Hitman 2 Review: Engineered Rampages Have Never Been so Fun
Hitman 2 is more like the biggest expansion pack of all time than a truly new game. That's not a bad thing, as long as you know what you're getting into. It's essentially a half-dozen (enormous) new missions for 2016's Hitman; you can play those original missions right in Hitman 2, even if you don't own the original.
Most fans of the Hitman series have probably never been drawn primarily by the writing. It's never been bad—it's just not the central focus or main appeal of the games. Agent 47 is usually either working for or running from one super-secret international shadow organization or another, and it's no different this time around.
You'll unravel hints of a new conspiracy in the first mission and gradually learn more about it through five more that will fill 47's (fake) passport with stamps from Miami, Columbia, and several other beautiful locations.
I'm essentially not factoring the story into my rating of Hitman 2, for better or worse. It serves its function as a reason for 47 to move from one location to another; that's about all it's good for.
The main reason the Hitman series has been so successful is a simple one: it's really, really fun to find a hundred different ways to kill somebody. The 2016 Hitman reboot took lethal creativity to new heights, turning players loose in some of the biggest and most intricate environments the franchise had ever seen.
If you thought those levels were big, you're in for a real treat this time around.
Let me describe the sheer size of Hitman 2's missions this way. I write for a living. I've written dozens, if not hundreds of game guides since the PS2 days. I've got a pretty efficient system for writing guides for games as I'm playing them—it doesn't take me all that much longer than simply playing the game for enjoyment.
This morning, I spent six hours exploring a single mission, taking notes and screenshots. When I decided to wrap it up for the day, I'd discovered 17% of the content in that mission—in six hours. The sheer volume of stuff to find and do is staggering. As long as you find it entertaining to set up elaborate assassinations, sneak around in disguise, or simply blow everything up, Hitman 2 will keep you busy for a long time.
Within the first three missions, assassination opportunities include but are not limited to: sabotaging vehicles, shoving targets off rooftops and balconies, crushing them under ludicrously heavy objects, feeding them to hippopotamuses, feeding them into heavy machinery, feeding them to piranhas, burying them alive in wet cement, and programming killer robots to shoot them.
This list barely scratches the surface, and these are just the unique opportunistic kills—you can always shoot, blow up, choke, stab, or poison anybody at any time. Completing assignments skillfully (i.e. smoothly and quietly) will unlock new weapons, gear, disguises, and insertion points, giving you even more options for next time.
Don't get me wrong, the core gameplay loop is really fun and enormously satisfying. But in a way, Hitman 2's greatest strength can also be its biggest weakness. There are, after all, only so many ways to kill people.
There's a real risk that Hitman 2 will overstay its welcome before you even finish all the missions, especially if you're a completionist reluctant to move to the next level until you've fully cleared the current one.
I recommend not doing what I'm doing (completing every single challenge in every level), at least not the first time through. It'll eventually get old for all but the most die-hard fans. Play each mission two or three times, try out a handful of assassinations that look the most fun to you, and then move on. If you're still hungry for more after you clear each mission, you can always replay them later.
Almost every game has some sort of multiplayer component nowadays. Frankly, I don't think it belongs in Hitman games, but I gave it a whirl anyway.
As of right now, there's only one mode, called "Ghosts." To be blunt, it's dumb. You and one other player race to kill the same target using limited weapons and equipment.
The first one to kill the target scores a point, but if your opponent also kills (a different version of) the target within twenty seconds, they cancel out your point. What all this means is that you both spend a very long time canceling each other's points and keeping the score eternally at 0-0. It's not worth spending any time on.
Hitman 2 is quite pretty to look at, especially considering how gargantuan some of the maps are. IO Interactive easily could have phoned it in and copy-pasted the same areas over and over, making only minor changes, but no two areas of any map are even close to identical.
From lush jungles to packed race tracks to the markets of Mumbai at sunset, the game's settings are just as diverse visually as they are mechanically. Though Hitman 2's gameplay might eventually get boring, its artwork never will.
Hitman 2 is a quiet game. I assume that's intentional; it's easier to track moving targets, sneak effectively, and stay focused on a dozen different things if you're not bombarded by noise. The music during stealth/non-alert sections is intense but mellow, creating a sense of mild urgency without panic.
I can't comment extensively on battle music or on many of the weapon sound effects—I strongly prefer to take Hitman games slow and steady, so I rarely found myself in open conflict. On the few occasions when I found it unavoidable, I appreciated the deep, sharp crack of unsuppressed gunshots and the dramatic soundtrack that accompanies them.
Most of the voice acting is grade A, with only a few minor characters giving performances bad enough to be distracting. 47's usual deadpan monotone is the same as always, but in a few scenes, he steps it up considerably in order to impersonate someone or bluff his way past some guards. It's a shame that these scenes are so uncommon; an assassin of 47's skill would surely be a social chameleon, and it would be nice to hear him take on a wider variety of personas.
Hitman 2 is exceedingly well optimized, particularly in light of the fact that we live in a time when many developers seem content to release unfinished games and patch them later—if ever.
The game consistently maintained frame rates of 70+ on Ultra settings while running on a GTX 1080 and an i-7700 Skylake processor. This level of performance is even more impressive when you consider that most of the maps have hundreds, maybe even thousands of NPCs, all of whom move around and do stuff even when you're not close to them.
The load times are superb, never running longer than about five seconds on a Samsung 1TB solid state drive.
Unfortunately, it's not all good news. Like its predecessor, Hitman 2 requires an active internet connection at all times. This is, in a word, obnoxious. Your save data is effectively held hostage; you can't access it while offline. I understand that it's an anti-piracy measure, and I fully support content creators protecting their work, but there really are better ways to do it.
+ Excellent level design
+ Tons of enjoyable assassinations
+ Top-shelf optimization and performance
– Always-online requirement for single player
– Almost too much content, might get boring
– Lackluster, boring, tacked-on multiplayer
When sequels are described as "more of the same," that's usually a bad thing, but not in this case. Hitman 2 is really just season two of Hitman, but it's so big and interesting that I didn't mind. Fans of stealth, exploration, and jaw-dropping violence will find a lot to love here—as long as the clumsy DRM isn't a complete deal-breaker.
Note: the reviewer received a copy of this game for free from the publisher.
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