The next Hitman game was cancelled. Then it was uncancelled. Now it's being talked about in an open letter on the Hitman website. "Dear Miley," it reads. No, wait, that was the other one. "Dear Hitman fans," it begins, before outlining, in some detail, what Io's next sharply dressed bald assassin simulator will entail.
All is not well with agent 47, the eerily hairless protagonist of the Hitman series. The LinkedIn profile of senior game designer Richard Knight indicates that the next-gen installment in the series he was working on at Square Enix Montreal was recently canceled.
Dark clouds may have formed over Square Enix’s financial future months ago, but that doesn’t make the storm of layoffs at IO Interactive any less surprising or disheartening.
This all started in Chiu Dai park, Hong Kong, twelve years ago. The first mission of the first Hitman game. You’re given a target, a pistol and a disassembled sniper rifle in a briefcase. And something is very odd.
You’re just a guy, in a street. No one’s shooting at you. No one’s hunting for you. The challenge isn’t to survive, or to get to the exit, or to solve a puzzle. You can just explore, observe, and understand this space, then decide how to make one man dead.
If you’re ever sad about how many games these days are sequels, go back and play Hitman: Blood Money again. The assassin-sim series struggled for three games to understand its own strengths, and Blood Money found them all.
Almost every mission was an absurdly rich playground of deadly possibilities. You were usually free to roam them undisguised, watching patrol routes, tracking targets, studying the environment, and planning the perfect murder. The plot was sidelined in order to avoid interfering with the business of killing, the levels were large, and your tools were versatile and intricately customisable. The fans adored it, and it’s one of my favourite games of all time.
Hitman: Absolution goes... in a different direction.
Lately all our console playing friends have been telling us about this 'Hitman Sniper Challenge' thing on the tellybox. We of course affected an air of practiced disdain at their preposterous claims that a game not on PC could be good. But now it's on PC. So it must be good. QED.
Sniper Challenge is a promotional game for Hitman Absolution, those who score highly at shooting men in the head will earn prizes. Not achievements you understand, real, physical prizes like iPads and Sennheiser headphones, which are being given away monthly to the top scorers.
Agent 47's back! ...Again! Absolution's not even out yet, but Square Enix is already diving head-long into sequel territory. So said the publisher in a tweet announcing its brand new Montreal studio, which will apparently open up a whopping 150 jobs. Take that, the economy.
IO Interactive, meanwhile, will continue to meticulously craft sets of murder dominoes for Agent 47 to knock down, so this is beginning to sound a bit like the year-on-year model Call of Duty employs with Infinity Ward and Treyarch.
Christian Elverdam is Hitman: Absolution's gameplay director, and that's his face hovering just above these words. Our combined E3 force caught up with Christian in LA, and pinned him to the wall with the full force of our questioning. In response, he talked about the varied approaches players can take in Absolution. Blood Money fans (of whom our own Tom Francis leads the charge) will be pleased to hear that the videos and demos they've shown so far aren't pointing toward a linear, prescribed route through the game. Instead, Christian points out that 47 will have a range of options at his disposal to complete his grisly duty.
Tim and Graham have seen the fifth Hitman game in action now, and it comes with some surprises. A cover system? Actual stealth? Donnie Darko predicto-vision? A rooftop chase under helicopter fire? What is this, a game that's slightly different in some way?
I don't know how any of those things will work out yet, or how much of the game they really represent. But the last game, Hitman: Blood Money, was so nearly perfect that you can see what they need to do next. This is what they need to do next.
Codename 47 will go to any lengths to perv on a lady in the shower, equal to and including: holding a man's head underwater until he dies, punching another guy so hard he dies, garotting a man with a wire until he dies, dangling a man over a banister until he dies, and launching a man's head into a wall. I think he died too. The trailer has the right level of moodiness, but there's zero in-game footage. Lucky then, that Tim will have a full preview for you in a few minutes.
IO have followed up on yesterday's Hitman Absolution teaser trailer with news of the sequel's brand new engine, and a few hints about Absolution's dark, conspiracy-laden story.
Last week we mentioned the start of a Hitman alternative reality game, in which members of the Hitman forums have been following real world clues to try and uncover more information on Hitman 5. Last week the community was busy deciphering a mysterious image of Agent 47's signature black leather gloves next to what looks to be a script for a new Hitman game. Since then the plot has thickened, with encoded number-strings, references to the Berliner beer festival, a picture of CN tower in Toronto, Canada, and the first image of Hitman 5.