So I'll say: buy this game, and play this game. It's one of the best titles of 2018. The setup is simple, and suspiciously so: you play 47, a handsome if nondescript assassin with a deadpan baritone and the best menswear the industry has ever seen. You ...
Hitman 2Credit: IO interactive
My motivation for writing this article is, in part, self-interest. I have a voracious, constant appetite for more Hitman levels, and I'm worried I might not get them. Over the past week, I've been obsessively making my way through the intricate, sprawling worlds of Hitman 2, finding ways to eliminate and humiliate my targets through increasingly baroque and elaborate accidents. Sales don't seem to be matching quality for this title, however: it only managed tenth place in the UK charts during its release week, and while that's not a perfect analog for the rest of the world, it's also far from a good sign.
So I'll say: buy this game, and play this game. It's one of the best titles of 2018. The setup is simple, and suspiciously so: you play 47, a handsome if nondescript assassin with a deadpan baritone and the best menswear the industry has ever seen. You have five levels as well as one brief tutorial-style level, and 14 targets to assassinate. You get 6 more levels with the $15 legacy pack that contains the 2016 game. You can shoot your targets with guns, but this is crass. 47 is better than that. You are better than that.
Hitman 2 is about experimentation, repetition and perfection. Each target has a half dozen or so different accidents that can be arranged if you prefer the more elaborate, scripted events, as well as an infinite permutation of brutal eliminations if you want to get creative. As I said, 47 is nondescript, and he dresses up as dozens of different guards, food vendors medics and more to get close to his targets without arousing suspicion. And then, perhaps a little poison in their champagne, or perhaps a quiet garrote while their bodyguards investigate a suspicious news. Hitman saw a mobile adaptation in the form of Hitman Go, a board game-style moving masterpiece. It was appropriate: a level in Hitman 2 is essentially the most elaborate board game you've ever seen, all of its little actors moving through their loops until you decide to introduce an element of chaos and bend them all to your lethal will.
One of my favorite assassinations in the game's first full level had me poisoning the post-race pick me up of a race car driver and then sneaking out to let the doctor administrate it rather than doing it myself. I had 47 sit down on a bench an read the newspaper for five minutes or so as the little game pieces moved about the map, bringing Sierra Knox to her inevitable end, my character nowhere to be seen. The notification popped up and I simply left via the speedboat to which I had stolen the keys, all of it in a slick white polo with navy espadrilles and aviators.
Hitman 2 is a game for people who like games. It is not overly involved with story, like some other recent blockbusters I can think of. There is a story, but it's more or less to the side. It is a game that doesn't hide behind its contrivances, instead embracing the kind of satisfying unreality that lets a six-foot-tall muscular white man dress up as a sort of diminutive Mumbai tailor and nobody seems to notice the difference. It's a game that has its target walk under the same heavy hanging object a literally infinite number of times, just in case the player wants to shoot it down and see what happens. It's a game that lets you dress up as a blackmailer who is in turn dressed up as a flamingo and push your target down an elevator shaft.
Hitman 2 is also a meditation on power, class and violence in an era of inequality driven by an elite group of global capitalists, but I think I'll need a separate article to roast that particular chestnut.
My problem with the game is that I can't get enough. This was especially acute when it pursued an episodic release and I found myself getting the shakes the first time I realized I wasn't getting another level. It's something I feel now, having consumed this non-episodic release at an unhealthy pace. And it's something I worry about giving somewhat disappointing sales.
The Hitman franchise has been having a bit of trouble recently. 2016's Hitman was a triumph, bolstered by an episodic release format that kept the game in the back of my mind--or the front of my mind--for months. It didn't do well enough for Square Enix, apparently, which dropped the franchise presumably to spend more time thinking about A Quiet Man. Warner Bros. picked it up for Hitman 2, and time will tell if it's happy about that decision. Jettisoning episodic release was as controversial a decision as picking it up to begin with, and I worry that the decision puts too much pressure on the game to perform during an ill-timed fall release window. Hitman 2 should have been a winter game.
Hitman 2 is still a live game, however, with new contracts and challenges popping up from to time. The ost exciting of these are the "elusive targets", missions that you challenge you to use all your guile and skill to take down a target in a one-time shot: if you fail, you fail. The first of these is Sean Bean, and he shows up this week. Maybe he can drive some more sales. I hope so, because I need more Hitman.
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