Hitman 2 adheres to the “more and better” approach to sequel design. It builds on the excellent foundation of 2016’s Hitman, refining the systems and visuals to be sharper than ever. Likewise, the map design feels stronger and more memorable, featuring a globe-trotting lineup that takes Agent 47 to some surprising places. The biggest change is the absence of the episodic structure. Although I enjoyed that format for the previous game, Hitman 2 offers a dense package that's more rewarding upfront than anything that's come before.
In a decision that feels more forced than anything else, Hitman 2 features a story mode. Although it’s not much of a story since the whole thing is basically just 20 minutes of cinematics. The story cinematics have a nice still-image style and they’re entertaining enough when you’re watching them. However, I forget everything that happens as soon as they're over.
Perhaps there are still people out there who care about the Hitman lore, but as the series moves closer to absurdist slapstick comedy and further away from storytelling, the narrative throughline exploring Agent 47’s origins feels more and more superfluous. The smaller narratives of your assassination targets are much more engaging. They're weaved effortlessly into each location, offering a small insight into their lives and personalities. You’re encouraged to learn more about each mark, earning points as you find optional pieces of intel or overhear conversations that give you the bigger picture.
Where Hitman 2 really shines is in its wonderful variety of surprising locations. Each one is rich and detailed and they all have their own distinct feel. It seems IO are making a concerted effort to include more authentic accents this time around. Hearing people talking with appropriate accents as you walk through the streets of Mumbai adds a lot to your immersion and it makes the locations seem more real. It’s a touch I really appreciated.
The maps themselves are huge, dense, and sprawling, making the previous game’s lineup seem tiny by comparison. Exploring a map for the first time is always an exciting and wondrous experience, but their size can make them a little daunting at first. Thankfully, the game does a better job of easing you into them this time. You can choose whether or not you want a guide pointing you towards the nearest assassination opportunity. This will alert you to nearby Mission Stories, which are essentially Opportunities from the first game. Similarly, the Clues system introduces a way to piece together information about a scenario that can lead to some of the grander assassination setups.
Each map has a number of Mission Stories and they provide some of the best content Hitman 2 has to offer. It feels like IO learned a lot from watching videos of people playing 2016’s installment. They clearly realize how much more fun they could have with Agent 47 and they lean into absurdity in a much bigger way. There are so many more memorable and hilarious opportunities to take out your targets, like 47 dressing as a pink flamingo so he can blackmail an F1 driver, or taking a target on a hilariously-written house tour so you can blow him up in the basement. 47 matches these more elaborate scenarios with increased verbosity. You’ll find him getting into character with his amazingly monotone form of role-playing more frequently. The quality of the writing has improved in a big way, producing some of the series’ best moments.
The gameplay is largely the same as 2016’s Hitman, offering the same rewarding stealth gameplay in a package that seems identical at first glance. The smart improvements are just under the surface. For example, the picture-and-picture option will pop-up with a contextual camera feed whenever a body is found or a person is distracted. It’s a nice quality-of-life addition, making it easier to manage what’s happening on the other end of the large and dense maps. The camera angles can be pretty vague at times, and it can be unclear where or why something is happening, but it provides a nice warning, informing you that you should be on alert.
Another handy new feature is the briefcase, which makes a return from earlier games. Bringing your case into a level with you allows you to store illegal items and smuggle them through restricted areas. It’s a neat addition that leads to some interesting setups. Furthermore, you can now hide in tall grass. In a very Assassin’s Creed-like fashion, people are completely oblivious to Agent 47 if he’s crouching in a particularly high bit of shrubbery.
You can now also blend into crowds. It makes for some fun stealth opportunities, particularly in a map like Colombia that has dense vegetation. You can hide bodies in them so you don’t always have to drag them back to the nearest closet or trunk. Finally, in a very cool and undoubtedly challenging design feat, mirrors now serve a gameplay function. You can see people in reflections, but they’ll also be able to see you.
Taking mirrors into account took me a while to get used to after playing so much Hitman. Needing to consider whether someone can see you in a reflection can be a tricky thing, but the added tactical element of being able to use it to your advantage is a nice touch. The dynamic nature of these reflections is impressive and makes for some really cool moments. For example, there’s a bathroom mirror in the prologue mission. When someone begins to take a shower, the mirror fogs up, rendering it useless. It’ll fade if you wait too long, but the possibilities it creates make it a really neat feature.
There are a couple of new modes to tinker with. The Sniper Assassin mode presents a fun and unique challenge. You’re put onto a map with nothing but a sniper rifle and a set of targets. You can’t move and must carry out your mission using nothing but your sniper and your wits. At first, I thought it was going to be a lame gimmick. A Hitman map where you’re completely stationary sounds boring on paper, but the execution is surprisingly engaging.
They make liberal use of “physics” and “realism” to ensure that you’re not at a disadvantage. The sniper, which is apparently very high caliber, will send people flying backward. You can use this to hide bodies in a hilariously farcical manner. If someone is standing by a pond, for example, shooting them will cause them to fall in and presumably disintegrate. Shooting people while they’re running can be tricky, so you’ll want to keep a lid on things. There’s only one map available for this mode currently, but I hope IO are planning on doing more because it’s surprisingly fun.
Alternatively, you could check out the new Ghost mode, a multiplayer challenge that pits you against another player to assassinate one or more targets. Whoever completes the mission fastest and the most efficiently wins. It’s a really neat concept, allowing you to see the other players ghost in real-time. Competing with other players to be both fast and silent really makes you realize how much of a bad assassin you are, but it’s fun nonetheless.
Sometimes it can feel like the simulation is a little too delicate. Like one wrong move could make the whole thing fall apart. If the wrong person spots you, everyone instantly turns hostile. It can transform an entire area into a screaming, panicking mess. This chaos can work in the game’s favor, forcing you to think on your feet in an exciting way. On the other hand, it can be difficult to get the game to do precisely what you want. At times it can feel like putting together an awkward puzzle. It’s occasionally frustrating, but it usually works just fine.
The performance is very consistent on a PlayStation 4, running at an uncapped frame rate but never dropping below 30. It’s impressive because the maximum number of characters on screen at any one time is dramatically more than the series has ever done. Meanwhile, the visuals look sharper and the environments more detailed. The music has also seen a touch-up, flaring up into more thematically appropriate instrumentation based on your location. The overall production quality has seen a big improvement and Hitman 2 looks and sounds excellent.
This core refinement is at the center of everything Hitman 2 does so well. The whole experience is a tighter, prettier, and deeper improvement of what came before. The core stealth mechanics are fun and open-ended and it’s endlessly satisfying to watch the ridiculous and hilarious opportunities for murder unfold. Coupled with bigger and more ambitious maps and enhanced systems, this is the best the series has ever been.
TechRaptor reviewed Hitman 2 on PlayStation 4 with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC and Xbox One.
- Absurd Tone Is Heavily Embraced
- Bigger, More Ambitious Maps
- New Additions And Improvements Are Smart
- Looks And Sounds Really Sharp
- Story Feels Like A Forced Addition At This Point