Hitman 2’s announcement last night has been long awaited by fans of the bald assassin, but last night’s reveal still held a good few little surprises. For one thing, while it helped keep 2016’s Hitman in the news and in the spotlight, the episodic release model and the confusing flip flopping on how it would be implemented did more harm than good for the game, and they’ve probably quite wisely reverted to a once and done release followed by live game events and time limited challenges.
The real surprise, however, comes in the form of Sniper Assassin, a standalone co-op sniper twist on the Hitman formula – you can play it solo if you wish. It’s there as a dose of instant gratification for those that pre-order the game, giving them something to play with the fun spin of being able to do so in multiplayer, but I also think it’s a shame that it’s not there to stand out as its own thing.
It’s actually something that IO have done before, and you can trace Sniper Assassin’s lineage back to the Hitman: Sniper Challenge promotional game for 2012’s Hitman: Absolution. This in turn spawned Hitman: Sniper for mobile, but has come back to be IO’s testbed for introducing multiplayer into the Hitman series.
You take on the role of Agent 47 in solo, but if you play in co-op then you pick between new operatives Knight and Stone. The choice is fairly minimal, between a woman with awesome swept over hair and a black guy with a broken nose, but they do have minor differences in the game’s one level. Each has a different silenced sniper rifle, with Knight having the Jaeger 7 Copperhead that has body piercing and wall piercing ammo, while Stone’s Sieger 300 Redeem has body piercing and shockwave ammo, that can knock things around in the level. Both weapons have an increasing mastery level to boost their abilities.
There’s just the one level though, with a large wedding at an opulent hotel and three targets to take out: the bride’s father, some woman and a guy in a cowboy hat. They have names, they even have minor backstories as criminal gang The Yardbirds, but all you really need to know is that they have a very Hitman pattern to how they and team of bodyguards at this palatial home move through the level. It’s a relatively straightforward set up, and one that should provide a couple hours of enjoyment, but probably not too much more beyond that unless you obsessively hunt down extra challenges and feats.
You will be sitting and waiting for your opportunity to strike, learning the timing through successive runs of when the targets will be out of the way and when the various bodyguards can safely be dispatched. Kill all three and all of the bodyguards for some extra points at the finish screen, but you’re given a strict 15 minute time limit. Even that actually felt a bit too long without the more direct interactivity that Hitman tends to offer.
You see, within a few quick goes, you and anyone you have alongside you will have learnt some of the patterns, dug into the ten optional challenges and started to mess around with the world. One challenge tasks you with trying to time your shots so that the powerful sniper bullets and the ragdoll physics send the person into pool or tumbling off a cliff, others have you trying to pull of “accidental” assassinations with loudspeakers and statues, electrocute enemies, and so on. There’s a really nice amount of things you can shoot and get some kind of reaction out of, giving the feeling of meaningful interactivity to what’s effectively a shooting gallery.
One challenge has you trying to kill all three targets with a single environmental shot, and while Jim and I theorised that they would all meet up right at the end of the 15 minutes for a few seconds, we never managed to get that far. I might find out one day, but odds are I’ll probably tire of waiting every single time and find myself with my trigger finger itching to fire at that propane tank they’re walking past.
Right, this time I’m going to wait it out until the very end… Probably.