Hitman 2 Review – Assassin’s Playground (PS4)
The rebooted 2016 Hitman was a welcome return of Agent 47. Its episodic nature was met with a tepid response from fans, however, and thus the sequel is releasing all at once in both digital and physical form. We spent the last week creatively murdering unsuspecting victims, and have our Hitman 2 PS4 review ready to read below.
Hitman 2 improves slightly on the presentation of 2016’s release. HDR is supported, which can result in some breathtaking scenery. PS4 Pro players have the obvious benefit of playing at up to 4K resolution as well as the option of an unlocked frame rate, where the engine attempts to run at 60 fps, or a locked frame rate, where the engine only targets 30 fps. In the former, some slowdown will occur in particularly NPC-heavy sections of levels, but only briefly, while in the latter things generally stay locked at 30 fps. If there is a dip, we didn’t detect it while playing. Running through a level does occasionally cause low-poly models of the environment to load before all detail can be seen, but these moments are few and far between. Generally, Hitman 2 is the best-looking Hitman game to date.
Unfortunately, cutscenes have been pared down a lot in Hitman 2. Most are made up of slightly-animated stills—characters don’t move or barely move—while an occasional visual effect flashes on the screen, and characters talk over the action. The player must use their imagination to picture what is going on in the scene. Worse, these stills appear to be cut from an otherwise fully rendered scene. Coupled with the lack of a Platinum trophy, Hitman 2’s cinematic efforts ultimately give the game a not-quite-AAA feeling this time around. The outright reuse of Hitman‘s tutorial levels add to this feeling, as well.
As the old adage goes, “don’t fix what isn’t broken.” It seems IO Interactive adhered to that phrase with Hitman 2. This is essentially a slightly improved edition of the episodic reboot, which also fared well critically. But the levels in Hitman 2 feel even more detailed than what was offered before. All levels are expansive, not only horizontally, but vertically as well. The India level, for example, has nine layers to it, each of which has several useful locations for the player to discover and exploit.
There are also moments ready to discover, either organically while exploring a level, or with the helping hand of the game’s guide. The guide provides an easy way to follow stories available in the mission, as it drops hints as to where a clue may lie. This is an optional feature for those who prefer to figure everything out on their own. However these story moments are discovered, they unveil different options available to the player to carry out a successful assassination. Some of the scenarios available are over-the-top ridiculous, seemingly to the point of satire. But most are realistic enough to make pursuing them entertaining.
Each level features multiple options during the planning phase, before the mission begins, which can be unlocked by obtaining mastery of the scenario. XP is earned for each mission story completed, or for completing certain challenges as laid out in the guide. Besides leveling up the player, completing these stories will also rank up the mastery of the mission. This can lead to different starting locations. Some of these locations may help in speeding up the completion of the mission, while others offer players the chance to begin undercover, for instance as a pit crew member in the Miami mission which takes place during a race.
There are hundreds of NPCs who populate each level, and much like in 2016’s Hitman, they behave in expected and unexpected ways. For example, in the Mumbai, India level, I was tasked with taking out a target, whom had become a “ghost.” Once I figured out who he was, an opportunity to take him out arose. He was waiting for a local barber shop to open up, so that he could get a shave. But the barber shop owner had been involved in some shady deal involving a local gang, and was afraid of opening up. I found where this barber lived, and he was presently being admonished by his wife, as she was telling him that they needed to open up the shop regardless. It should be noted that during their conversation, I was able to casually walk inside their home, and they didn’t suspect a thing. After their conversation, the wife headed downstairs. This was my opportunity, so I knocked the barber out, put on his conveniently-fitting clothing, and placed his limp body in a nearby closet, all before the missus came back upstairs. I rushed outside, and eventually found the entrance to the barber shop, only to realize I had forgotten to check the barber’s place for a key! I ran back to his house, and made my way inside. At this point, the wife saw me again. Unlike last time, however, she realized that I was wearing her husband’s clothing, and subsequently freaked out. I was going for a completely stealthy run through this level, and so I immediately reloaded a save file to try that little scenario again.
It’s unexpected, unscripted moments like these which add to the immersion of Hitman 2. Some stealth games might mark you as still hidden to the enemy, when realistically people notice things that are familiar to them, and become concerned if a lover’s outfit is suddenly on someone else’s body. But Hitman 2 tasks you with stopping to think about how others might react to you in any particular situation. Another thing that had me retrying this scenario was that upon switching to the barber’s outfit, multiple people in the vicinity suddenly had white dots hovering above them, indicating that they could easily see through my disguise. The reason? I still had visible firearms equipped, from my previous outfit of a local gang member. What barber do you know who inconspicuously carries an assault rifle on their back? Such an outfit immediately raised suspicion, and I had to load another save file.
One issue that has thankfully been rectified in Hitman 2 is loading times. While initial loading of a mission may take a minute or so, loading either a manual or automatic save (which the game is liberal in creating for you) usually takes no longer than fifteen seconds now. This means that trying out a goofy idea, like tossing a key character off a cliff with guards watching, can be done without losing much time. This drastic speed up will no doubt result in players experimenting more, and worrying less. Save games can be created at almost any time, and they save the exact state of the entire level, such that resuming a saved game puts things back exactly as they were when the save game was originally created. It’s just as impressive in Hitman 2 as it was two years ago in Hitman.
Agent vs. Agent
Multiplayer has been expanded upon in Hitman 2. The Contracts feature is alive and well, which provides for an asynchronous way to play against others. Players set score or other targets to hit, based on how they actually play through the scenario that they have set up. Meanwhile, the Sniper Assassin mode can be played in single player, but also in multiplayer, where two players team up to take down a series of targets from a set location. Communication is key, as the location is full of NPCs who follow the same unpredictable AI seen elsewhere in the game. This can result in plenty of chaos if even one shot is mistimed, but when both players pull off simultaneous kills, it is truly a sight to behold. New weapons and items can be unlocked in these single and multiplayer modes, which provides incentive to replay missions, beyond the incentive already provided by the excellently crafted levels and NPC behavioral routines which combine to all but guarantee that each playthrough will be unique.
As if that wasn’t enough, Hitman 2’s Ghost Mode is full-on competitive assassinating. In this mode, two players duke it out over who can rack up the most hits, and in the most stylish manner. Both players occupy the same level, but in something of parallel dimensions. That is, the state of one player’s level does not directly influence the other player’s. So if player one scares the currently targeted character, in their world, that key character will run away to alert authorities, while in player two’s world, all is fine. However, certain items such as the ghost coin can be used to traverse dimensions, so to speak. This coin will create noise in the other player’s universe, thus potentially screwing up their assassination opportunity. Clean, unnoticed kills add to a player’s points, and initiates a countdown timer. The other player has 20 or so seconds to kill that same character in their world, before a new target is chosen. Even as new targets are marked and killed, the world remains just as reactive as ever. Players may have problems finding new disguises if they act rashly in a vain effort to nab a point. This mode can provide for some nail-biting action, and is often at a pace much quicker than the usual plotting and scheming which takes place in a single-player run through a level.
Hitman 2 continues the fun assassination sandbox gameplay that was in the reboot, with scant few details changed in the single-player campaign. The levels on offer are some of the largest, and certainly the most detailed for the Hitman franchise. Cutscenes may disappoint, but Agent 47 hasn’t been slacking at the job. He now has more options at his disposal than ever before. Meanwhile, multiple multiplayer options provide for some unique ways to cooperate, and compete, with players, which will no doubt extend the replayability of Hitman 2 for quite some time. IO Interactive has taken what worked well last time around, and produced an even more impressive and robust assassin’s playground.
Hitman 2 review code provided by publisher. Version 1.02 reviewed on a PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.