About 45 minutes into Hitman 2’s new “Haven Island” DLC, players are faced with a choice that not only changes the rest of the downloadable level but the course of the series itself: Will you continue on in your mission to kill an affluent kingpin while sneaking through the Maldive resort’s tropical forests? Or will you quit being an assassin, steal the identity of a field ornithologist, and embark on a tenured academic career studying the mating rituals of long-tailed scarlet macaws?
It’s decisions like this that have always made the Hitman series great, and this outing is the most ambitious one yet.
Here’s how it works: After using your trusty piano wire to kill an ornithologist and swap into his cargo shorts and binoculars, all you have to do is press X to toss aside your silenced pistol, point out the nest of a plum-throated cotinga to your research assistant, and embark on a full-fledged research career in the King’s College Avian Biology Department.
Once you make this choice, there’s no going back. You won’t be globetrotting to assassinate targets during, say, the main game’s Miami racetrack mission. Instead, Agent 47—who fully adopts the identity of Dr. Hugh Everett, a famed British ornithologist—spends much of the storyline in his academic office in England, writing grant proposals about the role of evolution in birdsong individuation, publishing papers to stay competitive in his department, and developing slideshow presentations as a guest lecturer at the 2019 North American Ornithological convention.
Developer IO Interactive has definitely put an extra layer of polish into this DLC, although most of that seems to have been spent on modeling realistic plumage and mating rituals for the game’s newly added 3,500 different avian species. Even more exciting is that all of those birds have been retroactively added to the main game’s campaign.
You see this attention to detail in the downloadable content’s longevity, too, with the main storyline taking me about 1.5 hours to finish and the ornithology narrative taking 875 hours for completionists, who, like me, made sure to collect all 7,000 available bird skins and complete the challenging “Develop Evolutionary Model For Macaw Speciation” side mission.
Ultimately, most gamers just want to know whether this DLC delivers the heart-racing Hitman gameplay we’ve grown to love. The answer is yes and no. There are still thugs to shoot, drinks to poison, and, in the case of the ornithologist storyline, a significant amount of sneaking to quietly observe and tag birds to monitor their migration patterns. In fact, as much as Agent 47’s ornithology career changes the game, I can’t remember a more tense stealth experience than sneaking into the brush below an oropendola’s nest and waiting for hours to see if the bird will return.
That’s exactly what makes this new Hitman DLC such a can’t-miss experience.
MUST PLAY - 10/10