Hitman is one of the industry’s most iconic IPs, featuring the bald assassin in all his determined, ruthless glory. Early installments weren’t dissimilar to Metal Gear Solid, when you were basically forced into stealthy approaches. Personally, I think that purity is a good thing as it separates such adventures from the other open-world, freedom-centric games out there. But we’re all about freedom these days, which is why the upcoming Hitman reboot will offer multiple ways to take down a target, and stealth won’t be your only option. That being said, like the well-received Hitman: Absolution, stealth will likely remain your best approach at all times. Nothing wrong with a little trial and error, right?
Anyway, let’s first talk scope: Compared to the aforementioned Absolution, the new Hitman will feature maps that are reportedly 6-7 times larger with a ridiculous number of ways to complete your assassination objective. Furthermore, the areas won’t be merely larger in size; they’ll also feature a much denser population of NPCs. As many as 300 AI characters could be wandering around these challenging environments, and they will indeed react to Agent 47’s movements. One of the levels Io Interactive put on display at this year’s E3 was Fashionable Paris and in that footage, you can see lots of people milling about on the streets and in cafes. This will undoubtedly add to the realism and intensity of your mission, because you’ll always have to be aware of your surroundings.
As you might expect, the linearity for which the series was so well known is mostly gone, replaced by a much more open landscape. This will encourage players to experiment with various approaches and techniques, and due to the increase in general area density, you’ll really have to consider numerous options. As is typically the case with any stealth endeavor, timing and tactics will be critical. It’s also important to note that your target won’t always be static; in other words, he won’t always remain in the same spot on the map, so it might be a good idea to track his movements before settling on a course of action. Ideally, if you can’t get him alone, you’ll want to take him down where there’s as little chance of discovery as possible.
Agent 47 will also have a larger arsenal of gadgets, tools and weapons than ever before, and you’ll have to decide when best to utilize each one. There are times and places for things, you know? Those familiar with the stealth atmosphere will revel in this great assortment of deadly or otherwise useful toys, and you may have to get awfully creative. Given the dynamic nature of these huge, populated areas, a simple long-distance sniper shot may not be always be a possibility. And if the plan goes haywire, you will have access to heavier weaponry that might get you out of a tight scrape. Either way, choice is a central focus and you might want to tackle the same mission multiple times, simply because you want to try new ways of achieving your goal. If it was messy, you may want another shot at it.
Now, as you’ve probably heard by now, the game won’t launch with all planned content. There’s a scheduled rollout of content throughout 2016 and each expansion will deliver new locations and story additions. However, it’d be a mistake to label this an “episodic” production because that implies you keep paying for the new content; in fact, you only pay full price once and then simply download the new content when it becomes available, at no extra cost. The developers have said the initial release will be a “sizable chunk” of the final product, too. Unfortunately for collectors, the game will only be released in digital format, which is just something we’ll have to accept in the near future. Still, perhaps when they’re done with the rollouts, Square Enix might produce a special physical version that includes all content (cross your fingers).
Hitman was originally set to release on December 8 but has since been delayed until March 11, 2016. But this is actually good news, because Io says they’ve pushed it back so they can deliver more content right out of the gate. On top of which, they’re planning a “tighter frequency” of updates, so we’ll get all that great content sooner rather than later. Provided we really do get a fulfilling experience when it launches, and the game offers that excellent combination of stealth and action, this could be one of 2016’s best. It’s just a matter of whether or not you like the release approach. Me, I still like the old-fashioned idea of putting a finished product on store shelves but I understand the purpose of Io’s business model. Let’s just hope it works out.
12/2/2015 Ben Dutka