Hitman 2 (2018 video game)

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Hitman 2
Hitman 2 (2018) cover.jpg
Cover art featuring Agent 47. The pink cover reflects this installment's more playful tone.[1]
Developer(s)IO Interactive
Publisher(s)Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Director(s)Jacob Mikkelsen
Producer(s)
  • Forest Swartout Large
  • Rasmus Nautrup Jensen
  • Karim Boussoufa
  • Kalvin Lyle
  • Jean Biam Tan
Designer(s)P. Andreas Krogh
Programmer(s)Maurizio De Pascale
Artist(s)Rasmus Poulsen
Writer(s)Michael Vogt
Composer(s)Niels Bye Nielsen
SeriesHitman
Platform(s)
ReleaseNovember 13, 2018
Genre(s)Stealth
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Hitman 2 is a 2018 stealth video game developed by IO Interactive and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. It is the seventh major installment in the Hitman video game series and the second entry in the World of Assassination trilogy, as the sequel to 2016's Hitman. Continuing the plot arc started in Hitman, the single-player story follows genetically-engineered assassin Agent 47 as he hunts down the mysterious "Shadow Client" and his allies, who are trying to destroy the secretive organization controlling the world's affairs known as Providence. Similar to the last game, the game features six large sandbox locations that the players can freely explore. Two online multiplayer modes, Sniper Assassin and Ghost mode were also introduced.

The sales of the episodic Hitman (2016) struggled, and this prompted series publisher and studio owner Square Enix to divest from IO Interactive. As a result of a management buyout, IO Interactive became an independent studio. Under limited cash flow, the studio laid off nearly half of its employee and had to scale down the scope of the sequel, whose development was about 25% completed. Due to the framework laid by the previous game, development of the game was faster than usual and the game's production took about one year and nine months. Hitman 2 was released in full and the first game's episodic model was abandoned. The studio supported the game with additional content including two paid maps and free Elusive targets and contracts.

The game was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One in November 2018. Upon release, Hitman 2 was met with generally positive reviews, with critics considering it to be an improvement over its predecessor. The game's maps, sandbox design, gameplay enhancements, humour and assassination opportunities were praised, though the story and the multiplayer modes received a more divisive response. The game was able to recuperate its developmental cost, though the game's launch during a crowded release window impacted the sales. The final installment in the World of Assassination trilogy, Hitman 3, was released in January 2021.

Gameplay[edit]

In this gameplay screenshot, Agent 47 is disguising as a member of the Ark Society in the map of Isle of Sgàil.

Similar to the first game, Hitman 2 is a stealth game played from a third-person perspective.[2] The player assumes control of Agent 47, who must eliminate his assassination targets across the globes. The game features eight missions, which are set in distinct locations. Summarily, the missions of the game take place (in order) on Hawke's Bay in New Zealand; at a racetrack in Miami; the village of Santa Fortuna in Colombia; the slums of Mumbai; the Vermont suburb of Whittleton Creek; and the fictional Isle of Sgàil somewhere in the North Atlantic. The game's downloadable content (DLC) introduces the Milton-Fitzpatrick bank in New York City, and the Haven Island resort in the Maldives.[3] Players can also download all of the chapters from the first Hitman if the player owns it or has bought the content as DLC, which incoprorates the gameplay changes added to Hitman 2 and allows playing it within Hitman 2's improved engine.[4]. Each of these locations is a sandbox-type environment that the players can explore. It is of crucial importance for the players to understand the layout of the maps in order to identify infiltration opportunities.[5] 47 can also use the Instinct mode to identify the locations of the targets.[6]

Gameplay structure and design are largely similar to Hitman (2016). The player has a variety of firearms and gadgets to eliminate his enemy, though stealth tactics are recommended as 47 is fragile in combat.[7][8] The bodies of incapacitated enemies must be hidden to avoid detection.[9] Alternatively, as players explore each locations and eavesdrop on conversations, they will discover "missions stories", which are scripted mission sequences that help 47 to identify the location and routine of targets, and uncover unconventional infiltration or elimination opportunities.[10][11] Kills can be disguised as accidental deaths.[12] Some areas are restricted and players must obtain a disguise costume by incapcitating non-playable characters (NPCs) to gain access.[13] As with the previous games in the series, Hitman 2, players are expected to conform to social norms and abide by the rules in a particular setting or context to blend in. Several quality-of-life adjustments were introduced. Artificial intelligence controlling the NPCs will notice Agent 47 through looking at the reflection of mirror.[14] A picture-in-picture mode was added to inform the player events happening in other parts of the level. The instinct mode also shows the camera field-of-view of security cameras.[15] 47's briefcase can also be used to smuggle firearms into a location.[16] He can also make use of foilage and to hide from enemies,[9] and blend in with the crowd.[17] As players complete missions and challenges, they will earn experience points and mastery levels, unlocking new starting locations and new items when they replay the level. Non-lethal takedowns, completion of objectives, accidental and unnoticed kills, and efficiency all contribute to the player's score and XP earned.[13] Players' performance would then be uploaded and shared to a leaderboard.[18]

Escalation contracts and Elusive Targets, which are time-limited assassination missions, return in Hitman 2. Contracts mode also return, allowing players to assign assassination targets, set requirements for their killings, and share their contracts with other players.[13] The game also introduces two new game modes. In Sniper Assassin, players are tasked with eliminating targets from afar using a sniper rifle within a time frame of 15 minutes. Similar to the main campaign, the NPC will react to the player's actions and each map has numerous assassination opportunities. This mode can be played solo or with other players, who will assume control of either Stone or Knight. The two characters are equipped with concussive Shockwave rounds and wall-piercing ammo respectively.[19][20] Ghost mode is a competitive multiplayer mode in which two players must race against each other to eliminate assassination targets. Players will start in the same location without any equipment.[21] The two players, while cannot directly interact with each other, can see the playable avatar of the other player and will be notified when the other performs certain actions. They also share the same target and Ghost crates. Ghost crates contain disguises and weapons that the players can use, and the players who discover the crates later may be left with inferior gadgets. If a player successfully eliminate the target, the other player will have a window of 20 seconds to eliminate their target in their world. Successful elimination of a target would score a player 1 point, and the player who receives 5 points would win the game. Killing a non-target character, however, would also deduct 1 point.[22]

Plot[edit]

Following the events of Hitman, Agent 47 embarks on a mission to hunt the mysterious "Shadow Client" for Providence, a secretive organization that controls most of the world's affairs. 47's employers, the International Contract Agency (ICA), have formed an uneasy alliance with Providence to stop the Shadow Client, whose actions are causing global panic, and 47 has agreed to help in return for Providence revealing his past. He begins by eliminating one of the Shadow Client's top lieutenants, Alma Reynard, in her home in New Zealand, and tech mogul Providence defectors Robert and Sierra Knox at a sports car race in Miami. Meanwhile, the Providence leaders descend into consternation as several CEOs and business tycoons associated with the group are assassinated. The Shadow Client is formally identified as Lucas Grey, a former head of security for Providence. Grey, from his hideout in Central Europe, pursues his own plans with hacktivist Olivia Hall, intending to recruit 47's help in his quest to destroy Providence.

In the village of Santa Fortuna, Colombia, 47 assassinates the three leaders of the Delgado Cartel, who have been using their smuggling network and business connections to aid Grey and his militia. 47's handler Diana Burnwood reports the mission's success to Providence while visiting the graves of her family in Surrey. Flashbacks reveal that she witnessed her parents being killed by a car bomb after they attempted to bring the company responsible for her brother's death to court. Grey and his team blow up Ether Corporation headquarters in Johannesburg, kill its CEO, and steal an unidentified item, and his militia use a hostage situation to publicly reveal Providence's existence to the world. Meanwhile, 47 eliminates Grey's lieutenant Wazir Kale and two of his associates in Mumbai.

47 follows Grey's trail to Romania, and finds him at the same asylum where he was created by Dr. Ort-Meyer. Grey reveals that he is also a genetically-engineered clone created by Ort-Meyer, causing 47 to recall how he befriended Grey, then known as "Subject 6", as a child, and the two vowed to take revenge on those responsible for turning them into assassins. Grey reveals that Ort-Meyer was a member of Providence, and that the organization is controlled by three executive members known as the "Partners" and their second-in-command known as the "Constant". After Grey and 47's original plan to take down the Partners failed, they decided to erase 47's memories, though Grey was able to escape before his memories were wiped. Grey's objective is to capture the Constant, as he is the only person who knows the identities of the Partners. His only lead, however, is that 47 knew the identity of the first Constant from when he visited Ort-Meyer decades earlier. Grey reveals that the item he had stolen in Johannesburg was an antidote that may counteract 47's memory loss. Initially reluctant to work with Grey, Diana eventually abides by 47's wish to take the antidote.

The antidote allows 47 to remember that the first Constant was a KGB spymaster known as "Janus". In order to not get detected by either ICA or Providence, Diana files a false report implicating Janus as the true Shadow Client while claiming Grey was just a subordinate, giving 47 the necessary pretext to assassinate Janus, who is living in the Vermont suburban town of Whittleton Creek after retiring. While carrying out the hit, 47 finds evidence that Janus was planning to meet the Constant at a gala held by the "Ark Society", a plutocratic survivalist group founded by Janus during his tenure as Constant. After Hall pinpoints the location of the gala on a remote island in the North Atlantic, 47 travels there to capture the Constant and eliminate Zoe and Sophia Washington, the newly appointed chairwomen of the Ark Society, who each hold a trigger for a chip that will release lethal poison into the Constant's body if he is compromised.

After the mission, the Constant is taken to a ship to have the poison chip surgically removed, and be interrogated about the Partners' identities. After he reveals that they are each representatives of the three families that founded Providence—the Ingram, Carlisle, and Stuyvesant families—47 and Grey leave to track them down. The Constant is left alone with Diana, and proceeds to taunt her by saying she doesn't know everything about 47. A final flashback implies that a young 47 was responsible for the death of Diana's parents.

Downloadable content[edit]

As 47 and Grey begin their search for the Partners, Diana informs them that Hall found recent obituaries for all three of them, leaving the group to conclude that the Partners faked their deaths and plan on resuming their lives under new identities. The Constant, seemingly unaware of this contingency plan, tells 47 and Grey to follow their bank accounts, which leads them to the New York City branch of the Milton-Fitzpatrick bank. 47 infiltrates the bank to retrieve data files from its digital records, and eliminate its director and Providence operative Athena Savalas, in order to prevent the Partners from finding out about the data breach.

With the data acquired from the bank, Hall discovers that the Partners paid large fees to HAVEN, a corporation based in the Maldives which secretly creates new identities for wealthy criminals. In order for Hall to successfully breach HAVEN's servers, 47 poses as a client to infiltrate the corporation's island resort and eliminate HAVEN's co-owners to prevent them from resetting access to the servers at 10-hour intervals. Once Hall gains access to HAVEN's files on the Partners, she discovers that the controlling business shares that effectively make up the backbone of Providence have not been allocated to their new identities, but rather to the Constant himself under the alias of Arthur Edwards. Following this discovery, Diana rushes to check on the Constant, only to find that he has escaped. Despite this setback, Hall has obtained the locations of all Partners and informs 47 and Grey, who prepare to hunt them down.

Development[edit]

Hitman 2 was developed by Danish developer IO Interactive. The game's predecessor, which utilizes an episodic release, received critical acclaim. However, it had underperformed commercially and missed the sales expectation of franchise and studio owner Square Enix. The team soon began the development of a sequel that would incorporate online modes and more gameplay features, while experimenting with new gameplay mechanisms. While the studio was ramping up the game's production, in May 2017, announced that they had divested from IO Interactive in order to better allocate their resources to other studios.[23] While Square Enix negotiated with potential investors who may be interested in acquiring the studio, IO Interactive ultimately became an independent studio following a management buyout.[24] Despite this, the management of the IO Interactive, which had about 200 employees at the time, had to lay off 40% of the workforce due to limited cash flow. During this period of time, Hitman 2's development was about 25% completed.[25]

With the intellectual property of Hitman now being owned by IO Interactive, the studio decided to made the first episode free-to-play. This strategy was a success, as the number of players nearly tripled, and a significant portion of them bought the full game. This ensured a steady stream of cash flow for the studio. Due to the limited manpower, the team had to limit the scale of the sequel and many planned features had to be cut. Nonetheless, the development of the game progressed quickly due to the foundation laid by Hitman (2016), which was originally envisioned as a platform known as "World of Assassination" which would allow the developer to add content in a fast pace. The late success of Hitman helped IO Interactive to show that there was a demand for this type of game, and the studio was able to secure additional funding for the game's production.[25] Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment ultimately signed to publish the sequel after partnering with IO Interactive on the Definitive Edition of Hitman (2016).[26] Development of the game took about one year and nine months, and the game was declared gold on September 27, 2018, indicating it was being prepared for duplication and release.[27]

While the studio initially planend to include five massive maps in the game, the plan changed to include six maps, but some of these maps became smaller in scale.[25] The locations featured in the game was decided early during the game's development by several team leads, and then each level would be assigned to a "track team" which would be responsible for its level design, targets and opportunities. As with the original Hitman, there are two types of levels in this game; "fortress" refers to an area the player must infiltrate and a "snailhouse" is a level that has a circular design in which players are encouraged to explore the peripheral areas to find ways to access the area in the middle of the map.[28][29] The team visited Maldives and Mumbai, and watched Formula One matches for the Miami level, to ensure that the locations they have created in the game were authentic. According to the team, they did not intend to create an accurate version of these locations, but instead, wanted to "evoke the smells, tastes, and sounds of these places".[30] One of the design principles was to ensure that each map would have spaces that the player are familiarize with, while providing an element of surprise by showing the operations that are typically conducted behind the scene. For instance, the player, with the right disguise, can enter the interior part of a bank which is off limit for most players in real life. IO also experimented with the two established designs. For instance, Mumbai is a reverse fortress, as the player must identified an unknown civilian and eliminate them in a public area. Track teams also needed to decide on the items featured in each level. Items and outfits generally fall under two categories: specific items used for mission stories, and generalized items that were designed to fit the aesthetic of each map.[31]

While Hitman served as an introductory chapter to the World of Assassination, Hitman 2's story enjoys a more prominent role and has a more structured narrative.[25] While Hitman (2016) was described as a "white collar new money" crime thriller, season 2 focuses more on eccentric characteres such as pirates and bandits, and "old money" which were inspired by secret societies. Much of the storytelling occured within a level and during gameplay, and cutscenes served mainly to tie different story threads together.[32] The removal of the episodic release model allowed IO Interactive to present a more cohesive story, as players often forgot about narrative elements while they were playing Hitman (2016) due to its sparse release schedule. Like the first game, 47 is a blank state character, and the story is mostly driven by 47's handler Diana Burnwood and Lucas Grey, the Shadow Client, as both of them has their own emotions, motivations and goals. Through these two characters, which affect 47 significantly during his journey, he can gradually develop as a character and foster change.[33] The main story was written in a way to give players motivation to eliminate the targets.[34] Mission stories return in Hitman 2, and they were designed to give players tempations to try out new gameplay features, tools and costumes. These provided additional optional stories that the player may or may not experience fully.[35] The game also featured dark humor extensively, with early promotion of the game featuring 47 whacking NPCs with a fish.[36] According to Markus Friedl, the game's executive producer, the team "this little bit of tongue-in-cheek humor, very much part of the Hitman DNA".[35] David Bateson returned to provide the voice for Agent 47. Bateson initially thought some of the dialogues were absurd, but grew to appreciate it after understanding how mission stories work. According to Bateson, while 47 is a expert at disguising himself, he was a terrible actor. He was instructed not to change his accent when disguising as other personalities, and he delivered his lines in a "delightfully wooden way".[37]

Release[edit]

Sean Bean portrayed the game's first Elusive Target, "The Undying".

Hitman 2 was officially announced by Warner Bros. on June 7, 2018.[38] The game dropped the episodic release model after the team received some negative feedback from players of the first game.[39] Players who pre-ordered the game will gain immediate access to the Sniper Assassin mode. In July 2018, IO Interactive announced a competition for Sniper Assassin players. The top three players who have the highest scores would have the opportunities to get their names and likeness incorporated into the game's post-release content.[40] The game was released worldwide for Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on November 13, 2021,[41] although those who have pre-ordered the game's gold edition gained access to the game four days early: on November 9.[42] IO Interactive released the game on September 1, 2020, for Google Stadia.[43] The first level, which is set in New Zealand, was made free-to-play on February 27, 2019.[44]

IO Interactive supported the game extensively with downloadable content, and added escalation targets and elusive targets into the game regularly. Sean Bean portrayed the game's first Elusive Target, Mark Faba, in the Miami map. This mission, titled "The Undying", were released on November 18, 2021, a week after the game's official release.[45] An early bug in Hitman 2's release, often referred to as the "homing briefcase", occurred when a briefcase was thrown at a target, the briefcase would spin and fly towards the target slowly, even if the target moved around the level. The homing behaviour is an intentional feature of all thrown mêlée items in Hitman, but the speed was unusual.[46] While IO patched the speed out in update 2.14, the developers acknowledged the bug later on, and added a special briefcase item, the Executive Briefcase MKII, that has the slow-homing speed restored, and was released on August 8, 2019, as part of the "Best Case Scenario" challenge pack. This briefcase item tracks the target it is thrown at a slow speed, slower than it originally did.[47]

Following the game's initial release, two paid expansions were announced, each adding new locations, missions, sniper maps, outfits, and weapons. The first DLC location, set in a bank in New York City, was released on June 25, 2019.[48] The second DLC location, set on an island in the Maldives, released on September 24, 2019.[49] New Sniper Assassin maps, Hantu Port, which is set in Singapore, and a prison set in Siberia, was released on March 26, 2019, and July 30, 2019, respectively.[50][51]

As the sequel, Hitman 3 would not feature any online modes, IO Interactive shut down the online servers for Hitman 2 on August 31, 2021. While Sniper Assassin can be played solo, Ghost mode and the online aspect of Sniper Assassin would become unplayable once the servers were taken offline.[52]

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Hitman 2 received "generally favorable" reviews, according to review aggregator Metacritic.[54][55][53] Reviewers agreed that the game did not significantly deviate from the original's formula, but nonetheless enjoyed the general gameplay loop and its gameplay improvements.[64][58][65] Some gaming journalists believed that the episodic model helped players to explore each level in Hitman thoroughly, and expressed their disappointment that IO Interactive abandoned this release strategy for Hitman 2.[66][67]

The game's design received critical praise. Phil Savage from PC Gamer had strong praise for five of the six maps featured in the game and described them as "large" and "intricate". He further added that the quality of the maps was more consistent than that of the first game. However, he felt that Hitman 2 did not experiment with the formula extensively, and that the game simply "riffs on familiar design principles".[60] Writing for GameSpot, Edmon Tran described the maps as "overwhelming in the best way possible" and singled out Mumbai as one of the standout maps in the game.[7] The diversity of the maps was praised by many reviewers, as each of them are set in visually unique locations with their own characters and routes.[63][59] Caty McCarthy from USgamer praised IO for perfecting the formula established in its predecessor, and believed that all levels reached the quality of Sapienza, which was widely recognized as Hitman (2016)'s best map.[62] Destructoid's Chris Carter agreed, and added that "Hitman 2 is a colossal collection of puzzles begging to be solved through multiple playthroughs".[56] The Legacy content received praise for introducing gameplay adjustments to older Hitman levels.[62][58]

The gameplay received generally positive reviews. Several reviewers believed that the game offered too much guidance to the players, making exploration and discovery of creative assassinations less organic.[59][60] Savage liked the gameplay enhacements introduced, but remarked that familiar problems of the franchise had not been solved.[60] Tran enjoyed the core gameplay loop of slowly discovering a location and its stories. While the gameplay is built on trial and error, he felt that the game became more exciting when the initial plan of the player fails, forcing them to improvise.[7] IGN's Ryan McCaffery praised the team for allowing the player to freely approach their objectives. He, however, liked the mission stories for presenting memorable and unique gameplay moments and making successful assassination a satisfying gameplay experience.[57] McCarthy praised the dialogue written for these mission stories, describing them as "sharper and funnier" and adding that the script "adds to the silly fun of the Hitman universe".[62] Many reviewers agreed that only by replaying the game can players understand the intricacies of the game's system and the availabiltiy of the options presented to them.[57][68][58] Minor gameplay adjustments IO Interactive added to the game were also appreciated.[7][57][61] Ghost mode received a divisive opinion: some felt that its design does not complement well with the slow and methodical gameplay of the single-player campaign.[61][57][59] However, some reviewers believed that it was a fun and satisfying experience.[68][58] Some reviewers also expressed disappointment that Sniper Assassin only has one map at launch.[58][59]

The story of the game received mixed reviews. McCaffery was disappointed by the overarching story and called it "absurdly dumb". He added that it was poorly presented, and that the game's attempt at exploring Agent 47's back story was as bad as the 2007 movie.[57] Brad Shoemaker, writing for Giant Bomb, was surprised by how engaging the main story was. He described it as a "taut international cat-and-mouse thriller", and appreciated the story for raising the stakes and resolving the mysteries of the first game. However, he agreed that the game did not have the production quality of the first game as evidenced by the lack of CGI cutscenes.[61] In Hitman 2, cinematics are replaced by static images with voice-overs.[69] Writing for Game Informer, Jeff Marchiafava added that the storyboard sequences are "cheap and disappointing" especially since the first game had lavishly produced cinematics and in-engine graphics Hitman 2's is good.[59]

Sales[edit]

Hitman 2 debuted at tenth place in the UK's all-format sales charts.[70] It was released in a competitive week that saw the launch of new releases including Pokémon: Let's Go, Spyro Reignited Trilogy and Fallout 76.[71] In Japan, the PlayStation 4 version sold 10,162 copies within its debut week, which made it the fifth best-selling retail game of the week in the country.[72] IO Interactive CEO Hakan Abrak added that releasing the game so close to other blockbuster titles such as Red Dead Redemption 2 impacted the game's sales negatively.[73] Nevertheless, the game was able to recoup its development cost at a pace faster than the first Hitman (2016).[74]

Sequel[edit]

Hitman 3, a sequel and the conclusion of the World of Assassination trilogy, was released in January 2021. It was self-published by IO Interactive.[75]

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