Playing video games bring ‘moments’; passages of time that will stay forever locked in your mind.
In playing Hitman 2 my finest memory will be of myself dressed in a stolen mascots outfit, armed with a didgeridoo, trying to hit a rich racing driver over the head in a crowded toilet that is overrunning madly with water. Suffice to say the mission didn’t go very well. But it doesn’t matter because I was having much fun in trying to attempt this madness.
Hitman 2 is all about the journey and the strange open world lunacy that can occur. But does this new addition to the franchise move the experience on? Or does it get stuck in that toilet with a didgeridoo?
It must be said that the overall game package found in Hitman 2 is very impressive. It brings in the original Hitman maps from the first game, with all the options and more from last time out. You will also find the new Sniper Assassin mode that released as a teaser for this game, along with an online Ghost Mode option, letting you play Hitman with others. There are more new things here too though, but the main meat and drink is that of the story mode of Hitman 2.
Set straight after the first game, Agent 47 and his posh English master, Diana Burnwood (great name) are still searching for the elusive shadow client. The story reveals secrets about Agent 47’s past, telling an interesting story in the process. And whilst it does get a bit generic at times, the main enjoyment comes from the various mini-stories you discover in each location, along with following your own tale as the famous assassin going about his business in this sandbox that is on offer. There are six huge new locations in place, including a Colombian village and a formula one-styled racing event in Miami for example, but plenty of other locales allow for decent variety as well. These locations provide a whole host of mini-narratives – that you will definitely miss the first time around – and this means you will certainly want to involve yourself with multiple playthroughs, focusing in on certain storylines each time.
For all the narrative in the world, it is the gameplay where the fun of Hitman 2 is to be had and it must be said that there isn’t a huge difference from the first game; a few new weapons, the use of coins to distract and lure your targets, and a robust new save anywhere system to hold everything together. But apart from that it’s Hitman business as usual. That’s where the crux of the game lies in that it’s almost like a huge piece of DLC being added on to the first game… but for newcomers, it’s a great package with loads of stuff to explore.
You’ll find that patience is definitely the key with Hitman 2, as I’ve discovered to my peril. With the modern day pace of gaming pushing you to rush in and try to get any objective done as quickly as possible, in this game it’s all about watching the landscape, viewing every character and eyeing up the route of the targets, as they loop around on set courses. Oh, and of course, listening out for possible clues through conversations and items discovered in each and every level. Yes, you can go in all guns blazing and then fight your way out, but it doesn’t feel right with the DNA roots of the game. If anything, it makes you feel dirty and not worthy of the Hitman mantel.
When you do sit back and let the action take hold, you are normally left with a number of targets to take out in a certain area, but how you do it is up to you. The possibilities are pretty varied, really well plotted and brilliantly designed by the developers. The gameplay runs just as you would expect, all stealthy crouching and blending into environments – tending the bar, reading a newspaper or having your photo taken in a crowd, just so you don’t stand out. You can run, but I advise you not to unless you are in real trouble, and you can fire off rounds and rounds of ammo like a good old fashioned shooter, should you so wish. For me, because I have always been useless in a gunfight, I eventually just used all my listening skills and silent kill techniques, perfecting them with each victim. Sometimes this will end in disaster, like a French farce, with a room full of bodies and the vicar coming around for tea. But after a while, it becomes easy to hunt down the appropriate people and use disguises to get that bit closer to any target. The inventive ways of killing your hits are brilliant, and wonderfully evil.
There are however moments when Hitman 2 jars a bit, like the loops of the character you are hunting stop working or they say one thing and do something completely different. It’s a shame, but nothing that will really stop you from becoming highly addicted to carrying out your killing plans. And whilst we are on the subject of negatives, even though the massive sandbox levels are superb, there are strange bugs and things that glitch occasionally.
Away from the story and there is the new Ghost Mode which brings in a multiplayer element in which you and another assassin can compete for the quickest kill in a sort of alternate reality, beating each other for points. This is a good fixture but it needs a bit of time to settle in for its full effect to be felt. There are also the old one-shot timed Elusive Target missions that feature specific characters – Sean Bean, anyone? – giving you just the one chance to get the target downed. Fail, and your chance will be gone forever. If anything, these will ensure you are constantly tempted back by Hitman 2 in the weeks and months ahead.
The Sniper Assassin mode is also a great slice of mini game fun. Shooting from a fixed point afar from the location, your job is to try and to take out a number of targets in a stealthy way; taking down bodyguards from hiding spots, or shooting our chandeliers to distract before nailing the money shot. Without a doubt, it is a great addition to the franchise.
Visually and Hitman 2 looks good with brilliantly designed levels and slick menus. The character design isn’t perfect, but it does a solid job with a decent number of NPCs on screen at one time. The cutscenes telling the story this time are done with storyboarded screenshots rather than full-on cutscenes, and I have to be honest and say they don’t quite work for me, failing to bring utter immersion. The sound design is excellent though; from the great soundtrack to the atmospheric sounds and the building of tension. The writing is very funny at times with some great sub-stories, characters and voice work.
I’ve loved my time with Hitman 2, and I can say that even safe in the knowledge that I had previously tired of the franchise. There is just something that has allowed Hitman 2 to click, pushing me into the world of the bald-headed killer and I now fully understand what all the fuss is about. The sandbox elements, the amazing level design, and variety of gameplay options on offer are all superbly crafted and highly addictive, but I do think that fans of the previous game may well look at this more like a Version 1.5 of the previous title.
Overall though, if you love stalking, get your kicks from dressing up in dead people’s clothes and have always wanted to whack someone over the head with a didgeridoo, then Hitman 2 lets you do all of those things… and a ton more.