Miami mission becomes racetrack riot
I’m pretty good at Hitman. I’ve been playing the games ever since Hitman: Codename 47, a game so clunky that you had to love it in order to put up with its intolerable menu system and unrelenting control issues. The games have such an allure to me. It’s not the violence, it’s the planning, the lateral thinking, and the execution (pun fully intended). I love them all. Yes even Absolution, which is way better than you give it credit for.
Which is why, at EGX in Birmingham this weekend, I made a beeline for the stand guarded by a giant plastic duck sporting the iconic suit and tie, as I was particularly eager to get my mitts on IO Interactive’s Hitman 2, which is currently sneaking its way toward PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
While Hitman 2 is titled as such, it’s tough to quantify the game as a “sequel”. Essentially, 47’s latest killing spree is more accurately a “second season” follow-up to the 2016 episodic release Hitman, the first title launched under new publisher Warner Bros. As such, it contains the same engine and coding as the previous game, so don’t expect massive changes in terms of visual upgrades, animations or mechanics.
That said, after watching the very, very cool briefing, delivered in true Mission: Impossible style, 47 appeared on the sun-drenched streets of Miami, standing at the entrance to an exciting motor-racing event. Yer boy Forty is here to “retire” scumbag father-daughter pairing Robert and Sierra Knox, whose amazing engineering ingenuity has also proved equally useful on the arms black market. Today Sierra – also a top-tier racer – takes on the final stage of her latest Grand Prix, while her father shows off his newest tech at a nearby convention center. They’re both about to have a very bad day.
Knowing that the game has little to show that hasn’t been seen in the previous season, the demo wisely chooses to showcase one of Hitman 2’s biggest innovations; its mass crowd tech. The opening of the Miami stage is teeming with character models, with the map purportedly featuring some 2000 NPCs in all. As 47 pushes his way through the race fans, mascots and security guards, there is constant inane babble from everybody, further giving the extras an element of “life”.
Also of note is the excellent map design. The Miami racetrack and convention center are completely believable locations, laid out in an architectural pattern which makes sense, and allows savvy players to navigate the areas according to gut feeling. When it was suggested I go to the car park, and then later the stands, I found my way there naturally, via a route that just “felt right”. This map design and crowd tech lends the game a realism that only serves to make the tension of the mission all that more exciting and suspenseful. Even despite 47 wearing shoes with no socks.
As is to be expected, there are all sorts of methods at your disposal to reach and assassinate your hapless victims. Disguises, pre-deployed weapon caches, on-site procurement of deadly household items and high and low vantage areas, all designed to add replay value and allow you to find your perfect route to achieving the dream goal of all Hitmen and women: the “Silent Assassin” rating.
However, that ain’t happening anytime soon. Playing a map for the very first time, aware that your time to play is limited, called for me to be a little less Day of the Jackal and a little more John Wick. After securing 47’s trusty Silverballer handgun on-site, I unfortunately raised alarms when I was then caught subduing a Race Marshal. Still not wanting to spill innocent blood, I made a break for the convention centre. But things just went from bad to worse as I broke up a tour group, left a sniper rifle lying in the toilets, and accidentally punched a female executive down a staircase. My Hitman was clearly spelt with a silent “S”.
With the situation too far gone, and not enough time to try again, I was left with no choice but to perform – with needle-threading accuracy – the act of beating up a mechanic in a bathroom, smashing a fusebox, and buying some sweet VIP seats off of a ticket scalper. Hopefully, the disastrous chaos of the day will lead to the Knox family going out of business, where they can’t harm anybody anymore. See, you can get results without anyone getting hurt. Think outside the box a little.
There’s no denying that Hitman 2 is likely to just be “more of the same”, and it won’t pull in those who have previously shown a dislike for the series. To get the best out of the Hitman games, patience, trial-and-error, failure and restarts can be necessary. But fans have long since grown used to the idea that Hitman is a marathon, not a sprint, with practice, timing and experimentation leading to the most satisfying of successes.
Hitman 2 is, essentially, a full-size expansion pack to the previous episodic series. Only this time there’ll be no waiting around, as this entry will be the full game on launch (or as full a release as DLC kings Warner Bros. will allow). It’s looking pretty damn good. I can’t wait to get globe-trotting with 47 again, visiting exotic locations across the globe, trying on a range of cool new clothes, meeting beautiful, interesting people, and then killing them with a corkscrew.
Hitman 2 launches November 13 on PS4, PC and Xbox One.