47 is back, although this time around it's almost as if he never even left. Hitman 2 is a direct sequel to the episodic Hitman, but it's also very much a second chapter, a continuation of the adventure that started back in 2016. Agent 47's latest adventure, the first since IO Interactive split from Square Enix and found comfort in the arms of Warner Bros., fits snugly with the original game in a well-rounded package that contains a dozen (six from each game) sandbox environments and even more reskins and assignments that take advantage of their expansive design.
For those who already have it, the original episodic game, now collected together in one central hub along with all the new content, has been retrofitted with the new features found in Hitman 2, most notably refined stealth mechanics that let the bald-headed assassin move through foliage undetected and mingle with crowds. There are other tweaks here and there, such as the return of the briefcase (which some people seem really happy about, although it didn't make much difference to us), but generally speaking, this is very much the same formula carried over into the second game with light touches. This is the still the same Hitman.
One thing that had been niggling away at us every time we played the last game was the lack of regional accents, a flaw that has been largely rectified this time around. There's still an awfully large number of Brits abroad, but there's much less of a disconnect between the way a place looks and the way it sounds, and for that, we're entirely thankful. The locals sound like they belong, and the different landmarks and public spaces feel more authentic, a change that helps keep you immersed in the moment.
Not all changes have been for the better though. The cinematic cutscenes from the first are now a series of voiced tableaux. The voice acting is fine, and all the characters sound the part, but it still feels like a strange choice and a step back, which is why we think the decision was down to either budgetary concerns or a lack of time (or maybe a bit of both). That sentiment extends to the final layer of polish, which feels like it has been applied in haste, and there's a couple of rough edges here and there that stops this from being a silky smooth experience.
The missions themselves are, generally speaking, very good. There's not a huge amount of innovation beyond the new stealth mechanics, and once again the aim of the game is to take out a couple of targets in each area - the more audaciously the better. Each of the six missions has a couple of primary objectives, and there's usually plenty of freedom in terms of how you go about your business. The series' staple mechanic that has you switching costumes in order to access new areas returns, and there's a bunch of borderline ridiculous routes for you to follow in order to reach your targets.
Hitman 2 once again revels in its absurdist take on murder, and you'll spot a quirky item in the environment and instantly wonder how and when you'll be able to use it on an unsuspecting victim. These props (for want of a better word) are generally tied to specific ways you can take out a target, and IOI sprinkles a number into each sandbox, boosting replayability. You can explore different side stories and exploit the information you find in ingenious ways, and an inquisitive mind is often rewarded with a macabre narrative twist. A nice touch this time around is a recommendation of which story events you should tackle to get what IOI considers the full experience, with this advice popping up once you've cleared a mission, inviting you back in to see things from a different perspective.
The first mission, which also doubles as a light tutorial, has you arriving on a beach at night in order to infiltrate a remote seaside house. After some exploration, things turn dangerous and you're quickly back in the action, sneaking around, stashing bodies, avoiding the gaze of cameras. It was a cinematic opening that eased us in from a mechanical perspective, but it was the atmosphere that instantly pulled us back into the story. Once he's done in Hawke's Bay (New Zealand), 47 is off to Miami for the racing-themed mission we've played at preview events. And yes, we wore the giant pink flamingo suit.
Colombian cartel higherups represent the three targets waiting to be found in the huge Santa Fortuna sandbox, a multi-section map that represents an excellent opportunity to spend some quality time in the foliage trying out the new stealth mechanics. Perhaps our favourite of the new levels was Mumbai with its narrow streets and quirky questlines. We then ventured back to the States, this time to Whittleton Creek, a setting that reminded us a little of the Suburbs from Blood Money, before wrapping things up on the storm-ravaged Isle of Sgàil in a mission that took place against the backdrop of a super-exclusive gathering of would-be elites.