After a 6 week wait, the second instalment of the new Hitman game has been released. Now we’ve got the basics down after the relatively limited venue in Paris, it’s time to up the scope and scale by dropping Agent 47 into a coastal Italian town. Everything you unlocked last time is still available for use, and a patch has stabilised the servers (though offline mode still doesn’t sync with online so be prepared for frustrations if it drops) – but the real question is about how the overall experience feels given the protracted release schedule. As with the Paris review, we’ll be scoring the game as a whole when all episodes have come out.
It’s a beautiful day in Sapienza. The sun is shining, the beach is inviting, and 47’s enjoying his newspaper in the idyllic town square, letting the morning pass before it’s time to get all murder-y. The targets are Silvio Caruso and Francesca De Santis, two people responsible for the development of a DNA targeting virus that would prove to be the ultimate assassin’s tool if the Agency allow it into the wild… which they’re not, as you’ve probably guessed. Take out the two targets, destroy the virus samples, and waltz out of town without anyone noticing – it’s time for a classic Hitman assassination mission.
More so than Paris, this mission feels like a real return to form for the series. With overtones of the first mission in Hitman 2: Silent Assassin that sees you infiltrating a mafia boss’s Italian estate, the size of the play area here is much larger. Sapienza is a living town filled with NPCs, pathways and landmarks to visit, though the core area you’re operating in is the mansion of Caruso and the underground lab hidden there. It is a gorgeous area, and in keeping with the environment it’s recreating, everything is leisurely paced and relaxed. Shops and buildings aren’t all just for decoration, a number of them can be entered to catch up on the local gossip (very useful when you’re sat in a hairdressers finding out who one of your targets is having an affair with); or if you’re feeling brave enough you can break into the ones that haven’t opened yet.
With distinct areas to explore and a varied landscape, Sapienza feels much more open and flexible than Paris, even though it’s probably a similar footprint. Opportunities this time round feel slightly harder to come across, even though the ability remains in the menus to select them, and yet there are more elaborate ways of getting the jobs done than before that don’t fall under the guided sections of the game. Stumbling across an Agency safe house gives new options for not only accessing the areas the targets are in, but also unique items to use for the kill. Similarly, there feels like more environmental kills than in the last chapter, or maybe that’s because on my first playthrough, one presented itself so neatly I couldn’t resist and then I kept spotting them. What really works better this time is the emergent story and character building through dialogue you overhear and tasks you complete. Building a picture of your targets whilst on reconn around the town helps develop the solutions you can use, and gives the whole scenario an organic feel that didn’t come across as well in the Paris mission. Plot-wise, that’s all still bobbins, but we can’t have everything can we?
No, no we can’t. Whilst there’s been a stability update for the servers, load times have been reduced and they’ve taken away the percentage loaded marker, and DLC now works again, that’s pretty much it. Contracts is still pretty woeful in that you can’t search and send challenges – and if you created anything before the latest update it seems the leaderboards have been wiped (at least my created Contracts now have no scores on them). Escalation contracts are there, and new ones keep coming weekly, so that support is there for new live content, but no sniff of the Elusive Contracts yet, and these were promised for not long after launch. It’s this missing content that worries me, there are clearly technical difficulties in implementing the Elusive Contracts otherwise we’d have had some by now. Given how long we’ve waited, the fact they are one shot deals as well is likely to annoy a lot of people if they miss the window of opportunity or fail it straight away.
So it’s a mixed bag again I’m afraid. The game is lovely and the stage constructed to provide a true Hitman experience giving you the run of Sapienza to manufacture the not-so-accidental deaths of your targets. The flip side is the rather lacklustre service to the community functions and the bizarre online/offline separation which means (for PS4 at least) that rest mode is still redundant, and with too many long loading trips back to menu screens. If the rest of the episodes provide the depth and opportunity that this one does then the game will definitely be worth the asking price for the full experience, but the Contracts mode needs bringing at least up to the standard of Hitman: Absolution quickly to keep players engaged.
A PS4 copy of Hitman: The Full Experience was provided by the Square Enix PR team, and the game is available now on Xbox One, PC and PS4 as either the full version, or by purchasing the chapters separately. Marrakech is the next destination on the global assassination tour and will land at some point in May.