Following on from Hitman’s “Intro Pack”, Sapienza make fors a solid follow up to the trip to Paris. Everything about Io Interactive’s new formula has been carried into this second episode as Agent 47 stalks the sun-bleached streets of an idyllic coastal town. Wherever our cueball killer goes, however, death quickly follows.
Like Paris and the Sanguine fashion show, Sapienza plays host to its own expansive scenario. The main mission, dubbed “World of Tomorrow” has you chasing down two primary targets. Together, Silvio Caruso and Francesca De Santis have been developing a deadly biological weapon that could wreak havoc if placed in the wrong hands, with the ICA and Agent 47 contracted to remove this emerging threat.
Not only does it add a interest dynamic to the game’s unspooling narrative, the presence of a super weapon also gives players one more objective to nullify before extracting. Although Caruso and De Santis will meander between several of Sapienza’s landmarks, the research lab remains static, entrenched beneath Silvio’s sprawling mansion complex.
Once again, players are invited to tackle the mission however they please though “Opportunities” are there to act as a guide. Each one conjures its own trail of breadcrumbs, signposting the weapons, costumes, and locales needed to execute an iconic Hitman kill.
Still, even with the stabilisers locked in place, you’ll no doubt stray from the beaten path, soaking in Sapienza’s many distractions. It’s a massive place to explore, sporting a labyrinth of cobbled streets, mansion suites, and underground caverns. Where 47’s previous contract took place within the grounds of a singel box-like mansion, his second outing is littered with several significant hotspots. Beyond the gates of Silvio’s complex lies rows upon rows of shops and homes, as well as a beach and the lovely San Giorgio church. Explore long enough and you’ll encounter the aging Sapienza ruins and, of course, the secret underground facility.
If there’s one thing Io Interactive does best, it is constructing these grand playgrounds with masterful attention to detail. Every space feels incredibly authentic, as if lived in by real life human beings. Although NPCs will occasionally break character, they help add to this illusion, going about their lives while chatting away.
As ever, lining up the perfect assassination depends on several key factors, with timing being the most important. It’s this ingredient that has always proved the most divisive among Hitman’s players. You see, no matter how you approach a mission, there will always be a certain amount of time spent waiting for NPCs to do something or be somewhere in particular. For someone as impatient as myself, this can be excruciating though it doesn’t spoil the overall experience.
What does, however, is the way in which Hitman enshrines perfection. Straight off the bat, it coaches you to be a so-called silent assassin. Yes, you can shoot your way out of a situations, but what’s more likely is that when you happen to get spotted, fumble with the controls, or encounter a glitch, you feel the need to quit or load the most recent save game.
As much as enjoy ticking off Hitman’s list of challenges, they are starting to take a toll. One particular playthrough had me balling my fists in rage for the best part of an hour, as I attempted to perform a relatively simple feat. It’s these rare moments where the curtain falls away to reveal Hitman at its most repugnant: a dolled-up series of fetch quests and waiting games, where players simply react instead of asserting their own power. The same, however, can be said of any Hitman game to date, not to mention the stealth action genre as a whol.
Several hours and a dozen or so mastery ranks later, there’s still so much to do in Sapienza. The more accomplished I become as an assassin, the more options I’m given to experiment with, unlocking new weapons, costumes, and starting locations. When you factor in IO’s ongoing series of live events and community challenges, Hitman’s replay value grows exponentially and will continue to do so when we touch down in Marrakesh later this year.