It’s hot, I’m wearing a shaman’s outfit, have finished bluffing my way through a sacred ritual, and have just missed my chance to push a notorious Cartel leader into some very dangerous machinery. Damn. As I crouch in the stifling Colombian foliage planning my next move, I wonder how it’s come to this. Hitman 2’s Colombia Map is filled with Cartel soldiers, backpacking students, and cocaine aficionados, but Agent 47 isn’t here to sample the local customs. He’s here to kill the three heads of a deadly Cartel. Sigh. Just another day in the life of an international assassin. But Hitman 2 isn’t business as usual: although the barcode-tattooed killer uses his anonymity to great effect, Hitman 2 is revisiting his past for a brand new audience thanks their new focus on story.
When I wasn’t disguising myself as a tattoo artist to stab someone to death, lacing a cocaine-filled model of a bus with poison, or shoving someone into machinery (I could have also sent her a love letter, but I’m not the sentimental type), I spoke to Travis Barbour, Senior Community Manager at IO Interactive about what the team have learnt from Hitman Season 1. “I would actually say that the story in season 1 was disconnected,” Barbour tells me. “There was a lot there, but through the episodic nature people experienced it in an unusual way where there were small story segments that were forgotten, or we kind of did a Pulp-Fiction-style thing [referring to Quentin Tarantino’s nonlinear movie] where we jumped backwards and forwards and introduced the characters. But for Hitman 2 the story is an important part of the game.”
He’s right. Just like previous games, each mission starts with a slick cinematic voiced by 47’s handler, the inscrutable Diana Burnwood, where you’re told who you’re killing, where you’re going, and a brief indication about why they need to go bye-bye. Varying from mission to mission, these briefings are the first way that Hitman 2’s is emphasising story, and although I only got to play the Colombian mission, Barbour promises that your assassinations will affect who you’re sent to professionally murder next. Barbour says that IO Interactive wanted to “release all the locations at once, so we could tell a cohesive story. We have for the first time characters that are not dead from the previous game, we have Diana [coming forward], we have the Shadow Client who you met at the end of season 1, [and] there are a few side characters who you might recognise and we will introduce again.” With that many returning characters taking centre stage, it sounds like it’s going to be one big, undoubtedly deadly, family reunion.
The man behind the barcode
Despite the returning characters, we all know who’s going to steal the limelight: Agent 47. He’s able to fool those around him whether he’s dressed in a giant flamingo suit, decked out in tie-dye as a hippie, or, in my case, performing a mystical ritual to quell the worries of Cartel construction workers. But what brought him to that point? Hitman 2 is revisiting the answer the question, delving deeper into his origins for a brand new audience. When I asked Barbour about revisiting 47’s past, he told me that the game is going to “dive into - we’ve kind of promised it for a while - the origins of Agent 47, who he is, where he comes from, the people he knew”. Striding my way through the Colombia map, I didn’t find anything that shed any more light on 47’s past, but Barbour promises that there’s more to Hitman 2 than just doing what you’re told.
“I would imagine that most people couldn’t say why, when they were playing Sapienza [2016’s Hitman’s second episode] why they were killing those people, why they were eliminating those targets in Marrakesh [2016 Hitman’s third episode]," Barbour says. "It was very thinly told, the story there. It’s a lot more strongly told now…[Hitman 2] feels a lot more like a campaign where there’s a red thread through all of it. The motivations and emotions of the characters are a little bit more clear”. By the sounds of it the conclusion to Hitman 2 has a lot riding on it. All that Barbour will tell me is that “it does ramp up in a satisfying way”. We’ll just have to wait and see what that could possibly mean for the future of Agent 47… though I pity anyone who thinks they could start a fight with him and somehow avoid coming out of it in a bodybag.
But wait, there’s more
The story might be thoroughly linear, but just like season 1 there are plenty of ways to kill your targets no matter how sadistic or creative you want to be. Even if you (somehow) get bored of prematurely ending the lives of your targets, IO Interactive has tons more outside of the campaign to keep you busy. There’s going to be live content, and Barbour assures me that IO is looking at the same sort of thing as the seasonal Holiday Hoarders event where 47 was tasked with eliminating two targets named Harry and Marv, who looked uncannily (wink wink) like the burglars from Home Alone. Whether you’re going to dive into the campaign or keep an eye out for live events, make sure you have your ominous black leather gloves on standby, as 47 sure is going to be busy when Hitman 2 releases on November 13.