If you liked the first level of Hitman, you’ll enjoy the second level of Hitman, too. That’s a goofy, reductionist way of saying that the second episode of Agent 47’s adventure is as good as the first–perhaps even a little bit better–but that it’s still very much the same game. It does continue to make an excellent case for the game’s controversial episodic release, and a month removed from launch time server woes, its online connected single-player content is much more palatable.
My verdict on Hitman’s original release was that it’s good. Episode 2 is also good, and by virtue of making smart use of episodic iteration, even improves my estimation of the game as a whole. If you haven’t checked in on the game since its initial release, you’ll find dozens of new contracts and escalations to complete in the Paris location, in addition to the update’s main event: a new location set on the Italian coast at Sapienza.
Sapienza is giant, gorgeous location.
The new level is, like the first, a sprawling, interconnected mass of moving pieces, but where Paris was set entirely in and on the grounds of a single building, Sapienza is a much more varied location. While your targets both reside in a villa overlooking the ocean, you’ll also be able to check out beaches, cliffs, sewers, underground caverns, secret laboratories, an abandoned castle, a stretch of highway, a multi-story church, and a town full of varied denizens and little shops to explore.
Your targets this time are Silvio Caruso, a bioengineer building a DNA-targeting virus capable of remotely killing anyone in the world, and Francesca De Santis, the brilliant but manipulative head of research. There are dozens of ways to reach each target and on top of that dozens of ways to take them out, and the game hints at all the possibilities through named challenges. Hitman veterans will still balk at having these options explicitly called out in-game, but they’re a practical necessity given the size and complexity of these levels. They also make for a convenient checklist as you replay the level, letting you see what possibilities you have and haven’t explored.
Take advantage of some nap time whenever you can, 47.
And replay the level you will, because that is what Hitman is all about. The complexity of the level supports it and the episodic release encourages it. The “real” Hitman experience has always been in replay value, and now that experience is the core of the game. This was true of the intro pack and it’s true here as well. For the most part, this is to the game’s benefit, as it encourages you to explore every way to complete your objectives. This level, however, has a third objective which requires you to destroy a virus sample, and because this is a stationary target, there are only so many ways to go about it. There are a variety of ways to get into the lab, but once you’re there, it plays out pretty much the same every time. It can be a bummer to take out your human targets in increasingly fun and creative ways only to have to once again run down to the lab and blow up the sample.
But that’s just a minor knock against an otherwise excellent level filled with weird, wild opportunities for assassination. Some of the possibilities? Stealing a uniform from a nearby apartment and infiltrating through the backdoor as a cook. Delivering flowers to a private grave site. Disguising yourself as a corpse. At one point I found myself wandering the beaches in a hazmat suit, then I poisoned a street performer and 47 suddenly became a clown. Then there was the time I dropped an exploding golf ball on a practice tee. Look… Hitman’s a good time.
Performance & Graphics
OS: OS 64-bit Windows 7
Processor: Intel CPU Core i5-2500K 3.3GHz / AMD CPU Phenom II X4 940
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 / Radeon HD 7870
DirectX: Version 11
Storage: 50 GB available space
While this episode’s performance is mostly in line with that of the previous release, Sapienza does feature some wider vistas that can be a bit more taxing on performance. Slowdown was incredibly minor for me, but your mileage may vary. If you’ve played the Paris episode, expect similar performance, with perhaps a couple of minor problem spots.
There are tons of little shops like this one.
The tradeoff is that Sapienza is a far more attractive location, with beautiful coastal views, a varied town to explore, and more brightness and color in general. The crowds never get quite as big as they were in Paris, but the exponentially bigger vistas and more varied locations certainly make up for it.
Audio / Voice Acting
The music totally fades into the background and the sound effects don’t make particularly strong impression. That’s the mark of totally solid sound design, with every element filling its needed role. The voice acting is the blend of cool, serious spy business and extremely goofy guard banter that you expect from a Hitman game. I will give extra props to the voice acting for the principal villain. While the story in these episodes is minimal, his appearance at the end of each episode has already created an interesting villain that I can’t wait to interact with.
Episode 2 is getting slightly higher marks from me than the Intro Pack did. There are a couple of reasons for that. First, Sapienza is a bit more fun than Paris. It’s got a much more diverse landscape, and many more genuinely surprising possibilities. It’s also more colorful, vibrant, and visually attractive. While the repetitious lab objective is a misstep particular to this mission, it’s a minor knock against an otherwise incredibly impressive environment.
Second, the sophomore episode is the one that decides whether the episodic structure was the right move, and this update proves that it absolutely was. I’ve played Hitman games very casually in the past, pretty much just completing main objectives until the credits rolled. With the Intro Pack, I spent hours replaying those missions, learning everything I could about the levels, and completing objectives in new and different ways. My hope was that the episodic release would be an encouragement to fully explore each location before the next one became available, and Sapienza has proven that to be the case.
47's cooking up something deadly, to be sure.
If you were to play straight through the entire story of what’s been released so far, you could easily get to the end within three hours. But between the prologue and first two episodes, I’ve already spent nearly 15 hours playing this game and having an excellent time throughout. These levels are massive, multilayered affairs that reward multiple explorations in a way that very few games can ever hope to. There are four more levels that should be similar in scope and scale to Paris and Sapienza, and I’m incredibly excited to explore them over and over again.
HITMAN EPISODE 2 - SAPIENZA VERDICT
Episode Two is better than the first, both because its featured level is a more varied, interesting location, and because it eases the uncertainty of the episodic release and sets a precedent for excellence going forward. The quality of future episodes isn’t a guarantee, but Square and Io Interactive have now delivered excellent releases back to back, and their staggered release has let their best elements shine in a way that might not have otherwise. Hitman is an increasingly appealing package.
TOP GAME MOMENT
The exploding golf ball. Use your imagination.
Excellent follow-up that sets precedent for great future episodes
Giant, varied, beautiful level
Incredible replay value
Bears out the benefits of episodic release
One irritating objective
Still not for you if you’re not interested in replay value