Hitman 2 Is My 'Forever Game'
Everyone is pining for a forever game. Hitman 2 might be mine.
I first heard the term "forever game" during the press buildup for No Man's Sky. It denotes the idea of interactive infinity—a game that you can play forever, the one game to rule them all. A forever game means that you don't need any other videogames. It's the one piece of entertainment that is vast enough, complicated enough, and good enough to obviate your need for all other games, forever and ever, amen.
It's a pipe dream, obviously. No game can ever fulfill anyone's imaginative needs that way, and thinking so is probably just buying into hype. That's what I used to think, anyway. Now, I'm wondering if I'm ever going to need a game that's not Hitman 2 ever again.
I'm in Miami, dressed as a mechanic, crouched behind a toolbox. I'm waiting for an opening, then I'm going to go steal a tool I need to complete my disguise. My target is a race car driver, currently on the track, prepared to make a pit stop. I'm going to blend in as an extra hired hand, and make sure her repairs don't go as planned. A clean kill, and I'll be gone before anyone even realizes I wasn't supposed to be there.
Or maybe I'll swap out this disguise for a bartender's bowtie and vest. I'll wait for the driver, the daughter of a tech executive, to get done with her race and retreat to the afterparty, where she'll engage in a drinking contest with an old rival. Only, unbeknownst to her, her drink will be laced with poison. Or, if I'm feeling particularly uncreative, I can just slowly pick off her bodyguards, pulling them into empty corridors, until she's alone and I can take her out directly.
This all may sound grim, but it belies the playfulness with which Hitman 2 approaches its subject matter, the way it's less a dark murder simulator and more a madcap assassination satire. As Agent 47, a nameless, perfect assassin, you enter into sprawling, complicated levels in order to find, corner, and eliminate targets. And the possibilities for your success are endless.
Like, almost literally, they feel endless. Nearly any character in a level can be interacted with on a one-on-one basis, using their clothes as a disguise, distracting them or using them as a distraction, or just getting into a fight for the fun of it. The levels are huge—entire isolated villages, full city blocks of bustling pedestrians and happenings, tiny bespoke open worlds of possibility. Each level feels both focused and wildly sprawling, a masterfully designed sandbox of killing and chaos.
There are half a dozen levels like this in Hitman 2, with more coming in DLC, alongside revamped versions of the original game's levels to match the updated systems of the second game. That adds up to a lot of murder sandboxes. And each one already feels like a place I could live in forever. Just poking each system to see how it reacts, how the patterns of non-player characters adjust and wobble to my actions. Learning the many routes to each target, or playing the game's various constrained versions of its missions: you must use this weapon, this disguise, in this amount of time. A million ways to seek the perfect kill.
Hitman 2 has shocked me in just how much at home I feel in its digital assassin's paradise. I find myself planning when I'm not playing, mapping out routes and routines in my head. Go here, do this, get this disguise, this weapon. Where's the rat poison, again? It's morbid, sure, but there's a profound undercurrent of gleeful delight. And such, such possibility. I didn't used to believe in the idea of a forever game. But if the developers at Io just released a handful of new levels a year, every year, I'm pretty sure I could play Hitman 2 for eternity. If everyone just quit making videogames right now, I'm not sure I'd even mind.