What happens when you’ve nailed the formula for a game? How do you refine the experience even further? Going too far in any given direction might tip a winning balance that’s been achieved, after all, so it might be best to do more of something rather than something different merely for the sake of change. That’s what we’ve got here with Hitman 2; it’s More Hitman, not New and Improved Hitman, but given how solid Hitman was that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Agent 47’s still doing what he does best, of course. You probably think that means killing people, and maybe that’s true. But if you ask me he’s best at knocking people out and wearing their clothes; the man’s a veritable fashionista. Anyway, our favorite bald assassin is working against the Shadow Client from the last game, an enigmatic figure that’s been taking out hits against baddies working for the organization Providence. He’ll have to learn more about what’s really going on with the various assassination contracts he receives while, well, carrying out those contracts.
The means by which you carry out said contracts typically revolve around adventure game-style machinations and inventory management. Sure, 47’s got guns, explosives, poisons and all manner of other tools of the assassination trade, but Hitman’s not so much about taking out your target as it is about taking out your target with style. Why would you just shoot a corrupt warmongering CEO when you can turn his own products against him?
Toward that end, while there aren’t as many missions as you might want you’re encouraged to replay each one multiple times, discovering new and varied means of getting the job done. You can choose various outfits to wear, gear to bring along and even the locations you’ll begin and end your mission. There’s an interesting level of customization and it all comes out as a sort of assassination sandbox. You’ve even got the return of the limited-time-only Elusive Targets, missions where you only get a single attempt at making the kill and getting out alive.
One quick aside: unlike last year’s Hitman, this isn’t an episodic title, so you’re buying a whole game with your purchase. I certainly prefer this model and I feel like most players will as well.
It’s certainly a nice-looking assassination sandbox as well. There’s a definite focus on presenting realistic crowds, since hiding in plain sight is kind of 47’s “thing” and blending is emphasized in Hitman 2. Between this and some lovingly detailed environment design, each and every mission looks and sounds fantastic. That’s a plus given the focus on replaying missions to discover and implement varying approaches.
Hitman 2 doesn’t do a whole lot to change up the formula, with the crowd-blending being the most noticeable gameplay change. Honestly, this feels more like an expansion pack than a true sequel. In fact, it’s so similar to the first game that you can actually import and play the first game’s missions in Hitman 2’s beautiful engine. That’s a nice touch, and honestly, the Hitman formula has been refined to the point where sweeping changes and real innovation aren’t exactly necessary. If you enjoy this style of gameplay, you’re getting exactly what you want here. Why hesitate?