Some franchises work better under the genre of episodic gaming, while others work well as a full game. In the past Hitman has always been a series that’s been an all-in-one release, but come this March 11, Hitman will change over to the ranks of episodic for the first time in its history.
The decision that IO Interactive and Square Enix made to take Hitman episodic was made with a variety of factors in mind, but from what IO has had to say about the game, a primary force was their desire to alter the experience based off of player feedback. They said the business model is an outcome of their desire to listen to gamers more and implement their thoughts into the game.
IO Interactive sees this new world of Hitman as a fresh start and one that will hopefully lead to more games like it in the future. In an exclusive interview with byteclay.com, Hannes Seifert, who is the studio head at IO Interactive, said this new game is part of what will be the foundation of future Hitman games, and then spoke about how AI will react on a deeper level to player actions than ever before.
“They react to things like if you crouch, people will look at you and say, ‘why are you crouching?’ You can confuse them, you can use them for your assassinations, for your plans. AI also carries weapons, they can escort you out areas now instead of shooting you when it’s just a civilian trespassing in the living room,” Seifert said.
He went onto say the team is satisfied with the work they’ve done on the game’s rendering, audio technology and size of each level. AI has continued to be emphasized in a big way, as IO believes it is the most sophisticated they’ve ever created and may have even set a new benchmark across the entire industry.
Sophistication is built within thoughts a person would normally need to be aware of if they were actually on an assassination mission in real-life. If you knock out a guard and leave him on the ground, someone will find him and alert everyone around you. If you take a guard’s clothes and then try to walk past his partner, you’re going to get spotted.
“We have the escorting, which a really big step forward for us in making the game have more plausible game roles. Let’s say you are at the party and go into an office where there is a security guard, in past games they’ve would’ve just started shooting, but now they will start to usher you out. First, they warn you, if you don’t do it, they then start arresting you and usher you out into the area you can be in. AI also react to weapons. Civilians fetch guards, guards pick them up and store them in stash points and things like that,” Seifert said.
The decision to take Hitman into the episodic genre has given IO and gamers the chance to experience what it truly is like to be a Hitman. Contracts won’t come in all at once, they’ll come in throughout the course of the year, like they would for an actual assassin.
The combination of timed hits and how players will need to become familiar with each environment should serve as a legitimate challenge. Not only are kills made more to the fantasy of being an assassin, but the episodic nature of the game has given IO Interactive new flexibility to tell the story they’ve always wanted to tell.
“When we look at episodic, let’s say you play Paris now and you play the next one and the next one and you get more of the story. Then you begin to connect the dots and actually understand the people you met in Paris, what it was, why that happened, what they talked about from a different perspective.
“You might then go back and play that level again. That from a creative process is really exciting. It’s like a TV show, you watch the season finale and then you go back and watch this one episode to get a different perspective on it,” Seifert said.
Hitman has always been a story-driven game, but that has been under the traditional, full game structure where the game moves forward from cutscene-to-cutscene and a start-to-finish. IO’s desire to stay away from that model led to the sort of story gamers will experience in this new Hitman.
Recognizing areas that maybe aren’t as strong as others is part of any successful business, but that honesty can be hard for some to come to terms with. Narrative, background and information are dripping inside of each level, so gamers should take their time with each setting, rather than trying to blaze through them as fast as possible.
“When you actually experience the story, the maturity of that is now in the levels. We decided to use less of these action sorts of cutscenes and making it more of a contemporary thriller. We have a strong focus on characters and a sense of thriller. That connects the overarching season, but a lot of the details are found in the levels and by being episodic, that means there are a lot of opportunities with the side missions, escalation contracts and elusive targets to tell all of these angles,” Seifert said.
Running through levels as fast as you can may result in a quick kill, however, you will end up missing a lot within that location. Detail and density are present in each place, just like intelligent AI and systems are. Quantity, from a size standpoint, isn’t what’s important to focus on in the new Hitman, its the quality.
Disguises are an important part of each playthrough, as certain disguises will net you access to specific parts of each level. It’ll be essential to have awareness of your surroundings because if not, you may find yourself struggling to progress. “Some disguises are very powerful and are hard to get or you need a certain creativity to get. Once you get them though, they give you lots of access to things,” Seifert said.
Hitman will be a game that grows over the coming months and gamers will play a major role in that growth. The goal for IO Interactive is to create a foundation that will serve as a springboard for the franchise’s future, both in the short-term and long-term.
“I hope when people look back and they went through this rock concert with us, through the whole thing, that they will look back on a tremendous amount of gameplay time. It’s a gamer’s game, it’s not the most casual game in the world, which we don’t want it to be. This is the first of many more games to come, that’s what we want,” Seifert said.