IO Interactive’s decision to split the new Hitman into episodic chunks may have been met with an air of scepticism at first, but from what we saw of the inaugural chapter in the bald assassin’s latest outing, it’s working. Episode One succinctly demonstrated that the quintessential Hitman experience is very much alive in this latest entry, offering a mini sandbox in which to explore, track and ultimately silence your target, offering a level of freedom that stealth games seldom attempt. So far, so good then.
Much like a classic rock band’s sophomore album though, the second attempt is always a tough nut to crack, and in Hitman’s case, it’s facing a similar issue. Fortunately, from our recent hands-on with Hitman’s next chapter, things seem to be shaping up rather promisingly indeed.
Episode Two sees the stoic slaphead visiting the picturesque Italian community of Sapienza, where he sets his sights on the unscrupulous scientist, Silvio Caruso, plus his associate Francesca. In terms of scale, it’s definitely a clear indication of where the rest of the series is heading; the location is both authentic and sprawling, offering a range of opportunities to take advantage of in your mission, plus the general hustle and bustle of a thriving community.
The main goal is to infiltrate the mansion where Caruso is located, although as expected, it’s not as simple as walking through the front gates. The main entrance is guarded by two armed guerrillas, who will quickly stamp your bar code (both literally and figuratively in Agent 47’s case) if you so much as put a foot wrong. We found this out the hard way, and so quickly resorted to exploring our options, of which there are many.
We immediately spotted an opportunity to exploit just down the road with a flower delivery driver. The obviously narked-off chap was busy chatting vociferously on his cell phone, having run into a spot of bother with his van. Just up ahead, his pal is tending to a fallen pedestrian, who has apparently been knocked over by the careless duo. Already we feel a plan bubbling away. And so, we creep up on the driver, introduce him to Mr. Sandman, and then swiftly yet surreptitiously and send his buddy to sleep and move his snoozing form into the grass out of eyeshot. This allows us to pilfer his ID and grab the bouquet of flowers. And presto; we’re given a chance to blend in with a new identity, ostensibly to deliver flowers to the late Mrs Caruso’s grave. Of course, this is just one option.
There’s also the chance to take advantage of a meeting between your target and his psychologist, who is being flown into your area of operations by Ether Biotech Corporation. It’s yet another string to Hitman’s diverse bow in terms of kill opportunities that will no doubt have people replaying the episode again in order to explore every possibility within its lush sandbox.
Other areas of interest include a tower that you can clamber up that gives you a superb sniping position, not to mention a butcher’s at some of the level’s eyeball-popping vistas. Speaking of views, Sapienza itself is beautiful; dripping with atmosphere and oozing technical richness from every pore, IO Interactive has clearly spent copious amounts of time studying Italian architecture to nail the the qualities of an idyllic, sun-baked community nestled in the mountains. The roads are pathed with residents going about their everyday business, with multiple shops and other buildings available to explore at your leisure. The stage expands well beyond that, though.
Bubbling underneath the streets are a series of almost medieval tunnel network to navigate, and as we pressed on, we ended up getting into a gunfight with some armed guards after being spotted. Evidently, we had stumbled on a place that no one in particular wanted us to be—no spoilers for you, though. Elsewhere, above ground also has plenty of other highlights, such as a gloomy cemetery, church and steeple, plus various businesses you can nose around in if you so desire.
Overall, and while admittedly we didn’t get as far as we hoped since we’re a bit rubbish at Hitman, Episode Two of the assassin’s globetrotting adventure is shaping up to be just as compelling as its predecessor. In fact, it’s clear that things are becoming more ambitious in terms of opportunities, environment, and interactivity, which bodes well for the Hitman saga going forward.