The world of assassination broadens its horizons this month, as part two of Hitman is released, sending our favourite bald-headed assassin to the sun-drenched town of Sapienza, Italy, wherein IO Interactive look set to keep raising the bar for periodically released entertainment by spoiling Hitman fans with a slew of new challenges, familiar nods and gorgeous level design.
HITMAN Episode 2 Sapienza: Xbox One [Reviewed], PlayStation 4, PC
Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: 26 April 2016
Episode Price: £7.99
Full Experience £44.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
Imagine a game world with all the complexity of one of those Mario Maker maps, draped in the graphical fidelity you ought to expect from the Xbox One, and you have yourself Agent 47’s latest locale. Sapienza is a rustic paradise, with quaint cafes, gelato parlours, and art deco masonry in abundance, ensuring that your time in IO’s little slice of Italy feels as authentic as it possibly can. The map is beautiful and vast, and a welcome change of scenery from the first episode. The labyrinth of the Parisian palace in episode one have been traded in for a sprawling coastal town, filled with toys for you to play with as you greedily sample each and every method of murder available. Sapienza might as well be Italian for ‘toy box’, with Agent 47 dealing death in so many diverse ways – from 15th-century cannon to exploding golf ball – all of which would not be possible in episode one’s confining corridors, where patience and observation result in success.
That’s not to say that IO has gone GTA with episode two. Far from it – IO’s meticulous brush strokes and subtle, guiding touches still manage to keep players on the right track, without being intrusive. You will want to stay in Sapienza for as long as possible as you discover the wealth of shops you can enter and secret passages you can uncover. Not one inch of space is wasted in this latest episode, and IO has really reconnected with their classic Hitman roots, as Sapienza feels much more daunting than Paris did as a map. Heading straight into the Villa de Caruso is an option, but not the best one, with exploration and reconnaissance of the map being both fun and instrumental to becoming fully aware of the sheer number of ways the Villa can be infiltrated – as opposed to just strolling in through the front door of a fashion show in episode one. The examination of the street and the initial square brings about memories of Hitman: Blood Money’s infamous birthday party mission. Yes, the enemy stronghold can be reached in a matter of seconds, but the larger world around the target requires attention, otherwise all sorts of opportunities will be missed.
Nothing is handed to the player in Sapienza. Discovering the plethora of opportunities revealed through NPC dialogue requires you to really explore, enter every shop, every apartment, every terrace – the world is alive, with unique soundbites from the hundreds of NPCs’ complimenting the brilliant sound design that gives Sapienza a palpable heartbeat that must be studied and observed if you are to enact your ideal attack. Not as linear as the Sanguine fashion show, Sapienza presents a layered challenge. Initially a bustling tourist town, the action eventual moves to the Villa de Caruso: a hive of activity that looks like a family estate, but feels like a fortress to navigate, chock-full of varying disguises and lethal surprises for you to use as you dispatch your targets. A return to episode one’s stealth and infiltration awaits those braving the Villa’s multiple floors and rooms.
Similarly, the dynamic changes once again as you enter the claustrophobic catacombs of Ether Corporation’s subterranean laboratory, with eagle-eyed scientists and guards watching your every move, demanding a calculated and considered approach that will have you turning mathematician as you plot every inch of your path through the cabal of crates and boxes, ducking and weaving your way through cover until you reach your goal. The Ether Corp. field lab feels like old school Metal Gear Solid when compared to the streets of sleepy Sapienza, with stealth being absolutely key. Each element of the game world – town, villa and lab – feels like a whole other map, and the challenges posed by each one will keep you coming back until you know every nook and cranny so well, you’ll feel like a real-estate agent rather than a contract killer! The sense of tension that builds throughout each layer adds a relatively new flavour to the Hitman experience. Completing all the objectives requires a sizable amount of play-time in each area, and as you leave the ease and anonymity of the busy streets and descend deeper into the Villa you can feel the pleasant, casual atmosphere dissipate, as you linger behind cover and stalk enemy patrol routes, more akin to a ghost than a tourist.
Certainly worth the wait, episode two of Hitman serves as a fantastic addition to the current package, and a strong statement of intent from IO. Although many people had their doubts about the viability of episodically released games, Hitman’s quality, longevity and complexity are allowed to flourish in sizable instalments that allow you the time to fully explore the wealth of possibilities that are yours to master in Agent 47’s world of assassination. Book your flight, say hi to the Mario Bros (look out for that easter egg!) and enjoy Sapienza.
HITMAN Episode 2 Sapienza
- Brings Hitman closer to an open-world experience, without jumping on the bandwagon completely
- Simply beautiful to look at
- 3 Levels in 1
- Doesn't add anything new to the package, besides the map and scenarios
- First target can be eliminated rather easily
- Rather one-dimensional