Halloween always seems like an easy time to do content generation for games-as-service developers. Just throw some candles around your game world, give the characters spooky costumes, introduce a zombie mode, and you’re good to go for that month’s update. The Mills Reverie, a new escalation mission for Hitman 2, does indeed drop pumpkins in Hawkes Bay, their first level, but manages to blend the tone into their core game better than most Halloween-themed events.
One of my favorite gaming surprises of last year was Hitman 2. I didn’t have any experience with the franchise, but the newest installment grabbed me with its combination of open options and clockwork worlds. Each stage feels so vibrant and alive, giving you a multitude of tools to complete your objectives. Do you just try to sneak your way in and kill the racer, or do you knock out the mascot and steal his costume to get close to her? You have so many ways to play that you could spend weeks just replaying one mission to get everything out of it.
Not only is each level so replayable, but IO Interactive also supports the game by adding new missions on a monthly basis, like this month’s free Mills Reverie escalation mission. Escalations are a series of three missions that add increasingly difficult tasks to your normal assassination. For example, maybe in the first run you have to kill someone with a gun, then in the second one, you have to kill someone with a gun AND always be holding a gun. It’s a fun way to mix things up and force you to play in ways that you wouldn’t necessarily be inclined to try.
The Mills Reverie takes this idea and runs with it, transforming Hitman 2 into a slasher movie with you as the villain. You’re not given any backstory, but the name and the objective descriptions imply that you are stalking your target, Orson Mills, through his nightmares. You start the level waking up on a bed mysteriously placed in the middle of a moonlit beach dressed like a scarecrow with a pumpkin for a head, tasked with committing strange acts against Mills. The Hawkes Bay level is also dressed for the occasion, covered with pumpkins, gravestones and an ominous circle of weeping angel statues.
Forcing you into this menacing costume changes up the traditional gameplay options of Hitman 2, taking deception out of your arsenal and requiring you to get through via stealth or brute force. This is a refreshing change of pace, creating a satisfying experience that makes you feel like a slasher. Popping in an out of bushes in the middle of the night to take out unsuspecting guards with a weapon simply called the “spooky bat” is just as fun as it sounds. Upon completion of the mission, you unlock a set of “bat shuriken” (legally distinct from a Batarang) for use in the rest of the game.
I was honestly surprised at how well the Halloween theme melded with the existing structure of Hitman 2. The franchise always had a morally gray tone to it by casting you as an assassin, so it’s not a big leap to put you in the shoes of a slasher. From what I’ve played, Hitman has never had a great overall story, but does a fantastic job writing character interactions and mission objectives on the small scale within each level. Here, the strange dream logic of the objectives presented create a wonderfully eerie mood. The runtime of this DLC isn’t very long, each of the three runs can be completed in about 15 minutes, so I won’t spoil the twists and turns the escalation takes, but they certainly give you quite the nightmare to enact on poor Mills.
If you’ve never tried out the new Hitman franchise, you can download Hawkes Bay as part of their free “Starter Pack” with this escalation mission included. IOI recently said that their next project would be an all-new property, their first non-Hitman game since Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days in 2010, so trying this out will be a great way to see what the studio is all about before they start their latest journey. While they haven’t shared any details about what this new game could be, I think it would be great if they expanded on the ideas they explored in this escalation mission and made a horror game. Especially with the power of next-generation consoles, they could build surreal, clockwork worlds for players to wreak havoc in.