Update: A little while after Epic CEO Tim Sweeney said he was looking into the problem, IO provided an update to say that, while it doesn't have a solution immediately, it can now guarantee that Hitman 2 owners will be able to import that game's levels into Hitman 3 free of charge. How it will work isn't known yet. Looks like there may be a happy ending to this one.
The original story, based on old information, is below.
Original story: In August 2020, IO Interactive said ahead of the start of Hitman 3 preorders that players will be able to import their progression and unlocks from Hitman 2, as well as locations from the previous two games, at no extra charge. "We want to make it a seamless process for our PC players to enjoy Hitman 3 on a different PC platform and continue to enjoy the benefits of our World of Assassination," the studio promised.
The statement seemed intended as a reassurance that making Hitman 3 exclusive to the Epic Games Store—which does not carry Hitman 2—would not be a problem for players who want continue their careers as high-flying assassins organically, from one game to the next. Today, however, IO changed direction on all that, saying in a pre-launch guide that Hitman 2 locations will only be available to PC players who purchase a separate access pack.
Progression will carry over as expected, although it will have to be done through a separate website that will go live sometime before Hitman 3 releases. "After completing the carryover process, Hitman 2 players will be able to start Hitman 3 with their existing player profile, XP rank, location mastery levels, location mastery unlocks, challenge progress, challenge unlocks and Elusive Target suits/unlocks," the guide says. "All of those things are what we call ‘progression’. It’s not possible to pick and choose elements to carryover. It’s all or nothing."
There are some restrictions: You can only import progress from Hitman 2, although progression through the Legacy Pack, which puts Hitman 1 locations in Hitman 2, will also count, and imports will only work within platforms—that is, PC to PC, Xbox to Xbox, and PlayStation to PlayStation. The carryover process is a one-shot deal, and if you start a Hitman 3 campaign and then transfer your progress later, any progress earned in that initial campaign will be wiped. All in all, it's fairly straightforward.
Actual locations from previous games are a different matter, however. Content from the first two games will be released as Access Pass DLC for Hitman 3, available for separate purchase, or for free "if you have already purchased that content from the same store that you have pre-ordered or purchased Hitman 3."
The "same store" condition is where the problem lies. Anyone who preorders Hitman 3 on the Epic Store, or purchases it within the first ten days of release, will get the Hitman 1 Game of the Year Access Pass at no extra charge. And if you already own Hitman: The Complete First Season on EGS, you'll also be able to grab the pass for free regardless of when you buy Hitman 3.
Because Hitman 2 isn't offered for sale on the Epic Store, however—and despite IO's previous commitments—that Access Pass will not be free for PC players.
"We’ve done everything possible to make this process smooth and player-friendly," the studio wrote. "However, due to various circumstances out of our control, we want to acknowledge that the process is different to our initial plans for PC players."
The difficulty appears to stem from the process Hitman 3 uses to determine who is eligible for free Access Passes, which involves detecting what Hitman 2 content you have installed and then making the corresponding pass available for free. The absence of the game on the Epic Store means that process isn't possible, so Hitman 3 players who want access to Hitman 2 content will have to buy the Access Pass separately.
To compensate, IO Interactive is offering the Hitman 2 Standard and Gold Access Passes (the Gold Access Pass includes the New York and Haven island locations plus bonus Sniper Assassin maps and Special Assignments) for 80 percent off for the first 14 days of Hitman 3's release. Prices for the Access Passes have not yet been announced.
The reaction to the last-minute change in plan has not gone over well. Threads on Reddit and Resetera are filled with unhappy comments, and replies to the launch-day countdown on Twitter are also about what you'd expect.
I've reached out to IO Interactive for more information on the sudden change and Access Pass pricing, and will update if I receive a reply.