Lucius is back, and this time he’s not letting physics stop his rampage.
Little Lucius, the son of Satan who killed his entire family on dad's orders, has been committed, understandably. In hospital, his powers fade as the Old Man's followers chose a new Son of Satan to worship. When the doctors try electro-shock therapy on Lucius it reactivates his powers - and his determination to win daddy’s favour over this new pretender. It’s a murder-off. The only thing I want to murder is the game itself.
Everything you want is here – free-roam, tons of kill ops, scary little kid with evil powers; every limitation from the first game is unleashed but the game is just broken. It can’t actually deliver the freedom it offers or compete with how creatively murderous you want to be.
Rather than The Omen vibes of the original, this is like playing Hitman Jnr. You have targets, options, and must kill without being seen or suspected; everyone is a possible victim, be they plot-dependant or just in the wrong place at the wrong time, but no one really seems bothered that everyone’s getting murdered - one time I used pliers on a gas canister and fired it at an orderly causing a huge explosion. Awesome. Left bodies everywhere. And everyone got over it and went back to work within seconds.
But even when you’re set to unleash an amusingly grisly death, the game is there to f’it all up for you. I mean, I’d get lazy if I had telekinesis too, but can’t Lucius just pick something up for once? Why does he have to levitate everything? Saves leaving fingerprints I suppose, but when you do grab something, it ragdoll-trails behind, bumping and crashing, getting stuck, flying off or suddenly dropped at the moment of murder. The amount of times I lost things that passed out of the game space. There’s just too much freedom and not enough control, its less a precise murder-sim and more like a demolition derby.
Everywhere you look, options, hints, clues, highlights, comments appear suggesting you use this and that, but there’s no guarantee the game can actually deliver it. I was rubbing my hands with evil glee when I realised I could try to kill a doctor using a defibrillator; but what happened was I spent ages dragging it around after him, then he strolled past and walked into the trolley and got fried. I’m a master of murder.
Sometimes a murder’s difficulty might be down you, the opportunity, or a whole raft of game-related bugs, glitches, or random barriers. An early kill required me to get into a locked room. There was a child-sized vent so I spent ten minutes throwing a can at to open it and when I managed it, the door opened. How?! When you do use powers, you're rarely in control or even understanding what they're doing. The way things work is a total mystery - objects can pass through things and open doors on their own. I’m here for murder, and I don’t get to enjoy it ... You know what I mean.
Although this is basically a stealth game, you can’t really stalk your victims in a way that’s satisfying, because they’re impossible to predict. It was great when I used a can to knock lose a gas valve then levitated some cigarettes to the guard who dutifully lit himself on fire, but he was clearly unperturbed by flying cans and floating fags; to make this satisfying, we need more than 2004-era stealther AI that dismisses brutal murder with ‘must be seeing things’.
If I see a child dressed in a black mourning suit with a gas canister levitating over his head, I’m not going to just dismiss it. They will walk randomly, get stuck, freak out or not, ignore a body or not, see you or not see you, care or not care, it’s a mess. You do get mind-control, but it just ruins the flow when you spend an age planning a kill, finding the tools, reaching the vic and now they get suspicious so have to do a Jedi Mind Trick, hide, then go back and find they’ve reset. Its better to just take the easy options to level up.
In order to escape the hospital, Lucius must find an ex-follower on each floor, from whom he gains more powers, more understanding of who his rival is and what he must do; all explained by terrible, cheap cut-scenes. We have multiple floors of the hospital to kill through before the first game's idiot detective, McGuffin, unsurprisingly now a believer, rocks up to take us to the nearby town where our Satan-sibling is murdering. He ain’t seen nothing yet. And neither have I.
Not that murder should be easy, but this is hard work. I hate to give up, but the combination of cheapness, indistinct options, bugs, sketchy AI, flawed control system and the game’s own indifference just stops it from being fun. It was better when I was focused on killing my family, not anyone I fancy like Postal 2. Nothing much matters and combined with the fact nothing much works, there’s just nothing much to it.
The original worked because no one suspected the kid. Who can forget the time you had to pause the murdering because mother made you go brush your teeth? Here we’re just a shaved head away from being Hitman, and we’re talking Absolution here – not that the first Lucius was Blood Money. What really annoyed me is a jokey, flippant tone that runs through it; it undermines the cool horror of being a murderous kid, like even the game isn’t taking this seriously – if it actually worked, I’d be more forgiving of the puns and jokes.
Still, the kill opportunities are inspired. They may be ruined by the game mechanics but when they work its worryingly satisfying. Poisoning donuts was a personal favourite, but slippery liquids is genius.
Lucius II is a badly done stealth game that was clearly a lot more fun for developers to design than it is for us to play. There's a huge amount of potential here, but the game won't let you be the little demon it wants you to be. There is a final sequel, Lucius III; I just want to enjoy being a murderous son of Satan, is that so wrong?