Hitman Episode 2 Review – Sun-soaked Slaughter

Square Enix
Square Enix /

Hitman’s latest episode takes us to Italy, but is this summer paradise worth exploring?

Developers: IO Interactive

Publisher: Square Enix

Platform: PlayStation 4 (version reviewed), Xbox One, PC

Release Date: April 26, 2016

Hitman got off to a pleasant yet somewhat shaky start with episode one back in March, and so Sapienza – episode two in the seven-part series – really needed to launch things into gear to remind us why we loved Agent 47 in the first place. Does it succeed? Largely yes, though not without a few stumbles.

Compared to the helping of the three full missions that were available in episode one, Sapienza features just one location; a fictional town resort on the coast of Italy. That said, IO should be credited for having updated the game with several content drops over the last month, and returning players who haven’t logged on since completing episode one will find a game with plenty of new contracts and escalation missions, albeit in the same environments.

What hasn’t been fixed, however, are the extended loading periods and sluggish menu screens, which still exist seemingly as a result of the game’s insistence to remain online at all times.

Square Enix /

But what a location Sapienza is. Not only is this gorgeous vacation paradise the largest and most sprawling map we’ve seen from a Hitman game in a long time, but the amount of detail and nuance that IO Interactive has applied to the world, from the ice-cream flavors in the local shop to the street art performance in the town square, is astoundingly impressive. One minute you might be strolling through the peaceful church graveyard disguised as a clergy, the next you’ll be gaping at the incredible coastline atop the roof of a mansion.

The sweeping, dynamic score, which wouldn’t feel out of place in a Mission Impossible movie, also contributes to this sense of grandiose scope and scale. Even the one 60-second cutscene included in the episode, which offers woefully little in the way of a meaningful narrative, boasts superb facial animations and fantastic voice work. In terms of pure presentation, then, Sapienza excels.

Unfortunately, the awkward controls, such as the QTE melee combat system and wonky third-person shooting mechanics, have a tendency to undermine player immersion by making Agent 47 look like a fish out of water during moments of open conflict. Hitman encourages you, of course, to be more inventive with your kills, but the game still suffers when a significant aspect of the gameplay feels so clunky to use that it actively dissuades you from even attempting to use it.

Square Enix /

That said, this episode doubles down on the variety and freedom found in episode one, with dozens upon dozens of insanely inventive kills; some scripted, others achieved through the player’s own creative intuition. For example, after unlocking the ICA secret hideout, I came across an explosive golf ball which – should I play my cards right – my target would haplessly whack with his club, trading a hole in one for an expedited appointment with the grim reaper.

There are only a set amount of times you can take out the same target in the same setting…

But I didn’t do that. Instead, I came across my second target by random occurrence, and so decided just to chuck the thing like a contact grenade and get the hell out of there. It’s the organic encounters such as these where Hitman really shines, though the more linear ‘opportunities’ system – which guides you through each step via a series of checkpoints – usually results in a satisfying payoff too.

Though Sapienza has a ton of replay value in terms of the means of assassination, this doesn’t completely justify the fact that it is still a single map. There are only a set amount of times you can take out the same target in the same setting before you begin to grow tired of its initial appeal.

Square Enix /

The main problem with Hitman so far hasn’t been the lack of content; it’s that this content is confined to a limited number of environments. I understand that this is necessitated by the episodic structure of the game’s release, but even a few new smaller maps would have gone a long way in improving episode two’s lasting appeal.

7.  With Sapienza, <em>Hitman </em>has begun to deliver on its true promise and ambition, with one of the best locations in the entire franchise to date, let alone this game so far. Though the variety of new missions and challenges are undermined by the limitation of having to play them all in a single map, and some aspects of the gameplay aren’t quite as stellar as the sublime level design, <em>Hitman </em>is beginning to hit its stride here, and I’m already looking forward to episode 3. . IO Interactive. . Hitman: Episode 2 - Sapienza

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments.