Hitman 2 review – virtual violence takes a stealthy turn
4 / 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars.PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC; IO Interactive/Warner Bros
Assassination missions that reward subterfuge – such as wearing a giant flamingo suit or loosening a racing driver’s wheel – make this a surprisingly creative sequel
Despite boldly proclaiming its murderous intentions, Hitman 2 is as much about the avoidance of killing as the pursuit of it. Assassination is merely the full stop in a much longer, player-driven story that rewards careful planning and punishes thoughtlessness ruthlessly. The game encourages you to think big and act small – the best weapon is usually not a weapon at all.
The baldheaded assassin, Agent 47, can disguise himself in the clothes of almost any (male) character, and scramble up pipes and scaffolding to access restricted areas. His tools range from bombs and sniper rifles to poisons and piano wire. But what’s fascinating about Hitman’s weapon roster is not its expansiveness, but that you don’t need to use any of it (and probably won’t want to). Each level contains five or six vignettes, which begin as overheard conversations and lead to unique opportunities to eliminate one of your targets. An aspiring Indian film producer may be blown from a rooftop using an industrial fan, while a racing driver can be dispatched by loosening one of her car’s wheels in the pit lane.
Hitman 2 lets you stack the dominos in such a way as to have no traceable origin, distracting bodyguards away from a target by disabling a fuse box, triggering a fire alarm – or creating “accidents” by combining puddles of water with an exposed electrical wiring. It theoretically allows you to play in a more reckless manner but frowns upon you for doing so. Killing non-targets severely damages your overall mission rating, while murder sprees nearly always end in Agent 47 being mercilessly gunned down by security.
At times, Hitman 2 is a wig and a bow tie away from being a James Bond simulator, featuring a similar blend of glamour, subterfuge, and power, albeit with a slightly more critical eye on the fantasy. Unfortunately, Hitman 2 fails to build its stealth and murder into an effective story, with each mission separated by strangely static cutscenes that are as tedious as they are hard to follow.
The lack of a strong central plot is not as significant a flaw as it might be, as Hitman 2 is mainly about concocting your own plots. The game encourages you to play each mission repeatedly to experience its dynamic potential, rewarding you for both exploration and creativity. Once the many avenues of a mission are exhausted, you can embark upon player-created “contracts” that remix existing missions with unique parameters. Alternatively, you can compete with a second, spectral Agent 47 to dispatch a specific target in multiplayer.
Hitman 2 is a refreshing alternative to the vast open worlds that dominate big-budget gaming. Where many games work to put players in a constant state of distraction, rushing around in an often vain attempt to see everything they offer, Hitman 2 has the confidence to let you stand still, to sample the wine and drink in the atmosphere as you plan your next tiny-yet-devastating move. Indeed, no other action game encourages players to think about how to minimize their violence, and for that alone Hitman 2 stands out among the less mindful killing of its peers.
Hitman 2 is available now; £49.99.