Hitman 2 review: As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death


Hitman 2 takes the core tenets of its predecessor and fine-tunes it to be more grandiose, complex, entertaining and self-aware. It’s more of what works well.

Title: Hitman 2
Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PC (version reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: November 13, 2018

It was my second time through the Miami racetrack stage where I noticed something peculiar. After taking out my second of two targets, it occurred to me that most armed guards in the area would take umbrage to my particular costume; a pink flamingo mascot. Instead of taking the dangerous, difficult route through a building filled with military mercs, I decided to take the rooftop helicopter exit.

Instead, this time there wasn’t a helicopter. With a gigantic nest and big eggs, Agent 47 exited the mission by flapping his big bird mascot arms and flying away, escaping untouched. Welcome to Hitman 2; leave your expectations of straight-up realism and seriousness at the door.

Hitman 2 Miami Agent 47
Warner Bros. Games /

Most everything you’ve heard about this game is true. Its open-world design laden with traps, NPCs, natural accidents waiting to happen and Rude Goldberg-esque machinations waiting to be set up for an ultimate takedown is a natural delight, giving Agent 47 full agency in the numerous calculated and unscripted ways to kill.

It is also more of the same seen in the IO Interactive predecessor, as the formula is an iterative version of what we’ve seen in Hokkaido, Paris, Marrakesh, Sapienza and the rest in Hitman. What separates the two might be little more than the publishers and upgrades to the game engine, but it’s clear that the developers learned what works and what doesn’t and have doubled down on excellence.

In Hitman 2, the chameleon-esque Agent 47 is provided multiple targets to kill by any means necessary. Subterfuge and stealth are rewarded with higher scores, as it’s better to kill targets by making it look like an accident or to be unwitnessed by others. Being unseen by cameras or witnesses increases the point threshold, as well as speediness.

Each of the main five maps (plus the introductory campaign tutorial map) offers up a distinct feel that immerse Agent 47 into the local culture. Whether you’re among the downtrodden and suppressed in Colombia or among the comfortably privileged elitist paradise of the Isle of Sgàil, the player is forced to blend into their surroundings and use the tools around them.

Though you get a bit of a feel for the location in your mission briefing, it’s not until you get boots on the ground that the player starts to peel back the curtain to get an understanding of what’s going on. A drug cartel lord’s cocaine operation might not be restricted to a local problem, as you may discover naturally that there are international stakes to the reason why this target must be killed.

Hitman 2 Mumbai
WB Games /

It’s this natural storytelling evolution that marries well with the Hitman 2 gameplay. With Agent 47 now able to blend into crowds or hide in foliage, the player now has more options to sneak past guards combing the streets or to skulk away after getting caught being somewhere you shouldn’t have been. This complements your arsenal of tool and weapons ready to help take down top targets.

Everything that makes Hitman 2 great is its push to provide more; not necessarily more of something new.

The strength of this sequel is not just the over-the-top scenarios the player can find themselves in to take out targets, but how plentiful they are. Maps like the Isle of Sgàil are twice the size and scale of Paris from the first game and is complete with dozens of fun new ways to make a scene or stealthily pile up the bodies.

Everything that makes Hitman 2 great is its push to provide more; not necessarily more of something new. Sure, there are a few gameplay modes that are new, such as a Ghost Mode online two-player competitive target mode, but for the most part, it’s the same core mechanics and open sandbox exploration from the previous game with shiny new maps.

Hitman 2 sniper
WB Games /

In fact, IO Interactive has made it much easier to borrow its episodic update approach and unfold it into Hitman 2 by allowing legacy owners of the previous games to bring forth those maps to play in the updated engine. This means aspects like picture-in-picture highlights of bodies being found or hints to find, as well as new tools and tricks to bring to older maps, can all be enjoyed within the same foundation.

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  • This is important for the future of this game, as its elusive targets such as the upcoming Sean Bean-led “The Undying” will benefit from nurturing a singular community. Everything about this game celebrates the idea of self-improvement in a sea of other assassins, with level mastery, scoreboards, competitive modes and special contracts made by other players keeping everyone together.

    Though the overlying plot of Hitman 2 continues to be shallow at best and whimsically busy at worst, the moment-to-moment story beats built up through gameplay drive the narrative. These story missions nudge Agent 47 towards paths of completion but also opens up the heart of each location’s message. You begin to understand why these targets need to be taken out, providing subtle context to your otherwise senseless murders.

    With repetition comes expertise, as each of these maps during their first runs provides so much exhilaration due to the improvisational feeling. You have some clue of where the targets are and what they’ll do, but besides a silenced pistol, some coins and a standard starting position, the rest is up to you to discover on the fly.

    By providing incremental level unlocks for stashing gear in multiple spots throughout the map, different starting locations, costumes, positions and mission proximity, Hitman 2 brings players joy in discovering entirely new branches of gameplay and approaches to assassinating targets. Every time I finish a map, I can’t help but get drawn back to try out brand new methods or perfect upon my previous runs.

    Hitman 2 sniper assassin
    Warner Bros. Games /

    The open-world nature of modern games development is not without its drawbacks. Hitman 2 is fairly buggy, although I have encountered only a few cases where an NPC’s reaction is completely bugged. More often than not, the AI will act more aggressive than usual, although sometimes you do see enemies float if clipped into a wall.

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    Furthermore, serving as a PC port, there are a few downsides. I have a beefy PC that more than surpasses the recommended settings, yet the framerate often fluctuates due to the large number of NPCs. Additionally, the game does not support DX12 at launch, and its always-online requirement continues to be a major drag.

    These are minor concerns in a sea of great things to say, as Hitman 2 is the personification of not breaking what doesn’t need to be fixed.

    . Hitman 2. 9. <em>Hitman 2 </em>is a new coat of paint and an updated model of the previous year’s racing car. Sure, it may look similar to its predecessor, but it is improved in almost every facet of production, allowing the player to marvel in its familiar excellence.. IO Interactive

    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. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.