‘Hitman’ – Episode 2: Sapienza Review
Platforms PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC Genre Action-Adventure, Stealth
Platform Played PlayStation 4
Developer IO Interactive Publisher Square Enix
Hitman’s second episode improves on many of the technical issues that plagued the debut installment, while also providing a fun new level that is full of unique locations and interesting assassination opportunities. Unfortunately despite improving in some areas, Hitman’s second episode still suffers from problems that were introduced in the debut chapter.
The main story slice of Hitman episode 2 has Agent 47 attempting to assassinate Silvio Caruso, a bio-engineer who has reportedly been developing a DNA-specific virus that could kill anyone on the planet; while also having to hunt down Francesca De Santis, a lab head who could continue his virus research after his demise. Unlike episode one, Agent 47 also has a third task – destroy the virus that has been created. Aside from small details of each character that influence the unique assassination opportunities on offer, there is almost no story exploration of either target. This lacking story focus makes each kill feel hollow, as each individual is simply a checklist box to be ticked in order to reach the conclusion.
This lack of story content also applies to the overall plot of the episodic Hitman narrative, which is left out in the dark until the final cut scene. I understand the Hitman episodic release structure is a different beast to other story-based episodic releases, but the complete lack of explanation as to where this story is actually going is frustrating. After two episodes I have zero idea who the villain is, or why I should care. This issue wouldn’t be so bad if each installment offered a meaningful episodic tale, but even in this case Hitman is dropping the ball.
Hitman episode two doesn’t disappoint in delivering an interesting new location. Episode two takes place in the fictional Italian coastal city of Sapienza, and the new setting allows for some interesting architecture and an array of unique areas to explore. Sapienza is a delightful stop in Agent 47’s episodic adventure, with the coastal city offering a city morgue, ancient ruins, an underground cavern (with surrounding tunnels), a beach side area and a small town to explore. While Paris focused on offering hundreds of NPC’s around every corner, Sapienza instead offers densely filled areas. Almost each location has a unique item or weapon that could be used to aid your assassination attempts, which made exploration feel a lot more rewarding in comparison to the debut episode. Sapienza steals the show in episode two, producing a memorable location that will be hard to beat in future installments.
The main issue with Sapienza is the lack of buildings that can actually be accessed. Despite the areas that can be explored being filled with unique items, a lot of the city is simply closed off. Dozens of apartments are simply locked with no way of finding entry. It’s disappointing that an episodic structure such as Hitman is struggling to provide genuinely open areas to explore. This one flaw makes Sapienza feel like a beautiful piece of artwork that was simply never completed.
Once again if replaying the same episode multiple times does not appeal, Hitman episode two will not change that. These episodic releases are built around small bursts of replayability and can easily be completed within an hour if players to not explore and experiment. Those who do want to replay the episode will once again be able to complete challenges in order to increase their Mastery of the level, which will unlock new starting points and new items that can be taken on mission.
Hitman episode two also allows players to start tracking Opportunities before they actually find them. Assassination Opportunities are unique kill chances which can be followed like a breadcrumb trail in order to experience unique and memorable kills. Of course these Opportunities can be found like usual, but the ability to track these options is certainly an advantage for those who may never have found these Opportunities in the wild. Fortunately each of these Opportunities once again produce an array of memorable kills; which range from disguising yourself as a Plague Doctor to take down an unsuspecting foe, or poisoning a target while they meet with their lover. Each kill is memorable, unique and most importantly fun, which encouraged me to experience each one; alongside my own unique kill attempts utilising everything Sapienza had to offer.
On the multiplayer side, Contracts Mode hasn’t really changed. You now can create missions in Sapienza but there is still no search functionality to help comb through the thousands of contracts already available. Sapienza also has a range of Escalation Missions already available (with more to come) which are essentially a simple assassination, which when completed offers a new variation with a separate task to complete. The assassination escalates five times with an added objective within each level. If the repetitive nature of Escalation Mode didn’t entertain you in episode one, don’t expect episode two to fix these issues. But those wanting further challenges within Sapienza will be pleased to know that a lot more Escalation Mode challenges are available already; with Elusive Targets also planned to be released in-between episodic releases.
The Hitman development must be commended for their work at improving load times and technical issues that were persistent during the original release. The improvements allow faster load times when loading from a previous save. While the initial load time is still almost one minute long, the improvements to load times following that initial load are substantial. There have also been load time improvements to viewing the objectives/challenges in the menu, despite the clunky set-up these icons can now be explored instantaneous; which is a major step in the right direction following the disastrous load times experienced in the debut episode.
Hitman episode two is a step in the right direction, though the series itself is still not completely on course. Sapienza is easily the main reason to experience episode two, with the coastal city offering unique areas and memorable assassinations; while the improved load times will be appreciated by all players who experienced issues during episode one.
Those who did not enjoy the episodic structure of Hitman’s Paris episode will not be won over with Sapienza, as the same story issues and repetitive nature of missions are still a concern.
Hitman’s episodic structure will always be the divisive factor in whether or not players have an enjoyable time with Agent 47’s latest adventure, which is unfortunate because there are many memorable Hitman moments to encounter in Sapienza.
Sapienza is a beautiful and densely filled location.
Memorable Assassination Opportunities.
Improved load times.
Lack of main story content.
Lots of locations are off limits.