Hitman 2 Preview: Sniper Assassin Hits the Target

Hitman 2's Sniper Assassin mode is an impressive preview of what this sequel has to offer. Here are our hands-on impressions!

2016’s Hitman was a polished, devilishly fun take on the stealth genre and arguably the best entry in the long-running franchise, and its sequel, Hitman 2, comes out this November. To pique the interest of eager would-be assassins, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has released a sneak peek of the game (available exclusively to those who pre-order Hitman 2) in the form of a mode called Sniper Assassin, which perches you in a soaring sniper’s nest overlooking a lavish wedding at a palatial Austrian estate and tasks you with assassinating three targets and their bodyguards within a 15-minute time limit.

You can choose to team up with a friend or sharpshoot solo as Agent 47, scanning the crowded celebration for your targets as the clock ticks away and dozens of opportunities for inventive assassinations reveal themselves. You can choose to get trigger happy and try to pick off your targets right away, but such recklessness will cause the attendees to scramble into chaos, which makes it incredibly difficult to hit all of your marks before they escape.

A more measured approach bears much riper fruit, with targets moving into more discreet positions that allow you to blow their brains out and keep the bodies hidden from the roaming guests and goons. The sheer number of deathly possibilities is staggering, and there’s a lot of fun to be had replaying the mission, trying new things, and perfecting your blood-splattered sniper symphony beat by beat.

As in the first game, planning, precision, and patience play a major role in gameplay, and while you’re ostensibly stationary for the entirety of the mission, the gaze of your scope is free to explore the expertly designed level, and the strategies you devise will likely feel quite similar to those you’d employ in traditional Hitman gameplay. Waiting until a bodyguard sits on a bench and then knocking him into the fountain behind him, thereby concealing his carcass, is as satisfying as if you dragged him to his watery grave with your own two hands (or rather Agent 47’s). The hands-off nature of Sniper Assassin mode’s gameplay does force you to alter the way you play, though, and the more creative you get, the more spectacular the results (chandelier kill, anyone?).

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The switch from third-person, ground-level gameplay to a bird’s-eye perspective also adds a surprisingly entertaining element of voyeurism that rewards keen-eyed players with a variety of hilarious details, like a bodyguard who’s gotten himself desperately lost in a hedge maze. There are a ton of collectibles scattered throughout the level, and it’s nearly impossible to find them all in even a dozen playthroughs. It’s like playing a badass version of Where’s Waldo, except the picture is moving and you can screw with the ant-sized partygoers to your heart’s content.

Manipulating events from afar and watching how your carefully placed shots affect the rest of the scene is amusing to no end. There’s so much going on at any given time, so much to keep track of and absorb and factor into your approach. The level of detail in the environment and character loops is actually quite astonishing, and the fine folks at IO Interactive have clearly taken great care to ensure you’ll almost never have the same experience twice.

The most addictive thing about Sniper Assassin is the simplest thing: beating your own high score, and even chasing a spot on the global leaderboard. To rack up major points, you’ve got to be as inventive as possible (“I could kill him while he’s making that private phone call, but what happens if I knock over that giant statue over there?”) and nail some tricky shots when it’s time to pull the trigger (hitting moving targets earns extra marks). You’ll inevitably become sharper and more efficient with each playthrough, and the mission’s time limit gives the mode a much more arcadey feel than your typical Hitman experience.

Playing co-op opens up gameplay even more. You play not as Agent 47, but as two different assassins, Knight and Stone, who each utilize unique ammo (Wall-Piercing rounds for the former, Shockwave rounds for the latter). It’s a genuine thrill to score a synchronized double-kill with your partner, and while playing as Agent 47 is a treat, teaming up is doubly fun. The catch is, you both will need to pre-order Hitman 2 to play, but I can tell you with confidence that this Sniper Assassin teaser is a blast and surprisingly robust despite its size, and it’s hard to think of a better way to reward die-hard fans of the franchise for dropping their dough early.