a grand and elaborate ending that make you feel like a badass.

Now for those of you who are the elite Hitman players, you can easily turn off these guides and just play it like you would without any hand-holding, but even if you do look for a little help it doesn’t fully guide you to the conclusion, but instead gets you to the right place at the right time, something I am sure hardcore fans know already. Still all in all, stories is a brilliant feature and great for people who want to experience Hitman’s different outcomes or are playing it for the first time, especially as after getting the first season, you can get the remastered counterpart with the second game free, giving you a full package that you can fully go through with the up to date AI and gameplay enhancements if you haven’t played the first season yet. It’s is an even more fantastic bonus if you already own the first season, allowing you to catch up with the enhancements for free.

“…stories is a brilliant feature and great for people who want to experience Hitman’s different outcomes or are playing it for the first time”

Whilst a lot of the way the game plays out is quite similar to the first one, especially in regards to the contracts that are packaged in an episodic format, allowing you to do them one at a time without having to go through an overarching narrative, it does make sense as it helps you focus on different contracts as much as you want without having to worry about the ones after. Simply put, this format allows you to take your time with the episodes as it doesn’t rush you through to the next mission right after but instead brings you back to the home screen and the choice is yours whether to continue or call it a day. I am sure people as busy as me with jobs and other commitments would appreciate that and get to play it on their own accord.

The quick save function is another feature that helps with that, and one that I am happy to see return. Some people do have the mindset where they think committing to your actions is something you should be doing and just replay it again after, learning from your previous mistakes. However, that isn’t always a helpful thing as not everyone has time to replay games from beginning to end more than once, and the quick-save function helps more players with a safety net for risks. Wanna try something daring and see if it works? Not a problem, just quick save and go crazy, if it works it will be satisfying, if not you can always bring yourself back to the saved point. The quick save feature, in my opinion always helps players take more risks that they normally might not, and with a game as dynamic as Hitman 2, sometimes you do need to take massive risks as there are many ways to finish a contract and some might not even be that obvious. This prompts you to truly think, try, fail and repeat.

“The quick save feature, in my opinion always helps players take more risks that they normally might not”

This philosophy of play it your own way is what really works for Hitman 2, as the game can go off the rails quite quick, turning from a strict spy thriller to a slapstick comedy. In fact, whilst playing with my friends I set myself a challenge that I can only knock people out by throwing things at them, and it quickly got out of hand, into something we really enjoyed. In that sense, there are definitely emergent stories to be developed here, ones that you can really talk to your friends or family about, giving it a very social element without forcing it.

Speaking of social play, the game does come with two multiplayer modes, one which is a co-op sniper mode whilst the other is a player vs. player ghost mode. Now, player vs. player ghost mode might ring some alarms for people who haven’t heard of it yet but there is really nothing to worry about since it is a completely optional mode, and works really well with the strategical nature of the game. To sum it up, two players are tasked with taking out specific targets that may overlap, and whilst you can’t attack each other, you can get the drop on someone else by jeopardising someone’s hit or getting somewhere before them. Ghost mode is a very hectic mode that really works well with the nature of the game. It reminds me of the underrated multiplayer assassination mode of the last gen Assassin Creed games.

“Ghost mode is a very hectic mode that really works well with the nature of the game. It reminds me of the underrated multiplayer assassination mode of the last gen Assassin Creed games.”

In regards to the story of the game, there is still an overarching plot throughout the season, especially after how the first ended on a cliff-hanger, and whilst I won’t spoil it for you, it kind of does require you to play the first game, or at least catch up with the cut-scenes. One of the differences I found with the CGI cut-scenes this time around is the motion comic like storytelling, where it feels like a slide show at times with still characters whose lips don’t move or react when they talk. This might have been down to not having the same budget as the first one, which featured fully animated cut-scenes, or a lack of access to Square Enix’s animation studios which are some of the best in the business. Either way, as much as you do justify it, the non animated scenes to stick out like a sore thumb at times.

However, that does not mean the story is boring or uninteresting, as I still found myself wanting to skip through to the next contract just to get more exposition on what was going to happen. The story isn’t anything extremely innovative but it is definitely not something generic and does give a few hints to 47’s enigmatic past. All in all, for both Hitman fans and new players alike, Hitman 2 is an excellent package that comes with lots of gameplay value, allowing you to truly play the game how you want, without compromising the storytelling or serious nature of the game. There is definitely something here for everyone’s play-style, and having access to a remastered season one is a huge bonus if you already own it. In fact, it’s one of the game’s I have replayed contracts of quite a few times due to how easy and efficient it is to do so.

“The story isn’t anything extremely innovative but it is definitely not something generic and does give a few hints to 47’s enigmatic past.”

Lastly in regards to the graphical and audio presentation, I got to play the game on an Xbox One X, which allows you to choose between 4K display with less FPS or 1440p with even 60 FPS.  The game looked absolutely stunning in both modes, truly bringing the world of Hitman 2 to life with sharp images and clean contrasting colours. In regards to the Audio, it feels like Warner Brothers might have leaked a little influence as the themes sound more heroic this time around, like something from a superhero product. It is quite different to the ominous and sinister sounding themes of the first game. There is nothing wrong with that at all but I did find this change quite amusing.

Honestly there is so much to talk about in regards to this game, but it feels like I may have to write a book with all the things you can do. Don’t even get me started on the regular content like the elusive targets similar to the first game, first of which is the maestro of death himself, Sean Bean that keeps the game fresh. Pay attention most big publishers; this is how you do singleplayer emergent, games as a live service without compromising the integrity of the main game.



Author

Haris Iqbal
Haris Iqbal

I am a guy who loves anything with a powerful storyline, whether it be a game, book or movie, it doesn't matter. Just so long as it hooks me in and keeps my imagination captive till the last word/scene! Also, I am huge Silent Hill fan, so I love all things Silent Hill... and anything horror. Huge horror fanatic!