When IO Interactive released the first episode of Hitman, I went in with very high expectations. I was intrigued by the promise of a deep narrative surrounding Agent 47’s origins, as well as an overarching story that would intensify over the course of each episode. While I felt the first episode didn’t quite deliver on the story front, the gameplay, challenges, and replay value made up for the lack of a more elaborate narrative. Despite the disappointingly long delay surrounding the much-anticipated Elusive Targets (the first of which finally arrived last weekend!), there hasn’t been a shortage of things to do in Episode 1 thanks to an involved community that’s created plenty of Escalation Contracts to keep fans busy between episodes. Now that Episode 2: Sapienza has been released, can Hitman deliver on the promise of an intricate story while continuing to offer the same superb gameplay we experienced during Episode 1?
The first thing you will notice when you fire up the main mission in Sapienza is how gorgeous — and expansive — this new environment is. Gone is the late evening setting of the Paris Show and the confines of a single mansion. Now, I’m not saying the Paris show was small map, but compared to the openness of Sapienza, there is far more to see, do, and interact with. The midday setting allows us to take in the beauty of Sapienza; from its sandy beaches and crystal blue water to the bustling alleys full of shops and pedestrians. This is a beautifully designed level that features plenty of indoor locations to explore and items to discover that allow you to approach the mission from a different angle, all of which can easily be missed if you don’t taken the time to look around.
In Sapienza, you’re tasked with eliminating two targets — Dr. Francesca De Santis and Silvio Caruso — and destroying a bio-lab that houses a deadly virus. Just like the game’s first episode, would-be assassins are given multiple ways to dispatch of their targets, though some of the methods you can utilize in Episode 2 are far more appealing than those found in Episode 1, and a few of them are actually pretty funny. Sure, you can take out Caruso silently while he pays respects to his late mother. But why do that when you can shoot down his private airplane using a relic-of-a-canon from the old castle across the way? Eliminating Dr. De Santis in a dark tunnel with her clueless bodyguards in close proximity is definitely a rush, but so is pretending to be her secret golf-pro lover as you play out a scene very similar to the scene in True Lies where Arnold Schwarzenegger lures his wife into a steamy rendezvous. This is what I’ve enjoyed most about this bold new approach that IO Interactive has taken with Hitman: the wide variety of ways to eliminate your targets. Some methods are quick and to the point, while others require more meticulous planning, take much longer to play out, and are extremely rewarding upon completion. Creating an open setting, full of clues and opportunities that allow you to carry out your mission differently every single time you play, all but guarantees you’ll have plenty to do in Sapienza until Episode 3 arrives.
Episode 2 of Hitman manages to set a higher level of expectation in its early goings. The performance issues that were apparent in Episode 1 – sans the long loads – seem to have been cleared up in a timely manner via title updates, and Sapienza is quite a sight to behold, both from a graphical and level design standpoint. I still wish there was more to the overarching story as we make our way through each episode, though, as I’ve yet to glean anything interesting from the plot. The cut-scene at the end of Episode 2, while ably acted, still failed to pull me into the narrative. Thankfully, we still have a few episodes left through which IO Interactive can attempt to draw us into the story. Despite the light plot up to this point, there’s no denying that gameplay reigns supreme here. Hitman Episode 2: Sapienza easily surpasses Episode 1 — which was pretty darn good — and it raises the bar for the title even further going forward.
A PS4 copy of Hitman: The Full Experience was provided by our friends over at Square Enix.
- Gorgeous visuals
- Wide variety of ways to eliminate targets
- Level design with lots of hidden opportunities
- Taut gameplay
- Still waiting for the plot to heat up
- Load times are still on the long side