Hitman 2 is a game that took over two years to make. It only has 5 levels. I love it.
So many people slept on the original Hitman (the 2016 one, not the first one, thanks confusing reboot titles), but it’s understandable why. While 2012’s Hitman Absolution was a mechanically solid third person shooter, it wasn’t the methodical stealth game fans fell in love with in the first place. To further rub salt in fans’ wounds, Square Enix then announced that the new 2016 Hitman would release in an episodic format which made zero sense for the series. Regardless fans were still hopeful and ended up loving it. The problem is, nobody else gave it a shot.
Hitman Episode 1 released in March of 2016, one week after what would end up being Ubisoft’s biggest new IP launch ever, The Division. Hitman Episode 2 came out later that April, just two weeks after the launch of Dark Souls III and Ratchet and Clank. Hitman Episode 3 came out a week after Overwatch and Uncharted 4, Episode 4 came out right after No Man’s Sky, Episode 5 followed Recore and Forza Horizon 3, and poor old Episode 6 had to compete with Battlefield 1, Titanfall 2, Skyrim Special Edition, Call of Duty, and even Watch Dogs.
This game just could not catch a break. Whether a game was celebrated like Overwatch or criticized like No Man’s Sky, it seemed like whenever Hitman got new content, it was overshadowed by something bigger. Now, a full two and a half years since Hitman’s intro pack was released, IO Interactive has split from Square Enix and the game’s sequel is out. Unfortunately, it faces the same challenge. Red Dead Redemption 2 is still actively being enjoyed by just about everyone, Spyro made his triumphant return, Fallout 76 is a game that exists, and the Nintendo Switch is getting its first Pokemon game tomorrow. Please, I’m begging you all, do not let Hitman 2 fly under your radar.
Hitman 2 is a game about possibilities. When you start a level in Hitman, you’re not just starting a level; You’re starting a complex sequence of scripts and events that you can throw a wrench into at any time, and the situation will react accordingly. Except instead of a just a plain old wrench, Hitman 2 provides you with a socket wrench, allen wrench, combination wrench, and just about any other type of turning tool you could imagine, and more. Hitman 2 may only have 5 levels, but I’ve spent 3 hours in the first one alone, and I still have fresh new ideas that could easily double those my hours to 6.
The first attempt at an assassination in Hitman is never pretty. It’s usually sloppy, with hasty, reactionary decisions, and more often than not, you won’t see more than a 2/5 star rating if you’re lucky. However, Hitman’s levels are designed to be replayed. Even if you think you’ve done the perfect hit, you probably messed up somewhere along the line, and if you didn’t, the game still pushes you to try other things. When you finish a mission, the game shows you a wall of tiles, each representing a challenge for the level you just completed, and they’re all incredibly varied and force you to use drastically different playstyles and strategies. You might pull off the perfect sniper shot on a racer’s car, successfully killing your target, but then the game will say “Now try pushing her down an elevator shaft” or “Do it in the flamingo suit”.
“I wasn’t even aware there was a flamingo suit,” you might respond.
That’s what makes Hitman 2 special. Each level is a playground that lets you test whatever crazy schemes you can come up with. Pulling off a clean, discrete kill is incredibly satisfying, and calmly walking away from the scene while bystanders are still figuring out what happened never gets old. If you do end up making a mistake, Hitman 2 provides both automatic and manual save states at multiple points throughout missions that you are free to revert back to at any time. Even with practically unlimited checkpoints, plotting and carrying out an “accidental death” still requires a good amount of tact and preparation. The challenge is integral to the Hitman experience, and it makes a successful mission all the more fulfilling.
When I said Hitman 2 only had 5 levels, I was technically lying. For those of you who didn’t play the first game (read: pretty much all of you), the Hitman Legacy Pack makes the entirety of the first entry available to play in Hitman 2 with the new gameplay systems and graphical upgrades. For only $20, it’s a no-brainer for anyone who’s new to the franchise. With the legacy pack, Hitman 2 has a total of 11 missions, each with hours upon hours of creative gameplay waiting to be had. And that’s not all. Hitman 2 is a live game, best played with an internet connection. This is where Hitman 2’s best content happens.
Elusive targets are timed missions set in an already existing Hitman location but with twists like remixed guard and item placements, increased security, and things like that. While Hitman’s other missions are built with replayability in mind, Hitman’s elusive targets only give you one chance. If you mess up, you have to roll with it. After the one attempt, they’re gone. This makes for some of the most tense and memorable moments in franchise history, and the targets are all highlights. The first elusive target appears in Hitman 2 next week, and it’s “The Undying” portrayed by none other than Sean Bean. The first Hitman had a new elusive target every other week, and one of them was a Gary Busey assassination, so it’s safe to say Hitman 2 will deliver the same quality content for the forseeable future.
Hitman 2 is such a unique game. Few games have levels as tightly designed and highly replayable as Hitman, and the sequel works because it doubles down on what the first game did so well. Hitman 2 is just more Hitman 1, and in most cases that wouldn’t be a cause for celebration, but the gameplay is incredibly refined and immensely satisfying. It builds upon an already impeccable foundation, resulting in one of the best games I’ve played all year. Hitman 2 is the premier assassination experience, and it deserves more attention.
Have you been playing Hitman 2? Are you planning on picking it up? Be sure to let us know down below, and stay tuned to Circle Square Games for all things Hitman.
When he's not playing video games, Diego's talking about video games, and he does both a lot.