Why Hitman 2 Should Be Episodic

The last Hitman was genius. Its levels were varied, with hundreds of little secrets to uncover and exploit as you assassinated your (hopefully) unsuspecting targets. But more importantly, Hitman 2016 gave you the time and space to truly get to know the levels. By using an episodic model, Hitman made players get attached to the levels before tempting them away with a new one. Hitman 2 is not episodic. That doesn’t make it a bad game, but it does take away some of the magic that Hitman once had.

It’s true that episodic games have a somewhat shaky relationship with their audiences. Long gaps between releases can kill the flow, and the risk of not knowing what you were purchasing from the start is similarly off-putting. But Hitman was a triumph in part because of its episodic nature. Some levels might have been more popular than others, but all were given the perfect amount of time to be completed before the next was released.

A (Bloody) Drip Feed

Hitman 2 Collectors Edition

By dripping feeding its levels out over several months, Hitman made sure there were no other distractions within the game as you explored all the possibilities available to you. It encouraged you to take your time and learn each map on an intimate level. The places in Hitman felt like a character you could get to know, and arguably had more personality than Agent 47. Memorizing the layouts, characters, opportunities, and disguises of each level took time, patience, and repeated playthroughs.

Without that, Hitman 2 will draw its players forward. Finishing one map in one way will open up another map to be completed to open yet another map. Hitman 2 promises a lot of things and is constantly enticing the player with new levels rather than new opportunities. It’s too much at once and, in this case, that’s not to the player’s benefit. Veterans of the series will know how many secrets there are to be utilized in each level, but the experience will be diluted if they are tempted to play new levels while still mastering the old.

Because Hitman was designed to be mastered. While you’re first attempt would be a fumbling, alert-ridden disaster, your third, fourth, and fifth attempt would become seamless as you stylishly dispatched your targets and disappear without a trace. Playing with new opportunities taught you things about other opportunities you could exploit. You could learn how the target behaved under certain circumstances or discover something to do next time. Hitman had players immediately returning to the level they just completed to try a new method or being a tiny bit better.

Even with all the new exciting opportunities to try in Hitman 2, players will first have to resist the urge to try an entirely new level first. Even if users return to certain stages while exploring newer ones, the experience won’t be the same. Some of the chapters might appear a bit boring, shallow, or easy on your first playthrough, only to open itself up as you begin to delve into its variety.

Sapienza, from 2016’s Hitman, might first appear to be just a simple mansion. Most will probably enter through the kitchen and sneak into the secret lab from there. But it’s one of the most popular levels from the game and has an entire town to explore, filled with with creepy morticians, annoying street performers, and secret tunnels that you’ll completely miss if you only take one pass at it.

And Hitman 2016 made players focus in a way those older non-episodic Hitman games did not. It effectively pushed the series forward in a way that suits how it is meant to be played and now Hitman 2 is taking it a step back.

Hitman 2‘s Lump Sum of Levels

Hitman 2 might have some of the best pieces of level design in the world, but they only work if the players can find those parts. The open-ended nature of the series—huge playgrounds to explore without much direction—means you have to do a lot more than tell players to try out their possibilities. Humans gravitate towards finding the easiest solution and playing games is no different. With Hitman 2 constantly offering something else to do, a huge swath of the audience might have accidentally take half the fun out of their own game by not diving back in.

By all accounts, Hitman 2 is a fantastic game, and a great evolution from the Hitman from 2016. The levels are bigger and even more creative then before, with countless occasions from elegant assassination and mischievous chaos. Each map also looks unique and is filled with delightfully dark humor and outlandish NPCs. But Hitman 2 does not offer the same incentive to return to each level over and over again. In fact, the reward of unlocking a new level entirely might be enough to have some players only ever discover the most shallow aspects of their game.

Sections of the map might go unexplored, disguises might never be discovered, and disastrously deadly assassinations might never be utilized. Hitman rebooted the franchise and introduced the thrills of knocking people out and stealing their clothes to a new audience. Hitman 2 hopes that its users will remember to pace themselves and not overindulge in all the levels it offers and, for the players’ sake, I hope it is right.