Hitman has been in a weird place for the last few years. IO Interactive rebooted the series under Square Enix, going with an episodic and event-based approach to create a living and constantly supported game. Earlier this year, publishing rights transferred to Warner Bros. Interactive, and the future of the series was brought into question. The first game has been doing really well though, and everyone expected WB and IO to at least announce a second season for the first game. Just before E3, we got an announcement for a full sequel. Hitman 2 was playable at E3 and we got our hands on some explosives to eliminate our target.
Hitman 2 is an enormous sandbox of death, a killer’s playground with which to play with instruments of murder both traditional and bizarre. For the purposes of our demonstration, only two routes were open to us (blowing up the race car or sniping the target), but the full game will have more than ten options available for her death, as well as another entire target that needs to be eliminated through different methods. I had the benefit of one of the developers from IO walking me through the demo, which rendered some of the investigative parts of the game null.
Normally I would have needed to spend time listening to NPCs and exploring my options, piecing together my mousetrap of death before pulling that final trigger. There’s a lot of discovery and choice too. Even after I was finally able to get the mechanics uniform by first stealing a mascot’s uniform, then a server’s uniform, and then poisoning the mechanic, I was presented with a choice of what tools to use. Again, the demo locked it to one choice (blowing up the car), but the final game will offer the ability to pour sugar in the gas tank or loosen the lug nuts on the tire as well. And that’s just for any takedown that involves the pit crew.
A small video teased a number of other methods, including taking her out on the winner’s podium by sniping her there or blowing up the entire stage with “faulty” pyrotechnics. To make discovery a little bit easier, Agent 47 has a kind of detective mode that allows him to track his target and highlights points of interest around him. It’s still up to you to put the pieces of that puzzle together in a way that results in the target’s death (an not get caught along the way), but at least this way you know what tools are at your disposal.
Those moments of discovery tell stories within themselves. When I stopped near the flamingo mascot to take his suit, he was having a conversation about how he had actually stolen the suit himself. Apparently there’s another plot to blackmail Sierra Knox (the target) going on parallel to my own mission to kill her. These kinds of small things provide story, opportunities, and wrenches thrown in the works. I’ve read about and watched other playthroughs of the same demo that actually took different paths from my own, despite the demo’s quite limited options. Some stole a guard’s uniform instead of the mascot, which presented the player with entirely different challenges. Other people opted to snipe her on the track, which again, had its own share of barriers and difficulties.
Hitman 2 is an enormous sandbox of player-crafted death. You’re given a target, a scenario, and a vast set of tools, and how you execute your mission is entirely up to you. I hope that the full game is able to provide incentive for the more creative and unique scenarios instead of just promoting the fastest and easiest solution. There was a certain feeling of accomplishment as I approached the track and detonated the explosive I had planted on Sierra’s car, and I want that feeling of accomplishment no matter which method I decide to use for the hit. Even better, the kills in the final game will come with a sense of discovery beforehand, learning about your target and the tools at hand in order to take them out.
If you missed IO Interactive’s episodic Hitman, Hitman 2 is providing a fresh point to jump in and start taking contracts. There are not a whole lot of notable changes or improvements over the first game, but when you’ve found a killer formula, why change it too much? All Hitman 2 needs to do is provide interesting and unique scenarios to overcome, and even with our limited hands-on demo with the game, we’re ready to get that bar code tattooed on the back of our heads.