A Killer Followup
Hitman: Episode One was an impressive start for this release, giving players a fine introduction to this new world of assassination that will be unfolding over the next year. The Paris mission gave players a slew of ways to take down targets in one of the most detailed Hitman maps to date, and Episode Two is no different. In fact, Sapienza makes the previous episode seem like one large tutorial in comparison. In this new mission, Agent 47 travels to a large Italian villa of Sapienza and is tasked with taking out two scientists and the world threatening virus they’ve created.
As soon as the mission begins and you first gain control of 47, you’ll quickly realize just how massive this map is. While Paris certainly wasn’t small by any means, a large majority of it had you working your way around the interior area where the fashion show took place. Italy, on the other hand, will have players exploring a huge mansion that could have served as the whole location on its own, but there are also many shops, apartments, a church, docks and a winding underground system that leads to a hidden lab available for players to explore. Like any Hitman game, all these areas are filled with NPC’s that serve as obstacles to your targets, and finding your way around (or through them) are all small pieces to the larger puzzle of the assassination.
Just like the last mission, players can be given some guidance in the form of challenges and more specifically, opportunities that all serve as mini objectives that help get you closer to each target. For example, 47 has the chance to disguise himself as a therapist to get close to one target, or set up a private meeting with another by dressing as the targets love interest and waiting for them in a very True Lies inspired scenario. For those who prefer figuring things out on their own, the game has several options to cater to those needs, allowing you to pick and choose which advice is shown. No matter which opportunity you choose to pursue, the way you dispose of your target is ultimately your choice, a freedom that’s always been this series strong point. Going classic hitman and garroting your victim, or taking them out with more of a bang by firing a cannonball at them, are just a few of nearly thirty different methods to select from. Mix and matching opportunities or coming up with your own route is a possibility and highly encouraged, giving the game as much replay value as you see fit.
Adding to this replay value, is another series addition seen in the first episode. Upon finishing each mission and doing certain challenges, players level up what’s known as their mission mastery. This unlocks new starting locations and weapon smuggling spots, all of which open up new ways to tackle the tasks at hand. While starting at the mansion already in a security disguise will have you closer to your target, it will present new problems to look out for since it will require new timing and preparation, which only helps with keeping things feel fresh.
On top of that are Escalations and Contracts, which both receive updates on a regular basis. Contracts is the returning mode from Hitman: Absolution, where community or developer created missions have players taking out new targets with the option to do it the same way as the creator while making it more efficient. Escalation is a new mode introduced in the previous episode that gives players missions with 5 different steps, each step escalates the situation by adding in new objectives or complications, such as additional security cameras or laser wires. Elusive targets is another bonus mode but has yet to be released in time for this review.
Graphically, the game still looks good, and Italy really helps it shine more than the darker setting of Paris did, thanks to its vibrant vegetation and waters surrounding the map. The textures can be a bit rough upon close inspections but the character models, details and the lighting especially, help make this the best looking Hitman to date. The technical side, while a significant improvement compared to launch, still has a way to go to reach optimal performance. The frame rate takes dips far more often than it should and when looking at things from a distance character models and their animations can appear quite choppy. The audio side of things isn’t anything too special, but it gets the job done. The musical ques that kick in when closing in on or killing a target, as well as the tune heard when making your escape are good, but aren’t as memorable as the score heard in previous Hitman games. The voice acting is decent but the severe lack of actor variety is very noticeable and can hurt the immersion that’s otherwise, done well.
The load times have been improved but still aren’t convenient by any means, and in a game where reloading will happen often, waiting extended periods to start again can drag down the experience. A small but very helpful change to the rating system has also been added, making it so targets killed by “accidents” won’t hurt your score if their body is discovered. This brings it more in line with Hitman: Blood Money, and it’s a change I’m happy to see. The biggest hindrance still lies with the always online connection, since being unable to connect to the servers prevents you from accessing challenges & other features but also boots you to the menu if you’re disconnected mid game and can’t reconnect. This is a frustrating and honestly, terrible design choice which I hope to see altered in future updates.
As a whole, Hitman: Episode Two is a fun and worthwhile experience that delivers what you’d want out of this series and exceeds the high expectations set by the previous episode. The technical side still has some catching up to do but the gameplay is fantastic and has plenty of depth. There’s still a while to go before it can be decided if the episodic release was a necessary one, but so far, it hasn’t hurt things. If IO Interactive can keep up the quality they’ve produced thus far, we should have an impressive title on our hands, when all is said and done.