In a characteristically indirect show of political engagement, I spent much of this week’s US mid-term elections wandering around Whittleton Creek, Hitman 2’s idyllic slice of suburbia. If nothing else, there’s a (more coherent) parody of Donald Trump canvassing the neighbourhood in the shape of a local congressional wannabe. Speak to him, and you’ll be treated to a cynical diatribe on immigrants and cleaning up politics. Strangle and dress as him, meanwhile, and you can spout a bit of populist invective yourself in a bid to get one of your quarries alone. A horseshoe of grand clapboard mansions presiding over snooker table lawns, the map is both a study in privilege and an opportunity for Io Interactive to play more overtly with the layers of social permissiveness that make up its brilliant stealth game. It’s also, for my money, the best part of a sequel that is essentially a season’s worth of DLC maps with a bow on top, padded out with tweaked legacy content from Hitman 2016 plus a fun competitive mode.
Fittingly in a sequel that trades too much on past accomplishments, Whittleton Creek’s masterstroke is that most houses follow the same rough blueprint. Each has, however, been put to different use by the people living there, and the fun lies in exploring these differences as you become familiar with recurring layouts and sightlines. One story mission target is a diseased one-percenter whose rooms are packed with bodyguards and cultish memorabilia (disguise yourself as one of the former and the old fool might insist on talking you through the collection, away from prying eyes). A few fences over there’s a welcome-to-the-neighbourhood party in full swing, a public space where you can intercept the mission’s other target, serve fries with optional rodenticide and overhear a few useful conversations. In one second floor mancave walled with baseball jerseys and movie posters a sketchpad lies open in which some vapid soul has been practicing his autograph. Across the hall in another, deserted property, rusty smudges on the plaster attest to a recent murder.
Agent 47 himself is as lethal and preposterous a protagonist as ever, his greatest weapon not the razor-wire coiled in his pocket or the silenced pistol tucked discreetly behind his hip, but his ability to impersonate anybody from a cartoon mascot to a corpse. The sequel’s seven maps (including a tutorial area) once again see you robbing innocent bystanders of their clothes to trick watchful eyes and close the distance to your quarry. Once near, you’ll want to look for opportunities to get your victim alone or things you can sabotage – breathing masks, stage pyrotechnics, car-raising mechanisms – to bring about their demise.
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