It doesn’t take a lot of thinking to remember a few games here and there that dealt irreparable harm to the hobby as we know it. I don’t necessarily mean that they were bad games; we can forget bad games. I mean games that popularized painful anti-consumer trends that put the squeeze on people just trying to have a good time. Bethesda’s Oblivion and EA’s Dragon Age: Origins, for instance, can be directly blamed for making DLC a thing; a decade later, cutting chunks out of a game to make DLC is so prevalent that you can preorder a game’s DLC along with the game itself.
Another one of those infamous games is, well, Half-Life 2. Yeah, the PC classic itself. Half-Life 2 helped popularized two things: episodic games and episodic games that die off mid-series. Remember, folks, anytime you’d consider buying an episodic game before all the content is released, just ask yourself where Half-Life 2 Episode 3 is. While episodic gaming didn’t catch on quite as strongly as anticipated outside of specific niches like Telltale’s pseudo-visual-novels, every so often we see another sort of game released in this format. Most recently, we’re talking about Hitman, the reboot of the popular assassination series, which has just received its second helping with Hitman Episode 2: Sapienza.
The Hitman adventure continues…a month later…after you’ve probably uninstalled the game and forgotten about it…with Sapienza, a much more expansive level than the Episode 1 Paris offering. Rather than just infiltrating a mansion and associated fashion show, this second episde allows you to assassinate all over a small Italian town, including the requisite super-villain lab found in all small Italian towns. In Sapienza’s main mission World of Tomorrow, you’re out to stop Silvio Caruso, a bioengineer working on the development of a horrific virus, and his, uh…colleague, Francesca de Santis. The truly horrific thing about this virus is that it might put 47 out of work, so it’s time to boost your job security a little by taking Caruso and de Santis out as well as dealing with the prototype virus.
Naturally you’ve got a vast array of options for doing this, just as you did in Paris. 47’s standard MOs are disguise himself as people close to his targets and using creative methods for taking the targets out. A personal favorite was blowing up de Santis with a cannon and walking away from the kill completely unsuspected, but there are plenty of other discreet and not-so-discreet choices as well. Disguise yourself as a gelato salesman! Pretend to be Caruso’s therapist and apply some therapy directly to his jugular! Forget about finesse and just snipe people! Sapienza is slightly more laid back than Paris, so you’ve got a little more time, freedom and wiggle room to make all your death-dealing dreams come true. I admit that I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to roleplay as a fashion model this time, but you can’t have it all.
This is still running on the Hitman 2016 engine introduced with Paris, so that means that those of you playing on console are going to run into a snag or two. In particular, the load times remain fairly awful, which is a fiber wire to the throat of a game that thrives on saving and loading to support trial-and-error and experimentation. There’s also the odd framerate issue here and there. You’re probably better off playing this on PC if it’s possible.
Even despite these setbacks, Hitman 2016 continues to be a fantastic game that’s brought down primarily by its insistence on an episodic format. As mentioned earlier, there’s a solid chance that you’ve played Paris and proceeded to forget about Hitman at this point. The benefits of the episodic format are many but they’re all stacked toward the industry rather than the consumer, particularly regarding the elephant in the room: Square Enix could easily cut the game off if it doesn’t perform to expectations. It almost speaks to a lack of confidence in the product, which is a shame, since Episode 1 Paris began and now Hitman Episode 2: Sapienza reinforces that this sort of intelligent assassination still has a place in the market and in gamers’ hearts.