PAX West 2018 Hands-on: Hitman 2

The Hitman franchise is one that’s somehow always eluded me. Aside from maybe twenty minutes or so with one of the original titles, I’ve never really gotten around to putting any remarkable time into the series. Perhaps because its original heyday, back in the early-to-mid 2000s, was during my teenage years when my parents would strictly monitor the games I got my hands on (No M-rated games, nothing with “Suggestive Themes,” etc.).

Now that I’ve made it to my late 20s, though, I can proudly play whatever game I wish to! So, at this year’s PAX West, it was time to try my hand at a game revolving around stealthy murder.

Acting as a direct follow up to 2016’s soft reboot of the series, my demo of Hitman 2 dropped me into a mission in Miami, Florida. The venue, a racetrack with an international tournament currently taking place. My targets, a weapons dealer attending the race, and his daughter, who is a participant…meaning I’d have to deal with one incredibly fast-moving target.

Starting out outside the venue, I’d have to find my way inside, so I did what any stealthy assassin would do – walked right in the front door, through security. Hey, best not to raise suspicions early, right? Making it through the patdown by the security officer, I find myself inside the race, and get to tracking my targets.

It’s here that the PR Rep assisting me at the Warner Bros booth gave me two helpful tips. The first, a kind of “stealth vision mode” that would highlight interactive items, as well as highlight my targets in red. The second, and more interesting, was a menu that listed some ways of going about my assassination.

Now, Hitman 2 employs the same formula as its predecessor, making each stage a miniature sandbox environment, encouraging experimentation to figure out the best way to complete your objective. However, for players like me who prefer a bit more guidance, the game also lays out some suggested kills, each of which require fulfilling certain tasks in the level.

Despite my preference for structure, I decided just to wing it in the demo, and quickly found myself in a staff only area, where I knocked out a race spotter and took his outfit. A few doors later, I do the same thing to a nearby guard so I can fit in in what seems to be a VIP area…the same area the weapons dealer is wandering around in.

And this, my friends, is where my lack of skills at stealth games started to show.

I kept forgetting about my access to the stealth vision mode, and there was one more important thing that it highlights – enemies that are naturally suspicious of you even if you’re disguised. As such, I proceeded to wander into a room, not notice one of these said enemies, and wound up getting gunned down.

Thus began a sequence of events where I’d reload into the game (which does have a generous auto-save system), explore a bit more, maybe find something useful to my mission, and then get spotted and gunned down again. This wouldn’t have been so painful if the load times weren’t so slow, lasting around a minute each time. To be fair, though, this demo was an early beta version of the game…which may also explain some of the stuttering I saw in the graphics, especially when I was watching the cars on the track drive by. The PR Rep with me said he believe the car model stuttering issue was due to the monitors they were showing the demo on, but it seems like such an isolated issue to me to blame on the monitor…in my opinion, at least.

I did manage once to come across the weapons dealer, taking him out with my trusty steel wire. Silly me, though, I forgot to look around the room before murdering, as there were some workers in the room I didn’t see, who immediately raised an alarm…leading me to take a bullet to the face about thirty seconds later.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the demo to its end, as the game hard-crashed on me a few minutes after this. While it was a sour way to end the demo, everything else I experienced felt promising. Yes, I wasn’t exactly skilled at the game, but I still found myself enjoying the exploration and weighing options on how to best seek out and take down the targets. It definitely feels more like a game that needs to be played in a quiet environment where you can take your time, rather than through a restrained demo on a bustling show floor.

Hitman 2 is set for release on November 13th, 2018 for PS4, XB1, and PC via Steam.