While the first episode of Hitman had players skulking around a fashion show in the middle of Paris episode two takes them to the eternally sunny Sapienza in South Italy. The episodic nature of this Hitman has made it a tad more difficult to review than if they just released a whole game from the word go. The reason being, most episodic games are story driven so that’s the main focus of each episode’s review, however Hitman is in no way story driven – it’s gameplay driven. The difficulty arises because the gameplay doesn’t change from episode to episode so all that’s really left to look at is the new map and any improvements or mistakes made since the last episode. If you want to learn more about the gameplay and the game in general you can read my review of Episode One here. If you just want to read about Episode Two then you’re already in the right place.
The real star of Episode Two isn’t Agent 47 or his targets, but the town of Sapienza. This huge open map is like no other in the world of Hitman. The first time I loaded it up Agent 47 was sat on a bench reading the paper in his crisp new Italian suit. The Caruso mansion was situated straight ahead of me and both targets were in there. The mansion itself is pretty big and could justify an entire map in and of itself. You can go anywhere in the mansion or climb onto its roof. There’s a large area of surrounding gardens which are abuzz with life. Oh and a top secret underground laboratory with an escape plane – yeah if you told me the bad guy that lived here was ripped straight from a Bond movie I’d believe you. Unfortunately for me there was two armed goons guarding the entrance so I had to figure out how to get past them. That was when the jarring effect of Sapienza’s scale kicked in. I walked around to look for a disguise and found a beach, docks, a pier, a church, a morgue, toilets, an ice cream parlour, a drug den and a (shockingly empty but very detailed) town hall to name but a few. All of these things could easily have fitted into a small map but developers Io Interactive opted to spread them across a really big map instead. Trying to wrap your head around this level of scale in a Hitman title is a little bit disorientating at first but I eventually got use to it and began to enjoy searching Sapienza’s back alleys for new ways to issue death to my unsuspecting targets.
If you found the packed corridors of the Paris fashion show to be too much for you then you’ll be glad to know the crowds are spread out this time around. The town is still bustling with life none the less. There’s street entertainers, people enjoying a coffee, people of their phones, people working and a poor cyclist who’s been knocked down by a flower delivery man. Just like in Paris you can tune into any conversation on the street in the hopes of uncovering a tip to help you take out your target – although sometimes you’ll be treated to some less than useful information about how someone has left the oven on. On one occasion I stumbled into a hair salon and overheard one of the staff members saying their cousin – who happened to be an undercover detective – was in town. I was able to find the cousin, knock him out, disguise myself as him and lure one of my targets out of the mansion for a meeting. Needless to say they did not return from their meeting. With all of that said Sapienza does suffer from feeling very underused in areas. This is due to the fact that your two targets and the virus are all inside the mansion which only takes up a small portion of an otherwise huge map. I know there are loads of things out in the town that will make life in the mansion a little easier (hint: like the therapist disguise) but overall it does feel much underused in the main mission. However I’m sure the developers decided to go with a far bigger map than technically needed to facilitate the other game modes, for example a player could create a target that is not in the mansion which would breathe new life into the other parts of the map.
This time around the targets are one Silvio Caruso and his lab partner Francesca De Santis. Caruso can be found walking around the mansion grounds with two of his body guards. Like all stereotypical rich villains he participates in activities such as golf lessons, arguing with his chef and escaping in his plane the minute SHTF. De Santis on the other hand stays a little more stationary as she mainly moves between two upstairs areas in the mansion. However she is a little easier to lure out of the mansion grounds, for example she’s the one I met outside while disguised as the detective. As always there are a multitude of ways to kill your targets ranging from sniping them from a far to getting up close and personal for a melee kill. Of course there’s a ton of options in between from electrocuting them to exploding golf balls, but I don’t want to mention too many here because the fun comes from figuring them out for yourself. Unfortunately there is a slight spanner in the works in the form of a virus which you must destroy in the underground lab. It was fun the first time I played the map – especially because I got to run around in a hazmat suit – but it becomes tedious after a while. The game is primarily about killing your targets in creative ways but having to destroy this virus feels very out of place. Especially because there’s only a few very specific ways to do it so any creativity is sapped out of the game the minute you have to destroy it. The virus doesn’t ruin an otherwise brilliant Hitman contract but it does get annoying.
There’s a few other things I want to touch on before I wrap up the review. Firstly, I mentioned that the load times were atrocious in my last review. That has been patched and they’re a lot better now although nowhere near perfect. I also mentioned that the Paris map had an amazing sense of immersion that was slightly broken due to the fact that none of the NPCs had French accents. The same goes for Sapienza, the overall sense of immersion is great but the developers once again omitted local accents which resulted in all of the Italian NPCs sounding American. I also mentioned that the Elusive targets were not live yet in my last review. They are live now but only for 48 hours at a time. I only had a chance to test out the second one but I thought it was very well put together. As mentioned you only have 48 hours to eliminate your target before they vanish forever, however the twist is they are not marked on the map, so finding them can be tricky, and you also only get one attempt at killing them. If you die that’s it. You’ll have to wait for the next target to appear – this all adds up to the Elusive targets being a much more real Hitman experience. The final problem I had with the Paris map was that I felt I knew it so well that I would never want to play it again because the fun of figuring things out was gone. Well I did try it again but I did not complete anymore missions there because I was bored so perhaps only releasing one map (I’m not including those tutorial maps) day one was a mistake. However, a month into the Sapienza map and I’m still having a great time. Despite having achieved a level 20 mastery rating I still find myself returning regardless of the map’s few flaws so I do think Sapienza is an improvement over the Paris map (which I still think is a good map that I grew bored of due to it being the only map).
Hitman: Episode 2 Review (PS4)
Hitman Episode 2 is in no way an improvement over Episode 1 gameplaywise. If you did not enjoy the gameplay last time then you should probably move along. However I found the map to be far more enjoyable than the first and I still find myself returning to it a month later. The map's scale is a little hard to fathom at first but once you wrap your head around that I think Sapienza will quickly become one of your favourite Hitman maps. Sure it does have a handful of flaws, such as underused areas and the virus, but overall I'm confident that it's worth your time and money.
Disclaimer: This review was conducted using a copy purchased from the PSN at the expense of the reviewer. This has no effect on the final score or the content of the review. For more information, please see our Review Policy.