The Hitman series has taken various forms over the years, some more well-received than others. After the narrative-driven Absolution, IOI reinvented the series with the episodic, modern, and deliciously sleek Hitman. The episodic format scared away some players, but some reviewers later came to think that the series had finally found its true form. The developer not only allowed the player to commit the perfect murder in any number of ways through open environments but also give us new challenges again and again through Elusive Targets, Escalations and user-made missions. Hitman only needs new environments and more story to tie it all together, and that is exactly what IOI is ready to deliver in the shape of Hitman 2, which is set to be released in its entirety this November. This is why we visited the studio's beautiful HQ in Copenhagen and tried out the sequel. So far it represents a confident refinement of the concept, sporting huge, sun-drenched environments and an Agent 47 in great shape.
To begin with, it was a remarkably natural experience to play Hitman 2. When we sat down in a comfortable chair and grabbed a keyboard and mouse, everything was as expected. From the menus to the music and the choice of colours, Hitman 2 was as we had hoped; a natural development of the Hitman we know. The cold black and white colours of the UI had partially been replaced with pink-ish reds and cyan, which allowed for a bolder, summer-like look, but otherwise, our first impression was that it was reassuringly familiar.
The first stop was Miami in the mission The Finish Line. After a long cutscene, which led us to conclude that this was not the first mission, we were met by a busy large-scale event, one which we were about to ruin in a calculated manner. The event in question was The Innovation Race, where large car manufacturers compete in their latest racing cars. The people about to be assassinated were the race driver Sierra Knox and her father, Robert Knox, a wealthy businessman who runs a company called Kronstadt.
How do you get away with two murders at an event like that? We began by running around like a headless chicken, looking for a place to hide our gun before being frisked at the entrance. When we finally got in through the entrance, we tried to make sense of the area. We quickly realised that the Opportunities - now called Story Missions - were the easiest route to a clean kill. We found a mechanic and overheard his phone conversation, which revealed that Sierra's pit crew was in need of a replacement. Naturally, we followed him to a secluded area, knocked him out and took his clothes. From there, it was quite easy to loosen the race driver's wheels, which resulted in her death soon thereafter.
Now only Mr Knox remained. He walked around an exhibition in another part of the area, and it soon proved to be more difficult to keep track of where we were in this complex than it was to kill Sierra. It took a bit too much time to find the lockpick, which was hidden in a briefcase in a parking lot that we had been through several times already. While our sense of direction is probably more to blame than IOI's level design, it was bothersome that we were still forced to carry a gun around when a lockpick is much more meaningful to carry (as long as you aim for a Silent Assassin rating).
That being said, we are very much looking forward to playing around with the suitcase, which can hide a sniper rifle and other suspicious objects. As a new rule in Hitman 2, you can no longer walk around with suspicious objects on your back and expect guards not to notice. This update makes much sense, since it always seemed strange to walk around as an ordinary guard with the World's largest custom sniper rifle on your back.
We decided that Mr Knox should die at the hands of the thing he loved the most, just like his daughter. Of course, that meant that he had to die from his love of the local food stand's coconut balls. This perfectly coincided with us finding some rat poison en route, and when we had "borrowed" a set of clothes from the stand's owner, The Florida Man, the stand could open. The rumour about the delicious coconut balls quickly reached Mr. Knox, and when he arrived to receive his daily sugar rush, his belly didn't handle the new recipe too well. Luckily the stand was situated alongside the waterfront, so when Mr. Knox tried to empty his stomach of its contents, he could easily be pushed into the water. And thus the mission was completed with a Silent Assassin rating.