Agent 47’s back, and this time he’s had a little help from some new friends, Warner Bros Games. The last game’s episodic structure is gone, and a full release is coming on November 13, 2018. So far, all we know beyond that is that one section is set in the sun-drenched, almost neon-hued, climes of Miami, and that you will have new targets to kill and new abilities to discover - like being able to slap someone in the face with a fish. But, after playing Hitman 2 at E3, it’s clear that none of that really matters. What does though, is that this is the same, pure Hitman as IO Interactive brought you with its 2016 release, and that’s a very good thing.
Despite the fact that Hitman 2 has a new publisher in the form of Warner Bros, it seems IO Interactive is sticking to what it knows and absolutely does best with Hitman 2. My E3 demo lasts about 40 minutes, mostly because I want to see one of the more complex ways of taking out my target, a young female F1 race car driver called Sierra Knox. She’s competing in a race in Miami, as part of a festival that has culminated in a lot of people gathering in one place, and from the outset this makes Hitman 2 feel very much like an upgrade. I’ve never seen so many people in a Hitman level, and the crowds are positively thrumming with their own, individual, AI agendas. They’re all just so busy, but all I can see in each and every single one of them is an opportunity.
Because unlike the previous Hitman game, the crowds here are a tool that can be used in your assassination quest. A bit like older Assassin’s Creed games, you can move amongst a crowd to help shield Agent 47 from eyes that may recognise the fact he’s not exactly who he’s meant to be. Like the previous game, there are some NPCs that wander the map with white dots above their heads, especially if you’re donning a disguise. To get into the festival’s VIP area for example, I manage to grab myself a security guard’s uniform, but if I meander into another guard’s eyeline for too long, they’d recognise me as not being the fellow my name tag declared me to be. Mingling into a bigger crowd helps alleviate that in Hitman 2, as does walking with your head turned away from the onlookers, a bit like you used to be able to in Hitman Absolution back in the day. They’re both wonderful additions to the existing Hitman formula, making you feel more like the skilled assassin you’re meant to be than the bumbling doofus you may well feel as a gamer trying to pull off similar stunts, as I regularly do.
Of course, with crowds of this size come a wealth of opportunities too. Like before, hanging around and listening to a conversation can regularly throw up a pertinent piece of information, including a tale that will end up with Agent 47 donning a particularly fetching pink flamingo costume. But for my particular playthrough, we go for a variety of other disguises, starting with that aforementioned security guard. After I manage to walk straight into the VIP area without anyone batting an eyelid, it’s time to target the stand-in mechanic who has been brought in at the last minute to help out with Sierra’s pit crew. Helpfully, no-one has seen his face yet, and only know his name, so they will have no idea something is awry when a hench bald man rocks up in uniform.
But to pretend to be him, I first have to get close to him and steal his clothes. I follow him from the VIP area up to an exclusive bar, and after a detour through the kitchen to nab myself a waiter’s uniform and chuck the actual waiter in the freezer to chill out (sorry), I’m blending in at the bar with a pocket full of rat poison just waiting for him to leave his red wine unattended. Not long after, our mechanic is running to the bathrooms making all kinds of regurgitation noises. Snapping his neck, stealing his clothes and throwing his dead body in a toilet cubicle seems like the kindest thing in the circumstances - poisoning is a slow death after all - especially as it gets me straight into the pits to wait for Sierra’s car to pull in. A quick pitstop later and I’ve attached a remote detonation explosive to her car, and push the button to cause an in-race car crash the likes of which the audience have never seen before. Oops.
From the snippets of conversation I heard as I wove my way through the crowds of Miami, there are plenty of other ways I could I have killed Sierra, as you’d expect from a Hitman game. These are never puzzles with one solution after all, and from what I’ve seen so far, I can’t wait to slip back into adventures with Agent 47. Currently, it feels as familiar as slipping on an old, incredibly well tailored, suit.