From the squeaky clean interiors of the Palais De Walewska in Paris, Agent 47 takes a trip to the Italian coast. After a strong start, Hitman’s second episode had a lot to live up to. Fortunately, it’s a fantastic setting for a wonderful display of meticulously planned violence. What else is in store? Well, let’s take a look.
Game: Hitman: Sapienza
Developer: Io Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix (Review code provided by publisher)
For an overview of the mechanics and the general “feel” of Hitman, check out the review of the Prologue and the Paris level here.
OK, all caught up? Well, in “World of Tomorrow”, the second mission of Hitman, 47 is tasked with taking down a millionaire and a scientist, as well as destroying the fruit of their labours, a genetically engineered virus that is capable of striking down any individual without a trace. Naturally, this is a thread to 47’s craft, and therefore they will need to be removed from the equation.
The first thing that strikes you about Sapienza is that the level is huge. I mean, some of the complaints about the first one were to do with the fact that it was all in one building, albeit an enormous one. Sapienza is an Italian seaside town, complete with clifftop mansion belonging to Silvio Caruso, your primary target. It’s a magnificent playground, with small winding streets twisting their way toward the shoreline, and shops that you can walk into and interact with. People line the streets in a much more natural way than the obviously necessary crowds of the Paris fashion show, but it’s a real joy to witness the level open up as you go through it.
Once you’ve gotten your head around the sheer scale of it all (and believe me, it took me at least an hour to even consider taking anyone out), the mission at hand presents itself. There is a feeling that some of the things that happen are a little too triggered by 47 as he approaches, but honestly, it’s a minor quibble, and I almost feel guilty bringing it up, because, at the end of the day, it’s a video game. For the vast majority of the time, it still feels organic. Things flow nicely, and the sense of things running like clockwork is akin to the tightly packed corridors and rooms of the Paris level. Also similar to its European counterpart, Sapienza’s range of assassination methods are simply brilliant. The “Opportunities” are back, and for the first play through I was incredibly pleased that they were. One opened up that lured a target out into the open, leading them to a secluded spot where I promptly bashed their head in with a lead pipe (Colonel Mustard, eat your heart out), and another led me to a certain uniform that took me straight into Caruso’s compound, where I then poisoned him and pushed him off a cliff whilst he threw up. Undignified? Sure, but it was glorious.
Once you’ve dispatched of your targets (or before, who am I to dictate?) you’re free to go and destroy the sample of the virus that holds the potential to destroy your rather grim livelihood. The lab it sits within is hidden underneath Caruso’s mansion, and it’s guarded more tightly than the scripts to Star Wars Episode 8. One of the standout moments for me with this section of the level was when I’d managed to forge an intricate path to the lab, complete with disguises and a stolen key card, fooled all of the guards on the outside, only to have every ounce of confidence and swagger eviscerated when I hit the other side of the door and realised that practically everyone in there could see right through my disguise. It was an incredible about face in a level that’s filled with unique twists and turns.
The level screams out for multiple playthroughs, with an incredibly dark yet fun sense of humour permeating the whole thing. From Agent 47’s slightly-too-tight short sleeved shirt and sunglasses to the parody vending machines (Fountain View, anyone?), it’s really hard to suppress some chuckles inbetween the bouts of extreme violence.
Building on practically every single area of the Paris level, Sapienza is simply breathtaking. A living, breathing seaside town, it’s a beautifully crafted arena for precision strikes from whatever weapon you decide to use. A neat secondary objective to bring in a fresh gameplay element, and the sheer variety of methods to dispatch your two targets is simply mind boggling. A delightfully twisted sense of humour ties the whole package together, with some of the approaches to assassination proving to be genuine laugh out loud moments, Sapienza is a fantastic follow up to Paris, and I can’t wait to see what happens next month.