I’ve been with the Hitman franchise since day one, when my older brother bought a copy of Hitman: Codename 47 back in 2000. The series has been as iconic as Tomb Raider, Deus Ex or Uncharted, offering a unique stealth/adventure experience that’s captivating and dynamic. So now with the series reaching it’s 18 year and it’s 9th entry, I ask if Agent 47 still has the grasp over players like his strangling grip on one of his infamous targets?

Here’s Hitman 2.

Hitman 2016 was a soft reboot of the series, which returned to what Agent 47 did best. Dropping players into large, highly organic environments and tasking them with killing a singular or multiple targets. The formula has not changed much (accept for Absolution) over the course of 18 years and there’s good reason why. Hitman offered an exciting journey that combines action, stealth and lateral elements into something that’s perfect for a video game.

Hitman 2 puts players as the bald headed master assassin Agent 47, as he continues his search for the Shadow Client. The Hitman games never put narrative first as it was IO Interactive’s mission to make engaging and original gameplay elements. But since Blood Money, IO have done a decent job at adding depth to 47 and the journey he’s taking. While it is a little weird hearing 47 speak more than he did before, it’s interesting to hear his thought process and even to interact with other NPCs. There are elements of dark comedy, some intense encounters and one of my favourite moments is when you confront a character (played by Sean Bean) and tell him various methods you would choose to kill him as part of an exercise.

I love Agent 47 as this cold blooded killer but also hinting that his struggle to find humanity. It’s always been a big part of the franchise, implementing religious symbolism as an underlining them which even in the new games is still present. The story itself is something we’ve seen before in a ton of spy thrillers, but its 47 and his interactions with various targets and key characters which make it interesting. However the links between the main characters and motivates for each of the six missions can be a little sloppy. Plus the presentation for cut scenes which amount to nothing more than a series of stills with voice overs is just lazy.

Thankfully in Hitman 2, we can finally play the game in it’s entirely with no episodic structure in sight. But players will see a number of levels focusing on taking out key targets within massive and highly detailed environments. The journey takes 47 to some of the franchises most beautiful and enriching locations, including a racing event in Miami, a Cartel hideout in Colombia, crowded streets of Mumbai and secretive Ilse of Sgail in the North Atlantic. As before there is plenty to discover, secrets to overhear and plenty of advantages to use to complete your goals.

IO has been busy at work refining plenty of the trademark elements from previous games, with better crowd mechanics, improved movement and better implementations of mirrors to allow 47 to see his enemies and vice versa. Each location has an abundance of ways to dispose of your targets, with some being fairly straight forward, others more cleverly discreet and some which are absolutely to execute. It’s true that some of these executions take time to pull off and to do it correctly can be a vicious trial and error cycle. But Hitman 2 offers an immense amount of resources and creative freedom so that you can choose a different method of disposal if you get cold feet.

What has carried over from Hitman 2016 is the ability to change starting locations, begin with a certain disguise or particular resources, adding more replay-ability to the overall game.

The only things which did hinder on the experience were with some clumsy NPCs who would carry out some dumbfounded moments. At times you could be invisible to guards while carrying out rather loud actions But when 47 sneezes or just acts causally, suspicious is raised to the max sometimes. It’s understandable as levels are massive and filled with hundreds of different actions and interactions taking place, but it can break the immersion. Thankfully these moments aren’t frequent and don’t lead to any game breaking moments.

As mentioned, the kills you can pull off are great and often reminded me of the series high point, Blood Money. Players can rest assure that the long list of kills you can perform in each level is a key component to Hitman 2’s high level of replay-ability. I found myself backtracking or spending hours on one level to carry out as many executions as I can. One of my favourites involved pushing a Drug Lord into the same cage as his beloved pet Hippo, which then savagely eats him. Again it’s that dark sense of comedy which elevates Hitman as a highly rewarding series and it’s more so right here in Hitman 2.

But sadly Agent 47’s arsenal feels a little uninspired with only a few new additions making the roaster this time round. There's still plenty of customisation but not enough new gadgets to experiment with.

There is a neat multiplayer aspect in Hitman 2 taking the form of ghost mode, where two players must compete to take out their target. Plus there’s a never ending line of updates and content which should see players revisit each and every mission to take on elusive targets. Better still is the return of the Sniper Challenge which is properly one of the captivating new concepts from IO in the Hitman series … you know, next to the massive sandbox levels of course!

So Hitman 2 is pretty great but as a fan of the series I was hoping to see a little more from this journey. While the content within each level is extremely high, the journey can feel a little short overall. With only 6 locations, Hitman 2 still feels a little confined and compared to Blood Money which offered more locations and a great level of depth to them, this could’ve shown more but pretty much feels like the second part to Hitman 2016.

This is still a worthy game of the year contender but I would love to see IO develop a bigger game with more levels, more locations and new systems such as the classic notoriety mechanic from Blood Money. But for now, this is one of the more refined and exciting entries to the Hitman franchise that new and old fans should check out!

++ Massive and highly detailed sandbox levels
+ Great level of replay value
+ Huge amount of content
- Story and pacing needed improving
- Lack of new gear and refines to enemy AI

A review copy of Hitman 2 was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review