HITMAN (2016) is one of the more interesting AAA releases in recent times due to how it was released. Square Enix and IO interactive released the game over episodic locations spread out and then did a complete disc release for the season. While this led to quite the backlash in general, it ended up working brilliantly for Hitman. Having individual episodes released meant players could spend more time in a single location, discuss various things about said location online, and basically master each location before the next one released. It also led to the game having legs and mindshare longer than most releases. HITMAN 2 from WB and IO Interactive is all the locations available from the get go and the team has gone above and beyond for fans of HITMAN.
The original disc release of the first game in this new reboot was called “The Complete First Season” and that should give you an idea of what IO Interactive wanted to do. If things all went well, we’d be getting Season 2 as a continuation to that. Warner Brothers and IO Interactive have now brought the second season so to speak in HITMAN 2.
The highlight of HITMAN was definitely the Sapienza location which remains one of the best sandbox levels in a game. HITMAN 2 takes you to New Zealand initially which starts off strong and is basically a great taste of what’s to come in this set of locations. The Miami level that features a race track is probably the best level in this game with the sheer amount of options you have to accomplish your mission including a fish. Mumbai is something that has been advertised quite heavily here and it sadly isn’t an amazing level. The slum areas suffer from a lot of the performance issues when any action starts taking place in smaller areas and some of the accents for dialogue are pretty terrible. I’m not even going to get into the story here because it is an unnecessary and the next HITMAN release should just be sandbox locations available in a package without wasting any resources on a lacklustre narrative that feels tacked on told through still images with a few effects. The voice acting in these story scenes is very good though.
The best part of a new location in a post HITMAN world is being able to just explore and study the patterns and try and figure out your initial approach. There is even a new difficulty option for newer players to be able to explore and have fun in levels before trying them out to properly complete them. You could also do what I love to do, and just throw coins near people to see how they react because IO Interactive have thought almost everything through for responses. The locations are huge and varied but how people react to what you do is most definitely the highlight. The new picture in picture mode that shows you how things are discovered or captured on camera is a nice addition and these carry over to the updated levels from the first release as well.
A lot of this release feels like more of HITMAN and that most definitely isn’t a bad thing. While the levels are mostly all great, the gameplay and visual improvements are nice. The only visual downside is a bit too much bloom that can be distracting in some scenes. The user interface and even tutorial are basically the same. The improvements to terms used during the actual missions are welcome because HITMAN had some vague terms.
If you played and enjoyed HITMAN, HITMAN 2 has a nice addition for you. You can access the original game locations here for free with gameplay and visual upgrades. If you didn’t play the original, you can even buy a DLC pack offering the same deal at a much lower price than buying the original release. This is a brilliant addition and something most developers wouldn’t offer for free for previous owners. The one caveat here is that your progress doesn’t carry over to the updated levels in HITMAN 2 from the first game.
The Xbox One X version offers two visual modes just like the patch did for the original HITMAN or the PS4 Pro version. You can either play with 4K and a 30fps target or 1400p with a 60fps target. Both modes on the Xbox One X don’t really offer a super stable framerate. There are drops in certain locations if there’s a bit too much action going on. I would’ve preferred a slightly lower resolution in both modes that offered a consistent performance.
Overall, HITMAN 2 is an excellent sandbox experience. The story is absolutely unnecessary and I hope the next entry is just different locations without the team wasting resources on a tacked on narrative. IO Interactive have a Game of the Year contender here for sure. I can’t wait to keep revisiting this over time and for the expansions. Them letting owners of HITMAN (2016) access the older locations in the new game for free (and for new players to pay a little more than the asking price) with new improvements to gameplay and the engine shows that they value the fans more than most developers. My biggest concern with the release is IO Interactive not being able to keep many players coming back to replay levels because having access to all locations will no doubt see some people drop the game and move on to something else rather than keep coming back or discover new ways to complete missions.