A pen. A mug. A days-old Tracker bar wrapper. A blue Power Ranger figurine. After a weekend spent playing Hitman 2, I’ve come to work to find my desk cluttered with death! In Agent 47’s hands, these trinkets are lethal weapons; now, they feel like holiday souvenirs. After all, the Hitman games are defined not just by covert exploits but in the accruing of air miles. He’s the sort to touch down in a Chilean vineyard in the morning, sample the local produce, and execute a quick bit of business before wheels up at noon. Then it’s on to Paris for some Puccini. What kind of a man is that? He can’t be uprooted because he’s never earthed, and he’s never a fish out of water. He’s an osprey, skimming the surface and prising up his prey before darting off into the clouds.
It’s no wonder I feel the holidaying urge wrung from my bones; I’ve shuffled six package getaways into a single weekend break. What a riposte to Red Dead Redemption 2, which, by comparison, feels less like a holiday and more like going travelling around East Asia on your gap year. 47 doesn’t travel; he arrives, and he leaves. The tagline for Hitman 2 insists ‘the world is your weapon,’ but really, it’s your oyster.
Better yet, it’s a whole plate of them, each sandbox contained in a shell, its secrets waiting to be winkled out. These places are puzzles, yes, but they’re also exhibitions. I’ve always thought the most delicious touch to Hitman Go was that its design – all polished wood and painted plastic – wasn’t just a stylisation of the levels in the main games. It was a distillation – their spirit boiled down, burnished, and framed in a display case. This glittering detail has always been where Hitman rubbed shoulders with Grand Theft Auto. Where IO Interactive can’t aim for Rockstar’s breadth, it shoots instead for depth, and variety.
Thus I headed hotfoot from Hawke’s Bay to Miami, over to Colombia, then Mumbai, then Vermont. Despite the vibrancy and variation of these places, they’re all similarly soaked in blood and soured by the stink of corruption. Where it might have been disappointing to see all these walks of life gnawed at by crime and greed, Hitman 2 finds a way to make human weakness and moral rot oddly reassuring. It’s trick is twofold: first, every mission hums with an undersong of satire; second, its hero hops between countries before any inertia has a chance to set in.
One of my marks, during my time spent in Miami, was one Sierra Knox: a race car driver and tech magnate with the smoulder of a supermodel. I met her next to an open lift shaft, while dressed in a flamingo costume. In Colombia, Rico Delgado – a drug lord with a plan to manufacture ‘super cocaine’ – fell prey to my particularly nasty designs. I posed as a tattoo artist, waited until we were alone, and jammed the needle into his ear. In Whittleton Creek, Nolan Cassidy went up in a suburban inferno – I slipped a plastic explosive, shaped like a rubber duck, under his SUV.
He brings Bond to mind, for whom it’s considered poor form not to visit at least three countries within a two-hour run time. The similarities don’t end there; early on, we are told that one of our targets is ‘hell-bent on becoming the number one drug lord in the world,’ and 47 cracks wise. I couldn’t shake the image of Sean Connery’s wry smirk, in Dr. No, as he mock-laments, ‘World domination. The same old dream.’ 47’s handler, Diana chaffs, ‘Is that a sense of humour 47? Whatever’s next, crying at the movies?’ That’s precisely the sort of bon mots batted between Bond and M at MI6 HQ, under a drizzly London sky.
The same one I find myself under, with a hot mug in my hands, feeling a mix of sadness and rejuvenation. It’s the same way you feel after any good holiday. And yet, it’s the little things that stir me. I think about that first trip – Hawke’s Bay – in which I laced a honey pot with poison. My target was Alma Reynard, the glamourous leader of a terrorist cell who was caught up in kidnapping, and lived a life rich in its spoils. Hers is a world I’ll never touch, but she met her end because of the way she took her tea. All of a sudden, down here on the ground I feel strangely empowered. I look up, and he’s already gone.