Hitman (2016 video game)

Hitman is a 2016 stealth video game that was developed by IO Interactive and was released episodically for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One from March to October 2016. The game, which has six episodes, is the sixth mainline entry in the Hitman franchise; its story takes place six years after the events of Hitman: Absolution (2012) and follows professional assassin Agent 47 as he goes on a worldwide adventure and solves a mysterious series of seemingly unconnected assassinations. Hitman features a number of large, open-ended sandboxes that Agent 47 can freely explore. The game presents the player with various assassination opportunities, many of which are unconventional. IO Interactive introduced a "live component" to the game with new content being regularly delivered in downloadable form.

Hitman
Hitman 2015.jpg
Developer(s)IO Interactive
Publisher(s)Square Enix[a]
Director(s)Christian Elverdam
Producer(s)
  • Markus Friedl
  • Ole Mogensen
  • Alex Hilman
Designer(s)Jesper Hylling
Programmer(s)
  • Mogens Hvidfelt
  • Andrew Mattingly
Artist(s)Jonathan Rowe
Writer(s)Michael Vogt
Composer(s)Niels Bye Nielsen
SeriesHitman
Platform(s)
Release
Genre(s)Stealth
Mode(s)Single-player

Square Enix Montréal was due to work on the next Hitman game and IO Interactive returned to lead the game's development following the under-performance of Hitman: Absolution. The title was conceived as a soft reboot and a re-imagining of the franchise as the team attempted to integrate the gameplay of Absolution with the open-endedness of earlier installments of the series. According to the team, Hitman is a puzzle game with action and stealth elements; the developers refined the simulation and artificial intelligence of each level. The game adopted an episodic model and the team envisioned the game as a service. It was marketed as a "World of Assassination" and provided a platform that would expand and evolve over time, and inspire a trilogy of games.

Upon its release, Hitman received positive reviews; critics praised the game's episodic release format, locations, level design, and its replayability but criticised the always-online requirement and excessive handholding. The game under-performed commercially and caused publisher Square Enix to divest from IO Interactive in May 2017. Following a management buyout, IO retained the rights to the series and partnered with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment to produce a sequel titled Hitman 2, which was released in November 2018.

GameplayEdit

 
In this gameplay screenshot, Agent 47 is disguising as a fashion model in the Paris map.

Hitman is an action-adventure stealth video game in which players control a genetically-enhanced assassin called Agent 47 from a third-person perspective as he travels to various locations and carries out contracted assassinations of criminal targets across the globe. As in other games in the Hitman series, players have a large amount of freedom in their approach to their assassinations.[1] Players may use weapons including explosives,[2] pistols,[3] assault rifles,[4] and long-range sniper rifles;[5] they may also assassinate the target at close range using bladed weapons or throwable items.[6]

Agent 47 is vulnerable in a firefight and eliminating targets silently is often a viable option. He can use his specially-equipped garrote wire to suffocate his victims[7] or disguise his killings as accidental deaths, such as poisoning the target's food[3] and drowning them in a toilet.[8] The game also includes scripted "opportunities" that require the completion of multiple tasks. Players can eavesdrop on conversations from non-playable characters (NPCs) to obtain clues about the location and routine of targets, and opportunities for creative infiltration and elimination.[9] In one level, for example, Agent 47 can tamper with the museum's chandeliers, causing them to fall onto the victim and kill him.[10] The player-character can collect items to use as weapons; some items grant players access to previously restricted areas.[3] Completion of mission challenges, such as killing targets in unconventional ways, discovering unique items and gaining access to new areas, enables players to progress through the mastery levels for that location, granting players access to new items including gadgets, agency pick-up locations, and new starting locations for that level.[11][12]

Each episode in the game features a sandbox-type environment the payer can freely explore. Players commonly approach missions by incapacitating non-player characters and wearing their clothes as disguises, allowing the player to gain access to restricted areas more easily. Enforcers, high-ranking members of the group Agent 47 is impersonating, may recognise him and become suspicious.[13] Agent 47 can try to blend in to prevent this from happening.[14] Levels can accommodate about 300 NPCs, each of which reacts to the player's actions and has different routines.[15] Acting strangely, such as crouching or taking cover in a crowd, will raise suspicions.[9][3] Security guards will frisk Agent 47, who must drop his weapons before he can enter some restricted areas.[4] The artificial intelligence (AI) of NPCs has several alert phases. Guards will escort Agent 47 from a restricted area if he is found trespassing and his disguise may be compromised if a NPC sees him perform an illegal action, alerting guards to search and arrest him.[9] Guards can be distracted[9] and Agent 47 can hide the bodies of incapacitated individuals and other evidence to avoid alerting other NPCs.[16] Agent 47 can also enter Instinct mode, which highlights the locations of the targets.[17] After killing his target, Agent 47 needs to locate an exit to complete a mission. A player's mission performance review is rated with a five-star rating system and is influenced by factors such as time elapsed, the number of non-target NPCs killed, sightings of the player, appearances on CCTV cameras, and discoveries of victims' bodies.[18]

IO Interactive introduced a "live component" to Hitman; new content, which was regularly delivered in downloadable form, includes time-limited missions called "Elusive Targets". If a player fails to kill an elusive target before the mission expires, or alerts targets and allows them to escape, the targets will not return. The player is rewarded for successful killings with cosmetic rewards. Unlike the main game, players cannot save their games when they are completing the Elusive Target missions.[19] "Escalation contracts", which are contracts created by the developers, include stages that require the player to complete tasks such as assassinating a target using a specific weapon or disguise. By completing a stage, the player progresses through the escalation and the level of difficulty will increase with new challenges to comply with or changes to the level.[20] Hitman: Absolution's online Contracts mode also returned in Hitman, allowing players to assign up to five NPCs as assassination targets, set requirements for their killings, and share their contracts with and compete with other players.[21]

SynopsisEdit

In 1999, a man who goes by the alias 47 is initiated into the International Contract Agency (ICA) and demonstrates exceptional aptitude as an assassin. The ICA is unable to verify his background or uncover any information about him. With the help of his handler Diana Burnwood, 47 passes all of the tests flawlessly. ICA director Erich Soders approves agent status for 47.

In 2019, 47 completes a series of contracts for the ICA. At first, the contracts appear to be unrelated but a man who is known only as the "shadow client" has covertly coordinated these contracts to attack a secretive organisation called Providence, whose existence and covert control over world affairs were thought to be mythical. The shadow client uses ICA and Agent 47 to kill Providence agents, making ICA appear culpable and hiding his own involvement. The final contracts address the fallout caused by the ICA uncovering the shadow client's actions and by Providence discovering the ICA's role in the attacks.

PlotEdit

The shadow client performs an assassination for Viktor Novikov, a head of the international spy ring IAGO, and receives a copy of all of IAGO's intelligence as payment. The shadow client uses the IAGO files to identify Providence's secret operations. To cover his tracks, the shadow client anonymously discloses to MI6 an impending IAGO auction of an MI6 non-official cover (NOC) list that will take place at a Paris fashion show by Novikov's designer label Sanguine. MI6 hires 47 to prevent the sale by killing both IAGO ringleaders Novikov and Dalia Margolis at the fashion show.

The shadow client sets two more ICA contracts in motion to disrupt Providence's activities without exposing himself. He first discloses a secret Ether project to develop a deadly weaponised virus to a stockholder in the Ether Biotech Corporation, who hires 47 to assassinate the Ether scientists in charge of the project and to destroy the virus prototype housed at Ether's biolab in the fictitious town of Sapienza, Italy. Providence dispatched an agent to investigate the incident but the shadow client ambushes him, forces him into handing over a vault key and then kills him.

The shadow client also discloses an impending military coup d'état in Morocco to Hamilton-Lowe, a construction contractor with lucrative government contracts in the country. Hamilton-Lowe, who wants to preserve their contacts, hires 47 to eliminate the coup conspirators General Reza Zaydan and fugitive bank CEO Claus Hugo Strandberg—both of whom are undercover Providence operatives—in Marrakesh. As 47 is completing the contract, the shadow client breaches a Providence vault in New York City and steals the information on Providence's assets and operatives. Providence investigates the incident and realises a coordinated attack has been launched against it.

The shadow client sets up an ICA contract to reveal another Providence member, the reclusive media mogul Thomas Cross. Cross had ordered a coverup that exonerated his son, famed indie rock singer Jordan, for the murder of Jordan's girlfriend Hannah Highmoore; the shadow client reveals the truth to her family. The Highmoores hire 47 to kill Jordan Cross and the lawyer Ken Morgan, who conducted the coverup, while both are staying in Bangkok, Thailand. Deploying forces from a private militia under his control, the shadow client kidnaps Thomas Cross from Jordan's funeral and kills him then steals billions of dollars from his offshore bank accounts. The ICA, realising an unknown party has benefited from the Cross contract, re-examines 47's previous contracts and discovers the shadow client's role in anonymously leaking intelligence to the clients.

The ICA tracks these transmissions to a training camp for the shadow client's militia. Seeking to eliminate the shadow client for his manipulation, the ICA orders an premature operation due to Soders's intervention. The ICA sends 47 to a camp in Colorado, US, to eliminate eco-terrorist and bomb-maker Sean Rose and his fellow commanders. At the camp, 47 and Diana find the shadow client's research, revealing the connections of the previous contracts to Providence. They learn Providence is a real organisation. They find evidence the shadow client knows 47's identity but the pursuit of the him is sidelined when they also discover Soders is a Providence secret agent. The shadow client uses this opportunity to go into hiding.

47 kills Soders before he can trade a list of ICA operatives to Providence and his Providence liaison and former Yakuza lawyer Yuki Yamazaki, at a hospital in Hokkaido, Japan, where Soders is being treated for a heart condition. Subsequently, Providence uncovers the shadow client's role in the attacks. An unnamed Providence member approaches Diana, seeking to hire the ICA to target the shadow client. Diana refuses and he offers to reveal information about 47's past, leading her to reconsider.

The Sarajevo SixEdit

In this alternative storyline, 47 receives contracts to assassinate the six former members of the Sigma deniable operations paramilitary unit of a private military company called CICADA, who committed war crimes during the siege of Sarajevo but evaded prosecution by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. 47 tracks each Sigma member to one of the Season 1 mission settings, with the events and characters of which serve as backdrop.

For the final contract, 47 is sent to the GAMA hospital in Hokkaido to both eliminate Taheiji Koyama and retrieve files documenting Sigma's operations. If 47 approaches the target, Koyama, deduces 47's identity and confesses that he ordered all six killings to bring to justice the Sigma members for their crimes. Koyama instructs 47 to publicise the Sigma files before 47 kills him at his own request. After completing his objectives, 47 tells Diana public indifference will relegate Sigma's long-past atrocities to obscurity despite the release of the files.

Patient ZeroEdit

A doomsday cult named "Liberation" masquerades as a self-help group and is organising an exhibition in a hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, where it is planning to release a bio-weapon attack. 47 receives a contract from a billionaire codenamed "Locksley" to eliminate the cult's leader Oybek Nabazov and his second-in-command. As 47 leaves the hotel, Diana notices a series of self-dispatched messages from the hotel's network, which is revealed to be a signal to activate the cult's sleeper agents following Nabazov's death.

ICA identifies two cult members meeting in Sapienza to exchange a viral weapon, which 47 retrieved after eliminating the targets. ICA intel then confirms the origin of the U.S.-bound signal from Nabazov's deadman's trigger, which leads to Bradley Paine, a medical doctor who carries a live sample of the Nabazov virus that was testing in Colorado. 47 kills Paine and four mercenaries who have been infected.

ICA intercepts a memo indicating Japanese authorities detained a man who showed signs of infection and was sent to the GAMA medical facility. 47 infiltrates the medical facility to eliminate Owen Cage, a virus researcher who infected himself with the intention to become Patient Zero. The second target is Klaus Liebleid, an Ether scientist who is trying to extract information about the virus so that Ether can reverse engineer the weaponised virus and profit from it. Despite Cage being kept in the isolation ward, the virus spreads and 47 needs to kill all infected individuals to eliminate the virus. After 47 completes the contract, the spread of the Nabazov virus is contained and the virus is destroyed.

DevelopmentEdit

OriginEdit

Danish company IO Interactive developed of all of the mainline Hitman games. Prior to the launch of Hitman: Absolution (2012), Square Enix announced it had established a new studio named Square Enix Montréal to work on future Hitman games.[22] Due to cutbacks and layoffs at IO Interactive, other projects were stopped and the company started working on a new Hitman game,[23] and Square Enix Montréal focussed on developing smartphone and tablet versions of Hitman and other games.[24] Most of the members of the development team at IO Interactive only worked on Absolution but not older games of the series, such as Hitman: Blood Money (2006).[25]

Absolution was controversial for removing many of the franchise's traditional gameplay elements and being too linear rather than the large, open sandbox levels of the older games, despite being more accessible. When the team brainstormed ideas for the next entry in the franchise, they strove to integrate the gameplay of Absolution and the open levels of Blood Money. According to Christian Elverdem, this goal was "daunting" during the early stage of the game's development because they needed to upgrade their in-house Glacier game engine to accommodate these larger maps and most of the team did not have experience building sandboxes.[25] According to Michael Vogt, the game's lead writer, the title was designed to be a "soft reboot" and a "reimagining" for the franchise.[26]

DesignEdit

The major story beats and the destinations were decided by a small groups of development leads, after which a "track team" would be responsible for each level's design, rules, targets, and other details to create a self-contained game world.[27] The first level the team created, Paris, was the vertical slice for the game; it set the gameplay rules, general level design, and the number of non-playable characters for future episodes. According to Elverdem, every level is "fully simulated" and the player is free to explore and observe the behaviours of the AIs.[28] If the player eliminates a certain NPC, the simulation adjusts itself and continue to function, though it will also react to players' actions.[29] The team listened to feedback from playtesters and adjusted the game accordingly. For instance, after some playtesters complained about the level being too punitive, the team introduced the concept of escorting, in which NPCs escort Agent 47 back to a public space if he is found trespassing, whereas in the early version the guards would attack Agent 47.[28]

 
Amalfi in Italy inspired the design and the aesthetic of "Sapienza", the second episode.

The team perceived Hitman as a puzzle game with action and stealth elements; they had several major design concepts.[28] The first concept was named "Swiss cheese"; according to the team, the term means players would be presented with an ample options, and there were multiple ways to move in and out of a level.[30] There are two types of levels in this game; "fortress" refers to an area the player must infiltrate and a "snailhouse" is a level that has a circular design in which players are encouraged to explore the peripheral areas to find ways to access the area in the middle of the map.[28] The level Sapienza was developed alongside Paris, and was designed as the "opposite" of it, both in level design layout and aesthetic. Inspired by Italy's Amalfi coast, the maps feature a snailhouse design. Elverdem described this level as the "pinnacle" of the Swiss cheese design because the map has a lot of verticality and the pathways are interconnected, ensuring players will not find a dead end.[31]

The team incorporated a concept known as "social stealth", in which players are expected to conform to social norms and abide by the rules in a particular setting or context to blend in.[32] Each area in a map is considered to be a microbiome that informs players the way they should act. In each level, the team balanced the proportion of public and private spaces. Players are able to freely walk around in public spaces without restrictions, which enables them to understand the "feel" of the level and discover mission opportunities. There are two types of private spaces; professional spaces that often requires a disguise and personal spaces in which the target can be alone.[33] The AI of targets displays two types of behaviour; some will roam around the map and others will station themselves in a private space that is off-limits to the player. This helped diversify the gameplay loop by encouraging different playstyles. According to the team, the first type of target encourages players to follow them and observe their behaviour and patterns while the latter type prompts players to find ways to infiltrate a setting or gain access to previously restricted areas.[28]

After receiving complaints about the level being lifeless and boring from playtesters, the team introduced narrative subplots into the game with mission stories and opportunities. These elements position the players on a "rail" that will guide them to their target; this added additional challenges to the game's simulation because opportunities will disrupt the target's usual loop and players can complicate the loop by abandoning an ongoing opportunity in favour of another rail. Despite this complication, the team believed these subplots allow players to discover creative ways that change the AI loop in a meaningful and organic manner. For instance, if the Ether virus is destroyed in Sapienza, one of the targets, scientist Silvio Caruso, will deviate from his core loop to visit the laboratory. Players can easily use this feature to manipulate the targets. Despite putting players on a rail, the team stopped giving players further instructions after they have gathered all of the information needed to carry out the hit. This team felt it encourages players to decide how to approach the targets and communicates to the player there is never a "wrong" way of killing a target.[28]

StoryEdit

Vogt and Elverdam placed more emphasis on the game's narrative because they observed the market wanted "quality drama" following the success of The Last of Us (2013). Vogt noted there was a genre change for the franchise with Hitman (2016); unlike the previous games in the series, which are crime thrillers, the 2016 game is an "agent thriller" that was inspired by James Bond movies such as Casino Royale and has a more "adventurous and aspirational" tone than the older games, which are "cold and cynical".[26] The team elevated the stature of Agent 47 and his targets; 47 is now travelling to luxurious and exotic locations, and assassinating targets who are social elites. Elverdem said with the genre change, Agent 47 became "the guy you called for the most impossible hits under the most impossible circumstances".[26] To make the game aspirational, it has a "stronger moral compass"[26] than earlier games in the series so the assassinations committed by Agent 47 are more morally justifiable and make more sense in the context of the in-game universe.[26]

Vogt described Agent 47 as a "quintessential blank slate character"[26] and Elverdam said "since he is not anyone himself, it's easy for him to be everyone else".[26] Agent 47's only goal is to complete his assignments. Given the nature of the character, the team cannot forcefully apply typical character arcs like hero's journey for him; the team felt this would cause ludonarrative dissonance. The team introduced other characters to accompany Agent 47 through the post-2016 Hitman games. 47's handler Diana Burnwood becomes his conscience and the shadow client—who is revealed to be Lucas Grey in Hitman 2—serves as his emotions. These characters have genuine emotions and desires, and their actions and attitudes would slowly influence Agent 47 and facilitate his own character arc.[26] David Bateson returned to voice Agent 47.[34]

Vogt was initially concerned by the game's episodic format; he felt the episode would feel like "a slice of an unfinished game" if one episode features too many narrative elements.[26] The team thus decided to include subplots within each level while the main story would slowly unfold throughout the games. This unfolding makes the game similar to a television series in which some episodes are entirely about a subplot that has no relation to the overarching narrative.[26] Vogt said Season 1 only serves to introduce the game's characters and that the game's story would become increasingly important in later seasons. The first half of Season 1 has very little story content because the team wanted to ensure players can relate themselves to Agent 47, a merciless assassin who travels around the world to kill targets assigned to him.[35] Because Agent 47 is a blank state character, the team strove to create a "living, breathing" world.[36] Rather than a protagonist, Agent 47 is an intruder who observes and occasionally interrupts other people's lives. To achieve this, the team relied heavily on environmental storytelling. Art director Jonathan Rowe said the art team spent a lot of time "set dressing" every room and item to ensure each item has a reason to be there and has a tale to tell. For instance, some rooms in the Bangkok mansion are messy, communicating the story of the previous inhabitants of these rooms.[36]

OnlineEdit

Hitman is always online due to the inclusion of Elusive Targets who can only be killed once. The making of Elusive Targets did not impact the game's level design; the team used a different design philosophy compared with the main game. Players are not allowed to replay Elusive Targets because the team felt this would create a tense experience and prevent players from noticing imperfections that would make the experience less enjoyable.[37] Elusive Targets were designed to be memorable; they do not always have connections to the main story, which gave the team more freedom to create characters that fit the setting and theme of each map. The team avoided releasing Elusive Targets in a newly released map; they wanted to give sufficient time for players to master and explore the level. The development team observed the ways players completed Eluisve Targets, their play pattern and feedback, and made adjustments to make future targets more challenging.[38] Hannes Seifert, the head of IO Interactive, described Elusive Targets as "the pulse" of the experience that has "energised" the community and boosted the game's sales.[39] This mode was intended to provide bursts of content to the player during intervals between episodes. In July 2016, a companion app that allows players to keep track of online content released for the game was released.[40]

In March 2016, advertising company Omelet announced they had collaborated with Square Enix for a new campaign called "Choose Your Hit". Players could vote online and through Twitter to "kill" either Gary Cole or Gary Busey; the actor who received the most votes would lend his voice and likeness to the target in an upcoming mission. A month later, it was announced Busey had won and would appear as the target in a mission that would be released in mid 2016.[41] On 18 July 2016, Busey was announced as the seventh elusive target in the game; his mission, in which Cole also appears, would be available for seven days starting on 21 July 2016.[42]

A mode called Contracts mode, which first appeared in Absolution, was added to Hitman. The team believed the larger maps with more NPCs in each make the experience more varied and created identifiable NPCs to make these custom targets more interesting.[43] When Absolution launched in 2012, the online servers were unstable due to a large quantity of players accessing the online Contracts mode; to avoid a repeat of this incident and to ensure Hitman had a stable launch, IO Interactive improved the game's online infrastructure.[44]

ReleaseEdit

Hitman was originally set to be released on 8 December 2015 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, but its release was postponed to 11 March 2016 to allow time for IO Interactive to include more content in the base game.[45] The PlayStation 4 version of the game includes six exclusive missions known as The Sarajevo Six. Players who pre-ordered the game gained access to its beta, which was released for PlayStation 4 on 12 February and for Microsoft Windows on 19 February 2016.[46][47] No season pass was available at launch; the company considered the addition of paid content a "wrong approach".[48] Players who pre-ordered the game also received a costume pack based on the "Blood Money" mission and two in-game weapons.[49] A beta was released prior to the game's official launch.[50]

Release formatEdit

While there was no post-launch support for Absolution, the team realised players regularly re-visited the game's Contracts mode, in which players set custom targets and share them online with other players. This mode's longevity encouraged IO Interactive to re-evaluate the release model of Hitman, which they envisioned as a "digital platform" that is similar to a Netflix series. This platform, which was marketed as the "World of Assassination", allowed IO Interactive to regularly release content without rebuilding the technology. The team believed launching the game at a lower price point with fewer levels would encourage more players to purchase it, creating positive word of mouth that would expand the game's player base. As the team released more episodes, the expected new players would convert their existing version to the full version. The team initially estimated about 80% of the purchasers would buy the episodes separately while the other 20% of them, whom they believed to be long-time fans of the series, would purchase the full-priced versions.[25]

Originally, the game was to be released in an "intro pack" that would include all of the base content and locations, six story missions, three sandboxes, forty "signature kills", a contracts mode with 800 targets, and access to regular events held by the developer. New missions and locations set in Thailand, the US, and Japan were to be released after the game's launch, and a full-priced version was to be released following the release of this post-release content.[51] No downloadable content (DLC) was to be released for the game and no microtransactions were to be offered; new missions, locations, and targets were to be regularly added to the game as free post-release updates.[52][53]

On 14 January 2016, it was announced Hitman would be released in an episodic manner; at its launch, the game would consist of the prologue and Paris missions. New content would be released monthly; this would include the remaining two cities of the main game (Sapienza and Marrakesh) in April and May 2016 respectively, which would be followed by the previously planned Thailand, US, and Japan expansions in late 2016. Weekly events would be held and additional content would be released between the monthly updates. These expansions would be available at no extra cost to purchasers of a full-priced, downloaded copy of the game but purchasers of the "Intro Pack" would buy this extra content separately. According to Seifert, the move was designed to allow the team time to develop the game's levels and to "create a living game that will expand and evolve over time and establish a foundation for the future—this is the first game in a storyline which will continue and expand with future Hitman games".[54]

The episodic release enabled IO Interactive to receive feedback for earlier levels and fix some of the design flaws during the production of later episodes.[55] The positive reaction to Sapienza boosted the team's confidence and encouraged them to continue experimenting with level design by modifying the design principles in later maps, which add new challenges and change players' expectations.[56] The team also believed by periodically releasing episodes, players would be encouraged to replay and master each level, and share their experience with other players while awaiting the next episode.[57]

EpisodesEdit

Other than ICA Facility level, which serves as the prologue and a tutorial to the game, Hitman features six locations, including Paris, France; the fictional town of Sapienza, Italy; Marrakesh, Morrocco; Bangkok, Thailand; Colorado, United States; and Hokkaido, Japan.

No.TitleRelease date
0"ICA Facility"11 March 2016 (2016-03-11)[58]
1"The Showstopper"11 March 2016 (2016-03-11)[58]
2"World of Tomorrow"26 April 2016 (2016-04-26)[59]
3"A Gilded Cage"31 May 2016 (2016-05-31)[60]
4"Club 27"16 August 2016 (2016-08-16)[61]
5"Freedom Fighters"27 September 2016 (2016-09-27)[62]
6"Situs Inversus"31 October 2016 (2016-10-31)[63]

In addition to the main episodes, the game has several bonus episodes. After the release of Marrakesh, IO Interactive announced a "Summer Bonus Episode" that was released on 19 July 2016 and features a remake of the Sapienza and Marrakesh levels, new targets, challenges and opportunities.

  • In "The Icon", 47 visits Sapienza for the first time.[64] 47 assassinates actor-director Dino Bosco to save the client L'Avventura Pictures from Bosco's financially ruinous budget demands while filming a superhero film for the studio.
  • In "A House Built on Sand", 47 visits Marrakesh for the first time.[64] 47 thwarts a planned sale of client firm Hamilton-Lowe's trade secrets by its chief architect Matthieu Mendola to rival construction magnate Kong Tuo-Kwang, killing both men and intercepting the documents.
  • In "Holiday Hoarders", 47 visits Paris for the first time.[65] 47 kills professional thieves Harry Bagnato and Marv Gonif as they attempt to burglarise the Palais De Walewska. The targets are a nod to Joe Pesci's and Daniel Stern's characters from the holiday film Home Alone.[66]
  • In "Landslide", 47 visits Sapienza again; he is hired by Silvio Caruso to assassinate Marco Abiatti, a wealthy businessman-turned-politician who has returned to his hometown to run for mayor with the intention of turning it into holiday resorts for the rich.[67]

PublicationEdit

IO Interactive's parent company Square Enix published every episode, and the downloadable and retail releases of "Hitman: The Complete First Season", which bundles all of the game's episodes. "The Complete First Season" was released on 31 January 2017.[68] Because of the game's poorer-than-expected financial performance and Square Enix prioritisation of other properties, Square Enix announced it would divest from IO Interactive and allow the studio's management to buy it out, after which it became independent.[69]

Following the buyout, IO Interactive retained the rights to the Hitman franchise and began self-publishing the game digitally. It released "ICA Facility", the game's prologue, as a free-to-play game in June 2017.[70] IO Interactive then released "Hitman: Game of the Year Edition" on 7 November 2017 for download; the re-release includes the base game and a separate campaign named "Patient Zero", a remix of the Bangkok, Sapienza, Colorado, and Hokkaido episodes.[71] The studio then partnered with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment to release the "Game of the Year Edition" for retail on 15 May 2018. The edition, which is titled "Hitman: Definitive Edition", includes the campaign and the bonus episodes, as well as the "IO Interactive's 20th Anniversary Outfit Bundle", which includes outfits inspired by IO's other franchises such as Freedom Fighters, Mini Ninjas, and Kane & Lynch.[72]

ReceptionEdit

Critical receptionEdit

Aggregate review scores
Game Metacritic
The Complete First Season (PC) 83/100[73]
(PS4) 84/100[74]
(XONE) 85/100[75]
Intro Pack (PC) 75/100[76]
(PS4) 77/100[77]
(XONE) 75/100[78]
Sapienza (PC) 84/100[79]
(PS4) 84/100[80]
(XONE) 79/100[81]
Marrakesh (PC) 79/100[82]
(PS4) 75/100[83]
Bangkok (PC) 78/100[84]
(PS4) 71/100[85]
Colorado (PC) 74/100[86]
(PS4) 70/100[87]
Hokkaido (PC) 83/100[88]
(PS4) 81/100[89]

Hitman received generally positive reviews according to review aggregator Metacritic. Many reviewers regarded the game as a "return to form" for the series after the controversial release of Absolution in 2012.[90][91][92]

Many reviewers expressed scepticism at the game's release schedule. When the Paris episode was launched, Arthur Gies of Polygon said the game was more unfinished than episodic.[93] Phil Savage from PC Gamer said, "Hitman feels unrefined and unfinished in lots of small but important ways".[94] As more episodes were released, critics' impressions of the release format improved significantly. Mike Williams from USgamer said the episodic release format helped increase the replayability of Hitman because it gave sufficient time for the players to fully explore a level and experiment with different approaches before a new episode was released.[95] Reviewers from Rock, Paper, Shotgun said the episodic release model meant the game would not be overwhelming for players, that it "[set] an excellent precedent for having impeccable chunks once a month", and that other games should be inspired by this release structure.[96] According to the developers, the format would encourage players to regularly return to and replay each level.[97]

The locations received praise from critics. Williams liked the vast and lively levels, which he described as "playgrounds" players can freely explore and observe.[95] Savage also said the levels are "intricate" and "dense", meaning players would have plenty of do in each level, encouraging them to replay the game.[98] He also liked the variety of the levels presented, especially later levels, which he said add new challenges to the game. GameSpot's Brett Todd also admired the complex design of each level and commented, "the levels are so big and so packed with details that they take on lives of their own, much like separate movies in a franchise".[99] Writing for Game Informer, Jeff Marchiafava said the levels are too big and that players could not stumble upon meaningful opportunities in an organic and spontaneous manner. He also said a lot of trial and error was needed for later episodes because the rules had changed, resulting in a lot of frustration.[100] Eurogamer's Edwin Evans-Thirlwell was disappointed the AI did not react sufficiently to the players' actions.[101] Critics generally agreed Paris was a promising start to the series, though Sapienza was often named as the game's high point due to the map's complex layout, location variety, and creative assassinations. Marrakesh and Hokkaido released to a generally positive reception but Bangkok and Colorado were considered to be weaker levels because the assassinations are less creative and the art style is less striking. The Colorado level was often considered to be controversial among players due to its complete lack of public spaces and verticality.[101][95] Critics liked the idea of a global-trotting adventure; Williams and Todd drew similarities between Hitman and the James Bond films.[99][95] Some reviewers said the game reuses voice actors in different locations.[99][102][100]

The gameplay received critical praise. Williams said players are able to experiment with different ways to assassinate their targets. As the player progresses, they unlock new tools, which allows them to discover new assassination opportunities, further boosting the game's replay value.[95] Andy Kelly from PC Gamer said, "if you have an absurd idea, the game will almost always accommodate and react to it".[90] Savage said the opportunities are "entertaining" because they often result in very creative assassinations. Todd said the assassinations feel like a "funhouse ride than a grim series of contract killings" due to the game's over-the-top nature.[99] Jeffrey Matulef from Eurogamer also commented on AI behaviour, which generate many unscripted moments for players.[103] Some reviewers said the opportunities are too overbearing because the game offers players too much guidance and hand-holding.[101] Reviewers praised IO Interactive for allowing players to play with minimal hints by modifying the game's settings.[104][95] Many reviewers said the game feels like a puzzle game because of he way the player deciphers AI patterns and approaches their objectives.[98][95] Savage said the game has the "most elegant implementation" of the disguise system because it introduces a specific type of NPC that will recognise 47's disguise rather than Blood Money's "arbitrary suspicion meter",[98] though several reviewers said the pattern remained difficult to discern.[99][100] Several critics also disliked the game's always-online requirement and its long load times.[100][99]

SalesEdit

Contrary to the developers' expectations, Hitman's episodic format did not succeed commercially. Most of the players purchased the full-priced versions and the sales volume was significantly lower than the traditional boxed release. Due to market confusion over the game's episodic format, even when the game's development was completed, the retail version did not meet publisher Square Enix's expectations, causing it to divest from the studio.[28] "Hitman: The Complete First Season" was the fourth-best-selling video game at retail in the UK during its week of release, behind Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (2017), Grand Theft Auto V (2013), and FIFA 17 (2016).[105] Despite the slow start, IO Interactive announced the game had attracted seven million players as of November 2017 and more than 13 million players had played the game by May 2018.[106]

AccoladesEdit

Hitman was nominated for Best Action/Adventure Game at The Game Awards 2016 and Evolving Game at the 13th British Academy Games Awards.[107][108] Video game publication Giant Bomb named Hitman their Game of the Year in 2016; the staff said, "2016 was filled with huge debuts, finales, and resurrections, but the surprise success of Hitman had us talking, sweating, cursing, and laughing more than any other game this year".[109]

Other mediaEdit

IO Interactive partnered with Dynamite Entertainment to create a comic book series called Agent 47: Birth of the Hitman, which explores the origin of Agent 47 and expands the game's overarching story. The first issue was released on 1 November 2017.[110] In November 2017, Hulu and Fox 21 Television Studios announced it would produce a television series based on the game. The pilot episode would be written by Adrian Askarieh, Chuck Gordon, and Derek Kolstad, who would also serve as its executive producers.[111]

SequelsEdit

A sequel titled Hitman 2 was released by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment in November 2018 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.[112] "Hitman: Legacy Pack" was released on 9 November 2018 as DLC for Hitman 2; all of the missions from the first season of the game were made available in the new game with the improved game mechanics used in Hitman 2.[113] Players can import levels from Hitman into Hitman 3, the concluding game in the "World of Assassination" trilogy that is set to be released in January 2021.[114]

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Feral Interactive published the macOS and Linux version, IO Interactive self-published the Game of the Year Edition after it split from Square Enix. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment published the Definitive Edition.

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External linksEdit