The Hitman series has always been about careful planning and rapid improvisation. Things rarely go according to plan and it’s up to you, the player, to figure out how to succeed without getting caught. Previously, users could easily manipulate the A.I. with the toss of a coin or exploiting an NPCs line of sight. Yet, for the first time, a Hitman game felt like it pushed back against my sneaky tactics.
Enter Hitman 2, the next installment in IO Interactive’s reboot of this legendary series that seeks to deliver the biggest and most polished assassination experience out there. Recently, we got a chance to sit down and play an hour of the Santa Fortuna level. Set in Colombia, players are tasked with killing three cartel figureheads that are stationed in and around a massive, well-guarded mansion.
The level design on display in Santa Fortuna is top notch. Easily one of, if not the biggest Hitman map to date, there are a lot of different environments you can stalk targets in. Sporting a shanty town, coca fields, a giant manor, numerous pathways, and a construction site, IO Interactive makes the most out of this location. It’s a giant playground and it would take me several hours to explore and understand every point of entry that could be used in this map. It’s certainly impressive and feeds into the addicting replayability that Hitman is known for.
However, it’s the NPCs that help Santa Fortuna come alive. Unlike the crowded Miami racetrack, Santa Fortuna feels far more dangerous. Armed guards patrol every street and there are a ton of cameras keeping an eye on the citizens. Gone are the weirdly western accents that appeared in every location in Hitman and in their stead is dialogue more appropriate to the area.
NPCs also appear to be smarter – if only a little more – as they appear to be far more perceptive this time around. If you try to knock someone out while another person is close by there’s a chance they can hear it. This makes planning even more essential since taking big risks can result in a complete disaster.
Opportunities return and act as mini-missions to set up elaborate kills such as dropping a statue on someone. These still serve as a good way to introduce the player to an environment, but they no longer hold the user’s hand for every step. For one Opportunity I needed to investigate a statue but to even do that I had to obtain a guard’s uniform which Hitman 2 forced me to figure out on my own. It’s a welcome alteration and makes murdering a cartel boss with a tattoo gun even more satisfying.
Sadly, our preview had us limited to our item selection, so we have no idea how fast or slow you will unlock gear. Even though gear such as the lockpick can make Hitman far easier, Santa Fortuna was quite difficult at times. The more perceptive A.I. caused me to play quite passively and citizens were quick to alert others if they saw me performing a criminal act. Hitman 2 clearly wants to slow players down and make them really map out and understand their plan before trying to execute it.
The targets still appear to have pre-determined routes, but shaking their guards was far tougher this time. I was also informed that the dialogue will change based on how you interact with the world. For example, when I was masquerading as a tattoo artist I had a very long conversation with the cartel boss’ wife before meeting with him. In contrast, if I snuck in as the artist the conversation with his wife would be completely absent and the boss would address me differently. Despite not changing the overall outcome, it’s nice that you aren’t punished for skipping steps or approaching a target in a unique manner.
There’s still a lot about Hitman 2 that we don’t know, but my one hour preview has left me hopeful. This is not a game seeking to redefine the Hitman experience, but instead, polish it like Agent 47’s bald head. If Santa Fortuna is an accurate representation for the rest of the game, then Hitman 2 may be one of the strongest entries in the franchise.