We were rather taken with the first chapter of the episodic Hitman, with its quirky multi-part assassinations, and its return to the more free and open approach of old. And although it wasn't classic Hitman, it was still very good Hitman. We reviewed it like we would any other episodic adventure. The problem with that approach, and why in this case we're re-evaluating that decision, is that after playing this second episode we've now got too much to say. This is largely because there's simply too much going on, there's so much replayability, and it wouldn't be fair to consider this on the same terms as a play-it-once (or maybe twice) Telltale content drop.
The new mission, World of Tomorrow, is probably one of our favourite Hitman missions. Ever. It's a real classic in the making, and it provides a startling contrast to the first set of challenges handed to us in Intro Pack.
Sapienza itself is a delight to explore, and we much prefer its twisting and characterful design over the more angular mansion in Paris. There's so much hustle and bustle in this little provincial sandbox, and we had great fun exploring the lively town. It looks beautiful, and there's an incredible amount of detail that you don't fully appreciate until you've existed in it for several hours. As you explore further and delve deeper, you'll be checking corners, climbing ledges; all the while seeking out interesting and entertaining opportunities. There's some really fun ideas in there, creative ways too off your targets, and completionists will no doubt have a great time finding them all and then seeing each one through to its bloody conclusion.
The town itself is much bigger than it needs to be for the purposes of the campaign mission, something that points to IOI's plans to flesh out the sandbox with additional activities, much as they have with Paris (and for those that return to that location having spent weeks away, they'll find a lot more content waiting to be enjoyed). The main challenge in Sapienza involves taking out two targets - one of whom is an eminent bio-engineer and reclusive millionaire called Silvio Caruso - and a destroying a third objective, a deadly new virus that lives in a high security lab underneath the town itself.
We had a lot fun working out what we wanted to do and how we were going to do it, and scoping out different options for future attempts (when really we should have been concentrating on the task at hand). And even after several hours we were finding new rooms and new opportunities to exploit. There's also a really impressive array of alternative routes built into the map, and for that the developers need to be commended.
The whole sandbox has been built not just with the campaign mission in mind, but also to support future escalation contracts and player-made challenges. There's a veritable playground on offer for creatives to work with, and we'll no doubt be able to go back and take on different targets and really make the most of the sun-kissed sandbox in the weeks ahead. Regarding escalation contracts, we didn't really touch on the multi-part missions in the original review, but this part of the game has been significantly fleshed out since launch, with lots of new challenges available for Paris, and no doubt more coming to Sapienza too.
This new chapter is, in our humble opinion, a significant step up from the first episode, but there's still annoyances. The story cutscene you get upon the completion is laughably short, and the episodic approach still doesn't work for us in terms of narrative. Another frustration that has grown since we reviewed the Intro Pack is the decision to gate certain tools - like the Silverballers - behind your level. Basically, to open up all the options, you have to grind a level for experience, and if you just want to play for a few hours before moving onto something else, that design decision effectively removes some of the fun from the game. On top of that, load times, while slightly improved, are still too long, and the age-old Hitman criticism about slightly dodgy AI remains as true here as it ever has.
Overall, though, we had a cracking time exploring Sapienza, and apart from a couple of minor grumbles, we have to say that we're enjoying this latest offering from IOI now more than ever. This new sandbox provides classic Hitman moments, and there's flexibility and variety in abundance. There's a wealth of options built into every darkened corridor, and every open window means a potential opportunity. We wanted more tools to play with from the start, but apart from that, we're more than happy with what has been served up here. IOI started strongly in Paris, but Sapienza blows that mission out of the water, and we're looking forward to heading back for more escalation contracts in the weeks ahead.
Read up on our review of the first episode over here.