Sometimes bigger doesn’t mean better.
As I argued in a previous article, sequels should always try to improve the work and mechanics of its forerunner title in order to leave a feeling of enhancement rather than just adding a couple of things while keeping everything else exactly the same. In terms of recent games that I have played, this “Better Safe than Sorry” style of gaming development hits the fan with Hitman 2. Not a terrible game, but one that doesn’t improve (and in some cases even downgrades some features) almost anything at all as a sequel. And today, I’d like to share my thoughts about the real meat of the Hitman franchise: its levels. So sit down, relax and join me in this deep analysis of Hitman 2 locations.
A little bit of Legacy first
Before I start tearing apart Hitman 2 maps, I’ll talk about Hitman 2016 maps first in order to make my point a tad more clear. In “HITMAN ALL CAPS”, the natural evolution of its levels makes sense in terms of gameplay difficulty. We start with the Advanced Agency Training (or AAT from now on), which works as a decent enough tutorial in other to teach players all the mechanics they will face throughout the entire game. But don’t get fooled: even if this is called “Advanced” Training, these are just the basics. The true way of understanding this title is by playing the first true level, which is none other than Paris.
We are taught about how we are not able to go to every area we want, how we can find objects and some disguises without having to knock out NPCs and how almost every area is connected. This is also showed on the AAT, but you can experience it at a full range in this first level. After that every mission feels like one more step of difficulty, only to conclude with Hokkaido, which makes you start without any equipment (and also doesn’t allow you to start with your gear until you reach Mastery 20, a clever way to make people replay the level). I won’t say anything else about this, but if you are interested I suggest you go and see Hamish Black’s Analysing Every Episode of Hitman’s First Season video, as I share almost every opinion about the game with him.
Feel free to check my Hitman 2 Review!
Hawke’s Bay: Casted Away Potential
(Side note: Hawke’s Bay doesn’t have any pictures at all due to being such a boring location that I forgot taking screenshots. You’ll see pictures of cats instead)
The very first thing it happens when you start for the first time Hitman 2 is a cutscene. This is not the best way to begin a game known for its gameplay rather than its plot, and it also doesn’t allow you to do one of the most important things to do in a Hitman game: prepare yourself. Throwing the player directly into the game is not something that works well on Hitman, as previous games show that the most boring thing about Hitman titles is having a straightforward level. We have this issue present in almost every Hitman first level and in 95% of Absolution. But hey, in Hitman 2016 we have Paris, an area that feels like a fully fledged location, so what about Hawke’s Bay? Well…
Hawke’s Bay is the dullest way to begin a sequel for Hitman. We start with a gun, coins and our trusty fibre wire. We can always just go to the menu and start the mission from there in order to go to the Prep Menu, but I’ll act as I don’t know that. Anyways, after taking a look at the environment (which looks great, yet the storm doesn’t play an important role on the level) we realize something else: we are alone. This is another problem with this level, as not even the tutorial level drops you in a place without enemies nor NPCs. Again, this clashes with the concept of Social Stealth present in the Hitman series, as we don’t have any NPC reacting to our actions at this moment.
After reaching the house where the target should be located, the game shows us how to get rid of cameras and how Instinct works. This handholding was present on the AAT, but now it can’t be turned off for some reason. After learning about the different areas of the house, we then find out a panic room in which the very first thing we see is a rack full of weapons. You have shurikens, a tranquillizer gun, a silenced pistol, a shotgun and more deadly things. This is another terrible way of teaching players how the game should be played, as Hitman never was a game focused on shooting your way until you reach your objective. Let’s stop for a second here: if you never played a Hitman title ever and the very first thing you see when you start Hitman 2 is an empty area without enemies followed by a room filled to the brim with guns, which one of these options you think people will choose when enemies appear?
- Oh no, enemies! I have to be sneaky in order to eliminate the target!
- Oh no, what do I do?! Okay, I’ll kill everyone one by one without raising any alarms.
- HOLY F*CK EAT LEAD YOU MOTHERF*CKERS!!!!
If you show guns and people, you’ll probably go to option 3 and get killed. if you are concerned about the game you are playing you’ll go to option 2. But the truth is that 2 and 3 are the worst ways to play this title, as killing non-targets lowers your score. And the final nail in the coffin is that if you achieve a Silent Assassin score at the end the only way to extract is via your boat, and in order to reach it you have to throw an explosive or blow a car in order to get out! There are no more options that don’t involve killing NPCs, and last time I checked the part of “Silent” in “Silent Assassin” rank doesn’t mean making things randomly explode in order to leave the mission. And the biggest offender after finishing Hawke’s Bay? The game asks you if you want to play the AAT OR continue with the next level. Is like the game knows this location works so terrible as an introduction to Hitman style of gameplay that it tells you “stop there please, this is the way you should learn how to play”.
Overall, Hawke’s Bay doesn’t work at all as an introductory level nor as a regular location (you can reach Mastery 5 only playing it twice). This feels like trying to start something with a bang only to end up with a dud.
Miami: Flamingo Flamingo Flamingo
In order to talk about Miami, I should bring up Paris once again. You see, in the first level of Hitman 2016, the very first thing we see behind the central fountain is the face of Helmut Kruger, the main star of the Sanguine fashion show. We see this face as a way for the game to tell us “hey, you look like this dude, don’t you?”. This can be confirmed if we go to one of the areas of the palace if we overhear a conversation between two NPCs, which they literally tell 47 that he looks EXACTLY like Helmut. This might not be subtle at all, but it works and it doesn’t constantly remind us that we can disguise ourselves as Helmut. Now, let’s return to Miami:
I don’t know about you, but I think this picture want to tell us something important. Maybe this other one can tell us what should we disguise ourselves as:
We get it, IO. We. Get it. Heck, it’s one of the Story Missions! Why this obsession and the constant “Hey, HEY, HEY, YOU CAN DISGUISE AS A FLAMINGO, HEY, HEY GET THAT FLAMINGO COSTUME COME ON”? The costume is not even that hard to get! Helmut at least was in an area filled with guards and you have to hide his body well (unless you wanna dump it on the river and kill him), but the flamingo costume is on the parking area and if you follow the steps the guy with the costume GOES TO AN AREA WITH A CONTAINER NEXT TO HIM. And the way you kill your target with it it’s not even interesting or exciting, you just push the objective and you even conceal the body at the same time, so there’s no risk involved. And this doesn’t work as Kruger in terms of being able to access every area on the map, so I don’t understand this eagerness for dressing as the Flamingo only to say “haha look I’m a flamingo”.
The worst offender for first time players of Miami comes when you go to the Prep Menu, as you see that you can’t bring anything with you. This completely makes the first proper level of Hitman 2 a big joke to me. In Hokkaido, this was presented as a way of making the player use all the techniques they had mastered in previous levels and their ability to improvise. It was some kind of showing the game that you grew as a Hitman player and that your loadout wasn’t something that you needed in order to complete your mission. But here it doesn’t make sense to do this on the very first level! Hawke’s Bay didn’t teach you how to handle with crowds or what to do if a guard spots you entering in a restricted area (if you follow the things learned in the previous level you’ll try to engage immediately).
But at least Miami doesn’t feel as boring as Hawke’s Bay, and this level feels like something from Hitman 2016. Big central area connected with another place where the other target is located. If Paris worked as a vertical two-level map, Miami is the same structure but horizontally. These two areas are connected with multiple points of access, so replayability is encouraged if you want to take your targets in different ways. Every single aspect feels connected in this deadly Rube Goldberg death machine, and some creative kills are quite a joy to pull out. This location feels complete, fun to play and with a wide variety of areas and opportunities to discover.
Santa Fortuna: Foliage Simulator 2018
If you like the Hitman series, I can condense the feeling of this map with three words: A Vintage Year. Well, if I’m being honest I should say A Vintage Year 10 times bigger. The sense of escalated difficulty from the previous game doesn’t have a place in this expansion, as everything feels thrown at the player’s face without any sense of challenge progression. Without counting Hawke’s Bay (because come on, not even the game cares about that level) we go from two targets to three, and the first level didn’t even allow us to select our starting gear. But what about the map? It’s huge, but this time the size of the area doesn’t work well with the targets.
Size does matter, as nobody enjoys running around from one point to the map to another with no shortcuts to find or use. You just walk, walk, walk. And as you can see here, the distance between the targets makes the process of repeating this level consecutive times a chore rather than a fun experience:
If there’s something good about this level, is Santa Fortuna’s flora. The foliage system works fantastic on this, as we can hide in almost every relevant area (as well as bodies). As always, we have the Opportunities here as well, but this time they feel risky to do and not really satisfying to pull out. And the level focuses too much on Andrea Martinez and Rico Delgado, leaving Jorge Franco (the target placed on the jungle) only with two opportunities to engage him. And one of them is straight out an opportunity from the Marrakesh level in Hitman 2016! That’s just lazy IO.
Colombia may be better than Hawke’s Bay in terms of size, but this one is by far one of my least favourite ones to replay. There’s not too much to do and the opportunities are just really dull, and only a few feel fun to do. Also small sidenote: this level just confirmed me that the AI in Hitman 2 is WORSE than the one in Hitman 2016. After talking with one of the Targets, I slightly walked further than the target when he was talking and he just told his guards to shoot me dead. Had to repeat that part 3 times just to make sure that I didn’t miss some info about getting riddled with bullets due to walking faster than the target and nope, he just goes crazy if you don’t follow him. This is getting harder and harder to enjoy, so let’s move to Mumbai.
Mumbai: The Good, The Bad, The Random NPC
This place was supposed to be the new Marrakech, the area filled with people that you can interact with unlike the already mentioned level on Hitman 2016. But of course, this is Hitman 2, and it doesn’t want to take any risks on any of its maps. And it’s pretty sad because I want to enjoy Mumbai, I really do! Some opportunities are quite fun to do, and the maze-like streets of the city and the slums feel fun to traverse with the crowds stopping to take a look at the shops. But we are once again presented with three targets and one twist to make things more interesting: one of the targets’ identity is unknown.
This neat concept of having to play “Guess Who?” with one of our objectives may sound fine on the first playthrough, but the problem is that the target is a random NPC selected whenever you find a picture of The Maelstrom. This is such a wasted opportunity to feel like something unique! Trying to find information on the field by overhearing conversations or the guards in order to create a mental image of how this target looks like could have been fantastic, but we face something way less fun. In order to start finding our objective, we NEED a photo of him. No matter what we do or what we hear, no picture means no target. And due to the fact that every single time you play this mission again the target is changed to another random NPC, it goes from fun to boring and repetitive too quickly. Oh, and when you find the target it’s not even subtle that he’s the one you need to kill, like every other NPC talks in a very generic Indian accent except this one, who talks with a raspy voice like a villain from any Bond movie ever.
Regarding the other targets, they are fun. Dawood Ragan has some really fun ways to eliminate him, but Vanya Shah gets the “less fun” award due to the dullness of the area where she is located. Also at this point, you start to notice that EVERYONE leading 47 to his target always talks with puns, and not very funny ones. “Oh, she’s DYING to meet you. Finding a good tailor is something worth KILLING FOR around here.” It makes you laugh the first two times, but throwing this for the 25th one makes you wish to turn the dialogue volume off. And speaking of voices, this last one goes to Diana.
Miss Burnwood, I’m one of your most beloved followers. I love your voice and your sarcastic thoughts but please: SHUT. THE F*CK. UP. She never STOPS TALKING in Mumbai! She addresses every single damn thing we are doing even if we know what to do. It’s annoying, it doesn’t help her status as a cool informer who only says the most important info about a mission and it makes me want to wish for an option to silence her. Diana, for the love of the ICA, just shut up for more than five minutes!
But yeah, Mumbai is fun but only when dealing with Ragan and Shah, the Maelstrom is an interesting concept that turns into a dull chore on consecutive comebacks to this level. And know, let’s go back to the USA once again.
Whittleton Creek: Back To The Hood
This level is the only reason I still have hopes for IO to make the real comeback of Blood Money, as Whittleton Creek is taking the concept of the mission “A New Life” from Blood Money and expanding it. The mission’s name is “Another Life”, you don’t need to make a lot of research to see the similarities. But this is Hitman 2 so, of course, it’s going to screw something up in order to make an interesting location a pain to finish. And that comes in the form of finding clues.
“Hey, you just said that doing that on Mumbai would be fun to do!” you may remember. And I’m still saying that but in this case, we have to grab the clues that the developers want you to grab, and the other ones will only trigger Diana’s line “This is important evidence 47”. And if we want to add insult to injury, when you find all clues Diana starts repeating the information of all the three clues without caring about how many we already have. At this moment, I was really tired: the mission took me one hour to complete. Let me repeat myself: ONE. HOUR.
Hitman missions should take less than 25/30 minutes, not an entire hour of looking for f*ucking Blues Clues. And yeah, with the objective marker turned on you can do it faster but this is a harsh way to punish players that don’t want or need constant help from a game that really wants to follow the premise of “my way or the highway”. At least the objectives are fun to deal with, and the sniper rifle is even useful in this location! Mumbai works too, but only for one of the targets. Still, the targets in Whittleton Creek are a fun experience, but having to find exactly the clues the game wants you to find is just the worst way to be the 5th level out of 6. Fun targets with fun ways to kill them, but the clues can go to hell.
Isle of Sgàil: Eyes Wide Fun
And so, we end this long map analysis (or rant, but if you really wanted to read someone saying that he likes killing things 7 out of 8 just search “Hitman 2 review” on Google) with the final location: the Isle of Sgàil. And this one… Good! Not excellent, but after the crap that I had to deal in previous locations, this one feels like glory compared to the other missions. A pretty big area where we can use both social and regular stealth, Sgàil is quite an area to enjoy. My overall issues concern the really dumb AI of the game rather than the map itself, so there’s not too much I can say bad about this level.
The castle’s structure has plenty of areas where we can hide either bodies or ourselves, and tons of places where we can climb and reach the top without raising alarms. Oh, and don’t bother thinking you are going to be frisked here (you won’t), otherwise you’ll start without your gun just like I did. But yeah, in terms of opportunities you have quite a wide selection of ways to kill 2 out of 3 targets. The twist in this location (as now it seems that since Mumbai you need to have an extra objective in order to make it more interesting or something like that) is that you cannot kill your third target, but rather capturing him alive. Don’t worry too much though, as you don’t have to grab his body and drag it all the way to an exit point.
There’s not too much to say about Sgàil: is a fun way to end this expansion and it encourages some replayability. However, as long as you have to deal with the really idiotic AI you may have a bad time trying to procure a certain outfit or erasing evidence. Regardless of that, this location understands how a Hitman map should be: connected paths linked to a central area, objectives that can be deal in numerous and fun ways and no dumb ways to prolong the mission further than it needs to be.
Hitman 2 is neither the best Hitman title ever conceived nor it is the worst one: is just an expansion to Hitman 2016, whether people like it or not. All locations look gorgeous and almost all of them are fun to traverse, but when it comes to the point of replayability only 2 out of 6 maps feel worth to be replayed. Did I enjoy Hitman 2? I love this franchise, so I did for the most part. But the moment you stop and take a look at the levels and the unlockables you get, you see that this expansion doesn’t hold up compared to Hitman 2016. This analysis was not just a dumb rant in order to let an angry fanboy vent some toxic waste out of his organism, but rather a way of showing that there’s room for improvement, and if your game already screwed up customers and people with DRM, bugs and repeated unlockables, you should at least offer the most important thing about a Hitman game: its levels.