I tend to enjoy games which are dynamic, systemic in nature, and offer diverging experiences each time you replay them; but have a story to tell at the same time. These types of games exploit the potential of the interactive medium, beyond what is possible with older media like cinema or literature.
There are plenty of games which offer a sandbox-like experience, but do so at the cost of a creative narrative. On the other hand, you have plenty of narrative games which are more or less linear and scripted experiences, even if they are increasingly being set in open worlds with RPG-like mechanics. HITMAN 2 is the quintessential example of a game that does both - offer a free-flowing sandbox, which also has plenty of interesting stories to tell.
At its core, the HITMAN reboot that started in 2016 is all about dropping you into an open world, with a whole variety of tools and mechanics at your disposal. From there, it's basically a puzzle stealth game where you figure out how to use the tools, the world, to achieve a rather simple objective - usually to assassinate a target or two.
HITMAN 2 takes the arsenal of tools and mechanics further, encouraging more player creativity than ever before. The use of mirrors is a particularly interesting addition. But what makes HITMAN 2 special are the worlds. They are meticulously detailed, with a density of information rarely seen in games. The Mumbai mission, in particular, has an almost overwhelming amount of detail - of course, justified by Mumbai being one of the most densely populated cities in the world. These details don't just contain clues, tools, and opportunities to achieve your objective, but rather, creates an immersive effect, that in turn motivates and intrigues you to explore further. The HITMAN worlds are definitely exaggerated caricatures of the real thing. This allows the designers and artists room for some hilarious environmental storytelling. The HITMAN 2 worlds are also filled with tons of NPCs, each offering an insight into the world, have their own stories to tell, and often giving away clues on how to reach your target. Once again, it's not just about utility, i.e. finding ways to fulfil your objectives, but offering you a wholesome flavour of the world itself that really sells the illusion. The end result is an open world sandbox puzzle that gets more enthralling the deeper you explore into it.
Each mission contains a slew of guided stories, that act more like quests. Humour is top of the agenda, with some of the most ridiculous assassinations you can imagine! Though probably the least absurd, my favourite one is perhaps where you trick another assassin into assassinating your targets. Of course, there are more stories than you need to achieve your targets, which makes the game highly replayable. While combat is definitely an option, it's the more devious and stealthy mechanics are far more satisfying, and the game rewards you with more XP accordingly. Ideally, you'd want to achieve your target without anyone even noticing your presence - a true Silent Assassin.
I have completed all missions multiple times now, and it remains fresh every time. My favourite has to be the aforementioned Mumbai, which I've completed 7 times, and maxed out the level ups. Firstly, you must experience all of the stories, which will take you at least 2 to 3 playthroughs of every mission. But it's after finishing the stories that HITMAN 2 gets really interesting. Move on to Master difficulty, and you basically get to create your own stories, and fully indulge your creative side. As you level up each location, you get more tools, more mechanics and more opportunities to exploit. The game does as remarkable job of accounting for every permutation. Just when you think "Surely, this isn't going to work..." and it does! The world is completely open, with a myriad of possibilities, and the objective is very simple - assassinate your targets. How you do it - is up to you. Of course, I expect most gamers to finish the stories and call it a day, but I'd highly recommend giving the Master difficulty a shot - this is where HITMAN 2 truly shines.
The developers continue to add new challenges and missions to the existing maps every week or so. Oh, and there are two excellent DLCs. The heist DLC in particular is thrilling, and arguably the most replayable level they have ever made. If you also own HITMAN 1, you get a remastered version of that game with some of the new mechanics from HITMAN 2 backported into it, most notably the mirrors and PiP elements. Overall, there's a ton of content if you're really looking to sink your teeth into the world of assassination, that'll keep you busy for dozens of hours. For most singleplayer gamers, though, it's a pretty short game. You can do your first playthrough in less than 10 hours, while a second playthrough and completing all stories can be done well under 15 hours. Of course, if you're rushing through it, the game is over in 3 hours, but then you're missing out on so much.
I see a minor difference in quality of missions, having played through them multiple times. The Vermont mission feels somewhat weaker, while the Mumbai and Sgail missions are outstanding. I suppose this will always be the case in a game like this, but I felt HITMAN 1 was more consistent. It could be due to limited resources and budget, with IO Interactive having gone through a messy divorce with Square Enix. Things are on the up for IO, though, as can be evidenced from the DLCs - they are already more polished than a couple of missions from the base game. I thus look forward to seeing a HITMAN 3 realize this brilliant vision with few compromises.