I really don’t like stealth games as I’m not very good at them. I bought the original Hitman Season One when it came out on the PS4 and I think I played about an hour or two before deciding the game wasn’t for me. However, Upon taking control of Agent 47 once more in Hitman 2, I couldn’t put the game down! I was going to put up my review on Friday but I literally couldn’t take myself away from playing the game until I’d experienced the whole campaign.
So, with the main campaign beaten, a variety of deaths and challenges achieved, and numerous people stripped naked – I think it’s time for me to give my impression of Hitman 2 and why the latest game in the franchise has captivated me and had me hooked all week.
The Hitman franchise almost died not too long ago with Square Enix releasing their contract with developer IO Interactive. Thankfully, the CEO and President of Square Enix, Yosuke Matsuda, decided to give the IP back to the developers as well as their independence as “Hitman isn’t Hitman without IO Interactive” – A bold move which I’m sure a lot of other publishers out there wouldn’t even dream of doing with a successful franchise. With their new freedom and ability to do pretty much whatever they wanted, IOI not only worked on more patches and updates to the episodic season one, but they also went on to create a second game in the rebooted franchise along with Warner Bros Entertainment as their publisher.
And here we are, gone is the episodic experiment the team used for season one, instead replaced with the more customary ‘complete’ game along with a Season Pass for extra missions and cosmetics. However, If you own, or can borrow, a copy of the first season then you can also unlock the entire first game within the updated engine and new physics all from within the Hitman 2 simplistic menu! I’ll explain later how to unlock these later, as it’s a bit fiddly, but once you’ve ‘redeemed’ it, you no longer need the first game anymore (unless you still want to get trophies in that version).
So, why have I talked about the background and not the story? Because Hitman 2‘s story, as good as it is, isn’t the main feature of the game, that honour lies within its open-world sandboxes and the sheer amount of crazy things you can get up to within them. The story takes you on an adventure as you go from one exotic location to the next as you aim to not only take down the elusive Shadow Client and their militia but also discover things about Agent 47’s past and things which have remained a secret for many years. It’s all rather exciting.
A million ways to kill
Hitman 2 is a stealth game, your biggest advantage is that as soon as Agent 47 puts on a pair of sunglasses or a Hawaiian shirt, literally nobody recognises him. You even get mistaken for a ‘famous’ celebrity who everyone within the game knows just by putting on his clothes and maybe a wig. It’s rather silly but without this mechanic, our agent wouldn’t get very far before he was discovered and shot on sight! This rather ingenious magic trick also helps him sneak into places he shouldn’t be, interact with objects he shouldn’t touch, and place unwanted items within annoying customers food. However, they’re the simple and straight-forward deaths, the world literally is your oyster and you can do whatever you please.
• One of my tasks was to kill a scientist who is testing out, and demonstrating robotic killing machines. They work by scanning the image of a target and they attack it without remorse. However, if you just happen to see your victims face on the cover of a magazine, you can rip it out and scan that instead – the death is treated as an accident as the machine goes wild and puts a hundred bullets through his skull.
• Another fun death involved dressing up as a real estate agent, showing a guy around a house, including its spacious hidden vault in the basement, then flicking the switch to turn on the rather ‘explosive’ security system.
• Finally, There were some occult-like members performing a ritual in which they set fire to an effigy. Just before it is alight, the woman inside escapes out the back – kinda like a magic trick. However, if you accidentally disable the door mechanism, she fries like a turkey on Thanksgiving – only crispier!
These were pre-defined ‘death stories’ which you can follow should you wish by looking at the menu, picking a storyline, and then following it through to completion. However, you can be a lot more creative and either try to complete one of the multitudes of challenges such as kill everyone with electricity or killing people using a rubber duck bomb, or you can make it up as you go along and adapt to the situation. Hitman 2 is basically as crazy as you wish to make it – if you want to kill everyone dressed in a pink mascot suit then go ahead – at least they’ll die with a smile on their face.
Location Location Location:
One of the first things which simply impressed me with Hitman 2 is the massive playgrounds. The first season was big, as you travelled to various locations and inside luxurious mansions, but Hitman 2 is a whole new level. From the first moment I stepped into Miami, I knew this game was going to be special – secret routes depending on what disguise you have on, tonnes of ways to kill people with some being time specific, lots of unsuspecting people just waiting to get naked to aid your fetis… duty, and as little or much help as you want in order to complete the mission.
I spent around seven hours in Miami before I moved on, not because I was stuck or unable to complete it (because I did), but because I wanted to replay it over and over to try and do the various challenges, look in places I’d not been before, and generally try out a load of ‘what if’ moments as I experimented. That’s the beauty of this Hitman reboot, you can run in and shoot everyone if you wish (although you may not last long), or you can kill your victims in either a fancy and elaborate way or a boring but effective way.
Out of all of the locations though, the American town’s street was probably my favourite. You have access to almost all of the houses as you sneak in, investigate, and plan your attack. It reminded me of the types of small-town streets you see in films which are based in 1960’s America with their wooden exteriors and friendly neighbourhoods. Well, it’s not that friendly, but from the outside, it looks like it is – there just appears to be a lot of people dying and a bunch of people being found naked behind bushes!
Okay, so I own season one of Hitman and I seriously don’t recall there being this many challenges within each of the missions – although I didn’t play the first one very long. Each of the six locations in Hitman 2 has around 70-100 challenges for you to master. These can be as simple as wearing certain disguises, performing specific murders, finding set items, and killing certain people, as well as ‘classic’ challenges such as completing the mission in your suit, killing your targets with a sniper rifle, and don’t let any bodies get discovered.
In terms of content, Hitman 2 will last you tens, or possibly, hundreds of hours if you’re planning on achieving every single challenge and trophy within the game – especially if you own Hitman Season One as well.
Completing the various challenges doesn’t only earn you bragging rights among your friends, you obtain experience and a ‘mastery level’ for that particular mission. As the level cumulatively increases, so do your rewards. From unlocking new starting points, weapons, and disguises, to allowing you to smuggle in new items into various locations – the more you play, the more advantages you can pick your second time around. Also, challenges are cumulative, so you don’t have to achieve all 90 in one go (which would be impossible), once it’s received a tick, you don’t have to do that one anymore as you try and get the others.
As a n00b to the whole stealth genre, I’m rubbish at it usually and can’t stay hidden for long, the amount of content on offer and the long list of things you can do simply overwhelmed me at first and had me a bit confused and overloaded with what to do. However, I just played through each mission doing literally whatever I wanted to, without looking at the challenges, and still ticked off about 15-20 of them each time just by messing about! I’ve replayed a few of the missions with the challenges in mind – you have to if you’re trying to obtain them as some of them require a lot of setup and planning in order to get them just right. One example would be killing the racecar driver on the podium via an explosion or poison. Both methods require setting up before she finishes the race, otherwise, you miss your shot.
Other than the main campaign and the ability to replay all of the various locations and complete as many challenges as you can, what else is there is Hitman 2? First of all, all pre-orders of the game gave people a sneak-peak at one of the extra modes, Sniper Assassin.
Sniper Assassin can be played either solo or in online multiplayer mode. It’s a simple mode yet I totally suck at it. You’re in a new location with its own challenges and targets – you’ve been placed a distance from the mansion with your sniper rifle out and it’s your job to locate and take out each of the targets without alerting anyone. What makes this mode hard is the fact you can’t hide the bodies, as you’re not on location with them. As such, you need to be fast, precise, accurate, and able to spot an opening when it presents itself. Patience also plays a huge part here as you may want to shoot asap, but waiting for the right moment is a lot more important than speed.
The second mode is ‘Ghost mode‘. I love this mode! Again, this is an online multiplayer mode only this one is more fun. You’re both in the same location, at the same starting points, and given literally no equipment or disguises. The game will randomly pick a target for you both (it’s the same for both of you) and it’s then a case of who can take them down first, unseen. However, even though you’re both playing at the same time, and you can see the ‘ghost’ of the other player, it’s like a separate universe as any damage/deaths caused by one player does not affect the other person game. Once a player takes down a target, the other has a set time to kill theirs and then the game picks the next target for both of our agents.
You can also create your own contracts for the rest of the world to play! Creating one is easy as well, you don’t have to pick from a big list of options or choose the hardest ones you can think of, you have to literally perform the kill yourself. That’s right – in this mode you pick a location and then proceed to kill one of the main characters (not an innocent bystander), if you’re happy then ‘tag’ this person as a target and the game will note what you’re wearing, the weapon and the person – that then becomes the challenge. You can also play other peoples contracts, search for specific ones, and even save ones you like as favourites.
As well as creating your own contracts for people to try and achieve, the Elusive contracts are back, just like in season one. These are limited contracts which take place in one of the locations and can only be played once. That’s right – if you get caught, killed, or cock up the kill – that’s it. The first one in Hitman 2 involved Sean Bean, the guy who can’t seem to stay alive in anything he’s a part of! You have a short window of time to get in and take him out via one of the few ‘setups’ which are in motion during the event as he walks around and checks out the various things going on, or you can improvise and make it up as you go. I stupidly pressed the wrong button and punched him – this lead to his guards shooting me down and disabling my chance at killing him!
If these are like the first season then we should get a new contract every month or so along with exclusive gear and/or cosmetics to unlock upon a successful kill.
The legacy of Agent 47
As mentioned at the beginning, Hitman 2 doesn’t only give you access to the 8-10 hour story of the second game, as well as the multiple hours you’ll spend experimenting and messing around, but you’ll also gain access to the entire first game within the new engine. But how do you get access to these levels? You need a copy of the first game. Here’s how you do it on the PS4:
1. Install Hitman Season One and Hitman 2 with all of their updates.
2. Load up Hitman Season One and follow the prompts to ‘purchase’ the ‘legacy pack’ for Hitman 2.
3. Click on ‘download’ for each of the seven packs – this will ‘purchase’ the levels and begin to download.
4. Once completed, load up Hitman 2 and the levels will appear in-game, not only as new locations to use as a sandbox, but the entire first campaign is playable within Hitman 2.
Now you’ve redeemed the ‘Legacy Pack’, you can delete the first game if you want to save Hard Drive space. Going forward, if you delete Hitman 2 and want to download season one’s levels again, just push down on the game whilst on the dashboard, go to ‘PlayStation Store’ and ‘Your Add-Ons’. You can re-download them all individually without having to re-install or put in your Hitman Season One game anymore.
Technically, this means you could even rent or borrow a copy of the first game and use that in order to unlock all of the first game within your copy of Hitman 2 without buying it! However, should you want the bonus mission of Project Zero, or any of the GOTY gear, then you can pay a one-off fee of £7.99 via the in-game shop whilst playing the game. Also, all of Hitman Season One’s trophies have been recreated in Hitman 2 as a double-dip with no platinum trophy. That’s right – there are 118 trophies in total for Hitman 2 – which is pretty mental if you ask me!
Hitman 2 is a beautiful and rather special game in terms of its technical accomplishments on consoles. Not only do you see a lot of real-time reflections within the glass in dimly lit areas and within the many mirrors, but because they’re real-time you see people, things blowing in the wind, and even objects in it! This can be used to your advantage to watch people as they move around, plan your kills without using the cheat-o-vision (Agent 47’s spider-sense), or just stand there and admire being able to see the curtain blowing behind you in the see-through glass window!
The PS4 Pro has also had a few updates added in recent patches in regards to its performance and visuals (I’m not sure about the Xbox One X). As well as having a 30fps 1440p mode and an unlocked framerate (about 45-60fps) at 1440p as well, you also have a switch for ‘performance or visuals’ which wasn’t there on launch. Performance seems to limit the game to 1080p yet with an unlocked framerate hitting 60fps more often, and the Visual mode gives you the above two 1440p modes. Hitman 2 looks stunning and the visual upgrade over the first game on both the new levels and the legacy pack of the original locations is outstanding.
Soundwise, everything is spot on as well – there are tonnes of voices throughout each location based on who you’re stood near and what’s going on, the ambient sounds and the subtle music builds the tension and suspense, and the sounds of your enemies screaming for their lives is to die for! Everyone should get Hitman just for the eye-candy and then end up staying for the addictive nature of the silly kills and interesting aesthetics.
As I mentioned before, I’m not a fan of the stealth genre. I don’t mind it in the older Assassin’s Creed games, but games like Aragami, Tomb Raider, Horror Games, and Hello Neighbour, all seem to frustrate me after a while when I have trouble sneaking around the place. This is one of the reasons I stopped playing the first season so soon after buying it. However, I’ve played Hitman 2 for about 30 hours now and there is still tonnes I’ve not seen or done in it. It’s very generous with it’s manual and autosaves to the point where I can’t give up because I’m never forced to go back too far if I fail at doing something. It’s just a massive death simulator in which you play a magical fast-changing wizard who can dress up as anyone and fool everyone whilst you kill people. What’s not to like!
I was really impressed with the graphical quality, especially when they were also able to get the game to run as such a decent framerate as well as at a higher resolution if you choose to do so. Games like this really put to shame some of the others which suffer from severe frame drops when there is much less going on than in Hitman 2. I did notice a few drops here and there when the action got crazy – especially when I went mental and literally had a pile of over 40 guards in a corner of a room because they kept spawning! I just sat there and shot every single one of them, then when I went over to the corner I was looking at single digit framerates! However, the game didn’t crash as I’ve seen in other games that have done that previously.
One thing I would highly recommend is that everyone goes and downloads the Prologue for either Hitman Season One or 2 on their desired platform. It’s a free download and gives you about 2-3 hours of content, maybe more if you get really into it. It’ll let you see if the mechanics work for you before you decide to go out and buy the game. Think of it as a demo but with a lot more content than you would usually see within a standard demo. Also, all progress from the prologue stages carry over should you buy the game either physically or digitally.
Hitman 2 is the best stealth-based action game I’ve played this entire generation. The game is extremely generous with the amount of content you get, especially if you can get hold of season one and unlock all of the extra content both for free play and the entire first game’s story arc. As someone who’s not a fan of stealth games, the fact I couldn’t put it down just shows how brilliant the game design is and how addictive the developers have created it to be. Completing the challenges isn’t a chore, it’s exciting, entertaining, and above all, extremely addictive. Before long you’ll be replaying the same mission over and over just because…
If you like Hitman and enjoyed the first season, Hitman 2 is a no-brainer – go and buy it. Everyone else, download the free prologue on your chosen platform and try it out for yourself – all the good bits are saved for the actual game but you’ll get a taste of how it works.
- Advanced features like real-time reflections in see-through glass
- Interesting story as well as very exciting and alive locations
- Every playthrough is different if you begin to experiment
- Tonnes of challenges for you to work your way through one by one
- If you can get hold of the first season physically or digitally, you can unlock the whole game in the new engine within Hitman 2 for free
- Other than the graphical improvements, the game does feel like Hitman 1.5 or 'season 2' rather than Hitman 2 (which isn't a bad thing)
- Ditched the episodic content, which I agree with, but now doing a £32.99 season pass (the price of the base game in a lot of places!)