This is a review of Episode 2 of the new reboot of Hitman by Io-Interactive. In the review of Episode 1, I said “Hitman…is unquestionably a success. The first episode is a visual feast, the gameplay is extremely enjoyable and satisfying, and the project offers a variety of depth that adds hours of replayability” and gave it a score of 8.5/10. To read the full review of episode 1, click HERE.
A couple of weeks ago, I was blessed to go on an all-inclusive cruise to the Bahamas for a week (I know, life is hard). I took in some sun, wandered around the islands, and swam in the overwhelmingly blue ocean. The entire area was absolutely stunning, and the pictures I took simply don’t do it justice. Then I came home to a new episode of the Hitman reboot, which takes place in Sapienza, and it was honestly as though I had gone on a second vacation.
Sapienza is gorgeous, plain and simple. On my second play through of the map (and trust me, you’ll spend a lot of time on this map), the cinematic opened with Agent 47 standing on the balcony of a yellow building as the sun shone down on him. His stereotypical white, short-sleeve button down shone in the light, and I took the time to zoom the camera in and do some spins, admiring the sheer beauty of this character amidst the detail of Sapienza’s stunning buildings. Uncharted 4 might be the best looking game on PS4, but Hitman sure isn’t far behind.
Check out the video below for a 360-degree look at Sapienza!
In Episode 1, players explored a mansion in Paris. This included the many floors and maze-like design of the building along with the sprawling grounds. It was a detailed and lively map, offering countless ways to achieve your violent goals. Sapienza is probably similar in size, but feels even more realized. Sapienza is a full town, complete with various buildings to explore, shops to break into, townsfolk to annoy, and yet another large estate with even MORE going on beneath it. It’s a town to get lost in, and I often spent my playthroughs wandering the streets, finding the hidden secrets, vantage points, and surprises tucked away in the map.
Frankly, the best word to describe Sapienza is “satisfying.” Hitman feels like an open-world game, even though the area available to you is smaller than most towns in a game like Skyrim or The Witcher. There’s simply a ridiculous amount of detail and depth packed into every corner of this level, and the options available to the player at any given moment are astounding. Masterful players will be able to get themselves out of any situation in clean fashion, whether by taking on the costume of one of the maids, climbing away up the side of the building, or by taking violent action with an item found lying around.
Perhaps the best way to explain Sapienza to you, dear reader, is to explain a potential playthrough of the level (spoilers): You begin with Agent 47 blending in to the town crowd by reading a newspaper on a bench. You are in front of a large estate overlooking the coast. Agent 47 has been tasked with taking out “Silvio Caruso, a brilliant bioengineer reportedly working on a DNA-specific virus able to infect anyone anywhere in the world,” along with trashing the virus. The story already feels better than Episode 1 – Grander, with a sense of real purpose, though the main, overarching storyline is still muddy and overtly confusing.
You, the player, must find a way into the mansion first. The options available to you are almost endless. If you go left, you’ll stumble upon a broken-down flower delivery truck. You overhear the delivery man talking on the phone about how he has to deliver these flowers for a memorial of sorts that Caruso is holding. If you take him out, don his uniform, and grab some flowers; the guards at the front gate will easily let you pass. From there, it might be easy for you to head around back, place the flowers, and wait for Caruso to visit the grave.
If you head right, you’ll stumble upon a sister shouting up to her brother on a balcony three stories up. He’s in his apartment, and he isn’t hurrying to get ready for his shift in the kitchens, which his sister helped him get. You might decide to head up to his apartment, ring his doorbell, and take him out when he answers, subsequently stealing his work uniform and a swipe card. This will give you unique access to the underbelly of the mansion.
The options for killing Caruso vary as much as anything else in the game – there are opportunities to poison him, crush him, torture him mentally with his past, and even kill him in a fiery, golf-related explosion. It’s as violent as can be, but Episode 2 does a better job of making everything feel more purposeful than Episode 1 did. The game feels more like a fully-fleshed out game at this point than an early-access trial or demo. This is made even more true thanks to the addition of MANY more escalations, including some for Paris, which continue to be a personal favorite of mine.
Escalations task you with taking out a target with set parameters, while adding new challenges and tasks each time you complete one. By the 5th level of the escalation, things are pretty difficult and require you to exploit all of the various secrets and opportunities you know of in the level. It’s a satisfying feeling to complete a full escalation, and it’s a great way to help players master the controls and maps of Hitman, not to mention keep the limited number of maps available fresh through numerous playthroughs.
So, you’ve taken out Silvio Caruso. That’s not the end of your mission. You still need to find a way to destroy the virus, which is a notably more difficult task. As it turns out, the virus is housed in a large cavern beneath the city guarded by tons of armed killers and scientists. It’s a black hole of death and disaster, which is why this is the highlight of the episode – Finding a way to succeed here is difficult, and escaping on an airplane and flying out of the cavern was arguably the most satisfying gaming moment of 2016 for me thus far.
I won’t spoil much more for you, as discovering the secrets and opportunities hidden in the map is what the new Hitman is all about. But Episode 2 is far and away a better and more full experience than Episode 1. The NPCs are more defined and individualized, the opportunities feel more and varied, the challenges feel more important, and the reward of pulling off a plan is more satisfying. The addition of more escalations adds to the replayability. All in all, Sapienza is the new high bar for the Hitman reboot, and it makes me hopeful as to where we’ll be heading next.
The First Elusive Target – From May 13th-15th, IO-Interactive released Hitman’s first Elusive Target: A target Agent 47 must kill, but with a couple of catches. Players will only have 48 hours to attempt the level (which takes place on the Paris map). After that 48 hours is up, the target “escapes” and the level will no longer be accessible. Also, once the player begins the contract, they cannot save or leave the level. Players will only have one shot at their target – If they are captured or killed, the contract is over. Permanently. It’s a brilliant way to raise the stakes for players searching for a new challenge.
There is one final caveat: The target does not appear in instinct mode or in your mini-map. You have to find them. I, as a Hitman player, rely heavily on my instinct mode to track my targets, so this left me almost completely blind. It was a refreshingly exciting experience, but one that I struggled with (and ultimately failed). If you missed this elusive target, fear not! There will be more, and you can hear about them by following BagoGames!
A PS4 review code for Hitman was provided by Square Enix for the purpose of this review