“There is a KGB station chief within the level meeting Viktor Novikov which is also something you can figure out. He’s having violent arguments with his head designer backstage, and if you figure it out, it’s a way to get Novikov on stage in the first place. Levels will have a lot of these small narratives in there, that will actually be something you can latch onto. We love the idea you’re a voyeur: you’re walking around listening and figuring out what your opportunities are. The tone of each mission is quite different—depending on where we are with the overarching story, but also so you don’t always know what to expect.”
That sounds much more like Hitman than Absolution did, to me, but these will be sandboxes with the benefit of Absolution’s improved interface. “We had a really good chance to say ‘what’s the best possible Hitman game we can build?’” Elverdam says. “For us that meant looking at 15 years of creating Hitman to begin with. The first step was saying, we have a game like Hitman: Blood Money that a lot of our fans appreciate. In its essence it’s a large sandbox. And it’s also a promise that there’s a hitman and there’s a target. That was the base, the core of everything. Then we have a game like Silent Assassin where there’s a tone, some world travelling, and you get the feeling that everything is a little bit more high stakes.
“Regarding Absolution, we had a lot to build on there—we built a living world in Absolution where NPCs are talking quite a bit, where NPCs are lively. If you’re hunted by guards or looking for opportunities, it actually matters that you pay attention, which we wanted to [carry] over into Hitman. I think we also accomplished building a stealth-action game in Absolution where people can pick up the controller and know what they’re doing, and can reliably fiberwire people. The cores of different Hitman games came together in what we’re doing today. That’s the best way to explain the journey we’ve been on since Absolution.” The Contracts mode from Absolution will return, too.
Level variety is crucial to the team—Paris is just one slice of what they’re building over the next 18 months and beyond. “It’s supporting the fantasy of globetrotting, travelling the world and killing these highprofile targets,” Abrak says. “The other part of it is deep core gameplay—some locations may give more vertical gameplay opportunities, some are more dense environments. That’s also something we incorporate into locations.”
Hitman could be back on form. IO is figuring out what a game starring Agent 47 needs to be in 2015, and the studio is banking on fans being part of that process. For all the potential buzz of its unusual business model, I’m just happy to see a classic Hitman game underneath all that, a truly exciting sandbox experience that could finally give fans what they’ve been asking for ever since the release of Blood Money.