Be an assassin. Visit exotic locations, kill new and interesting people.
Please note that since each episode of Hitman features the same graphics engine and control setup, those elements will not be repeated in our reviews for the remaining episodes. To read our thoughts on that, refer to our review of Episode 1: Paris.
Square-Enix’s episodic experimentation with the Hitman series continues in Episode 2: Sapienza as Agent 47 must take down a pair of dastardly targets and also locate and destroy the dangerous bio-weapon they’ve been working on. It’s considerably larger in scale than your first mission and, as a spectacle, is undeniably impressive.
While we won’t dwell on the graphical aspect, the actual design and intricacy of the seaside town that plays host to the mission is really spectacular. There’s a large villa, where the two targets are located, a subterranean Bond-esque laboratory that houses the virus prototype, and then a bunch of little shops, buildings and streets you can wander down in search of opportunities.
To be honest, the sheer scale of Sapienza can be overwhelming when you first drop into the mission, seated on a bench in front of the villa. You needn’t go far to find usable intel — be it a crashed flower delivery van or a newly hired cook — but it’s never as simple as making a single move. Disguising yourself as a courier might get you in the gate, but then what? Will they frisk you? Will the cameras record your movements? When will the opportunity to strike arise?
It makes for a complex game of cat and mouse, one that’s easy to mess up at any number of points along the way (so take advantage of the ability to save freely). Even without missteps it takes time to put everything together to eliminate two targets and then infiltrate the lab — figure in the area of an hour to clear the mission the first time.
Of course, with the piecemeal delivery of Hitman, the short-term draw is in each mission’s replay value, and Sapienza offers markedly more than Paris. We ambushed a target at a gravesite, tricked someone into ingesting poison, posed as a private investigator for a shadowy meeting, dressed as a scientist, a guard, a plumber, donned a hazmat suit and so on. There’s loads of experimentation to be done.
It’s not all headshots and garrotes, however, as the new episode features a mission briefing and short post-escape cut scene that serve as the only semblance of story progression. That’s not much exposition following a six-week hiatus, and unless they start giving us a little more to sink our teeth into, this version of Hitman is going to essentially be an assassination sandbox with little-to-no context.
Despite a lack of story at this stage, we’re largely enjoying the episodic format. Given our rather long and distinguished backlog of games, it’s nice to spend a few hours poking around and then check out for a month rather than tackling it all at once. It’s just easier to commit to bite-sized installments on our current schedule, so that aspect has been much appreciated.
By pretty much any measure, Episode 2: Sapienza is superior to the first installment, offering a bigger area, more complex objectives and more ways to complete them. The lack of story development is a concern given the episodic model, but the fun is undeniable.