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Hitman 2 Review - A Boy And His Briefcase

  • First Released Nov 9, 2018
  • Reviewed Nov 25, 2018
  • PS4
  • PC
  • XONE

Hitman baby, one more time.

Hitman 2 is out now on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. The game's first Elusive Target, the first part of IO's free post-launch support plans, is currently active and features actor Sean Bean as an MI5 agent gone rogue named Mark Faba. Read on for our full review, originally published on November 8.

Hitman is a game about killing people. Well, killing specific people and trying not to kill other people unless you really have to. But it's also a game about exploring large, real-world-inspired spaces, learning about how they operate, finding multiple solutions to problems, and using that knowledge to improvise and manipulate the environment to hit the people you're hunting. The episodic nature of the Hitman refresh in 2016 saw IO Interactive release one level every month--a contentious move at the time, but one that helped accentuate the potential in each mission. Hitman 2 ditches the episodic model and adds a few new minor mechanics, but the loop of continuously replaying a single location, slowly uncovering the wealth of possibilities, and being able to effectively draw upon that knowledge in new challenges is where Hitman is strongest.

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Hitman 2 takes you to six new locales, and each poses unique situations to overcome as you attempt to assassinate your targets. Mumbai is a standout with its densely populated streets and labyrinths of tenement buildings--a great environment that makes the most of a new Assassin's Creed-style crowd blending mechanic, allowing you to disappear into big groups of people. A mission in Miami, Florida takes place at an active raceway, a loud and vibrant stage that feels like a theme park with its swaths of attendees, distinct zones, and a concealed backstage underbelly.

These levels are overwhelming in the best way possible, and it's exciting to begin peeling away the layers of these large, intricate areas--exploring the spaces, discovering routes, finding tools and disguises, and figuring out the best places to utilize them. If you're familiar with Hitman, you know that each stage and its AI inhabitants run on routines like clockwork, making Hitman a game that rewards social stealth and patience. Eavesdropping, tailing, and passive observation are good first steps to success. Even the Whittleton Creek stage, a small, sparsely populated suburban block in Vermont, feels like a mindmap of interconnected causality when you begin to dig deeper. Having the curiosity to uncover how things operate within levels, stumbling upon minor plotlines and amusing flavor dialog along the way, is interesting in its own right.

Hitman does make an upfront effort to help focus your scope and give you some momentum toward your objectives, though thankfully your initiative is still necessary to solve some predicaments. Stumbling across a Mission Story (previously known as Opportunities) might lead you to a machine you can sabotage, for example, but you need to find the tool to do so and work out the best method of either distracting or dispatching the people around it.

Mission Stories are a great first step, but Hitman becomes its best when you start to internalize the stages and uncover the more obscure ways things can unfold in subsequent playthroughs, be it through pursuing alternative Mission Stories, Challenges that ask you to perform specific tasks, or your own improvisation. There are few fail states other than your own death, and there are so many approaches and tools at your disposal that the path to victory can be as creative and elegant or as bumbling and messy as it needs to be. Completing a stage typically takes a long time, and there will be plenty of moments when a guard catches you doing something you shouldn't be doing and calls for backup. Unhinged gunfights still feel as futile as ever, but when things get out of control there's almost always the opportunity to escape to a less hostile part of the level, swap your disguises, and come up with an alternative "make do" approach. In fact, Hitman is sometimes more exciting when your initial plans fail.

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The only problem with being presented with such a staggering array of interactions is that the limitations of the sandbox will eventually reveal themselves if you push the wrong way. For example, while you can stash bodies in dumpsters and closets, I was disappointed to discover I couldn't stash them in one of many vacant portable toilets. While Agent 47 can leap tall fences and shimmy across daringly high ledges, he seemingly can't muster the courage to drop down from certain first-floor balconies. Guard AI behavior is stern but generous--if you're found trespassing in a restricted area they'll give you a chance to find the exit before reacting, but sometimes it's too generous. I was amused to see a target's personal bodyguard decide to go home for the day after his employer "accidentally" fell off a building, even though I was the only other person in the room.

Hitman 2 continues to embrace a trial-and-error playstyle in its campaign. The levels are long, but autosaves are generous and manual saving is encouraged, which gives you the freedom to experiment with different ways of approaching a problem. And the closer you get to bending the systems in just the right way--trying to narrowly squeeze past a guard's sightline from different directions, or using coins and cheeseburgers to divert someone's attention--the more thrilling it feels, no matter how goofy it actually looks. Hitman 2's interstitial cinematics are as grim and dramatic as a British espionage drama, and it's hard not to let yourself buy into the clinical overarching conspiracy. But in the field, the series' tongue-in-cheek absurdity happily remains with ridiculous costumes, unlikely weapons, and Agent 47's self-aware deadpan acting, which perfectly accompanies any bumbling improvisation. Both exist distinctly, don't really compliment or detract one another, but are still enjoyable in their own right.

Hitman 2 also boasts a few significant modes outside of its campaign, including Sniper Assassin, which adapts the design seen in the Hitman: Sniper smartphone game and tasks you with taking out a series of targets from a single vantage point using only a scoped rifle. It's a straightforward but enjoyable, low-stakes mode that allows for a surprising amount of creative freedom, and it can be played in two-player online co-op. But Hitman 2's most enticing bonus, at least if you own the previous Hitman, is the ability to download the original stages into Hitman 2, which gives you feature-complete versions of them with the addition of new mechanics like functional mirrors (which enemies can spot you in) and the briefcase (which lets you conceal and transport tools discreetly), among other things. These legacy stages are wonderful to revisit under a new light.

It should also be mentioned that one of the most compelling elements of the 2016 Hitman was the continuous, free live content updates that occurred after the game's launch. Escalation Missions, where you're given specific conditional challenges of increasing difficulty, and Elusive Targets, limited-time events where you have only one chance to take out unique assassination targets, added tense trials that tested both your knowledge of levels and improvisational skills. IO Interactive has announced that these familiar features will be making a return, along with free content updates to Sniper Assassin and Ghost Mode. We obviously can't judge the quality of this content at launch, but it's surely something to look forward to.

The addition of other minor mechanical changes--like concussive weapons, a picture-in-picture enemy activity alert, and visible security camera sightlines--help to improve Hitman 2 overall as a dense and accessible stealth assassination game. But the new locations are the real stars, impressive and inventive sandboxes ripe for picking apart with exciting experiments. Hitman is about experiencing the anticipation of seeing whether a plan will work when you try it for the first time. It's about feeling the tension of briskly walking away from a bad situation, hoping you can lose the suspicious guards. It's the satisfaction of knowing the machinations of a level so well that when a target moves into a particular place at a particular time, you have the perfect way to intervene. Hitman 2 is a familiar experience, but in the Hitman world, familiarity is an incredible strength.

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The Good
Levels are impressively overwhelming and enjoyably complex
New mechanics like crowd blending and functional mirrors are minor but meaningful improvements
A tonal presentation that is both enjoyably overserious and charmingly goofy
Legacy stages are a fantastic bonus for owners of the previous game
The Bad
Finding the odd mechanical limitation is a shame
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Edmond fondly remembers needing to use the bathroom in Hitman: Codename 47, and the Hitman reboot was one of his favorite games of 2016. He reviewed Hitman 2 on PC with some additional playtime on PS4 using codes provided by the publisher.
63 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for 1947gamer

Hitman with it's monthly episodes was a joke you fart and the spot you. This was a ridiculously hard game and it turned me off. It makes me afraid to spend money on Hitman 2.

Avatar image for p1p3dream

I miss the story elements they use to put into Hitman

Avatar image for jergernice1

i couldnt even run this game. newest drivers win 10 updated 2080ti new screen. black screen. apparantly its been an issue for a long time on earlier versions of this game.....i rate this game a zero...actually i was able to try it by alt tabbing back and forth multiple times and finally the video kicked in for a bit.....i just dont have the patience for this crap. i dont mind new engines new games having issues at first. but when new games have the same exact problems as the previous out.....

Avatar image for aross2004

@jergernice1: Gotta love PC gaming.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@jergernice1: That's one reason that I don't bother with state-of-the-art stuff for my computer. It may be the shiniest and snazziest hardware at the time, but hardware and software are too different things.

That said, IO Interactive has yet to optimize the game for the GeForce 2080 Ti. It has just been two months since its debut, and IO here, well, is rather focused on content with Sean Bean at the time.

Avatar image for mrbojangles25

Like the alligator, this game has not really needed to evolve (not too much, at least). It's always been a great game series, and as time has gone on and we've seen most stealth games go the way of the dinosaur, this stealth game remains true to its roots.

Sure, it has become sleeker, sexier, and more accessible, but never at the cost of being dumbed down. It is still a gamer's game but at the same time appeals to all kinds.

Bonus, you can import the previous Hitman game (the episodic one that preceded Hitman 2) into Hitman 2, only they incorporate the newer gameplay elements.

Great fun, and replaying missions is, interestingly enough, more fun than going through them the first time.

Avatar image for chubby170

Sniper assassin is reason enough to buy the game. Loved that. Pretty cool they allow you to download the 1st levels into part 2. Seems like they did a good job with this.

Avatar image for Vodoo

It doesn't seem like this series has evolved much since the OG Hitman 2 on the PS2 and Xbox.

Sure, the graphics have gotten better, but it still has clunky controls and animations.. They should make 47 move more fluid like Sam Fisher (Splintet Cell) by this point. He's still got the same animations for roughly 15 years.

I used to like the series, but the 2016 version was pretty... blah imo. It would also make things more interesting if they hinted where different routes of play were instead of hunting around the entire level to find stuff. So you basically hunt around, eventually find a cool assassination method, then have to replay the level so you can use the method before the target wanders out of range of it.

I wanted to play Hitman 2016 for a long time but it was never on a good enough sale. Then the whole thing came to Xbox Game Pass, which I have access to from sharing with a friend. I played a few locations and then deleted it. I was pretty disappointed. They can do so much more with this series if they tried. But it seems like they just regurgitate the same things over and over.

Hitman Reboot FTW! 😀

Avatar image for goingpewpew

I see I'm going to sink a lot of hours in this game and it's open sandbox design. I spent so much time in Hitman 2016 that I have no doubt in my mind that I will enjoy this game.

Didn't really know the game is coming out until it was reviewed. Were there any trailers before or any big buzz about this game?

Avatar image for ronaldmcreagan

@goingpewpew: Funny, because I never knew this game was coming out either.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@doorselfin: Why the Britney Spears reference?

Avatar image for doorselfin

@Gelugon_baat: Why not?

I thought it was amusing and apt.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@doorselfin: Apt how? I don't see how Britney Spears, that song or the music video of that song being somehow associated with Baldy Killer here. Is there a scenario in which he infiltrates a teen pop idol's gig or something?

Avatar image for doorselfin

@Gelugon_baat: Hitman 2 is a sequel to the 2016 Hitman game, and is a largely familiar game compared to its predecessor.

It's Hitman, one more time.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@doorselfin: Okay... so it's just a quick wordplay pun that you can think of based on those words. *Hmph*.

Avatar image for proceeder

Hitman has never been a serious stealth game, the AI's too weak. It's a playground for tomfoolery.

God! I miss MGS.

Avatar image for chubby170

@proceeder: Metal Gear Solid? You feel that is a more serious stealth game? I would argue that greatly. That is not a serious stealth game either..

Avatar image for stevo302

@proceeder: MGSV's stealth was undermined by the simple fact you could just go in all guns blazing, with little repercussion beyond achieving the stealth checkboxes

Avatar image for proceeder

@stevo302: Dude.

Free will.

You've got it.

Use it.

I have been on a non-lethal playthrough in MGSV.

My CV:

MGSV playtime: 859 hrs

MGS GZ: 64 hrs

MGS 4: 8 times completion, Big Boss Emblem.

MGS 3: 4 times completion

MGS 2: Completed twice

All of the above playthroughs have been non-lethal.

MGS1: completed twice

MG2: Not completed yet, halfway through

MG1: Completed twice.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@proceeder: I agree with you, but really, Metal Gear Solid? As in the first one?

Those guards with their narrow cone visions! Come on! You call that serious?

Avatar image for proceeder

@Gelugon_baat: As in the series.

And the point is, MGS improved over the years (MGSV actually removed some of the behavior patterns, I realize).

Hitman still has the subdue glitch in which 47 punches people from behind instead of strangling them.

IOI has sold a collector edition of Hitman, a requiem edition, a legacy edition and a couple more.

And, this is what they bring to the table after all that time and requesting that much support?!

And WB is publishing this. They can't have been short on resources.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@proceeder: Oh man, that glitch is still there? That would mean that he can still grab people through walls, waaaay around corners and shit like that. Immersion-breaking, really. (Technically all these are caused by wonky hitbox and collisions, but that's beside the point.)

That said, that subdue glitch could actually be solved if the player can set up a control input that is dedicated for subduing, and another control input for fisticuffs. I do know that players had been complaining about the terribly unwise design of using the same control input for both.

Dumb shit, really. Context-sensitive inputs my ass.

Avatar image for big_boss_lives

@proceeder: Hitman is OK.

Avatar image for chubby170

@big_boss_lives: Nothing will ever be as good as they were, especially Blood Money. I wish they would remake the old ones.

Avatar image for proceeder

@big_boss_lives: Yeah.

Ok, describes it perfectly.

I was just expecting some improvement in the AI over the years.

Avatar image for ziltoid

Heya! Can anyone confirm if the game handles the online aspect like the first?

Meaning offline you can't unlock challenges and the game actually creates separate profiles for online/offline.

Avatar image for doorselfin

@ziltoid: Heya! Yes. This is the same case with Hitman 2.

Avatar image for ziltoid

@doorselfin: Thanks for the answer and your review Edmond! I was kinda hoping they would change that. Well it is what it is.

Avatar image for Pierce_Sparrow

Looking forward to this one. I enjoyed the 2016 soft reboot and this should be fun. Hopefully it feels like a bigger game, as the first one seemed somewhat short to me, but it should be enjoyable still.

Avatar image for sgtkeebler

is this going to have episodes or will it be a full game? Because if it's episodes I will not buy it.

Avatar image for stiefjac

@sgtkeebler: "The episodic nature of the Hitman refresh in 2016 saw IO Interactive release one level every month--a contentious move at the time, but one that helped accentuate the potential in each mission. Hitman 2 ditches the episodic model and adds a few new minor mechanics, but the loop of continuously replaying a single location, slowly uncovering the wealth of possibilities, and being able to effectively draw upon that knowledge in new challenges is where Hitman is strongest."

Literally the first paragraph, my god

Avatar image for mdinger

@stiefjac: tl;dr ;-).

Avatar image for good_coop89

There's nothing quite like Hitman. Can't wait for this game!

Avatar image for siarhei

Hitman '16 was really fun, can't wait to play this one.

Reminds me of Blacklist and Deus Ex in the best ways.

Avatar image for cboye18

I liked Hitman Absolution more than Hitman 2016. Story and characters were better, the shooting/combat felt better and objectives/assassination options were easier to follow due to the smaller level design. I prefer the disguise system of Hitman 2016 though.

If this game is similar to Hitman 2016, I think I'll pass.

Avatar image for mdinger

@cboye18: Well Blood Money is the absolute best Hitman. 2016 was better than Absolution, by a long shot imo.

Avatar image for Cassius103

@mdinger: I agree it was the best, but i thought Contracts was pretty close. I thought that game was given an unnecessarily hard time. Some great maps and some really twisted characters in there. Meat King's Party and Beldingford Manor were stand out.

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Hitman 2 More Info

  • First Released Nov 9, 2018
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    Average Rating53 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Hitman 2
    Developed by:
    Io Interactive, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
    Published by:
    Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Io Interactive
    Adventure, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Blood, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Use of Drugs and Alcohol