If you look back on IO Interactive's Hitman over the last year or so it's been a rocky road, what with the split from Square Enix and the subsequent uncertainty surrounding its future, but now there's light at the end of the tunnel with Hitman 2. We were lucky enough to play the game for ourselves at E3 this year, and it was Miami that we visited in order to test out the assassination sandbox and see how it holds up.
We were accompanied by a demonstrator to make sure we didn't dawdle too long, and the demo took us through two scenarios to take out our target; a famous race driver who's part of a family that owns a company selling weapons to corrupt dictators. It's our job to take her out, then, and both of the methods involved killing her in her car during a race with tons of spectators all around. How did we pull off this audacious move with so many witnesses? By covert means of course.
The first of these involved us getting our equipment from the van in the car park before isolating a security guard and clobbering him, stealing his outfit. We then tailed a waiter and did the same thing, which helped us get rat poison into the drink of a mechanic... which again involved subduing and stealing some clothes. Once that was done, we snuck into the pitstop and planted a bomb on the target's car, and waited until she drove by the crowds to set it off for a spectacular explosion.
The second method was a touch more direct, and started with us stealing a security guard's outfit right away, before sneaking in around the back of the event venue. There was a risk of being caught of course, since we weren't meant to be there even when we were dressed as security, but once we got past and climbed through the necessary windows to avoid detection we found a dumpster with a briefcase in that had been dropped on the level beforehand. Then it was simply a question of taking to the rooftop and shooting the car from distance.
Part of IO Interactive's big sell this time around are the crowds, as there can be up to 2,000 NPCs around at any one time, which they assure us don't loop animations but instead behave naturally and convincingly. Walking through the hustle and bustle of spectators you can really tell a ton of effort has been put into this feature, and it not only looks great and feels immersive but gives you ample opportunities to blend in if you're sneaking about with sinister intentions. In fact, the entire visual side shines in terms of details, including the falling confetti and the blazing sun on the crowds.
Of course, the assassination sandbox remains and has been built upon for this game, giving you multiple avenues of attack. The demo level we saw was actually half the size of the full version, and only had one target instead of two, but we still saw plenty of tools at our disposal, from rat poison to a wet fish, remote explosives, knives, crowbars, and tons more. The highly efficient killers out there will get satisfaction from executing kills cleanly, but there's plenty out there if you want to flex your creative muscles too.
We were guided so we didn't get to look around as much as you would in the main game, but it's clear that you need really detailed map knowledge to get to your target. A brief video at the end showed us that there were tons more ways to kill the targets, including blowing up her podium as she collected the trophy as well as knocking them out with a fish, but to get the biggest and best results you'll need to know the whereabouts of the enemies, the costumes, the in-game items, and have a great overview of the locations.
Stealth also has its challenges in Hitman 2, as even when in disguise there are coworkers who can rumble your cover. Waiters pacing the bar will recognise you're not who you claim to be, for example, and by paying attention to the white dots over the heads of certain individuals, you'll need to stick to cover and blend in to make sure you're not spotted. Then, of course, there are chances to get discovered when NPCs stumble over unconscious/dead bodies, or when you get spotted in restricted areas, and so on and so forth. It's certainly a challenge and it's one that fans will be familiar with.
With all maps coming at launch as well as post-launch content returning like elusive targets, Hitman 2 is shaping up to be a solid follow up from IO Interactive. It's more of the same in terms of structure, shape, and format, but with added polish and more punch to the content. Whether it's explosive murders or silent assassinations you're after, Agent 47 has you covered.
For more on Hitman 2 including our impressions of Sniper Assassin, sneak this way.