Hitman 2 on PlayStation 4
Hippos, industrial fans, burning effigies, and tattoo guns, can all be used as weapons in Hitman 2. The sprawling, inventive sandboxes that Agent 47 calls home return, and you’ll have access to them all to assassinate targets in almost any way imaginable.
Hitman 2 doesn’t change the formula of the first game much (aside from no longer being episodic), but the impeccably designed worlds, and often hilarious kills are so much fun to experiment with that there isn’t really a need for drastic changes.
As in 2016, Agent 47 travels the globe to take down a couple of targets in exotic locations. Hitman 2 sees you explore the streets of Mumbai, a small town in drug-fueled Colombia, and even a quaint American suburb.
It’s these locations that are once again the star of Hitman, offering you the freedom to do almost anything imaginable. Want to take out every bad-guy with your trusty silenced pistol, James Bond style? You can.
Or you can dress up as a famous tattoo artist to the stars and stab your mark in the neck while they relax.
The locations start out small with Hawke’s Bay, a house overlooking the coast of New Zealand, and it acts as a expanded tutorial of sorts, before expanding with the Miami race day, where the silliest of assassinations are possible.
They’re all fantastic settings, bustling with lifelike crowds, conversations to listen in on, and places to hide. The Mumbai and Whittleton Creek levels are the standouts, and feature widely different designs.
Mumbai is huge, crowds cram every street, and tunnels and balconies make it a labyrinth to attempt to learn. With many of the NPCs engaging in conversation and others seemingly going about their lives, it feels like a living, breathing place, and it’s fascinating to explore.
Then there’s Whittleton Creek, which is a small suburb in rural America, and is little more than two streets deep. However, it’s no less interesting.
Every corner of the map has something hidden and some gossip to hear, leading to a great kill opportunity. Being quieter, it’s also a nice change of pace.
You still need to sneak around in the shadows and reply on patience, but it doesn’t feel like you’re always being watched. It’s also fun to see a family led community being wrapped up in the over-the-top espionage of Hitman.
What makes the locations so fun, though, is what you’re able to do in them. From the starting point, you’re told to eliminate your targets, with very little information about how to do so.
Subdue other people to take their uniforms, go in all guns blazing, or play the waiting game, you have so many choices at your disposal.
Complete freedom is an option, but you can also choose to alter the settings and path before you jump in with difficulties and Mission Stories, offering you more leeway in how you explore such as including fewer Enforcers, and/or leading you down a path to a particular kill.
Playing on Casual mode, where fewer people will be suspicious of you, and following the Mission Stories was my preferred way to play.
It allowed me to see Hitman 2’s more impressive set-pieces without the frustrations of waiting or being caught time after time.
The pre-set mission stories are often genius, leaning heavily on the personalities of the targets and the silly nature of the world they’re in. Of course, you can challenge yourself by ensuring perfect stealth is the only way to succeed, but putting emphasis on the bizarre makes the most of Hitman 2’s locations and the possibilities.
Playing that way also dampens the negative impact of the occasionally inconsistent NPCs. While usually treading the line between dumb henchman and super-soldier, there are times at which they stray into both camps.
You might be spotted choking a guard through a wall, alerting everyone within a mile radius of your crimes, or a guard might knee you in the temple as you’re hiding in a bush but not notice you.
It doesn’t happen constantly, but it takes you out of the world each time it does happen, and is incredibly frustrating.
When you are spotted by a particularly eagle eyed bad-guy, the freedom the locations offer and the sheer variety of opportunities ensures that there’s no need to try again.
Even if your hour long stalking of a target ends prematurely in a gun fight, a quick disguise change or a period of hiding will soon see everything calm down, or you can even adapt your strategy on the fly with a throw of an item or a quick bullet to the head.
The freedom you’re granted feels great and allows you to produce your own stories in each of Hitman 2’s missions.
That also means that there’s a huge amount of replay value in Hitman 2. If anything, Hitman 2 is even more enjoyable the second or third times you play through the missions.
It’s impossible to see all of the opportunities in one playthrough, but nailing the others can feel more satisfying when you play the second time because you known how the locations works, where the targets move, and what’s possible.
Everything goes smoother, and you’ll feel far more like an accomplished assassin.
Also, on top of being able to challenge yourself with difficulty, there are challenges to complete in relation to kills.
You level up and increase your mastery of the level, unlocking new opportunities for the next time you jump into the level, including starting points, gadgets, and starting disguises. Each time you jump into, the mission feels completely different.
The overarching story that ties the missions together is absolute nonsense though. Not only because it’s an over-the-top tale about faceless overlords double crossing each other, but also because of how it’s presented.
Two or three minute long vignettes play between each mission and they’re little more than narrated storyboards.
It makes it difficult to know who the characters and voices are, who they’re talking about, and where everyone is. It’s uninspired and confusing, but thankfully doesn’t have much of an impact on the missions themselves.
You’re able to get enough story from each of the levels just by listening to NPCs and stalking your targets.
There’s still more to Hitman 2 beyond the story missions, however. Contracts return, the game will continue to be updated into the future with Elusive Targets, starting with Sean Bean, and Ghosts mode offers some multiplayer fun.
Against another player, in separate worlds, you jump into a race to assassinate targets using whatever means necessary. You can’t impact each other’s world but once one player kills their target, the other is against the clock to do so as well.
It’s a fun way to experiment with the gameplay mechanics, but the breakneck pace of it takes away from the methodical approach required in single player.
You often need to rush, completely disregarding bad guys in your way, and that sees it turn into a gun fight more often than not. Also, if you’re playing against someone who feels more comfortable playing that way, you’re going to feel almost powerless.
Due to the lack of new features, playing Hitman 2 may feel more like binging a second season of 2016’s game than a sequel, but the new locations are so well designed that it doesn’t feel tired or overly familiar.
The freedom to plan and execute a variety of insane kill fantasies makes for missions that are fun and original even after multiple playthroughs. Hitman 2 is a wonderfully designed, enjoyable, and rewarding stealth sandbox that’ll only continue to develop.