Hitman 2 is a third-person stealth action shooter available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. The Hitman series began with Hitman: Codename 47 which released for PC in November 2000 garnering enough critical acclaim and success to produce sequels and console ports to PS2 amongst other platforms including Hitman 2: Silent Assassin in October 2002, Hitman: Contracts in April 2004 and Hitman: Blood Money in May 2006. The Hitman series made its debut appearance on PS3 in November 2012 with the sequel Hitman: Absolution which was followed by Hitman HD Trilogy that brought the three PS2 games to the PS3 in late January and early February 2013, but Hitman: Codename 47 still never arrived on console. Hitman on PS4 is somewhat of a departure for the series as it is an episodic release with content spread out over the course of the year of release, although the fundamental premise remains the same. Hitman GO released in April 2014 on iOS receiving critical acclaim and such awards as Best Game Design and Best iOS Game at the 2014 Canadian Videogame Awards which reflects the amount of effort invested making a complete departure from the actual premise in regards to how the game is unlike any other Hitman game due to the isometric perspective, turn-based movement and strategic gameplay.

Previous games by Hitman developer IO Interactive included Freedom Fighters on PS2, Xbox, GameCube and PC in 2003, Kane and Lynch: Dead Men on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC in 2007, Mini Ninjas on PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PC and Mac in 2009 and Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC in 2010. A year after Square Enix releasing IO Interactive from their range of development talent; Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment entered into a worldwide publishing and distribution partnership as IO Interactive had already bought back the rights to the Hitman franchise they had created resulting in the release of Hitman: Definitive Edition in May 2018, bundling together all of the content from their 2016 re-invention of the Hitman franchise. Can Hitman 2 provide a further positive step-up for the Hitman franchise following on from the interesting glimpse showcased in the Hitman 2: Sniper Assassin mode?

The story revolves around Agent 47 being contracted to take someone out that starts Agent 47’s path of discovery towards possibly learning his very own forgotten origins. Before each mission; a briefing informs him of the reasons why he needs to carry out the mission by detailing the bad intentions of the opposing characters that Agent 47 is tasked with preventing.

Character design is as unique as ever as Agent 47 does not always wear his trademark suit and tie outfit as he wears costumes that are tactical to the start of his mission before utilising the disguises of guards he subdues. However, Agent 47’s disguises can also be obtained from some civilians such as people wearing mascot costumes or a race steward’s uniform during the motorsports event within the second mission. The most interesting feature of wearing disguises from other characters is not how the clothing looks on Agent 47, but the fact that different disguises will allow him to blend in at different areas of the environment without raising the suspicion of nearby enemies or guards. Therefore, disguises provide a greater quantity of tactical gameplay as the player must think ahead about how to obtain a particular disguise to get into an area that would offer the chance of getting a better disguise that was not immediately available.

Environment design is rather quite diverse including a moody, atmospheric night sky in Hawke’s Bay, a sunny race day at a huge motorsports event in Miami and more besides. Environments are made more interesting by character disguises as the player will otherwise be frowned upon by guards when randomly walking into an area that is off limits to everyone other than guards and known personnel within the environments of each mission. The player can choose to approach the mission in many different ways with every environment providing many vantage points and unique methods of completing the mission. The starting location within the pre-mission planning offers different areas to begin the mission with a unique disguise to that particular area of the environment such as Agent 47 becoming a mechanic, race marshal, mascot or food vendor amongst other disguises and areas on The Finish Line mission for instance, although rather oddly; only the original location is available when offline with all of the further starting locations and immediate disguises only available when online.

Weaponry has always played an important part in the Hitman franchise’s gameplay mechanics. Agent 47’s loadout usually includes a silenced pistol and fiber wire for quickly defeating an enemy without alerting guards that are situated further away with louder weaponry. However, Agent 47 can pick-up weapons from enemies that he has subdued or that are situated somewhere in the location of the mission as is the case in the first level such as machine guns, SMGs, shotguns, pistols and even shurikens and a sword. Elsewhere, objects such as a screwdriver can be picked up and used to short-circuit a signal box to open a door, but can also be used in melee combat when there is no ammo left as Agent 47 can depend on stealth and melee combat as much as his weapons and vice versa to provide freedom as to how the player approaches the mission.

Hitman 2 expands upon the content contained on the retail disc via post-launch updates including entire levels and environments such as Whittleton Creek and Isle of Sgail. Hitman 2’s expansion pass includes two expansions that both contains new missions, a new location, a map for Hitman 2’s Sniper Assassin mode, more challenges, weaponry and outfits for a cost of around £32.99. There are multiple retail releases of Hitman 2 including Hitman 2: Gold Edition that contains the expansion pass, exclusive in-game items from the Executive Pack and an exclusive steelbook case for around the price of around £47.99, while the Collector’s Edition contains everything from the Gold Edition and further exclusive in-game items from the Collector’s Pack and some physical items such as a replica of Agent 47’s gun case, a keyring, rubber duck and signature coin at a price of around £89.99. Hitman 2 players that already own Hitman: Season One digitally or at retail can download Hitman: Legacy Pack for free; containing remastered all locations and campaign missions that are enhanced with new features from Hitman 2. However, players that own Hitman: Game of the Year Edition or Hitman: Definitive Edition also get the Patient Zero campaign, more suits and three escalation contracts in the form of Hitman: Game of the Year Legacy Pack. Hitman 2 players that do not own the previous Hitman season can purchase it digitally for a reduced price from within Hitman 2’s downloadable content.

Hitman 2 and Hitman 2: Sniper Assassin will not be getting ported to the Vita, although isometric turn-based strategy puzzle game Hitman GO: Definitive Edition is available on Vita, while remote play for Hitman 2 is a further consolation. Hitman 2’s remote play performance is reasonable as the graphics, audio and general performance retains the quality of the PS4 version. However, remote play control optimisation has not occurred resulting in aiming and firing moving to the top left and top right of the rear touch pad respectively, while swapping the shoulder of the camera angle and crouching are moved to the bottom left and bottom right of the rear touch pad respectively. Therefore, something that requires such precision during gameplay as aiming and firing should have been re-mapped to L and R respectively with running and engaging instinct mode swapping places with them on the top left and right of the rear touch pad. There are some important moments during remote play gameplay that does not feel the same as the natural DualShock 4 control scheme; resulting in some frustration when attempting to complete missions when playing in remote play.

The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of pressing R2 to fire or throw a weapon; holding L2 to aim; pressing R1 to reload; holding R1 to engage instinct mode; holding L1 to run; pressing triangle to interact with an object such as opening a door or holding triangle to pick up an object; pressing O to take cover behind a wall or drop an enemy’s body after having dragged it by holding O; pressing X to perform agility actions or holding X to disguise Agent 47; pressing square to perform a melee or holding square to use an item; pressing L3 to swap the over the shoulder camera angle; pressing R3 to crouch; pressing up on the d-pad to holster or unholster an item; pressing left or right on the d-pad to explore Agent 47’s inventory; pressing down on the d-pad to drop an item; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move Agent 47; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to pan the camera; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Tapping the touch pad displays Agent 47’s objectives, map, anything Agent 47 has learned during his mission and challenges, while vibration occurs when Agent 47 fires his weaponry to reflect the amount of recoil, although there is no light bar support that could have displayed varying colours to show the alert status from patrolling guards or nearby enemies.

Graphically, Hitman 2 immediately showcases improved visuals in comparison to previous Hitman games as there is a realistic lightning storm occurring with strong winds swaying foliage. Character models and animations are better than ever, while lighting, shadows and particle effects have also been noticeably increased in detail. A frame rate performance option allows players to choose a consistent frame rate of 30 FPS or a potentially higher frame rate of 60 FPS, although it might produce more of a variable frame rate, while there are also enhanced visuals such as HDR support.

Hitman 2’s presentation is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, mission briefings menus, options menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. Menu backgrounds include particle effects on the featured menu, while scenery of mission locations are situated on the destinations and campaign menus that each provides a sense of scale for the mission ahead.

Hitman 2’s entire voice-over cast provide excellent performances that help to bring their respective characters to life. David Bateson who has voiced Agent 47 ever since the original Hitman game released in 2000 reprises his role, while Jane Perry reprises her role as Diana Burnwood from Hitman: Sniper and Hitman: Season One, alongside a huge cast of equally talented voice-over artists including Sean Bean that voiced Mark Faba in one of the earlier Elusive Contract missions. Sound effects include interacting with objects, firing weaponry and performing melee combat on enemies, reloading weaponry and enemies and guards firing at Agent 47, alongside ambience such as waves crashing upon the shore and weather conditions in Hawke’s Bay or a motorsports race in The Finish Line that combines rather well with the tense climactic music. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation that could have produced the voice-over, sound effects, ambience or music.

Hitman 2’s trophy list is a bit of an oddity as despite being a retail release with a total of 66 trophies; there is actually no platinum trophy. Also, the main game only has 17 trophies with further trophies separated into increments of 7 trophies per level. There aren’t really any easy trophies in Hitman 2, although the player will earn a couple of trophies here and there, while completing each mission on casual difficulty provides a bronze trophy per level. Harder trophies include a bronze trophy for completing each mission in a certain way; a bronze trophy for completing each mission on master difficulty; and a gold trophy for reaching the maximum mastery level for the environment each mission is contained within. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 40 to 50 hours to 100% the trophy list.

There are three difficulty levels including casual, professional and master with major differences being that casual difficulty allows the player to experiment more without having to be quiet in their approach towards enemies and the mission in general, while there are unlimited saves, communication about opportunities that present themselves during a mission, no cameras, less guards or enemies, much easier combat, more items are legal to carry when being searched by guards and guards or enemies are less likely to search the area after hearing a sound. Meanwhile, professional difficulty introduces cameras situated throughout the surrounding environments that alert guards if anything out of the ordinary is noticed and more challenging combat, alongside master difficulty that significantly increases the already tough gameplay to provide only one save per mission with no communication about opportunities during a mission, more cameras are situated throughout the environment, more guards, far harder combat, when subduing an enemy guard that bleeds will prevent Agent 47 from using their clothes as a disguise and guards have greater audible awareness.

Elusive Contracts is quite an interesting online mode were the developer releases a contract that every player only has a certain quantity of time to complete before it is withdrawn, but the player only has one chance to complete the contract by taking out the target and will not be given another chance to play through an elusive contract mission. Elusive Contracts have a briefing, backstory and reason for the mission that is unique to each mission and location, although in a twist; the player will have to listen and watch carefully for clues as to the whereabouts of the target as there will be no hints on the map or during Agent 47’s instinct vision, but there is a photograph to view. Meanwhile, Hitman 2’s further online functionality features the return of custom contracts that can be shared for players to participate globally, alongside online challenges and online leaderboards.

Hitman 2’s replayability stems from varying ways to complete each mission that allows the player to experiment, more levels introduced in post-launch updates and the entirety of Hitman: Season One being included for Hitman 2 players that already own Hitman: Season One, alongside online functionality from intriguing escalation contracts to user-generated content in the form of create a contract mode to online challenges and online leaderboards that will collectively keep players coming back for a substantial quantity of gameplay.

Analysis
• Title: Hitman 2
• Developer: IO Interactive
• Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment
• System: PS4
• Format: Retail/PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1/Online Leaderboards
• Hard Drive Space Required: 31.41GB/A further 18GB for post-launch updates up to Version 1.07

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