Game Review | Hitman 2
Game summary: Agent 47 embarks on a stealth mission to track down the elusive Shadow Client while learning the truth about his past. The spy thriller takes the assassin across international locations, from vibrant Miami to dangerous rain-forests. (IMDb)
I've always like the Hitman series, but had put off playing this particular game for a while thanks to the double whammy of simply not having the free time and the cost of new games limiting my purchases. Thankfully, I managed to snag the Gold edition for 75% off in a sale and played through all of the Hitman (2016) content included in addition to the new content made specifically for this game.
Speaking of Hitman, the 'soft reboot' is one of my favourite games of recent years and, if you owned it, you got the Legacy DLC content for Hitman 2, recreating the entire game with all the technical upgrades of the new title. It's a little frustrating having to unlock everything again, but the game is so much fun to play that any quibbles fade away very quickly indeed.
As for the improvements made from the last game, the graphics and the physics engine are the most obvious, with the lighting now way more stunning than before and the way your clothing and other softer materials react to being touched or blown about is highly impressive. It's not a massive overhaul, but everything feels like it has been turned up a notch or two and it just adds to the immersion, dragging you deeper into the game's world with everything feeling just that little bit more real.
The levels recreated from the previous games provide possibly the easiest reference for how many little things have been tweaked and improved, but they have also been surpassed by some of the incredible environments you get to play around with here. From the racetrack in Miami (top picture) to the paradise island in the Maldives, it's incredible how much IO Interactive have improved on existing excellence.
Even the worst - meaning least good - levels are at least close to the previous game's best, with so much variety it's quite frankly ridiculous. I will admit that Hitman 2 does feel a little more like Secret Agent Man at times, but that doesn't stop it being at least highly enjoyable to play through, even if it does lead to a more elevated sense of detachment at times - something I'll go into more depth about in a bit.
There are usually around half a dozen in-mission stories for each location to help guide players through certain scenarios, which can prove thrilling or funny - or both - but it's when the player comes up with a plan on their own and then pulls it off without a hitch that makes Hitman 2 such a delight to play. There's no taking orders here, just get the job done however you see fit.
How you progress from one location to another is probably the single worst thing about the whole game, with the over-arching story-line proving to be insubstantial, generic and veering close to flat-out boring, providing little more than connective tissue. It's not really what the game is about, which is made apparent by the lack of animated cut-scenes and a reliance on still images and voice-over work, so it's hardly a deal-breaker.
The problem is that this does lead to the sense of detachment I mentioned above. Thanks to where the story leads Agent 47, you have to spend a lot of time in highly restrictive environments where there is less opportunity for improvisation. You can still experiment, but you are punished to a much higher degree if your plan doesn't work out.
Hitman and Hitman 2 both work best when the environments are more open and populated by civilians and other innocent bystanders that have no idea what is going on in the shadows. Hitman 2 often feels like a lesser Christopher Nolan work: technically brilliant, but lacking that certain spark that produces a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Still, it's pretty simple to race the story and get a number of things unlocked on each level, which is what I recommend you do the first time through the game. Try and complete an in-mission story for each target, unlock some goodies and then progress. Once the story is over, you can then have some real fun by going back through the levels and seeing just how far you can push at the limits of what the game allows.
Ultimately, Hitman 2 is uninteresting narratively, but mechanically brilliant and will remain installed on my PC at least until a Hitman 3 is released. It's a perfect game to drop into for half an hour, try something out and mess around a little while still having a great time thanks to all the interlocking pieces of game, NPC AI and audio visual splendour combining to produce something great.
Hitman 2 is an amazingly well-constructed game that rewards experimentation in a way few other games can compare. The over-arching story isn't great, but it's not really the point of the game either - the true enjoyment of a Hitman game comes from playing the levels over and over again, unlocking new equipment, starting locations and, with those additions, new ways of keeping things fresh. It'll be interesting to see where the developers can improve on the excellence displayed here.