Welcome back, 47.

Title: Hitman 2
Platform: PS4, PC, Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: November 13, 2018
Console: £55/$60
PC: £45/$60
TL;DR: A magnificent return to a perfect blend of puzzle-solving and murder
Family Focus?: Click here for more information

An ending is rarely as enjoyable as the journey it takes to get there – rare, but not unheard of. And while the journey to successfully murderising the handful of targets you come across in Hitman 2 is a series of frantic costume changes, wrench lobbing, and the occasionally misplaced proximity mine, there’s nothing quite so satisfying as watching all your hard work come together in one moment of perfect timing, poetic justice, and – mostly – brutal executions.

Of course, it helps that all of your targets are absolute bastards. There’s the Colombian drug chemist – who’s working on a new “super cocaine” – that you can execute with his own drug processor; the director who you can watch get shot in the head as he tells you how thankful you should be to get paid in exposure instead of money – gee, thanks. And let’s not forget the opportunity to dress up as a flamingo and push a target down an elevator shaft, good times. These are just three examples or the many ways you can choose to eliminate three different targets in three locations. There’s plenty of other avenues for you to explore in choreographing these fantastical offings. And it’s these realisations of the opportunities that show how Hitman 2 manages to live up to the legacy of the titles that preceded in such a satisfying way.

Though the sheer size of the majority of Hitman 2’s locations may very well leave you jumping on the earliest opportunity that comes your way. From the bustling streets of Mumbai, that break off into tattered alleyways to the sprawling jungles of Colombia that hide in the crevices of the roadside. Even the American suburbs that you’re dropped off in – easily the most banal in the game – takes on a maze-like quality as you wander through the interconnecting streets and explore the bits and bobs hidden inside the identical houses. And the size of each location is boosted further by a more bloated population in each level. Wandering through a packed racing circuit is a wonderfully disorientating experience that adds another layer of challenge to your task.

And the game makes it clear that, much like 2016’s Hitman, each location warrants more than one playthrough. Not only to see the other opportunities play out but to get the chance to explore the environments; to figure out the shortcuts where the most useful items are hidden, and where the strange little curiosities of each location linger. This idea of mastery is something we’ve come to expect from IO, and with Hitman 2, they haven’t just carried it on, they’ve improved upon it, with a environments more bustling and mechanics of the game now feeding on the crowds in cities or the foliage of the jungle to help hide 47 away from prying eyes.

Similarly, the introduction of progress experience helps in guiding new players into understanding how the game is supposed to be played. As does the new difficulty modes; offering a spectrum of challenge that invites you to experiment with how environments react to your creative streak or dolling out an unforgiving experience in the game’s Master mode. The new difficulty tiers might sound divisive to some, but it’s far from it, instead, opening the game up for everyone whether you’re a stone-cold killer or an enthusiastic new-comer who want to see what happens when you throw a katana at someone.

As you wander through the locations of Hitman 2, there’s a lingering sense of deja vu hanging in the air of some levels. The Isle of Sgail’s gaudy and lavish décor hits a similar chord to the extravagant fashion show in 2016’s Paris; while the streets, alleys, and houses that seem to pile up on one another in Mumbai tap into the same cramped, almost claustrophobic streets of Marakesh. It’s not so overt that it feels like a full return to those places, but it does feel like some of Hitman 2’s locations are what IO Interactive wanted to do back in 2016.

Whether we like it or not, Hitman 2 does still follow a story; though it feels very much tacked on at this point. Story segments are scaled down to vignettes, with voiceovers taking us through the spiralling conspiracy that Agent 47 and Diana have found themselves in. The story is a direct carry-on from 2016’s instalment but this time around it makes the mistake of trying to pull on our heartstrings a tad, a move that only serves to make you feel like you’re doing a mate a favour instead of assassinating shady power-mongers. To be honest, I never really cared about the plots of the Hitman series – and I don’t know too many fans of the series who play the game for the story. So, yes, Hitman 2 carries off the plot but it scaled down noticeably, instead, pouring the resources into the facets of the game that matter.

One such facet that brand new for Hitman 2 is the PvP Ghost Mode, which sees you and a friend racing to murder five targets. The mode is only playable in the Miami location at the time of writing but we’ll see the mode expand over the coming weeks and months. Ghost Mode won’t have players directly affecting how other players get on, so you won’t be able to just headshot the other Agent 47 if he gets near a target. But you can draw attention to them through “Ghost Coins” which act like dimension shifting distractions that you can use at opportune moments to spurn the other player’s chance of getting an unnoticed kill. The multiplayer mode is still a work in progress so it’s tough to have a final word on it at the moment, though it’s an addition that seems like such a natural fit for the game that you’ll be left wondering why it wasn’t added earlier.

Hitman 2 doesn’t stray far from the groundwork of 2016’s Hitman and it shouldn’t in all honesty. Changes are largely based on mechanics, AI can see your reflection, people who hear distractions are shown in a picture-in-picture style, and you can hide in crowds and bushes. Hitman 2 improves where it needs to and the game is all the more fun for it. And the game does well to build on what made its 2016 counterpart such a spectacle in its opportunities and sprawling locations. It’s an excellent follow up to the series, I just hope that Hitman 2 gets the same post-release care that Hitman 2016 did – and if that is the case, then we’re still very much in the early stages of what Hitman 2 is.

The Good:

  • A lovely collection of creative opportunities for you to explore
  • The new difficulty tiers change up the game from a casual playground into a challenging arena
  • All the location bar the tuorial level are excellent additions to the series

The Bad:

  • In a way, Hitman 2 suffers from not having the same episodic format as Hitman 2016

Family Focus

Pegi: 18 ESRB: M for Mature

Hitman 2 is a game about an assassin who willingly murders people in inventive and calculating ways. So, probably not something for the kids.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the game provided by PR for the purpose of this review.