Hitman 2 Expansion Pass: Haven Island review

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Hitman 2 surely was one of 2018’s best games. Its superb stealth gameplay and lovely locations won it a place in the hearts of many Hitman fans, so it makes sense that developer IO Interactive has kept adding content to the game since its launch in November last year.

Amongst this additional content is the game’s Expansion Pass, which amongst other things adds two new major locations: a bank in New York, and a luxury resort in the Maldives named Haven Island. Each of these locations has a mission associated to it that continues the main game’s storyline.

Neither the bank or Haven Island are as big as any of the locations in Hitman 2, although they’re still quite a bit larger than the Hawke’s Bay introductory level. But while the bank was a multi-storey building, Haven Island is less vertical and more expansive than the bank location – it reminds me more of the Colorado mission in Hitman 2016.

So, is Haven Island a great addition to Hitman 2, making the Expansion Pass worthwhile, or does it fall flat in the grand scheme of things? Read on to find out.

One of the first things you’ll notice is that Haven Island sure is one of the most beautiful locations seen in a Hitman game to date. This paradisiacal island resort features beautiful beaches, swimming pools, bars where the guests are dancing for fun… Palm trees dot the landscape, and IO has seen fit to include some cool weather effects here too – a tropical storm invades this paradise at some point, and it all does look stunning truth be told.

Actually, this location reminds me of the islands in 2004’s Far Cry, and one of Agent 47’s victims does seem to refer to the classic first-person shooter in one of his lines too.

Playing as the game’s protagonist Agent 47, your victims on Haven are the usual well endowed, high society types involved in the high-tech crime underworld: there’s the hot-tempered CEO of Haven, a nerdy computer programmer fond of workouts and a posh lady who’s in charge of drawing clients to this luxurious island in the Maldives.

You see, while Haven Island might look like any other tourist resort, this is actually a front for an organization which specializes in giving criminals new identities, as you’ll learn in the cool briefing video which precedes the mission. This video is as good as those in the main game (that is, very good), thanks to its high-tech presentation which explains the upcoming mission as in a spy thriller movie.

It’s also a good thing that IO has gone back to animated cutscenes instead of the storyboard-style cutscenes seen in the main game, even if the production values are still not as high here as those seen in Hitman 2016. Although for some reason I can’t get tired of watching Hitman 2’s mission briefings truth be told.

Welcome to paradise.

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The mission briefing and cutscenes continue the game’s story, although those who haven’t played the main game may find the convoluted plot hard to follow, and will need to pick up on events by playing through Hitman 2’s missions first to grasp what’s going on. It also helps to have played Hitman 2016’s missions, which you can do in Hitman 2 if you purchase the game’s Legacy Pack.

Anyway, as in earlier Hitman games, it’s the gameplay that counts the most, and Haven Island doesn’t disappoint in this regard.

Aside from the traditional ways to deal death (such as poisoning a victim’s drink or shooting him or her with Agent 47’s silenced pistol) there are new kills to try on the island too. Blowing up the water scooter your victim is riding and seeing him go down in flames is deeply satisfying, and so is killing a target while he is weight lifting, while you pose as a gym instructor.

Strangling Haven’s CEO to death with a pair of headphones after a medical check-up is darkly perverse too… You can use headphones to strangle enemies if you did not choose to bring a garrotte on the mission, while the Expansion Pass adds new items to the game which are available to equip on the loadout screen.

Most are variants of existing items and perform the same function, such as the Artic Tool Box which you can take on missions instead of the briefcase. This is good for concealing items that might draw suspicion (or even knocking out enemies by throwing it at them) as is the case with the standard briefcase in Hitman 2.

The “flash phone” is an interesting addition though – this is a mobile phone which blinds anyone who answers the call and those in the vicinity temporarily, and can be used not only in the Haven Island mission but in any other location in the game too.

Also, there are some cool new outfits for the game’s protagonist such as the winter sports suit, letting you walk through Haven Island’s Maldives resort in winter gear if you so choose…

As usual, Agent 47 is a master of disguise. You can wear the clothes of other male characters in the game after you knock them out or kill them. This will allow you access to areas you’re not supposed to be in, such as the mansion of Haven’s tyrannical CEO or the tightly guarded server room where the identity changing business on Haven Island takes place.

Clever use of disguises will let you get up close and personal for the kill.

One thing that’s slightly disappointing, though, is the lack of an extra objective besides murder on Haven Island. I was hoping for an additional goal as has been the case in other Hitman missions such as the one set in Sapienza from the 2016 game, which aside from terminating two targets required players to destroy a virus, making the proceedings more interesting.

Also, the other level in Hitman 2’s Expansion Pass (the bank) requires Agent 47 to infiltrate a vault in order to access the bank’s data core or obtain an item from three different characters, adding variety to the proceedings.

There’s also no escaping the fact that the Haven Island mission in the Maldives is not quite as good as the bank mission in New York released earlier this year (which also forms part of the Expansion Pass).

Actually, the bank mission is one of the best in this current run of Hitman games. Posing as a job hopeful for an interview, meeting with the director as a fired banker or discovering the room with see-through glass where the director spied on her employees, were all great to experience in that mission. The bank is a tightly-designed, superb mission with many possibilities, and sadly IO doesn’t show the same inventiveness when it comes to Haven Island.

Everything seems more disconnected and there’s hardly any interaction between the three targets you have to take out, each going separately about their business on the tropical island. Plus, there’s a (very) quick route to kill one of the targets, which is slightly disappointing.

Also, two mission stories involve the same item (a USB stick). IO maybe could have come up with a different idea, as Haven Island like the bank doesn’t feature that many mission stories – five in fact. This is in contrast with the main missions in Hitman 2 which feature seven mission stories each, although it’s understandable that the locations in the expansion feature less mission stories due to their reduced scope.

As usual, mission stories are revealed by eavesdropping on conversations, with the game then walking you through the steps needed to complete the story, something which will get you close to one of the victims, letting you decide how to end your target’s life at this point.

Of course, nothing stops you from drawing out a weapon a murdering the mark in cold blood, something I found harder to do while playing through the Expansion Pass and Haven Island in particular. This because Agent 47 seems less resistant to damage here, and enemies seem to coordinate their attacks better too. IO has added a bevy of improvements in several major patches since the game shipped last November, and it shows, tweaking the game here and there to provide a better gameplay experience.

It seems like this guy could use a helping hand…

Despite all out gunplay being discouraged here, I’m still find the firefights satisfying, and like how punchy Hitman 2’s arsenal of weapons sounds – even though this game is obviously not a shooter, and the Expansion Pass missions put as much emphasis on stealth as those in the main game.

It’s hard not to notice the chessic nature of the game too – everyone is going through predetermined motions in the game’s locations – for instance, one of the mission targets will cycle through a series of activities repeatedly, such as going to a bar and tasting food. If I place poison in that dish, I know she’ll pass by at some point and eat it – it can all feel very mechanical at times.

Plus, the old trick of throwing a coin to the floor to draw enemies’ attention is way too effective, and IO really needs to come up with something new for the next game in the series.

Some of the voice work and accents are still as horrid as ever, although the major characters and protagonist Agent 47 are as well voiced as in the main game.

There’s also the issue of the game treating online and offline as separate modes (you can’t unlock achievements in offline mode), and if you have a shaky internet connection or IO’s servers are down your game might be interrupted as it happened to me a few times through my playthrough.

Aside from the two new major locations (Haven Island and the bank) and their associated missions, plus the new items and gear, other content in the Expansion Pass includes the special assignments and the sniper missions.

The special assignments are something of a mixed bag, truth be told. Two of these missions are connected by a story involving a bottled water scam, and are pretty interesting, taking you to Miami and then Whittleton Creek in order to ice two snake oil salesmen. The other two, however, merely feel like souped-up versions of the Elusive Target missions IO has been putting out since the game came out last November.

None of the special assignments are comparable to the special missions IO put out for 2016’s Hitman, though, in which two existing locations (Sapienza and Marrakesh) were given a makeover and new mission opportunities were added – the special assignments are smaller scale missions by comparison.

Aside from the special assignments, there are two new sniper missions contained in the Expansion Pass. One is set in a Russian prison, while the other takes protagonist Agent 47 to a port in Singapore. Each is preceded by a pretty cutscene / briefing video explaining the mission’s backstory (which is not tied to Hitman 2’s main story).

These sniper missions are like “The Yarbirds” mission in the main game – you stay in a fixed spot throughout the mission, and only have a sniper rifle to work with, using it to kill the mission’s targets and complete optional challenges like shooting locks in order to open container doors for instance.

More of IO Interactive cool briefing videos are to be found in Hitman 2’s Expansion Pass.

In a first playthrough, you can be done with each of the sniper missions in about 15 minutes, and it’s doubtful whether you’ll be inclined to replay the sniper missions that many times in order to complete all the challenges on offer – I just find Hitman’s traditional missions more fun, so the sniper missions should be seen as a side diversion and nothing more.

All this might lead you to conclude that Hitman 2’s Expansion Pass is something of a mixed bag, but that would be overlooking how solid the gameplay offered here is overall. While some recent games like Red Dead Redemption 2 have put emphasis on tedious realism at the expense of playability, IO’s Hitman 2 is all about the gameplay.

This is a game that lets you climb to the top of a water tower while dressed as a clown and kill your targets with a sniper rifle before they even set their eyes on you, or get up close and personal with an axe, killing the perp in question and then making a run for it…

The Expansion Pass and Haven Island in particular offer more of the same, and you’ll likely want to get hold of it now if you can’t get enough of Hitman 2 and want to find out how the main game’s story continues.

The Expansion Pass sells for 40 US dollars and includes Haven Island, the New York bank location, special assignments, sniper missions and extra items. This also gives you access to any Escalation Contracts or Elusive Targets developer IO chooses to release for the Expansion Pass’ locations.

For instance, the team has put out an Escalation Contract (Hitman 2’s multi-stage missions with additional objectives or complications in each stage) taking place in New York’s bank level, and another, pirate-themed one set on Haven Island was released at the end of November. The latter features a Fortnite-style treasure hunt and mass murder while dressed as a pirate, and it sure is fun.

Neither the Expansion Pass or the included Haven Island location are essential though, so you might want to wait for a Steam sale in order to get hold of it. But if you’re a fan and haven’t played Hitman 2 for a while (and are itching to get your fix) this will do until the next Hitman game arrives.

Hitman 2 Expansion Pass: Haven Island

Score: 75 / 100

Available on: PS4 | Xbox One | PC

Reviewed on: PC (System: Intel Core i5-8400, 16 GB of RAM, Nvidia GTX 970, SSD Drive)

Publisher: Warner Bros.

Launch date: September 24, 2019

DISCLAIMER
This game was reviewed using a copy purchased for the purpose of this review.

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