After Hitman 2016, this year 47 strikes back with the Season 2 of its new missions. But… is it worth dying for?
I’m writing this Hitman 2 review with a bit of anger because sometimes I still cannot understand the lack of personality in certain reviews. For the most part, you can tell if someone doesn’t know almost anything about a certain type of game just by reading/listening what that person has to say about a title. In this case, we have Hitman 2, a game that, trust me, I’ve been expecting to be released since the day it was announced. And now that it’s here, I feel quite displeased with the product that I have installed. Buckle up kids, because this one is going to be one long review made by a saddened Hitman fanboy.
Start writing that cheque down 47
Hitman 2 may present itself as a big deal for only $60; for that price, you have 6 large maps and 1 Sniper Assassin map. Does this make you feel empty? Worry not, you also have the Legacy Pack, which is a slightly improved version of Hitman 2016. Don’t be fooled though, as you only get the Legacy Pack for free if you owned Hitman: The Entire Season 1 or the GOTY version. You don’t have that? Don’t worry, you can always pay $20 dollars for it. You want the Patient Zero campaign too? It’s okay, upgrade your Legacy Pack for only $9.99.
Oh, but that’s only the REGULAR version. You see, there’s also the Silver edition which gives you Expansion 1 and a pair of items that look very similar to another two you can unlock for free while playing the game, but only for $80! What’s that? Do you wonder why there’s a ‘1’ in ‘Expansion’? That’s because you can only get Expansion 2 with the Gold edition for $99.99 you silly! Don’t like expending 100 golden coins on a game? Warner already saw those 40 bucks in your wallet, so why don’t you go and use them to buy the Expansion Pass? And what do you get with these Expansions? Who the f*ck knows! The only thing they say is that you’ll get “new Location, Missions, Sniper Map, Outfits and Weapons”. Paying for cut content after the game is out, my favorite feature in a video game!
Played like a damn fiddle
If you think starting a review talking about DLC is not relevant, bear with me for a second because that’s what Hitman 2 is: a $60 expansion. Not a sequel, not something new and bold, but only Season 2 of Hitman 2016. And this time, things feel prettier in some areas and worse in many other ones. But hey, if IO wants to sell this as a sequel, I might as well compare it to its predecessor. What improvements do we have in Hitman 2? Actually only a few.
In this “sequel” the environment will work both for and against our own sake. Mirrors will now work as… Well, mirrors. Thus, NPCs will be able to blow our cover if they are looking at us via reflective surfaces. 90% of the time you’ll be quicker than an NPCs reaction time so this feature feels a little bit on the “interesting theory, mediocre execution” side of things. Other features are the new foliage system where you can hide either enemies or yourself (which is pretty nifty) and the ability to hide inside a crowd like in the old days of Assassin’s Creed. And finally, we have the thing that even I was excited to see back: the briefcase.
This case will be brief
They banged our heads with this returning feature since it was announced, and you guessed it: it turned out just okay. The briefcase was something that appeared on the very first entry of the Hitman franchise, and it was cool. It only allowed us to carry a sniper rifle inside of it, but it was worth watching 47 assembling its second most iconic gun (followed by his dual Silverballers which they are not here because reasons mind you). Now, we are able to use our suitcase either to hit someone with it or to put anything we want inside, Mary Poppins style. You can only have one thing inside mind you, but it still something helpful. Well, kind of.
You see, Agency Pickups are replaced by briefcases now, so you can carry them. You can select briefcases as well on the Prep Menu, but don’t bother selecting it: you cannot get frisked if you carry the suitcase with you. You can try and leave the briefcase somewhere near AND THEN get frisked, but if you try to reach it once you are done they’ll frisk you again. Oh, and if you think there are high areas on Hitman 2 where you can go full Sniper Assassin like on the first title too bad! There are almost no areas on all 6 maps to sniper your targets without someone watching your bald head in the distance. And now that I mentioned the 6 maps…
Tutorials, Unlockables & Beyond
If you played the forerunner title, you know that “HITMAN IN ALL CAPS” edition had quite a wide selection of levels in terms of both connectivity between all the areas of the map and sense of making a deadly Rube Goldberg machine. Don’t get me wrong: not all locations were great (I hate Colorado), but at least they offered something interesting or new. The sense of escalation and teaching the player in a progressive way was a constant thing in Hitman 2016. How does Hitman 2 start? With a tutorial level. Followed by another tutorial level.
The first moment you boot the game and press A, you start with a cutscene. Followed by that is the Hawke’s Bay mission, which works as the tutorial level and nothing else. You start with no guards, no risk, no people, only a constant “follow the trail of breadcrumbs” that you cannot turn off. I played Hitman 2016 without HUD and everything turned off and trust me: it’s quite the experience. And I did the same thing with Hitman 2, but sometimes the game REALLY wants you to play the way the developers intended to. After you end this level, the game asks you to play the Advance Agent Training if you never played Hitman before. Oh, and you better do it, otherwise, you won’t unlock the lockpick (which requires that you play it doing the 3 labeled “Story Missions” Challenges, otherwise you won’t be able to get it) and you’ll have to play Miami without one. And then they ask you if you want a guide for the Miami level! What the f*ck happened to respecting the people playing your game IO?!
And this doesn’t end here: the worst (and best) part of the game is the Unlock System. Now, every action gives you Mastery Points, and the more you repeat and complete mission challenges the better things you will unlock. This is way better than Hitman 2016, as now playing without having to do the challenges gives you XP too, but the issue comes when you see the things you unlock. On the Legacy Pack, all the unlockables are redone in order to give you fewer items than the ones that can be found in the original game. What’s the big problem here? That you can get THE EXACT SAME ITEMS ON HITMAN 2. Is this some kind of joke? Am I paying $60 for an expansion that gives me the same stuff that I can get on the Legacy Pack, being the only distinctive feature between Hitman 2 and the Legacy Pack a f*cking red sticker with a white number 2 on the item?
More Money, less Blood
I thought the problem with Hitman 2016 regarding DRM and some really dumb gameplay choices was that they were under Square Enix claws, but now I’m not so sure of that. DRM is still here alive and kicking, as is still as dumb as ever. You better have a stable Internet connection, otherwise, you are going to see this over and over again. And yes: you still can’t unlock anything if you play online. Why? There’s no point in that for a single player title like this one! You can’t even look at your inventory if you are offline, let alone the Challenges. IO said they were going to listen to fan feedback, yet this crap is still alive and kicking. You gave us the briefcase again, good, but what about the features people really want to see again? Weapon customization, peeping through keyholes, human shields, conceal items in things like pallet boxes, carrying a large gun in one hand instead of holding it in your back with an invisible sling, a Notoriety System that makes playing stealthy, you know, worth the struggle and so many other things.
What do you have instead in Hitman 2? 5 maps (Hawke’s Bay is not worth calling it a “map”, is just a small area and the same thing goes to Himmelstein) with some features that don’t even shine at all in some maps (Miami, Mumbai and the Isle of Sgáil work with the crowd system, Whittleton Creek and Santa Fortuna with the foliage system) and some really dull Mastery Unlockables focused on starting points and Agency Pickups and less about items. Also, don’t bother wasting time on some challenges in Hitman 2 if you have the Legacy Pack, it’ll be quicker for you to do the ones you know already and then play Hitman 2 at your own pace.
Expansions, editions and patronizing players with tutorials and constant handholding. “You can turn things off” you might say, but with everything off, I can assure you that after finishing a mission I’ll be presented with the following message over and over and over again. Having the Legacy Pack means unlocking things twice, which makes most unlockables feel pointless. Oh great, I unlocked a Sniper Rifle Mk II! Now I can put it next to my Sniper Rifle Without a Sticker On The Side.
Now head towards an exit
I’m not going to bother talking about the plot of a Hitman game because come on, it’s like playing a Call of Duty game and whine about its Campaign: it’s only there for the sake of BEING there. I also won’t talk about Ghost Mode because it’s on Beta and it’s a fun distraction with friends, but you have Sniper Assassin for that. You play it a couple of times, then you are done with it. New maps will arrive soon, but at this rate, I doubt they will be free. And if you are like me, you’ll ask yourself: Are features like DRM, boring unlockables, and tiny improvements at a time something that I want on Hitman from now on? If your answer is “yes”, better get used to seeing this: