Published on May 5th, 2016 | by Joseph Saulnier0
Hitman Episode 2: Sapienza
Agent 47’s deadly tour de force continues with the release of the second episode of his latest Hitman title. There are no metrosexual models of Paris in this outing, instead the glam and costumes are replaced by the macho security guards and pasta chefs of Sapienza, Italy. It’s a wildly different environment, but the goal remains the same: track down your targets, finish them off and get out alive.
It’s a pretty safe bet to say that the quality of this second episode stays very strong. Paris was very good, but it was relatively short and felt a little boxed in. When combined with the tutorial levels you did get a couple of hours entertainment, but the fear was the second episode could be a little underwhelming if offered the same amount of content as Paris.
Square Enix was obviously aware of this, and rest assured knowing there’s nothing to worry about. The world you have to explore is pretty massive, complete with secret passageways and a whole catalogue of options on display. As well as a mansion owned by one of the targets, you can also check out a rather sizeable chunk of Sapienza itself, as well as an underground laboratory. It’s nice to have so much variety within a single chunk of the game.
Gameplay remains exactly the same, with a few minor improvements. Thereare many more opportunities to blend in, depending on the disguise you are currently wearing, and there are more Opportunities as well. As in the first episode, Opportunities provide you with situations to either make a kill easier, or set you up for something big. They’re fully optional, but are a welcome addition to the title.
In Sapienza, you’ll be tasked with infiltrating a secret base, assassinating a couple of people and destroying a deadly DNA specific virus that threatens your very industry. Naturally, you’ll want to use stealth and cunning to achieve your objectives as well as a wide variety of costumes and tools. Just how many bald guys with barcodes on their head are running around this place that he doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb?
Not only is the mission itself considerably longer and more complicated than its predecessor, but, as previously mentioned, the scale of the location is far vaster. The range of people you can interact with and the conversations you can eavesdrop on is astronomical. This is a proper sandbox, complete with endless solutions to missions many people probably won’t even notice exist. I was able to play for several hours just exploring the area and trying to find the best way to achieve my objective before completing the level itself.
On that note, some of it does feel painfully familiar – housekeepers uniform, guards uniform, scientists disguise, escape – but that’s if you play the level with as little creativity as possible. It’s just as easy to sneak up to the attic and throw something explosive down into the fireplace below or catch one of your targets while he’s grieving for his dead mom. In terms of challenges, this new Hitman entry can be as easy or as difficult as you fancy. Try looking for the exploding golf ball in your ICA safehouse and letting Caruso hit that. A particular favorite of mine was the Eye for an Eye challenge which involved me opening the observatory, and then hightailing it to the church in order to take out the target by shooting through the telescope as he is viewing. Took me a while to find that one.
Sapienza also serves as the perfect example of why design is so important. Paris and the introduction levels both looked fantastic, but Italy takes another step up. The quality of the technical side hasn’t changed – textures, lighting and character design are more than passable – but the location itself is just vastly more visually pleasing.
Thankfully, it seems like since our review of the tutorial/Paris a lot of the graphics and audio glitches have been cleaned up. There’s still a ridiculously long wait after you pick a level, and that becomes only more annoying when you’re loading a save or want to change the planning. With an increase in difficulty comes a bigger reliance on jumping back to older save states, but these can take a stupidly long time to pop up. Die multiple times or not quite get things the way you want them and you’ll be punished with a loading screen over and over. Of all the glitches I encountered in my first run through, only one rather minor one remains. When you go back to a save state, a loud, jarring skipping sound will play while it tries to catch up with the music. This happened practically each and every time and, although it’s not going to interrupt too much, I still wish it wasn’t there.
Once you complete your objectives and get to the end of the level, you’ll be rewarded with a rather disappointing cut scene. While the movie that awaited you in Paris was a major twist, this time around doesn’t quite pack the same punch. Unfortunately, this is one of the major flaws of episodic gaming – you have to make the play want more plot, and Hitman just doesn’t. Thankfully, the gameplay is enough to keep you following each new release, so far.
While the second episode is fairly lengthy, the environment has also been opened up to the contracts creators. It’s still a little early to tell what’s coming out of it right now, but if the first episode is anything to go by, it’ll only be a minor feature at best. As before, the level plays out exactly as it has, only with different objectives. It’s there for the variety of targets when you’re working through the challenges that each level offers and very little else. Not disappointing, because it is what it is, but it may be that only challenge hunters and those wanting to get the most out of each episode will bother fully utilizing this mode.
But in the end, does it matter? At this point we still have a lot more to come, and the future is looking extremely good. Episode 2 is a worthy follow-up to Paris, and is just as enjoyable as it needs to be. If you ask me, the series is going in the right direction and, hopefully, the quality can stay where it is. Sapienza proves that environment and variety are key to Hitman’s new style, and it’ll be worth following so long as that lasts.
4 stars out of 5