Yesterday, the sequel to IO Interactive's Hitman reboot was announced. It's different from its direct predecessor, stripping away the episodic format and releasing the entire game in one go this November. There's a perk though at least, a chaser for that bad news. For folks who pre-order Hitman 2, they get access right away to the new Hitman: Sniper Assassin mode, which introduces co-op to the series for the first time. If that name sounds vaguely familiar to you, that's probably because it is.
This isn't the first sniper adventure for Agent 47. In 2012, a spin-off of IO Interactive's Hitman: Absolution called Hitman: Sniper Challenge was released. It was a lone sniper level, but it was enough to inspire a follow-up years later. In 2015, it got its own mobile game in Hitman: Sniper from Square Enix Montreal, where environmental hazards and sneakiness were the key to success. In 2016's Hitman, "Master Sniper Challenges" made appearances, but weren't its own dedicated mode beyond the already-established maps.
I dove into the new mode yesterday, thinking I'd do a few rounds and that's it. But hours slipped by. It was a far deeper mode than I initially expected it to be. It's a difficult mode too, with all the sorts of familiar "shit can go horribly wrong" factors that made season one of Hitman back in 2016 so compelling. And with so many targets at my disposal—all the bodyguards and three primary targets wandering the grounds of a lavish wedding—it's probably best compared to having a dollhouse, if you had to observe and quietly murder everything in your dollhouse.
Of course though, Agent 47 (or one of two new characters in its co-op mode: Knight and Stone) is ready for anything. I'm ready for anything. During yesterday's stream announcing the mode and Hitman 2, only the barest of details were revealed. You can shoot people off the edges of cliffs or into water, keeping their bodies discreetly hidden where they would be undiscovered. What I didn't know was the lengths to this: I found by accident that I could also shoot people into bushes—though a splatter of blood coats the shrubbery—as well as into windows on the third floor. I'm sure there's even more body hiding, complete with a "Hidden" bonus that pops up, that I haven't even discovered yet.
Even taking Agent 47 off his feet, to be sheltered by the nearby comfort of a cliffside and handy sniper rifle, Hitman: Sniper Assassin still has all the charm and sandbox goodness of what the mode originates from. To wit, out of curiosity I shot the wedding cake, only to find one of the targets get frustrated about it. He marched downstairs sometime later, and began to yell at the baker. He marched away from the poor employee, raising his arms and yelling, when I noticed a highlighted canister behind him. It was a fire extinguisher. I zoomed in tight, shot the fire extinguisher, and my target was knocked away. He was killed by the explosion. Long afterwards the happy wedded couple, not among my targets, discovered their destroyed wedding cake. I may have even felt a pang of remorse.
Hitman: Sniper Assassin is full of all the silly scenarios you're familiar with from Hitman. Still, things can go terribly awry seemingly quicker, and there's no coming back from it like there is with a stroke of good luck in the base game. When an alarm is sounded, the targets begin to make a break for it, all at once. If you haven't killed any of them yet, it can be hard to land a shot on the moving targets all running in different directions. Afterwards, all the bodyguards slowly make their own escapes too, which is a slow and tedious process as there are fifteen roaming about at the start. Usually by the time chaos breaks out there's less than that, but it's still annoying.
The environmental kills are also relatively slim, at least from what I've spotted in my hours with the mode. There's fire extinguishers that can be shot to cause a blast, as well as larger gas canisters surrounding the area that cause a particularly big explosion. Speakers and other hanging things like a giant chandelier can be shot down to crush targets below them. In one spot, there's a water canister that can be shot to leak, and shock-wave bullets from your sniper rifle can electrocute whoever walks its direction. Since this is just a taste of Hitman: Sniper Assassin, it's a solid demo-like playspace. Though the assassin in me does wish there were more environmental hazards to tinker with.
I imagine when Hitman 2 is officially out and about, the Sniper Assassin mode will bloom with more levels. Maybe it'll even have more fully-fleshed out co-op: such as one sniper and one hitman on the scene. Like SpyParty, if SpyParty was about working together and not fooling or taking out your opponent.