Admit it. It’ll take something very special to pry you away from Red Dead Redemption 2, right?
Well, Hitman 2, could well be that game – a razor-sharp sandbox of death and destruction that builds on nearly everything that made Agent 47’s last outing one of 2016’s killer titles.
Set directly after the events in its predecessor, 47 and his handler Diana Burnwood once again team up, this time to eliminate the shady Shadow Client (like what we did there?) and his militia.
Not that it’s going to be easy.
The Shadow Client’s entourage have infiltrated some of the world’s most influential organisations.
Here’s why you need to take on 47’s latest contract.
Hitman 2 uses the same engine as the last game – Glacier – but there have been some heavy tweaks under the bonnet.
It won’t take long before you notice the improved NPCs – both in terms of detail and the sheer number of them on screen.
The second level, a glitzy race in sun-soaked Miami, is perhaps the best in terms of showing off just what Glacier is capable of.
It’s hard not to be impressed as you wade through hundreds of people in the paddock while planes soar through the skies above.
Later levels, such as Colombia and Mumbai, boast a very different feel – the latter showing Glacier’s adeptness at creating believable, lush jungle areas.
Unlike Red Dead, which seemed to have been in development for an age, Hitman 2’s development cycle has been considerably shorter.
As a result, the game is prone to the odd glitch – and some of the animations can seem wooden and unrealistic.
NPCs follow pre-determined paths rigidly, while 47 will ‘clip’ his way through some larger crowds. Still, these minor hiccups don’t really detract from the overall experience.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, IO Interactive have opted to tweak and refine 2016’s winning formula.
Play areas are larger, bar the first level in a secluded beach-side house, offering multiple ways to take down your targets.
Some are move obvious than others, and for newbies to the series, prompts are on hand to guide you to one of many Mission Stories.
In Miami, for example, venture to the car park and you’ll stumble across a mascot who’s trying to blackmail one of the targets – a race driver called Sierra Knox.
You can incapacitate him, then turn up to the meeting spot and take down the mark in an ally.
Should you prefer the more direct approach, simply smuggle in a high-powered rifle and shoot Knox while she’s driving her race car. Or, better yet, dress up as a mechanic and tamper with the engine. The choice is yours.
Although you’re able to set mission hints to ‘full’, ‘minimal’ and ‘off’ – Hitman 2 is best enjoyed with as little guidance as possible. And, such is the layered level design, there’s plenty of replayability.
NPC AI is usually on point, although they won’t react if you sneak around the place in plain sight (providing you have the appropriate disguise), which can be amusing.
On the other hand, watching them disperse in a frenzy should you fire into the crowd is disturbingly realistic.
Small tweaks, such as working mirrors (NPCs will see you sneaking up on them), not to mention concussive gadgets for silent takedowns, help make stealth more of a challenge.
Amazingly, for those who already own the 2016 version of the game, these updates are automatically applied – a welcome surprise.
As well as the main story mode, which takes place across six missions, the biggest new addition is Ghost Mode – a new 1v1 online multiplayer game.
Here, you’re up against another player in a race to take out five targets undetected. It’s a genius touch and adds a whole new lease of life to the game once the story mode has been completed.
There’s also cooperative multiplayer mode called Sniper Assassin, which sees you and two friends team up to eliminate targets using a high-powered sniper rifle within a set time limit.
The Elusive Target add-on is back, too – the first one of which happens to be Sean Bean. More are promised in the coming months.
Add to the mix a firm commitment for more DLC – two paid expansions, along with weapons, outfits and more, and Hitman 2 is a razor-sharp package.
What are you waiting for, 47?