‘Hitman 2’ Review: A Killer Sequel

8.5 / 10 (Xbox)

Video games kill lots of people. Not IRL, save the occasional PC Bang horror story, but our favorite digital distraction is by and large based around body counts. Hitman 2 is predictably about killing, but it's not mindless bloodletting or adrenaline-fueled mayhem. Hitman 2 is about patience, precision and preparation. And about shoving incapacitated, half-naked guards into closets because you need a disguise in order to go find rat poison in a cellar. Hitman 2 is a natural extension of the 2016 reboot from IO Interactive, with enough noob-friendly mechanics and masochistic difficulty settings to offer a suitable challenge for everyone.

I can’t overstate how important that difficulty range is, because Hitman 2 is anchored by its replayability. There is no “right” way to beat a mission, and you’ll have to set aside some completionist anxiety as you approach levels for the first time and discover mission story after mission story. These stories, frequently initiated by eavesdropping on conversations, provide helpful waypoints that offer a sense of direction in the sprawling, lively levels. More than that, they represent what Hitman does best: creative kills.

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You will be tasked with impersonating a tailor, sabotaging movie props or poisoning a backyard BBQ buffet. What impressed me most was the amount of creative problem solving required to get to and from waypoints. It wasn’t as easy as just walking from A to B and a noticeable increase in “enforcer” NPCs who can see through disguises ups the complexity of every stage of a mission. It does encourage a great amount of save scumming though, as you’ll feel compelled to pull things off without error. Getting spotted by a random guard or waiter often resulted in me reloading an autosave and trying again. Repetition is both the soul of Hitman 2 and its biggest liability.

On one hand, the replayability is fantastic. With only six levels for the full release, it's clear the bulk of the content is found in revisiting maps and taking new angles and approaches. You even unlock multiple starting points, so the experience is different from the start. It's obvious a lot of effort went into this layered level design, but the problem is you might not want it. If you’re more of a linear gamer who wants new levels each time, you’ll burn though Hitman 2 in a day or two. You have to replay levels to get your money’s worth. I enjoyed it, but I know that’s not for everyone and is something to consider.

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Timed content, like the upcoming Elusive Target mission releasing Nov. 20, provides incentive to check in frequently. There’s a handful of other challenge-based content modes as well as some multiplayer, too. Sniper Assassin is a co-op sniper mission setup, and Ghost Mode pits two players against each other to take down the same target where your opponent is only visible as a “ghost” on the map. The 2016 reboot is also available to play via Hitman 2, albeit as a $20 download if you don’t own it already.

A game this complex isn’t without a few hiccups, but minor issues are exacerbated by the patient playstyle. More than a few times, I painstakingly stalked someone (usually a guard or worker to get a disguise), and after knocking them out I fumbled with the “hold B to drag” mechanic and got spotted, so I’d reload a checkpoint and start again. I also had a mission in Mumbai where I finished a long, non-violent sequence to kill a target that didn’t autosave. Playing a level over and over from different angles is the fun of Hitman 2, but replaying the same 10-minute chunk because of a save error is torture.

Hitman 2 represents the best of what the franchise has to offer. Intricate level design, deep replayability and an easy-to-follow episodic format cater to new players and old fans. It offers a welcome respite from the shooter-heavy titles that tend to dominate the holiday season, and has a shelf life that extends well into 2019.  A few technical issues, including server stability, as well as a lot of (optional) nickel-and-dime monetization distract from an otherwise polished experience. If you were captivated by the 2016 reboot, you’ll find more of the same. If you’re hearing the hype for the first time, Hitman 2 is a great entry point.

hitman 2 review summary Newsweek // Rocco Marrongelli

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