In today’s ruthless industry, few franchises get to enjoy the longevity that Hitman has. First releasing eighteen years ago, the series has gradually struggled to balance everything just right. The first two games are incredibly unforgiving. Blood Money was great, but too easy. Absolution took the series in a different (controversial) direction entirely that I’d argue most didn’t enjoy. With the pseudo-reboot HITMAN, IO Interactive tried episodic delivery with a renewed focus on tight level design and were largely successful. Now, no longer episodic, HITMAN 2 refines everything from it’s predecessor almost perfectly to offer one of the best experiences in gaming this year.
HITMAN 2 follows on from the story of HITMAN, where Agent 47 and Diana discover all their targets thus far have been assigned to them by the same person, a mysterious “shadow client”. The Shadow Client has one major goal to bring the fight to another shadowy organisation known only as Providence, an Illuminati-esque cabal that controls the worlds in secrecy. While not totally aligned with his motivations, Agent 47 and Diana continue to take contracts from these groups to get closer to them and discover who they really are.The story of HITMAN 2 is much more on-the-nose than the previous game, but still does a great job at tying in and referencing games further back while also moving the series forward. It’s by no means a groundbreaking story, but it did keep me eager to play through story as quickly as possible. It also sets up some great beats that I hope will be explored more in future downloadable content or even another game.
But story isn’t the reason you’d play a game like HITMAN 2. You play a game like HITMAN 2 for its quality level design and absurdist sense of humour. The game delivers this in droves. The move away from an episodic model obviously means you can easily rush through the story and call it a day, but to do so would be a betrayal to the strong design that’s on show here.The original HITMAN had one or two locales that were weaker than the others and quite frankly a bit of a chore to play which affected the pacing of the game. In HITMAN 2, there’s no such thing – every level is a joy to explore, a treat to unpack and almost infinitely replayable. There is admittedly less content here than 2016’s HITMAN, and some of the locales are naturally smaller scaled than the other, but the diversity of experiences on offer here easily trumps the original game. Though the original missions are playable with all the bells and whistles of HITMAN 2 if you owned them previously.