‘Hitman 2’ hands-on preview

'Hitman 2' returns with ridiculously intricate levels and similarly ridiculous kills

IO Interactive’s new Hitman avoids fixing what wasn’t broken.
IO Interactive’s new Hitman avoids fixing what wasn’t broken.
IO Interactive’s new Hitman avoids fixing what wasn’t broken.

Highs

  • More huge, intricate levels.
  • Fun and complex paths to assassinate targets.
  • Sniper mode is goofy fun.
  • Locales have increased complexity.

Lows

  • No major updates to how the game plays

IO Interactive’s episodic take on Hitman did a lot to use the core formula of the series — sneaking around stealing people’s clothes to expertly assassinate targets without being noticed — to create a hilarious, multi-solution mousetrap. What you need to know about Hitman 2 is that, despite a new publisher, it’s more of that.

Hitman 2 returns with six huge levels, and IO has remained committed to the best part – filling levels with ludicrous, unlikely, and weird ways to take down targets in addition to the more serious ones. There are a few little improvements on offer — for instance, characters can now see you sneaking up on them in mirrors, where before their artificial intelligence couldn’t pick up on the reflections. Mostly, though, Hitman 2 seems to be more Hitman.

What you need to know about Hitman 2 is that, despite a new publisher, it’s more Hitman.

Under other circumstances, the lack of progress in a sequel might be a detriment; nobody likes feeling like they’re buying the same game twice with only minor tweaks. What makes the current Hitman take exciting isn’t the addition of new mechanics or changes to formula, though. It resides in the clever interconnectivity and sheer complexity of levels. With Hitman 2, the appeal is in the creativity of IO’s designs, and for you to figure out how to use them, as well as break them.

The 40-minute demo available at E3 2018 was a streamlined version of a seemingly giant in-game counterpart. It featured one assassination target instead of the two discussed in the story, for instance, and only had a couple of main paths to complete the goal. Even those thinned-out options were robust.

Speed kills

As shown in Hitman 2‘s trailer for the game, the level takes place in Miami during a supercar race, which immediately rachets up the tension. One of the targets, Sierra Knox, is a racer, and she spends a huge part of the level doing just that. Agent 47 must approach the assassination creatively. Luckily, the game offers a lot of potential options.

We got a chance to play the 'Hitman 2' 'Sniper Assassin' demo at E3. The mode is available right now for players who pre-order 'Hitman 2'. On camera: Riley Winn/Digital Trends | Filming: Juliana Jara/Digital Trends Espanol

In our playthrough, we decided to try to take out Sierra’s car mid-race. That required a lot of groundwork, though. First, 47 had to find a way into the VIP section of the stadium where the race was happening, before locating a disgruntled mechanic who’d quit on race day and stealing his clothes. That meant finding an opportunity to steal a security uniform (off the guard wearing it), dodging security guards who would recognize you don’t belong, then grabbing a bartender, knocking him out, and taking his uniform.

After that, it was the standard Hitman go-to of poisoning the mechanic’s drink to send him into a puking rage in the bathroom, before taking him out and taking his outfit. Head on down to the pit building and when the car rolls up for new tires, then slap a bomb on its fender. Job done.

With Hitman, the appeal is in the creativity of building interesting mousetraps.

There were other ways, though. We could’ve impersonated a different mechanic or loosened the wheels on the car to cause an accident. There was also an additional story you could overhear between a man wearing a pink flamingo mascot costume and someone he was working with, as he explained he had recently knocked out the real mascot to steal his clothes.

That bit was part of a blackmail bid against Sierra happening at the same time as your assassination contract, and according to IO, there’s more to see and learn there.

The trailer at the end of the demo suggested more possible methods, like monkeying with the pyrotechnics near the winner’s podium, beating the target to death with a raw fish, or breaking the chains holding a great white shark replica suspended from the ceiling over your victim.

Trick shot

Even more ridiculous was a second Hitman 2 demo set up at E3, showing off the new “Sniper Assassin” mode. Taking a page from the spinoff of the Hitman mobile puzzle game Hitman Go called Hitman: Sniper, the mode finds 47 looking down over an area with assassination targets scattered throughout. You’re armed only with a suppressed sniper rifle and a list of objectives, and need to use creative shooting to accomplish them all without alerting your targets.

In practice, that meant “hiding bodies” — a Hitman and stealth game mainstay — by shooting people at just the right moments. Agent 47’s sniper rifle packs the wallop of an anti-aircraft gun, sending the bodies of people unfortunate enough to catch a bullet flopping through the air. The trick became to shoot them so that they would tumble over balcony railings, off cliffs, and into ponds to hide their fates from the people around them.

You could also shoot things around the map, like a flag pole or a space heater, that might draw people to investigate them away from prying eyes. It all works together to offer a change of pace to Hitman 2 that still requires you to solve IO Interactive’s goofy murder puzzles, and was just as much fun as other levels.

Hitman 2 is a game that rewards you for investment and creativity.

The Sniper Assassin mode will have levels of its own, post-release content (how much is based on which version of the game players grab), and supports cooperative play. It’s just as ridiculous as a regular Hitman 2 level, especially with people tumbling through the air after you take them out at a thousand yards.

The mission, which took place during a wedding at a cliffside mansion, also had fun Easter eggs. Behind the mansion, for instance, you might spot a base jumper standing on a cliff’s edge, trying to psyche himself up for his jump by chugging beers. Shoot one of his bottles and the jumper freaks out and goes for it — but fails to open his parachute.

Hitman 2 might mostly be an extension of its predecessor, but that game did so many things right that more inventive levels and goofy assassination possibilities is only good news. IO Interactive has added a few improvements to the game in general, but what’s most intriguing is the chance to explore new clockwork-like levels and discover all the fun secrets. Hitman 2 is a game that rewards you for investment and creativity, and it looks to be just as much fun to explore as its predecessor.

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