Hitman Episode 2: Sapienza
After I reviewed the first Hitman episode back in April, many of my fellow gamers out there seemed a little confused as to where the whole series was going. Many of my readers asked me about Io Interactive’s new structure and scale as far as the series was concerned, so I thought I’d touch on that briefly as a preface to this article.
The newest iteration of the Hitman series was designed to be episodic, release-wise, so that the developers, Io Interactive, could take critiques from gamers as they released the episodes one-by-one. In this way, they hoped to sort of caulk-up the holes and correct any technical missteps on the fly, as they appear. There have some minor niggles here and there, provided from said gamers, but the closest thing even came close to a full-on flare-up pertained to the Hitman Intro Pack release.
Although there have been some serious and scandalous money-grubbing and other shady goings-on throughout the gaming industry as of late, Io Interactive’s strategy is pretty simple in my opinion. The aforementioned Intro Pack was designed to give players a taste of the new Hitman hence “Intro.” Other than that, folks could “go all in” and purchase the entire series up-front, or if they were a little more cautious, opt to buy each episode as they are released. This method may be a little different in structure but it makes sense and I hope reassures gamers that there isn’t room here for any tomfoolery.
I also think that Io Interactive may have been going for more of a cinematic sensibility with their episodic release structure, or at least one that mimics any good cable series. The gigantic mansion featured in the Paris episode was truly impressive, with its multi-tiered levels—each which almost functioned as its own separate game-space. Episode 2 trades in the busy hubbub, elbow-rubbing, and swanky party scenery, for calm leisure within an idyllic Italian town. This seaside resort, Sapienza, still contains a mansion, which you’ll discover a couple of targets are hiding out in, but trying to approach this one head-on is pure folly.
Therefore, wandering around the beautiful resort is where Hitman Episode 2 really gets interesting. Agent 47 begins this episode overlooking the quaint Italian town, and though there is some hustle and bustle to it, its movements are much more leisurely. The developers really captured the slow pace of a typical sunny Italian town, whose merchants and ordinary citizens take their time getting around. Meanwhile, the tourist fulfill the bustle part, moving a bit faster as they look for “rare” antiques or off-the-beaten-path “hidden” restaurants.
Agent 47 certainly looks the part and reminded me of one of the dashing actors from a good Italian or French film from the 60s—the only thing missing outfit, consisting of fitted slacks, summer shirt, and cool-as-ice shades, was an ascot. Heck, half of the fun during the first part of the game was just to wander around the town’s narrow medieval streets, occasionally popping into their many explorable and interactive interiors. Beyond just being fun, I soon learned that these areas were full of little clues that Agent 47 could pick up, for use in his overall grand strategy of infiltrating the mansion later on.
For instance, I discovered that there was a florist’s van that was heading somewhere important before its owner had a little accident. Another time I overheard a private detective who mentioned meeting up later with the main female target. Speaking of targets, the main two marks in Hitman Episode 2 are a pair of scientists who are working on some pretty evil research, and it’s your job to take them out so that their plans never reach fruition. I won’t spoil it here, but suffice it to say that this objective isn’t as straight-forward as it seems as many things may not be what they initially appear to be.
The gameplay is classic Hitman: You’ll discover that your main targets are always well-guarded. However, as you don any number of disguises in an effort to get closer to them, you’ll find new hidden areas from which to plot assassinations or just simply use for hiding when things get too heated. As usual, the perfect kill is all about not just staying hidden from anyone who might get suspicious, but also blending into crowds and impersonating certain key characters. The more careful and conscious you are of your surroundings, the better off you’ll be, which makes for a game which rewards moments of quiet patience and keen observation.
The final third act of Hitman Episode 2 takes place within a subterranean laboratory where all of the dastardly deeds are transpiring. Although this mountain base is rather small, its more confined dimensions mean that Agent 47 must be a lot more careful. Any slip-up, from a guard supervisor who doesn’t recognize your face from his usual crew, to an over-observant staff member, could make things a lot more difficult (and potentially deadly).
Visually, Hitman Episode 2 is definitely a pretty game to look at. It’s almost as if members of Io Interactive’s team went to Italy and spent some time in a few coastal resorts, because they really captured the flavor of one in Sapienza. The tide ebbs and flows and the surf bubbles and hisses near the beach. Meanwhile, more inland, town residents and tourists alike move about and engage in natural-sounding conversations with each other. Not only are such things as the character models and their clothing and accessories well-done, but the sound department really nailed it as well, complementing the outstanding graphics (especially on higher end gaming PCs).
Hitman Episode 2: Sapienza is an excellent continuation of the series. What Episode 1 did with Paris, with all of its grandiosity, busyness, and pomp, in Sapienza things are more of an exercise in subtlety, set against a rustic and exotic backdrop. It also has a lot of replay value since you can not only approach the same targets from different angles using different means and methods, but just as with Paris, there is also an entire plethora of side-missions and objectives that you can take on as well. If Hitman Episode 2: Sapienza is any indicator as to what’s to come, I’m looking forward to the next episode.
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