I enjoy murdering virtual people far more than I probably should. I wonder about the nature of it, sometimes pausing mid-mission to take stock and ask myself “is this really a healthy fantasy?” I have one of those moments in Colombia, while sitting with someone who is definitely not supposed to be Pablo Escobar ('Rico Delgado'). Not-Escobar has an irritating selfie-obsessed wife, but she's just been yelled at and stormed out of the office, leaving him alone with me and my tattoo gun, which is a mere inch from his neck. No, I think everything’s fine.
As Agent 47 walks out of the drug lord’s home in classic Hitman fashion, taking care to quietly close the door behind him, it’s clear that this is going to be a definitive assassination simulator. Hitman 2 has the potential to be the best entry this series has seen and, without the episodic content plan that arguably hamstrung 2016's Hitman, arrives as a full game on day one.
The Hitman formula remains unchanged. You play the beautiful and bald Agent 47, a master assassin and Tripadvisor's most dedicated reviewer. He travels the world to exotic locations, kills people in exotic fashion, and then quietly leaves. Hitman’s appeal is in its sandbox nature and, not to be too blunt about it, the creativity it allows with the art of murder. A firearm, in these settings, is always a last resort. The question in every mission is not whether you can kill a target, but just how many different ways you can do it.
I spent an hour in Hitman 2’s vibrant Colombia level and would have happily have whiled away the rest of the day there. The map is huge, filled with life and points of interest around every corner, be it a dilapidated statue minutes away from its grand reveal, a missing band, an inebriated mule desperately searching for some glue, or a celebrity tattooist hiding away in a bar, no space is wasted. Inane conversation between a couple fishing by a lake, a mechanic talking about his get rich quick scheme, loud music coming from a nearby home, everything helps build the ambience and illusion of a living world.
The 'opportunities' system that was introduced in 2016's Hitman makes a welcome return, which essentially gives players hints towards the more creative options they might take (it's also nice for finding stuff you've previously missed). I couldn't work out how I might use that hilltop statue to help me kill the drug lord, so I used this and learned I had to disguise myself as a shaman to get past the guards. Only problem was I hadn't seen a shaman chilling anywhere. I eventually found the guy near the end of my session, drugging some poor people in a nearby forest so... let's just say I won't feel guilty knocking him off when the time comes.
For the Not-Escobar target, I instead opted for the tattooist route. A simple matter of spiking a celebrity's beer (never leave your drink unattended), drowning him in the toilet (this did seem a bit harsh), stealing his clothes, waltzing straight into Rico’s compound after a quick frisk, and I'm next to the guy's neck with a giant needle. My only regret is I couldn't work out how to kill his irritating wife, but next time her Instagram career is over.
My second target in this environment was Andrea Martinez who, as is often the case, was guarded. I’d spotted her wandering around in the village earlier, with two minders at her back. I had yet to see her alone, and the clock was ticking. I had happened upon a dead drummer early on, with his other band mates asleep around the area, so there seemed to be a rock 'n' roll approach I could have taken but, with time marching on, I decided to go for the more obvious approach.
Disguised as an armed guard, I waited for Martinez back in her home, and my brilliant plan was to shoot her a lot then jump out of a window. Unfortunately the best laid plans of mice and mad killers often go wrong, and the moment I walked upstairs her secretary clocked me, forcing Agent 47 to kill her and everyone else in the room.
This set off the Hitman domino effect, alerting everyone nearby and dooming quite a few. It was a bloodbath. This did let me focus on the shooting mechanics which, while great for aiming precise individual shots, are kept deliberately functional otherwise: you don't really want to be doing a Nathan Drake impression in this game and, if you try, Agent 47's not really built for it.
Two targets down, there was a third and final Colombian target. He was out patrolling the poppy fields with some purple parkas. Getting to him was almost like a MGS3: Snake Eater tribute: stalking through tall grass, snapping a neck here, dragging the corpse there (Hitman fans will also get a serious 'Attack Of The Saints' vibe). All I needed to deal with this guy was a bit of distance, and a small distraction. In the space of a few seconds I tossed a coin ahead of his guards, a knife into the back of his head, turned and was gone into the brush before anyone realised he was dead. It wasn't especially clever, no, but there was a certain elegance to it.
I barely scratched the surface of Colombia: there were large areas of the map I didn't visit, safes left unopened, and other avenues unexplored. I've no idea how many more secrets and alternate options there are packed into this level alone. Suffice to say that this little taste had me, when I got home, re-installing the previous game.
Looking at the Colombia and Miami maps, Hitman 2 is a pure sequel: refinement instead of revolution. Everything bigger and better and, to me, that’s all I want from this. The only cloud on the horizon is the release date: Hitman 2's out on November 13th, and will be competing directly with the likes of Red Dead 2 and Fallout 76. This better not go the way of Titanfall 2. Either way, if you've ever had a soft spot for Agent 47 and his imaginative approach to murder, this has a chance of being the best Hitman to date.