It’s no secret that video game developers want you spending more time with their games. Not only do they want you to spend more time with their game, but they also want you to spend more money as well. To accomplish this, developers create a ‘grind.’ A continuous loop that you complete for new gear, cosmetics, and power. You’ll see this in free-to-play mobile games and online shooters like Call of Duty and Destiny. The trick is two-fold. You must have rewards worth chasing and activity fun enough to repeat. Hitman 2 attempts to create a grind in a game that never needed it.
Story and Gameplay
The Hitman games, as the title suggests, is about the life of a Hitman. You play as Agent 47, one of the best in the business. You work with your handler, Diana Burnwood, completing missions across the globe. Each contract kill is part of a larger story that’s told in cutscenes between contracts. IO attempts to weave the narrative into each mission with ‘story missions.’ These missions require you to complete various tasks before completing a kill. These tasks aren’t always straightforward and take time to complete. With multiple targets, a mission can take an hour or more to complete the first time. And this is where the problem of the grind comes in. The first time I finished a mission, the game displayed the story missions I should replay. I selected one thinking I only had to complete the one objective. Instead, I had to complete the entire level again. I wasn’t going to spend hours killing the same people repeatedly.
Speaking of killing, let’s talk about the gameplay. I’ve always enjoyed the Hitman franchise. It’s a puzzle/strategy game with a hint of simulation thrown in. If you knock out a guard to steal their uniform, you have to hide the body and pick up anything they dropped on the ground. If you leave anything and another guard sees it, it will put them on alert. If you walk in front of a camera, you’ll need to sneak into the security room to destroy the evidence. These are the things I like about the game until I’m graded for it.
Now I’ve never nor ever planned on becoming a hitman, and as much as I love stealth, I’m not the best at it. But Hitman demands a certain level of perfection. It wants you to play a certain way and penalizes you if you don’t. Kill a guard instead of knocking them unconscious, points off. If you’re caught trespassing and run away, points off. Ultimately, if you bring harm to anyone other than the person you’re supposed to kill or discovered, it’s going to cost you. And you want a high score because the higher you score, the more you unlock. The first time you play a mission, you only have one location, the next time you have multiple starting points and disguises.
Grind Gone Wrong
It’s here that we reach the perfect storm of grind gone wrong. We have a game that takes time and planning, along with a system that penalizes you for playing outside of certain boundaries. Not to mention a reward system that offers few rewards for grinding missions. Every location and disguise that you unlock is one that you find during a normal playthrough. The game wants you to complete different story missions to experience the narrative you might have missed. But those story elements are never worth the additional time.
When I finished Hitman 2, the one thing I wanted was for the game to give me everything up front. Let me go ham, completing mission objectives how I see fit without judgment. Give me the full range of options to start where I want to start with the equipment I need. Why make me grind when I would have done it anyway? If Hitman intends to be a game of grind, it needs to shorten missions or section them off, so I only have to repeat individual sections and not the entire level. Hitman 2 is a fun game, it’s more of the puzzle and action that I’ve grown to love. But I can’t tell if the game wants to be this Destiny style loot grind or a directed, story-driven experience. I hope that it’s later.