In 2016 Io Interactive released Hitman, the soft reboot of the franchise and unofficial apology to the series dedicated fan base for the previous entry, Absolution, which abandoned the series signature trial and error, murder simulation sandbox in favour of a tightly scripted more linear experience.
Despite the initial positive respecting the game received from the mainstream gaming press, it was clear the die-hard fan base the series had gained since it’s inaugural outing in 2000’s Hitman: Codename 47 was alienated by this drastic course change for the series, and the team at Io Interactive took notice. Over the next four years, they went back to basics. Taking cues from the series uncontestable high point, 2008’s Blood Money; they created the true next gen Hitman experience.
Out went the shallow, linear mission’s, truncated into stages, back in went the sprawling large sprawling and sandboxes filled with deep detail and multiple paths and approaches. Out went the hectic on-site procurement of weapons in levels that left you feeling reactive rather than proactive; back in went the meticulous pre-mission planning of Blood Money that makes you really feel like a gasp, actual god damn Hitman.
That’s not to say that Hitman 2016 abandoned everything Io attempted in Absolution. The instinct mode, 47’s chromedome equivalent of the Arkham series now ubiquitous ‘detective vision’, serves to highlight points and objects of interest to aid players on easier difficulties, as well as replacing the former keyhole peeping mechanic, which was always clunky, by allowing players to see people through doors.
The games Achilles heel came not from some flawed gaming mechanic or game breaking bug but rather Io’s then published, Square Enix, insisting on an episodic release schedule with each new level released monthly. This truncated release schedule annoyed many fans at the time and definitely hampered the game’s success, though it is worth noting the dedication Io showed toward the fans by using this schedule to continually hone the gameplay and tweak mechanics according to fan feedback. I would also be remiss to not point out that not everyone disliked the episodic nature which, when paired with the time limited Elusive Targets made the game more of a long-term project for the dedicated assassin rather than the same day completionists and speedrunners. In short, I felt the release schedule lends itself to the slow and methodical approach of the titular Mr 47.
At this point you may be wondering, “But Mr Reviewer, when are you going to talk about the new game?”. Good question and the answer is very simple; I have been. Because Hitman 2 is not really a ‘new’ game but rather the second season of the Hitman reboot. It’s a classic example of not broke don’t fix it. Sure they’ve polished the graphics, honed the gameplay and added some new (read old mechanics that had been discarded by Absolution) mechanics to the game to help facilitate different playstyles, I’m looking at you Sniper Assassins. And to further prove that this game isn’t a separate entity of what came before all the last games missions are in the new game, free for those who owned the Hitman and at a small cost for anyone jumping on to the series now.
To summarise Hitman 2 is more of the same great Hitman game, no longer in snack-sized bites.