Hitman Absolution developer on the tough balance between scoring and spoiling

Owen Hill

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Every time you load a level in Hitman Absolution, there's a prompt in the corner that highlights your friends scores alongside the highest in your country and the rest of the world. It's a constant reminder that Absolution can be a competitive experience, if you want it to be. Exactly how the score is calculated is the interesting bit.

How do you rate a murder? Each stage in Hitman Absolution has multiple challenges which you can check via the in-game notebook. And the more checkboxes you tick, the higher your score multiplier. I pestered Hitman Absolution's executive producer for the details.

PC Gamer: Scores seem to be a big deal. Won't the highest scoring playthroughs end up cluttered with all the minor elements? If I'm a Hitman I want to do things as neatly as possible, not play around with a few different options before taking the shot.

Luke Valentine: The thing is, you can do all the challenges in one playthrough but the game does save progress, so basically you can reattempt any given level in the game as many times as you want to in order to get through all those challenges. And the challenges provide a modifier to the score. So if you're starting to think about score, and starting to get that competitive streak and want to become the top player in the UK - or among your friends, or in the world, on any given level - then you'll be motivated to complete all the challenges even if it means playing in a play style that's not really your own, just in order to complete them, and then play again in a really good way, with those modifiers, to get that score.

PC Gamer: So the score is affected by persistent modifiers?

Luke Valentine: There are two elements to it. There's the playthrough itself, which has one aspect to the score. Then the challenge modification aspect. So if you've completed a challenge, like the chameleon challenge (which is getting all the costumes) that's saved. You don't necessarily have to have all four disguises in every playthrough to have that modifier to the score.

PC Gamer: When I think of Hitman I don't really think of scores-attacking. Are you trying to reward the experimentation that people enjoyed in the previous Hitman games?

Luke Valentine : It's always been there. The replayability is there, as it always has been. We're just rewarding players differently. The reward previously was the discovery and laboriously making a video and putting it on YouTube to show people what you've done. This time, we're giving tools to the player to broadcast that achievement through the high score.

PC Gamer: Is it as rewarding though? I was looking through the challenges earlier. When they're presented to me like that: You've got to go and find these costumes, or you've got to poison the fish, or you've got to shove him down the manhole. it doesn't feel as umm.. emergent?

Luke Valentine: Are we giving the game away?

PC Gamer: Yeah.

Luke Valentine: I think that the information is always there. A game comes out and there's a game FAQ up within hours and people race to be the first ones to post it. And there's people who just refer to those the whole time when they play games. They just can't find things themselves and they just need the help.

We're aware of that. We want to help people to discover that. Even the hints don't necessarily lead you to that point.

I can understand what you're saying. But I think there's a lot to discover. I don't think we're giving everything away in the challenges although I can recognise that there's a certain spoiler element to it if you open the notebook and you can see there's a possibility of poisoning someone, obviously that takes away the discovery.

What's your take on the new system? Are you excited about Hitman Absolution?

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