Not quite two months on from the debut episode of this new Hitman experiment (see our review of part 1 here), a second part of the ongoing assassination saga arrives, offering yet more opportunity to take down targets in innovative ways.
While there was a lot of grumbling about Hitman being broken up into pieces and going the direction of Telltale Games or the new King's Quest entry, the episodic release schedule is actually working out in the game's favor.
Rather than playing it all through at once and getting burned out on the formula, I'm enjoying the down time away from Hitman in between episodes, and I actually look forward to seeing what the next piece is going to be like every month or so.
Obviously those who wait until the game is all together in one release will miss out on that experience, but on the other hand they won't have to deal with changes and fixes rolled out slowly during the episode release schedule.
One such change arriving with this episode was sorely needed as – glory of glories! - challenges are unlocked as soon as you complete them now, rather than having to wait until the end of the level to find out if you completed them correctly.
Welcome to Sapienza, have a nice trip!
Aside from the two mini tutorial levels, the first episode saw Agent 47 flying to Paris for a huge fashion show inside a sprawling mansion estate. Episode 2 is equally large, but with a significantly different layout and color scheme, taking place in a fictional, picturesque seaside town called Sapienza.
Within the playable slice of the city, you'll come across locations as varied as a Rastafarian drug den, a beachfront with fishing piers, Italian slate rooftops for stealthy escapes, cafes, a full mansion, and even a secret underground laboratory filled with armed guards for that 007 feel.
Secret underground lair with a doomsday weapon? Count me in!
Along the way you can get into all sorts of shenanigans, and you'll be stealing outfits from guards, cooks, tourists, scientists, and more as you search out the perfect assassination plan.
The whole point of each episode is to learn new ways of taking down the targets by completing the level more than once. Replayability is actually built into the gameplay.
Besides unlocking challenges and having fun trying new kill methods, there's another solid reason to replay – you can learn many interesting new things about the characters by eavesdropping before each type of kill.
For instance, there are some serious Oedipal issues going on with one of your targets, and the whole saga doesn't unfold with just one kill. You have to listen in to conversations in different areas and at different times by following different kill opportunities.
Psychiatrist, cook, private detective... so many disguises to reach your target
So just how can you kill scientists Caruso and Di Santis before they finish work on their devastating virus weapon? Oh, so, so many ways. Ancient cannons, remote explosives, the tried and true garrote, dropping chandeliers, poison, sniper rifles, the list goes on.
There's a really solid balance between scripted kill methods (following the various in-game story lines) and figuring out your own kill methods using a variety of weapons.
While in episode 2 I'm still in love with the sandbox assassination opportunities, I am concerned this formula is going to get stale sooner rather than later. The “poison someone's drink and then drown them in the bathroom” gag is already feeling overused, and it's only the second episode.
Frankly, the next couple of levels are going to have to work hard to offer different ways to use the same items, or this is going to get overly repetitive.
That being said, there's still a ton of options available for entertaining kills, and the meta-story going on in the cinematics before and after each level is actually starting to get quite intriguing.
While there's room for Hitman to tank in future episodes, so far this new take on the game is a solid success, and I'm greatly looking forward to episode 3 coming soon.
Gun, garrote, poison, accident...how will you kill in Sapienza?