The Hitman games have been purely a solo sandbox experience, known for their dynamic and interesting ways to take out your targets. The games have always rewarded creativity and covert operations, rather than run and gun. Players use disguises and the environment to take out their targets and frame their hits as unfortunate accidents. Hitman 2 is an upcoming sandbox video game from IO Interactive, set for release in November 2018. Hitman 2 Sniper Assassin is a pre-order bonus for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and also a preview of a game mode within Hitman 2. This mode is important for the development of Hitman 2. For the first time in the long-running franchise, a co-operative multiplayer mode is available.
In 2012, IO Interactive released a similar sniper challenge as a pre-order bonus for Hitman Absolution. That was a single stand-alone level that eventually evolved into a mobile game in 2015. The Sniper Assassin mode is tipped to be featured in Hitman 2, so we could see more maps and challenges as time goes on.
In this pre-order level, players have to arrange the demise of three targets and fifteen bodyguards. You're placed in a fixed position overlooking a palace wedding in Austria. As is standard for Hitman, you have several playstyle options. You can shoot your targets in the open or arrange 'accidents' using the environment. You can cause chaos or ensure your victims' bodies fall into out of the way areas. If targets go down in the open or guards discover a body, the alarm sounds and targets run to their escape routes. This makes them much more difficult to hit while in motion and could lead to their escape.
If you take out all targets and either hide their bodies or make their death look accidental without raising suspicion, you'll receive a bonus. In true Hitman style, your options for doing this are vast and discoverable through trial and experience. Shockwave rounds can knock your targets off cliffs, items can be shot onto targets, targets can be shot into ponds, hedges or through windows, just to list a few. A list of challenges is available in the menu before starting the game, providing a lot of clues as to interesting ways to take targets out.
The Hitman 2 Sniper Assassin Austria level captures a lot of what Hitman is about, rewarding precision and exploration. This isn't a game to play and complete just once. It's a challenge map for finding the best way to rank up your score and discover interesting ways to manipulate the environment. Changing the environment can affect the pattern of the characters. For example, shooting the wedding cake makes one of your targets react as anyone would when faced with the loss of cake. Likewise, shooting something near a target leads to an investigation. This delays their progress through the level and isolating them from the other characters. It's this level of interaction and discovery that has made the Hitman games so interesting. The Sniper Assassin mode is no different, despite your fixed position.
The Hitman 2 Sniper Assassin mode, when played co-operatively is slightly different. Each friend takes on the role of either Knight or Stone, each with access to one of Agent 47's special ammo types. This means that communication is key to completing the mission together. Although, when things go south and the targets run, having two assassins makes things much easier.
Each of the co-operative agents has upgradable weaponry as does Agent 47 in the single-player mode. You unlock upgrades as your score increases, which combines with challenges and leaderboards to give a huge amount of replayability. Especially since this is merely a single level pre-order bonus.
Hitman 2 Sniper Assassin Mode looks to have a lot of scope (see what I did there) for future expansion. If there are more levels in the future with the same detail, it could be a very compelling experience. It's doubtful it would ever be able to compete with the open-world sandbox levels of the full Hitman game. However, it will certainly add another layer of interest and increase replayability. The co-operative experience is novel and it should be interesting to see what IO do with it. Ultimately, I'm a Hitman fan for the solo experience, and watching and waiting for another player to complete their task will probably lead me to needing to hide another body.
A great start for IO Interactive after their management buyout in 2017. Things look very interesting for the IO Warner partnership.
Our Hitman 2 preview was conducted on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher. The game is scheduled for release on November 13th
Are you a Hitman franchise fan? What do you think of the co-operative mode? What are you most looking forward to with Hitman 2?