The Hitman series is on its sixth entry now, and the fan-favorite gameplay formula is a winning one. The simple joy of tracking down a target and taking them out as stealthily (or as bombastically) as you can isn’t something that’s easy for anyone to get tired of, but as games of all genres continue to evolve and expand, the development team at IO Interactive continue to update Hitman in new and unique ways.
IO Interactive is billing Hitman (yes, that’s its title – clean and simple!) as the first fully episodic game in the series. It operates much the same as other episodic titles, meaning that when Hitman launches on March 11, you’ll be able to play the first episode, and can purchase later episodes as they release throughout the year. It’s an interesting strategy for a big budget-game like Hitman – and one that may benefit players in some pretty cool ways. The developers will be able to look at player data, and use that to influence new chapters and additional content added to the already-released chapters. It adds an adaptability to the game that developers never get to experience, allowing IO Interactive to fine-tune the Hitman experience in real time.
The episodic presentation isn’t the only thing that’s new and noteworthy about Hitman; the missions are presented in massive set pieces, with myriad options laid out before you, and multiple ways to neutralize your target. New options, like the ability to non-lethally subdue people, mean more ways to get the job done – while adding multiple new layers of A.I. to the mix (watch what happens when a security guard you knocked out and stripped gets found, woken up, and has to make his way out of the building in just his skivvies!).
In our recent hands-on time with Hitman, we got to explore a Paris fashion show, filled with hundreds of guests and two high-profile targets. IO Interactive has created an environment that you can really play around with as you explore; there are straightforward paths to your target, as well as more clever, roundabout routes. Do you pick off security guards, do you sneak through the mansion and simply take your target out, or do you orchestrate an “accident” that obliterates your target without drawing suspicion?
We’ve seen the Paris level of Hitman before, but this is the first time anyone has gotten to go hand-on with the game – so we were eager to explore all the ways in which we could infiltrate the fashion show. Our favorite that we discovered was the ability to disguise Agent 47 as a male model. Before we could get upstairs and seek out our target, we had to head to makeup, and then out onto the runway itself, striking a pose on the catwalk. The trademark Hitman humor is still very present here.
In order to guide you toward the many paths that Agent 47 can take, there are eavesdropping opportunities sprinkled throughout each mission. By listening in on characters’ conversations, you gain a new set of objectives that will lead you a certain way to kill your target. In an early tutorial mission, one opportunity led to Agent 47 sabotaging the ejector seat of a jet, and sending a target launching into the air before he even took off.
From a story perspective, Hitman is expanding on the background of Agent 47 – giving you a greater glimpse into his past than ever before. The tutorial section is a prequel chapter, showing Agent 47’s training. It’s not only a look back at the agency that created the world’s deadliest assassin; it’s also a humorous set of mini-missions.
IO Interactive plans to keep the Hitman episodes fresh and fun between each expansion. One of those elements is the return of the popular Contracts mode from Hitman: Absolution. In this mode, you can mark targets in a level, set parameters, and challenge other players to beat them.
A new addition to Hitman is Elusive Targets, a feature aimed at hardcore players. An Elusive Target is only in the game for a 48-hour period; however you kill the target (or fail to) is added to your file, and that’s the only opportunity you get. It’s a badge of honor – bragging rights amongst other assassins. It’s certainly the sort of thing that will spawn some awesome livestreams and Let’s Play videos.
Hitman launches for Xbox One and Windows PC on March 11, but players itching to get a kill in can check out the PC beta beginning on February 19.