The cake is ruined, someone smashed a plate glass window, and all the guests have scarpered. No, I’m not talking about the time that fight broke out at my cousin’s wedding – this is Hitman: Sniper Assassin, the surprisingly detailed co-op minigame that’s available now with pre-orders of Hitman 2.
Playing as either Agent 47 or two new agents, Knight and Stone, you’re tasked with eliminating three members of a retired criminal gang known as The Yardbirds. Doing so allows the fourth and final member of the group to inherit the millions they had stashed away years before. Better keep your hand steady.
Fan of senseless murder? Check out the best sandbox games on PC. You psychopath.
In the interest of safety, The Yardbirds almost never meet up, but they’ve come together for this one day as a daughter of one of gang members is getting married. Unfortunately for the happy couple, the day will not be ending well for them – well, depending how they feel about their soon-to-be in-laws – and even worse for several of their guests. Perched on a cliff edge that overlooks the ceremony is a sniper’s nest where you sit, either alone or with a co-op partner. From there, you are tasked with eliminating all three targets, and taking out as many of their entourage of guards as you can. Hopefully missions in Hitman 2 will have as wonderful a set up as this.
While much of the sandbox experience that defined the last Hitman outing doesn’t exist here – limited as you are to the use of a sniper rifle – there’s still a lot to this mode. Bodies can be catapulted into hiding places dotted around the level with the force of a well-placed shot, preventing guards from stumbling across them. Bullet drop and travel time need to be factored in, especially if your targets are on the move. NPC pathing means that shots have to be taken as and when they appear to ensure your target stays out of sight, too. It’s standard stealth and sniper fare, sure, but IO has put it together in an incredibly slick manner.
Adding a co-op element to the game lends this particular Hitman experience a whole new dimension. While it can feel slightly contrived at times – several sets of characters move in pairs so as to provide obvious targets for both players – it remains satisfying to pull off a synchronised kill. There’s also plenty of opportunity to use the second sniper in ways the game doesn’t signpost directly – one player can shoot a wall to temporarily distract a moving target, allowing the other player time to line up a shot. Co-op’s a refreshing addition to the series, and while I don’t imagine for a moment that it’ll make its way into Hitman 2’s campaign, I can’t say I wouldn’t be interested to see how it would play out.
Sniper Assassin’s level design is one of its strongest assets – unsurprising, it was what made the last Hitman stand out. While it’s far less three-dimensional than other Hitman levels due to your distance from the action, it still feels like a space its inhabitants might actually live in. The opulent mansion is full of guests and staff milling around, and there are a number of convincing touches, like the confetti thrown by the wedding guests, or the exasperated expression of the guard who finds himself lost in the hedge maze.
There is plenty of character to to found through the windows and beneath the arches, then. Sniper Assassin offers a small package that should please fans of the series and give them more than brief moment of entertainment while they wait for the new game.
If you need more there is a simple scoring and progression system to work through. One challenge has you eliminate everyone using headshots. Another tasks you with hiding five bodies beneath the surface of the mansion’s various ornamental ponds. Completing the level and its various challenges offer perks like faster reloads and bigger clips. With a modest 15-minute run time on the level, those perks won’t have any massive impact, but they do encourage replays once you build up a working knowledge of the level and its cycles. It’s good practice for when Hitman 2 lands in November.