Right on Target.
I'm curious how I would have scored my review of the Hitman Starter Pack—which included the game's tutorial prologue and first main story mission—if I hadn't gotten to play the main Sapienza mission, World of Tomorrrow, at a preview event when I was shown the game earlier this year. As I was writing the review, I kept thinking "The game is more than this, I've seen it," but couldn't write about it due to an embargo on future content—this content. What I saw then holds true now, now that I've gotten to play the release version. Hitman Episode 2: Sapienza hits its target dead-on.
Keeping in line with the episodic nature of the game—which is treating each mission like a separate, linked short story—the mission takes Agent 47 to the fictional town of Sapienza, Italy. The hit is on a pair of scientists, Silvio Caruso and Francesca De Santis, who have cooked up a particularly nasty designer virus that can target people based on their genetic fingerprint. As Diana Burnwood tells 47, the virus is a nasty piece of work; but perhaps more importantly, it's bad for the business of being an assassin. It, and its creators, have to go.
The real star of the episode is Sapienza itself, the environment and characters that inhabit it. Nearly every location has its own characters telling their personal story—even if it's not one that leads to new opportunities, it teaches you about the town and gives background on the hit. The small storylines playing out in the small village are funnier, and the opportunities feel more absurd: If you can find and get inside the ISA safe house, you'll find an exploding golf ball you can use to blow up Caruso. You can also target him or Francesca with cannons at the not-quite-decommissioned fort at the end of his property. Both of these are Assassination challenges that reward you with experience points in the game.
Sapienza is far more spread out than Paris and shares more in common with the playful design of the prologue missions than the somewhat cold fashion show environment of the first episode. It feels larger, perhaps because it's widely spread out and the number of buildings available feel more varied in style. It has a James Bond feel that's clearly deliberate, with the entrance to the cave-based bio-lab heralded by an orchestral fanfare.
The multiple path "opportunities" also feel less telegraphed in this episode. Following them leads to unique kill opportunities, yielding more points and which open up more weapons, disguises, and starting locations for the area. Leveling up also helps with the Escalation missions, where you start with a simple hit on a single target with a particular weapon or disguise, with further challenges and targets added with each successive playthrough. These add a ton of depth to the mission area, with three available at the episode launch.
This is not to say that it's perfect. There are a few bugs here and there; at one point, I was spotted and reported for a crime I committed by someone on the other side of a brick wall. Occasionally while pacifying enemies, by choking them, they will just die; which feels like it's either a bug or a feature designed to keep you from choking everyone. Either way, it adds an element of risk to the game that is particularly unforgiving and punishing to players, rather than adding to the excitement. However, this happened fairly irregularly, and the bulk of my gameplay experience has been excellent.
Perhaps Hitman: Sapienza feels stronger because it expects you to know how to play the game. While the Paris episode is fun, it still feels like it's holding your hand a bit; Sapienza and especially the "World of Tomorrow" mission feel like they're really dropping you into the world and seeing how you react to its challenges, while being much more playful with the game's ecosystem. Agent 47 is a cipher for how you want to play the game; he exists to unlock its secrets while also letting you establish your own style—within the game's parameters—and it's great to see how that evolves in this second episode.
Hitman Episode 2: Sapienza is available now for PC, Xbox One, and PS4, and can be purchased as a single episode for $9.99 or as part of a $50 upgrade to the Full Experience for those who've bought the starter pack. The Full Experience can be purchased for $60, and includes all current and future episode content.
Code provided by publisher. Review based on PS4 version.