Hitman 2 review: Deadlier than ever

IO Interactive has crowned a new king of the stealth action genre.


Let's face it: the stealth genre of video games is largely barren. There just aren't enough games out there pushing players to think critically, move silently, act deliberately, and make a clean escape. To make matters worse, many game developers shoehorn stealth elements into otherwise non-stealth games, robbing the mechanic of its inherent thrills and generally leaving a bad taste in players' mouths.

Technically speaking, making stealth gameplay work is simple. However, making stealth gameplay fun is much more challenging. Thankfully, the crew at IO Interactive have had plenty of time to work out the kinks, and in Hitman 2, they've created a brilliant, shining example of what makes stealth action so rewarding.

Mission Briefing

Hitman 2 can best be described as complex. Like with its current-generation predecessor, this is a game that doesn't request consideration; it demands it. Even smaller levels like the game's opening chapter require the player to think a few steps ahead; by the second chapter, players need to know where they'll be and what they'll be doing at any given time. If anything, later levels only get more involved, requiring the Agent to layer plans atop plans just to arrive at a single, critical moment.

Watch. Plan. Execute.
Watch. Plan. Execute.

The action plays out largely like any other modern video game: the left joystick moves the character, the right controls the camera, and triggers are used for aiming and shooting. As with many other titles, Hitman 2 has a special view mode — here called Instinct — that highlights points of interest near the protagonist, a particularly useful skill for spotting marks through walls or identifying weapons and other objects laying around the environment.

The World is Yours

The familiar control scheme and somewhat middling graphics might make the game, at least to an outside viewer, seem underwhelming. It isn't, and that's because the real draw to Hitman 2 lies in its level design. From distant and desolate safehouses to dense and sprawling cities, each level in Hitman 2 feels distinctly alive and full of opportunity.

Not only are levels packed full of non-player characters engaging in the usual hustle and bustle, they're also home to sharp-eyed enforcers who can often see straight through the Agent's disguises. To be effective, not only do players need to keep an eye out for guards, enforcers, trespassing warnings, and no-entry signs, they also need to eavesdrop on random conversations and comb environments for common objects that may come into use later. It's entirely possible that something as small as a screwdriver or a card key can open up big opportunities somewhere down the line.

Expect to get your hands dirty.
Expect to get your hands dirty.

This notion of increased perception and forward thinking carries over between mission playthroughs. It's all-too-common for players to spot an object that's virtually useless for their current objective, yet will be absolutely critical when following another approach. Keeping these objects and details in mind not only makes for an easier time down the road, it ideally leads to a deep understanding of the levels themselves. Given enough time, a mastery of a specific level will open up new opportunities for creative and often hilarious assassinations.

Opportunies Abound

In a game this involved, it's not surprising that there are a few minor nuisances to be found. Occasional glitches do pop up from time to time, and the included cooperative mode doesn't carry near as much appeal as single-player. Having two assassins go after the same mark might make sense on paper, but in practice, it removes a lot of the tension and planning typical to missions in favor of a slight bump to overall comedic value. It's not broken by any means; it just pales in comparison to the single-player experience.

As for overall content, players of the previous 2016 Hitman release will not be disappointed. There's no episodic approach this time around; instead, all six main missions will be unlocked right from the start. Even better, players who own Hitman 2016 will be given access to all of that game's missions, now revamped with Hitman 2 mechanics and additions, entirely for free. Those who don't will still be able to pick them all up as part of a separate DLC package. In essence, this gives players 12 different levels to play through, and with consideration to each level's complexity, the replay value here is outstanding.

The game isn't without its added bonuses or goodies, either. Each mission has specific and distinct Assassination opportunities, ranging from quiet kills to outrageous executions, and they're all approachable through one of three difficulty modes: Casual, Professional, and Master. Even in casual mode though, players are in for a real challenge. Feats are available as well, offering rewards like bonus experience or item unlocks for fulfilling smaller goals throughout the course of each campaign. Finally, Challenges also make a return, pointing the Agent in the direction of some of the most outlandish and often difficult approaches possible, chief among which being the Silent Assassin, Suit Only challenges that disallow the Agent from donning a disguise or raising any sort of alarm.

Stealth Perfection

Modern-era action gamers have been conditioned to expect large-scale firefights, flashy explosions, and immediate gratification in general, and that's just not what IO Interactive's latest release is about. Through all of the complex machinations and staggering amount of opportunities within its levels, Hitman 2 manages to be a game with one surprisingly simple demand: think things through. As it is in life, perception and consideration go a very long way here, and players who are willing to put in the proper amount of time and effort will see just how perplexing, engaging, and rewarding stealth action games can be. Hitman 2 will undoubtedly serve to define the stealth genre for years to come, and I can't wait to see where IO Interactive takes the series next.

This review is based on a PlayStation 4 download code provided by the publisher. Hitman 2 will be available in retail and digital stores on November 13 for $59.99. The game has been rated M for Mature by the ESRB.

Guides Editor

Kevin Tucker is a core component of Shacknews' powerful guide development team. For questions, concerns, tips, or to share constructive criticism, he can be reached on Twitter @dukeofgnar or through e-mail at kevin.tucker@shacknews.com.

Review for
Hitman 2
  • Mind-bogglingly complex; dynamic puzzles that must be solved in real time
  • Engaging and entertaining Feats and Challenges
  • Creative assassination opportunities galore
  • Loads of unlockable goodies
  • Unparalleled replay value
  • Optional access to revamped Hitman 2016 missions
  • Graphics and animation aren't particularly stunning
  • Surprisingly difficult, even on Casual difficulty
From The Chatty
  • reply
    November 8, 2018 10:40 AM

    Kevin Tucker posted a new article, Hitman 2 review: Deadlier than ever

    • reply
      November 8, 2018 10:45 AM

      Awesome! I gotta read this.

    • reply
      November 8, 2018 11:50 AM

      Have the preload ready to go!

    • reply
      November 8, 2018 11:56 AM

      Almost forgot about this game.. i may pick it up after I finish RDR2

      • reply
        November 8, 2018 12:05 PM

        I didn't get RDR2 specifically because Hitman 2 was coming out. I can always get RDR2 later.

    • reply
      November 8, 2018 12:40 PM

      Get to start killing tomorrow with the gold edition!

      • reply
        November 8, 2018 2:45 PM

        wait what

        • reply
          November 8, 2018 2:46 PM

          It unlocks 4 days early, just in time for work from home Friday!

          • reply
            November 8, 2018 2:48 PM


          • reply
            November 8, 2018 6:10 PM

            Looks like it's live now, at least for some people.

    • reply
      November 8, 2018 2:12 PM

      Sounds like it's difficult :/

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        November 8, 2018 3:18 PM

        It is in the mental sense; it doesn't necessarily require fast reflexes or other physical demands, but instead requires consideration, memorization, and foresight

      • reply
        November 8, 2018 4:41 PM

        All the more hyped because of it. I don't want it to be possible to just walk in and silent assassin all the levels, I want to have to explore and strategize and work to get it.

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          November 8, 2018 6:25 PM

          signed. I loved that about Hitman. work at the level, get a few more little perks and rewards, then work towards full tilt agent 47 methodology.

          now the problem is me actually having heart palpitations when it's limited contract time.... hahahaha.

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            November 8, 2018 6:33 PM

            Exactly. I love going through levels the first time, like I'm trying to be sneaky and not leave a trail of bodies, but I end up leaving a fair number of bodies. But it's ok. The first time through a level, it only matters that you finished it. Then you get better.

            And, the limited contracts are awesome for creating a tension that is otherwise almost impossible in single player games. Like last 10 dudes in PUBG level. And it also makes you "make it work" once you've started killing, cause this is your one shot now.

    • reply
      November 8, 2018 6:12 PM


    • reply
      November 8, 2018 6:13 PM

      BTW if you have the gold version you can play now!

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