Hitman 2 Review – Casual Friday in Murder-Town

Throughout its highs and lows, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Hitman series. Having jumped on the murder express back around the time the original Hitman 2 released in 2002, I’ve rarely failed to find enjoyment while suiting up as Agent 47. Minus the stumbling with the release of Hitman Absolution, a title that followed my personal favorite game of the series (Blood Money), I’ve always been forgiving with many of the series’ flaws. So, it’s with a heavy heart that I announce the followup to 2016’s soft reboot of the series is a stumble I’m not sure I can forgive – read on to find out why.

Hitman 2
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: IO Interactive
Platform: Windows PC, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One
Release Date: November 13th, 2018
Players: 1
Price: $59.99

Back in 2006 I spent countless hours perfecting the finely crafted Hitman: Blood Money. So much so that in each level I nailed down the tricky to obtain silent assassin ranking, on the hardest difficulty, in my suit only – meaning I wasn’t able to make use of the title’s many disguises.

It was a challenging experience and I enjoyed almost every second of it. It was one of the first Xbox 360 titles I obtained all the achievements for, and as a 16 year old nerdy kid who spent too many hours gaming, I was damn proud of it.

To me the series has always been at it’s best when chasing hard to obtain kills in as perfect a manner as Agent 47 can muster. The series used to excel in creating intricate and complicated assassination puzzles for the player to solve, which sadly makes Hitman 2 a complete and utter disappointment.

On my very first try I obtained silent assassin ranking on half the levels. Even when playing with HUD elements turned off, it was a walk in the park. The game practically hands what should be complex assassination situations to you on a silver platter.

For example: In one section I needed to find the combination to a safe. Inside the safe is a car bomb and a detonator, a tool that will useful to blowing up Sierra Knox, the race car driver who is my current target.

You’d think finding the combination to the safe would be a thought provoking and stressful affair – I mean this is Hitman after all. The code won’t just be handed to me, right?

Wrong. Just walk literally one room over and sitting on the desk is a piece of paper you can interact with that immediately gives you the code. It’s that simple. Calling this game easy would be a massive understatement.

In fact, anytime I was missing necessary items, they were often within the proximity of the area I needed them. Once I caught onto just how things were laid out, it was a breeze to determine where a specific tool was.

Using the same aforementioned level as an example, at one point I was replaying it over and over again to experience as many possible variations of playthroughs that there are. This is a title that’s designed to be “endlessly” repayable so I was putting that notion to the test.

I chose my starting location as the spectators stands. I immediately load in, walk out, and there’s a guy wearing a racing uniform and talking on his phone. I follow him and listen in and he’s discussing how he isn’t going to work on Sierra’s pit-crew anymore.

He keeps walking for just a small duration and ends up in a section of porta-potties with no one else around. I choke him out, steal his uniform and pass card, and then hide his body in a conveniently placed bin.

Knowing where the pit area is, I walk over there to which I’m given a job to man the station, and am immediately given three options of how to sabotage Sierra’s car.

One of them you can instantly do no matter what as the tool needed is in the garage, while the two others require the aforementioned car bomb (or a proximity mine if you brought your own into the level) and some sugar (hidden very nearby in a bar).

That’s it. Within a minute and a half of loading the level I was just given the means to execute Sierra with no consequences and no challenge. Making things even easier is an enemy AI that is too easily manipulated.

This is a game where you can throw a coin, alerting someone to go check it out, and so long as you’re not trespassing you can walk in front of them, pick it up, circle behind them as they continue to walk to where the coin was, and throw it again, which will then get them to walk even further. Rinse repeat and you’ve led someone to a secure place to knock them out and hide the body.

These types of antics were forgivable in past years, especially on last generation and before, as AI often grows slower than graphics and gameplay when it comes to leaps forward in game development.

However, in recent stealth releases from other studios I’ve seen AI that will notice if a guard sharing a room with them is missing and they’ll get curious and check it out. In Hitman 2, the AI has no environmental awareness and in the year 2018 I expect more out of a stealth title.

What doesn’t help is that the game is insanely buggy. From characters going to sleep only to then start hovering over the bed, to the multiple hard crashes my console endured while playing, to faulty animations that don’t even line up with the characters you’re interacting with, this game has it all.

Quite a few times I also encountered objects meant to be picked up, like cans of soda or screwdrivers, only for my character to be unable to grab them. Oh, and don’t get me started on the clipping. At certain points I even threw objects through walls and managed to knock people out.

Annoyingly, there were even moments where I’d interact with one object only to have my character slide across the floor to another nearby item.

One of my favorite instances of buggy design though was when I got a race canceled by disqualifying Sierra Knox. After coming off the track she was walking around on the other side of the map.

By the time she was there I was already working on assassinating the other target. I lured him outside by breaking a satellite dish and as he was fixing it I came over and pushed him over the ledge.

As I had discovered in an earlier level run, this assassination method was a predetermined one that if done right would have him fall in front of Sierra’s car (assuming she was still in the race) and it’d kill them both.

Yet somehow, even with Sierra walking around across the map, this anecdotal push registered that both had died and I was able to vacate the level. That’s not to suggest all is a bust though.

For the most part I had fun while playing through each level for the first time. It may not have been challenging, but it was enjoyable enough. My method of playing was ignoring the easy to obtain story moments and just focusing on getting up close and personal with my targets.

Not only did this provide a little extra challenge, but it required more thought and added extra playtime to my first run of the game. This was a much needed thing because another major problem is that this game is short.

At only six levels, it doesn’t take much time to get through. This is especially true with the very first level, which doubles as a tutorial and is incredibly short. It’s a house on a beach that has two floors and just a handful of rooms.

In the previous Hitman, the tutorials were at least included as their own mini-levels, and the game properly began with the decently sized Paris level. That’s not quite the case here in Hitman 2.

This is odd because the tutorials from the first game are included here. So, it’s questionable why the first level also serves as a tutorial when the title already has two attached.

Speaking of the first game, for those that already own the last Hitman, all the previous levels are available to play in the slightly updated format. However, I was unable to try them due to a circumstance that left a sour taste in my mouth.

In order to play the 2016 game’s levels in Hitman 2 you must own the entire game. That sounds fair but a problem arises because they no longer sell the episodes individually on the PSN storefront.

Upon release I bought the first four episodes as they came out but then life got in the way and I never returned. Being that I already own half the game it was disappointing to see that in order to play the rest of it I need to shell out 35 dollars for the GOTY edition of the game.

Why would I pay extra for something when I already own most of a title? It’s worth noting that this experience has no bearing on my score of this game, but it’s a worthwhile thing to mention because I imagine I’m not the only one who might get screwed by only partially buying a game when it was episodic.

First game levels and tutorials out of the way, the rest of the levels in Hitman 2 are pretty good. Aside from the Miami racetrack, which is my second favorite level, there is a Virginian neighborhood that is actually quite excellent. I was especially fond of it because it spiritually tapped into a level from Hitman: Blood Money that I absolutely adore.

Everything within the middle of the game is well crafted, good looking, and fun to explore. what’s disappointing is that it’s bookended by two levels that just kinda suck.

The first level, as already mentioned, is offensively short and it hardly counts as a level at all, so it’s not a good look that it’s included as one of the game’s six levels. As for the last one, it was just boring as the dark and foreboding nature of it didn’t aid with how it felt.

Visually, Hitman 2 is a game that benefits greatly from bright and vibrant colors. This isn’t a title that will blow your socks off with its graphical fidelity, and the dark levels that begin and end this game draw too much attention to textures and environmental animations that aren’t all that great.

This is a game that works best when utilizing the charm that comes with a color palette that pops off the screen, a feeling that is aided as the best levels make use of such vibrancy.

This is at odds with the heavy use of colors throughout most of the game, coupled with a story that takes itself too seriously. What also sticks out is that cutscenes are minimally animated.

Unlike the last Hitman, this title’s story is told through mostly static images that just have some background movement here and there. This is all that more dull as the plot is a mostly all too serious trek that follows Agent 47 chase down the ever elusive Shadow Client.

Hitman has always had some seriousness tacked on, but this game takes it too far. It’s just not interesting. I miss the silliness of the characters from Blood Money.

In the grand scheme of things I guess it’s not too big of a deal, I would be hard pressed to find someone who plays this series for its story, but I do think things would have been more enjoyable if some of the cheese of previous titles had returned.

Voice acting wise, the story is managed well enough as the cast does a mostly good job. In general I never had too many qualms with any of the sound design, voice direction, or music within the game.

I wouldn’t say anything is worth writing home about, but it’s passable and it could be a lot worse. It does it’s job in that regard, which is more than I can say about a large chunk of the rest of the game.

Outside of the story campaign are some new features that feel are mostly tacked on. There’s a multiplayer mode called Ghost Mode that went on too long and just wasn’t a lot of fun. I do think some people will enjoy the semi competitive nature of it, but it wasn’t for me.

There’s also a new sniping mode that was actually fairly enjoyable the first couple times, but at only one map where your character is static, it loses its charm fast.

To round out the content is the live event elusive target, the first of which has yet to be deployed, escalation targets which require you to complete the same assassination 5 times as it continually adds one extra step, and lastly contracts, a mode where players can create their own assassination targets and challenges for others to attempt. Like most fan made content, it’s hit or miss.

It was frustrating to choose a level that had the target mere feet from the spawn, only to win within seconds just to have to deal with load screens to then get the option of finding another one to play.

It adds replayability to a game that is supposed to be designed to be immensely replayable, but the replayability factor of the title doesn’t sit with me well.

In an effort to fully delve into how the title was meant to be played, I grinded the race track level for many hours to hit the max rank of level 20 and it wasn’t worth it to me.

Sure, you can spawn in new areas and come in with new gear, but find there’s not enough changes to keep it compelling. Also, with how the challenges are laid out it requires too many playthroughs to hit level 20, and by then the level is absolutely boring.

Before rank 10 I already knew it like the back of my hand, and given how easy many of the assassinations are, even on master difficulty, there’s just not enough reason to keep playing. Why spend hours on a level that’s easy and that has enemy AI that is too exploitable.

Overall, Hitman 2 is a mediocre game. This is not how stealth is supposed to be played. Not once in my entire playthrough did I feel nervous or anxious at the thought of being found out. Stealth as a genre should require cunning and skill and it should be tough to pull off the perfect assassinations, and in that regards, Hitman 2 is a total and complete failure.

This is stealth-lite, a game made for the casual crowd, and on that note, I can’t forgive the game for damaging a series I used to hold dear. The intricacy of past titles is gone, and what is left is an empty shell of what Hitman used to be. Scan the barcode on Agent 47’s head and all you’ll ring up is a package of cheap junk food. Empty calories that wont sustain you for long.

Hitman 2 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a review copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s reviews/ethics policy here.

The Verdict: 6

The Good:

  • Some great level design
  • A few disguises made me genuinely laugh
  • Sniper Assassin is fun the first couple times
  • Some of the executions are brutally enjoyable

The Bad:

  • Atrocious enemy ai
  • The game is way too easy
  • The first level is way too short
  • Ghost mode isn’t fun
  • The game is buggy
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Sophia was a former Niche Gamer contributor.

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