I feel the most tense right after a kill. There’s still a job to finish and an escape to stage. It’s never easy, and if I fail… that’s it. I can’t go after the target ever again.
That’s the brilliance of Hitman 2‘s Elusive Target challenges. They’re available in the game for two weeks. If you manage to get your target before time runs out, you unlock a new outfit for your assassin avatar. But if you take your shot and die trying, you can never access that mission again. Every risk you take is trailed by worry and dread, but pulling off a successful hit feels incredible.
Hitman 2 is already a tension-filled experience. Fundamentally, it’s a stealth game where every level is set in an open, freely explorable space. You have a target or targets and no real rules to follow, beyond “don’t die.” The disguises you use, the weapons you pick up, the intel you find and act upon — all of it depends on your powers of observation and patience.
Elusive Targets always appear in one of Hitman 2‘s existing levels, usually accompanied by minimal-to-moderate changes to the way things are laid out. A room you’re used to hiding out in may be repurposed for something related to the time-limited target, for example.
They’re different enough that you don’t feel like you’re rehashing an old mission, but familiar enough that you can go in like an old pro. You can use your knowledge of map layouts and interior spaces to your advantage. You can even pick up on clues in the trailer that accompanies every one of these challenges.
The latest Elusive Target sends Agent 47, the game’s star, after a target known as The Appraiser. The setting is the Isle of Sgail, a location from one of Hitman 2‘s later missions. This sprawling island is home to a restored castle that serves as the site of a big nighttime party for evil, masked billionaires.
Take a look at the setup.
That trailer is everything you know going in, so when you start, your first task is to locate your target and get a sense of their movement patterns. You need to think about how you might isolate them, or catch them unaware during a private moment. Before even that, you also probably need to nab yourself a few disguises to ensure you have access to the right locations.
Elusive Targets operate under a couple rules. You can try these missions as many times as you want while they’re active. You don’t get permanently locked out unless you die during an attempt, or fail in some other way after you’ve completed at least one objective but before you escape.
So you’re free — as I did here, and always do — to jump in and fart around with relatively few worries until you actually have a plan you’re ready to act upon. If your cover is blown during a recon run, you can always quit and start over. I did that too.
Every risk you take is trailed by dread, but pulling off a successful hit feels incredible.
Eventually, I found The Appraiser. I followed her. I found her forgery room, and the precious notebook she kept there. I watched her leave the room and walk into an alley to take a phone call. Her guard, always a few feet away, turned around to give her privacy.
I found my moment. It was pure opportunity. No one was watching her, and no one could see me hiding in a door in the alley. I took out my silenced pistol and did the deed, then slipped away as guards rushed in to investigate after The Appraiser suddenly crumbled to the ground.
But this was hardly mission accomplished. I still needed to procure her notebook, then get both it and myself to one of the island’s escape locations. (A hit is never finished until you escape.) I’d need to do some more sneaking, but my murder left everyone on high alert. It meant more people patrolling the map would see right through my disguises if I got too close.
These are the most tense moments in any Elusive Target. You’ve committed, and locked yourself into either finishing now or failing forever. But this time, I did it. I got the notebook. I avoided the guards. I fled the island by boat. All without ever being spotted. I was grinning for a good 20 minutes after the results screen hailed my success.
Remember: This is a new, free addition to the game that launched on Jan. 25. It’ll be gone for everyone on Feb. 3, but sooner or later another one will come along. And in the meantime, there are plenty of other reasons to revisit Hitman 2. Things like Escalation Contracts, added on a regular basis, which give you one target and five increasingly difficult sets of rules you must adhere to when pursuing that target.
There’s also the entire previous game. When Hitman 2 launched, it arrived alongside a download pack containing remastered versions of every level from the 2016 game. All the new toys and features in the sequel work with those older levels. Best of all, owning the first game meant you could get the remastered pack for free.
PlayStation Plus users especially should take note of all this. The 2016 game is one of the subscriber-only free game downloads for Feb. 2019. If you get it during the month and then later pick up the sequel, you’ll enjoy that same benefit.
This game is a gift that keeps on giving. Even if you just play through every story mission once and never again — a terrible idea! — there’s still a steady supply of new stuff being added to keep you busy on a monthly basis. Hitman 2 has great fundamentals, but the fact that it’s constantly inviting you back with new reasons and ways to play — that’s what makes it exception.