Back in 2016, IO Interactive and Square Enix took its well-known stealth series Hitman in a different direction. Instead of the traditional single-game release, the newest adventure featuring Agent 47, simply called Hitman, was episodic, with each installment of the game set at a specific location with the ending cinematics progressing the story.
At first, I wasn’t quite sure how well this would work. Episodic games like Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead or Dontnod’s Life is Strange worked because of their narrative-focused nature, making the episodic direction for Hitman seem questionable. However, by the time that the last episode released, Hitman was critically-lauded, garnering tons of praise and becoming one of the best games in the long-running series.
In this past June around the time that this year’s E3 was approaching, the follow-up to the surprise hit, Hitman 2, was revealed by IO Interactive and showed that it would be bringing the same great gameplay back. However, there were two factors that may have had fans, like me, concerned: first, before the sequel was officially revealed, IO Interactive announced it would become independent and not relying on Square Enix for funding (and is instead being published by Warner Bros.); and second, Hitman 2 would not be episodic. Regardless of these two potentially problematic factors, after playing a few minutes of Agent 47’s next stealth-based action game, I am fairly certain it will be a solid follow-up.
The demo we played from Hitman 2 featured the Miami stage, set at a racetrack where you must eliminate a couple of targets. The person walking me through the demo showed me two ways I could approach this mission, each vastly different from one another.
The first thing I noticed was how much more colorful Hitman 2 was when compared to its predecessor. The brilliant pinks, reds, and whites were radiant as I entered the racetrack: it isn’t anything we haven’t seen from a video game before, especially with the rise of HDR in gaming, but it’s always nice to see something so vibrant.
The first approach was how I believe most players will attempt the mission for the first time: this involves entering the Miami racetrack without any weapons, finding disguises to gain access to certain areas of the map, and figure out a way of eliminating the target. In this particular approach, I was able to grab a bomb found in a van in the parking garage, find myself a mechanic’s outfit, and plant the bomb onto the target’s racecar myself. I then when walked up to the bleachers, pressed the detonator and watched the car explode. It provided somewhat of a challenge, but as long as I was patient, I passed each obstacle with ease.
The second approach was a bit quicker and not as risky: a briefcase containing a sniper rifle was stashed by a nearby rooftop. Without going through security and with a few stealth sections, I was able to take out the target from afar that was both fast and simple. The timing of the shot was a bit difficult: since there is a slight delay after pulling the trigger, you have to time your shot just right to hit the moving target. It was a bit annoying after I missed the 3rd time since you have to wait for the racecar to complete another lap, but that was more due to my lack of skill rather than the game being unfair.
The Hitman 2 demo perfectly exemplified just how replayable a single mission can be. In this case, if you want to slowly and stealthily infiltrate a Miami racetrack by putting on disguises and getting up close to eliminate the target, you can do that. If you want to set a briefcase on a rooftop and take out the target from afar with a sniper rifle, you can do that too. If every mission is as diverse as this one with unique ways to eliminate the targets, I have no doubt Hitman 2 will be as fun as the first.
However, I still question the decision to traditionally release it with all its content upfront, rather than go the episodic route like the previous Hitman: it is one of many reasons why the first was so great. If each episode wasn’t as replayable as they are, I would be beating a different drum; the combination of highly replayable missions and solid gameplay would not only give players a reason to keep playing, but also anticipate what the studio would come up with for the next episode. Releasing every mission at the same time may present Hitman 2 as repetitive rather than replayable. Here’s to hoping every mission is as fun as the one I played.
Despite this, Hitman 2 seems to be following in the footsteps of its predecessor by bringing its awesome open-mission structure to the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC once more. I’m definitely looking forward to its release this year on November 13th. If you’re waiting to play the game this fall, you can head over to Amazon and pre-order now before it arrives in November.
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