Hitman: Episode 2 – Sapienza (Video Game)


hitmanDeveloped by IO Interactive

Published by Square Enix

Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One

Rated M for Mature

I might have been a bit too harsh on the first episode of Hitman.  I ended up giving it a favorable review, but I was quick to conclude that it was “not a game I am compelled to master.” The dozen or so hours I spent playing after my review provides pretty damning evidence that I was wrong. The game still has plenty of bugs and some design flaws, but there’s a carnival’s worth of random fun shit to do. It doesn’t raise the score a whole lot higher, but it’s important to know my mindset going into “Sapienza.”

We won’t know how the package shapes up until all seven episodes are out, but this is the first hint what to expect from the individually purchasable episodes. If you’re unfamiliar with the release structure for Hitman, it’s a standard $60 title also being sold as episodic chunks. You can purchase the whole game for $60, which comes with all seven episodes plus the training missions. I use the word “episode” deliberately, since calling it a “level” would be missing a lot. Though each episode is only a single map, each map can be played in a variety of ways with different loadouts, starting locations, and even target objectives. It’s more accurate to say that each episode is its own sandbox, full of a near limitless amount of variations.


Certainly didn’t think I’d by starting my day with a dose of “death by explosive golf ball.”

Just because something is limitless doesn’t mean it’s all interesting. There are a near infinite number of combinations of M&Ms in a bag, but I’m not going to go about counting them. Hitman’s introductory episode certainly wasn’t as boring as bean counting, but it also wasn’t as compelling as it could be. The world of impromptu assassination should offer new continent levels of explorative value. There was a lot to explore, but it always boiled down to the same basic formula of distract, kill, drag, hide. Nevertheless, there was an emergent element to it, where random events far beyond your control would lead to heated chases, fevered costume changes, desperate escapes, and ridiculous solutions.

All of this is a large and cumbersome way of phrasing the question: “Is ‘Sapienza’ worth $10?” Technically, it’s $25 with purchase of the prerequisite “Intro Pack,” but the episode itself is only $10. If you couldn’t tell by how much of the review I cleverly filled with build-up, it’s not a straight answer. On the one hand, there’s basically an equal amount of content here for just 2/3 the asking price. On the other hand, it’s kind of the same thing.


Following around a marked target until he’s isolated enough to strangle… yup, this is Hitman.

Fans will know that the Hitman series has always been built on increasingly difficult and intricate assassinations. You start off with some basic garrotes and poisonings and evolve to car bombings, dual headshots, propane tank tampering, and creative environmental strangulations. So while the first episode had you killing two people in a large map, this one has you killing two people AND destroying a virus. Woah, 33% percent more value for 66% of the price! My mind can’t even math that hard.


And thus marks the first time in the Hitman franchise that rat poison was actually used to poison rats.

It is far too early to be jumping the gun on a sweeping judgement, but it’s disappointingly samey. There are some differences from the “Paris” mission. “Paris” was largely one area, self-contained and separate from the rest of the world. “Sapienza” feels like a living world rather than a constructed event for you to explore. About a third of the map is outside of the main compound, allowing you to explore shops, buildings, and alleyways for ways to get into the main area. There’s a plethora of conversations to overhear, items to find, and paths to unlock, making the preparation feel like its own adventure.


Oh I am going to murder the FUCK out of someone wearing that.

Once inside the compound, it follows a very similar formula to the first episode: isolate your target, apply murder, hide body, make escape. What’s most interesting about this episode is that not every opportunity is foolproof. With “Paris,” as long as you followed the prompts, you could basically get away with it flawlessly. I was surprised to follow one of “Sapienza’s” opportunity chains to find the target still surrounded by guards. It proved to be the most simple, but also the least elegant assassination. It’s bold that they have essentially made their own hint system flawed, making the optimal course of action much less obvious.

Unfortunately, none of this alters the fundamental formula: distract, kill, drag, hide. Throw a coin, distract a guard, knock him out, drag his body, hide the body, repeat until target adjacent. It’s not a bad formula. Just a familiar one, and in need of variation. It’s a problem endemic to the Hitman formula, that every game in its own way has worked to overcome. Absolution had straight action sequences, which while pissing off some fans did the job of breaking up the pacing. Older titles would change up the setting and mission layouts, diversify the targets, and present increasingly complicated and rewarding kill options.


Please let me lead you away from my guards to a secluded area to have a conversation with you. Please ignore the conveniently human-sized dumpster to my right.

I’m still waiting for Hitman to deliver on establishing its own identity. As of now, it feels like a large, open, well polished, yet incredibly standard title. There are plenty of ways to complete your assassination objectives, but none of it has yet really impressed me. As a functional sandbox, it stands out as above the bar. If this were the first title in the franchise, it would be genre-defining. But it isn’t. The franchise has been around for a while, and with the older games having aged just fine, Hitman needs to do something to stand out. The pieces are all here, with the trademark black humor definitely kicking the whole package up a notch. The next few levels just have to deliver that spark that makes it all unforgettable.

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User Rating 5 (1 vote)


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