STAFF REVIEW of Party Hard 2 (Xbox One)

Wednesday, October 7, 2020.
by Josh Morgan

Party Hard 2 Box art When I saw the trailer for Party Hard 2 I have to admit I was expecting a game similar to the Hitman series, where each level is a puzzle that you have to figure out the best path to silently kill the targets and escape without a trace. The Hitman series is one of my favorites and I completely obsess over each level until I can almost walk through them blindfolded. I learned fast that Party Hard 2 is not the Hitman clone I was expecting, and once I learned to accept that, I had a lot of fun with the game.

On the surface Party Hard looks a lot like Hotline Miami. It is a pixelated isometric murder spree set to a techno soundtrack. The characters move on the screen in sometimes random patterns and your job is to take out all the targets (usually bad people like drug dealers and bikers) while trying not to be seen by the crowds of innocent people in the level. This can sometimes be frustrating because there is no on-screen indicator when an innocent can see you. Oftentimes you will think you are in the clear but then a random passerby will spot you through a window and they will immediately call the cops reporting your crime. This results in a very frustrating run from the cops that often ends with you being arrested and failing the level. The cops tend to know exactly where you are, even if you are hiding in a spot across the level from where you committed the murder. The way the cops just automatically hone in onto your character like a heat seeking missile is very frustrating and resulted in a few rage quits on my part. Many times, I committed a murder in one building, then as the cops were called I rushed to a different one, and the cops found me like a dog sniffing out a hidden cheeseburger.

This sort of AI behavior is what turned me off of Party Hard 2, now instead of trying to stealthily kill the targets with my knife, I turned to trying to take out all of the targets by triggering the environmental hazards. There are plenty of hazards that you can trigger to brutally kill your targets and the innocent people around them. No witnesses mean no cop calls, right? But this also kind of breaks the game as well. Now, instead of just slashing the targets you can do things like tip a shelf over onto your target, and the 15 people standing around do not notice you pushing it over. On the second level Bar, there is a taxicab parked on the busy street and you can start the taxi and it will rip down the street mowing over anyone in its path. I got 16 kills with it (one of them being a cop) and I triggered two achievements at once, but the innocent standing bystander two feet away from me while I started the taxi just continued to dance in the street like an idiot. There needs to be some sort of middle point with the AI, they are either entirely too observant or completely oblivious of your actions.

There are plenty of targets that are not standing near a hazard, but a well-placed Molotov cocktail or a frag grenade (which happens to be sitting in an alley for no reason) will take care of those stray targets. Scattered throughout the level are purple boxes that you can open for weapons or items that you can use at your disposal. This is where the game shines, as there is a wide variety of items you can find in the environment and you can use many of them in multiple ways. You can find a bottle of pills that you can either use to lure a target to a secluded spot, or you can drop them in the air vents to poison a whole room of people. All of these boxes and items spawns are completely random and can really change the path you chose on the level. With the items they have a small crafting system where you can combine two of them to create a superior item. For instance, you can combine a gasoline can and a bottle of booze to make a Molotov cocktail, or a frag grenade and a pager to craft a remote bomb. It is not too deep, and there is no list to show you the items you can create, but the useful ones are easy to remember.

You start off each level equipped with only a knife, and you can hold up to three other items. You will use the D-Pad to switch between the items you are holding, and when something can be crafted the two items you are holding will be highlighted on the screen. It is a very easy process that doesn’t take long or distract you from your targets. Another tool at your disposal is your special move, by holding the Right Bumper while in a crowd your character will do a spin move with the knife killing everyone close enough to be hit by the attack. This move is available at the start of the level and then refills as time passes. There is also an instinct button that shows your targets, environmental hazards and items around the level that you should check out. It is very useful when there is a big crowd of people and you cannot tell which character the red triangle is above.

As we have learned from shows like Dexter, serial killers never sleep and are kept awake at night by their demons, and your character is no different. You are the unnamed serial killer who, also like Dexter, preys on the evil scum of the city. After each of the 16 levels you are shown a newscast about your escapades the night before. They always describe them as a bloodbath and the next case of a serial killer, but I found it odd that it was labeled that way after I finished a level by murdering everyone with hazardous accidents. I guess it’s not a far stretch to assume their detectives are world class when they have cops who can see through walls to follow me around a level.

I had a decent enough time with Party Hard, and I look forward to replaying some of the levels to mop up the rest of the 1000 points in achievements. It is a pretty fun game to just pick up and play and have a laugh seeing what sort of ways you can interact with the environment and its characters. If you are looking for a stealth assassin game you might want to check out the Hitman series, or if you are looking for a crazy murder spree then you might be better off playing Hotline Miami. Poor AI of both the police and the innocent people tends to ruin the core gameplay loop, which is to get in, murder, get out and repeat. When the basic premise of a game is ruined by something that is outside of the players control it leads to a frustrating experience.

Overall: 6.5 / 10
Gameplay: 6.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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