Agent 47 is back for more assassination exploits, this time in a much more expansive and laid back Italy. Replay value is off the charts, with so many ways to eliminate individual targets, and linking those approaches together. Everything plays out like a spy movie, with 47 infiltrating an exotic mansion nestled on an Italian coastline, and housing a secret biological weapon lab. You’ll want to go back again and again to try new methods and get in and out unseen.
Even bigger sandbox
Paris was impressive, yet very self-contained. Sapienza makes the Paris map feel tiny by comparison. Agent 47 begins on a street bench and is free to roam the streets, back alleys, and enter numerous buildings, none of which are the focal point of the story mission. Once inside the mansion you can easily get lost among the many floors and corridors that wind their way down to a secret lab. I actually found everything overwhelming at first, but poking around the various corners of the map has been endlessly fun. I even managed to stumble on my new favorite weapon, a can of expired spaghetti sauce.
The characters outside of your targets often tell their own little stories that make Sapienza feel more like a real living community. The priest gets annoyed if you walk into a confessional in-progress. A private investigator who has been learning the lay of the land recognizes that you are out of place and will cause trouble just seeing you. Street performers can be interfered with, guards eavesdropped upon, and in general just humorous remarks come from unexpected places. One outfit in particular even gets a guard to accuse you of “playing too much Assassin’s Creed.” With the minimal story cutscenes and voiceover from your handler, it’s up to the random characters to breathe life into the world, and for the most part it is a mission well accomplished.
No need to rush
Io is targeting a monthly release schedule for Hitman episodes, and by not having the next map to advance to I find myself seeking out creative new ways to kill targets for far longer than I would if I could just quickly hop ahead to a new location. Given the quality of the first two sandboxes, the episodic releases have grown on me quite a bit. There’s no temptation to rush through anything. There’s so many ways to eliminate your targets:, I’ve gone back to shoot a guy through a telescope lens, watch him hit an exploding golf ball, and impersonated his therapist. And that’s just one target within the story mission. The user created contracts and developer created Escalation and Elusive Targets only increase the time I’ll be in Sapienza, as they provide much more to do than simply replay the one story mission.
The Intro Pack suffered from lengthy load times, which have been mercifully reduced in time for Sapienza. Still, these loading times are among the longest you will find today, and you will want to avoid having to reload as much as possible. Unfortunately, your play style may dictate that you do more reloading thanks to a bug that semi-frequently kills characters while you are only knocking them out. After a subdue, you may be hit with a “non-target killed” penalty for no apparent reason. At one point this affected me across multiple NPCs four times within a half hour and was enough to get me to walk away from Hitman for a while.
The menus that always lagged and often had images not load, due to requiring an internet connection for a single player console game, are no longer the painful headache that they were for the Intro Pack.
Everywhere I look screams Italy, but if I closed my eyes and only listened I would never know it. The voice acting doesn’t match up with the locale, and that does notably distract from an otherwise engrossing venue. Hopefully more attention to sound detail is made for future episodes, given the globetrotting life that 47 leads.
As great as Paris was, Sapienza is better. The landscape is expansive and full of even more variety than last time. There are a few bugs to be worked out and the load times can use some more improvement, but Hitman – Episode 2 is not something you should look past. Developer Io is making a strong case for their unusual decision to release Hitman episodically, and I can’t wait for Episode 3, which is set to take place in Morocco.
- Massive map
- Lots of ways to get creative
- Background chatter from NPCs
- Voice acting doesn’t fit
- Some bugs to be worked out