It’s not dissimilar to a Spelunky daily challenge or a live MMO event in theory, and the systemic nature of Hitman means there’s a story for players to take away from a one-time mission and share with their friends—a bit like a Telltale episode. It’s a smart way to keep people talking about Hitman for a year without selling them extra stuff, and I can’t think of many other games where you could try a model like this and have it make sense.
I’m not getting too carried away, though. It’s all pie-in-the-sky right now, and there’s also a risk of making the game feel too bitty and drawn out by selling it this way. Personally, I tend to play games in one- or twoweek chunks until I’m done, and I let episodes of Telltale games stack up because I can’t be bothered to wait for the next instalment. The challenge for IO Interactive is to show people these events are compelling enough for them to want to be in on the ground floor, instead of just picking up the finished thing a year later in a Steam sale.
For the team, this model is also a means of getting valuable feedback. “We’re humble enough to say there are things we will learn across this journey,” director of production Hakan Abrak tells me. “We just want to put ourselves in a position where we can react to tailor the experience even more precisely for our fans out there. And this takes a lot. We had to rethink everything. And the technology as well—it’s not only about creating the biggest sandbox levels we’ve done today, or the most NPCs, which we’re proud of and have done, but this is also about building technology that can adapt and evolve with the content and the community. We know things and we have assumptions, but we’re looking forward to learning more.”
During the demo, I’m shown the different ways Agent 47 can accomplish his missions: you can use a screwdriver to make a fitting fall off a balcony and kill someone, you can poison a drink at a bar. You can knock guards out, and their AI functions so that they work individually, instead of as a hive mind, giving you scope to manipulate them. You can use explosives, which enemies can defuse if they find and also take indoors to store, meaning you’ve both temporarily distracted an enemy and got a weapon into the grounds without setting off the security alarms.
I’m really impressed too by the promise of mini narratives that play out within this Parisian palace, which are designed to lead you to ways to get at your target. “It’s our ambition that we’re going to create many different types of missions,” says Elverdam. “There’s going to be a core gameplay element that’s going to be the same, then when we talk about what’s in every level, for example Paris, inside every level there will be something going on. In Paris it’s a palace and a fashion show. And within that there are a lot of sub-narratives. You have the reporter in the beginning giving an interview, and she actually tells you she’s going to meet Viktor Novikov later, which is one of your hooklines you can use.