IO’s Open Letter: Hitman’s Next Contracts

By Adam Smith on January 16th, 2014 at 2:00 pm.

IO-Interactive have released an open letter about the future of their foremost franchise onto the wilds of the internet. It’s addressed to ‘all Hitman fans’ but even if you’re not included in that group, you can read it by clicking on this link. Don’t worry about mail fraud, just take a big whiff of the page and remember the words of Billy Shakesticks – “A press release by any other name would smell as sweet.” The wording of the statement acknowledges some of Absolution’s sins, promising “an open, non-linear level design approach to the game, ensuring the game will play out across huge, checkpoint-free, sandbox levels”. Contracts Mode will return and if the missions live up to the wording here, it could be applied extremely well.

Of course, we won’t know how well any of these ideas are implemented until we’ve played the game through but we’re promised more information later in the year.

The game concentrates on the core Hitman fantasy of using a wide range of tools to take out a diverse group of targets across expansive, exotic locations around the world. We are building this game on the backbone of the Glacier 2 engine, using the best parts and what we have learnt through Hitman: Absolution and drawing inspiration from past titles like Contracts and Blood Money to fulfil the core Hitman fantasy. That means we’re packing in an extreme level of detail on the largest levels we have ever built for a Hitman game.

It all sounds very much like what I hoped for from Absolution and even though I was far from keen on the game, its best moments suggested the hit wasn’t entirely successful. The flutter of a heartbeat remained.

Our aim is to create living, breathing and believable levels which will allow gamers to play around with the AI to create those unique moments every fan of the Hitman franchise loves.

Lofty ambitions. And then there’s this:

You will also be glad to hear that we have removed 47’s magic pockets. We believe that’s all we need to say about that subject.

I await the next letter with interest.

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42 Comments »

  1. Apsley says:

    Shame no mention of change to policy on trailers.

    • BobbyDylan says:

      I think it’s a given that they want to not release any more bad trailers.

      • Iskariot says:

        I’d rather have them not release anymore bad hitman games.

  2. Squirly says:

    I am cautiously optimistic, but will wait for reviews. Can’t get more ‘meh’ than Absolution.

  3. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    Dear $(HITMAN_FAN),

    I hope 2014 is treating you well. We are doing great – we got a bike for Christmas! Then we took our Hitman: Absolution money, and bought a new Olympic sized pool, and filled it with money. Then we piled rest of the money up on top of it to see how high we could get it, but our ladder was too short to reach the top. So thanks for buying Hitman: Absolution (Or, as we call it in the office, “HA”, like a barking half-laugh).

    We’ve got some exciting news! We’re planning to build a second money pool! To fund it, we promise to make the game we promised to make before. You know, the one you bought that turned out to seem like it was made by soulless drones who have never played a Hitman game. That’s just crazy – all our soulless drones work in Marketing! Our development drones have one, slightly tarnished, soul between them.

    Wow, this letter is getting long, and the money pool is calling. So I’m going to end it here and take a refreshing dip. Give our love to your $(CLOSE_RELATIVE) and we hope to see you soon!

    Love,

    SOULLESS MARKETING DRONE 74R

  4. jonahcutter says:

    Sounds promising. If they also lose the wannabee grindhouse vibe and the save-the-little-girl storyline, and NOT design the mechanics around xray vision, this sounds like a potential return to what made the series great.

    Good news. Hope they live up to it.

  5. hungrycookpot says:

    My biggest problems with Absolution are that nothing in the game FEELS like Hitman. It’s hard for me to pinpoint the problem exactly, but it feels like 47 no longer moves with the same sense of weight as in the previous games. All the actions, like opening things or grabbing stuff, felt similarly hollow. That was always my favorite part of the Hitman games, a sense that you controlled a person in the game world, and his movements took time and space like in the real world. Absolution made me feel like I was playing some sort of J-action button masher, only infinitely slower…

    Also linear missions/lame story/xray vision/etc rah rah. The next Hitman has a lot to prove to me before I renew my fanship.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Hitman 1 and 2 also did great procedural animation to make 47 actually pick up things, rather than just have them magically teleport into his inventory. Little touches.

      • Yglorba says:

        …and that was actually important, because it conveyed to the player that other people can see 47 doing it (and just how long you’re exposed if you, say, pick up a small weapon and rapidly hide it in your clothes.)

  6. Cytrom says:

    I used to be a hitman fan.. They used to have a quite unique stealth action gameplay.

    I mean you pretty much kill people and stuff in 90% of the games ever made, while this game was specifically about killing people, yet 99% of its gameplay was just you sneaking around, exploring your environment, investigating people’s habits, and measuring multiple options to take down your mark in the most proficient manner, and the actual killing was over in a second optimally.. at least if you played it right.

    With enough variety and polish a new hitman game true to the old formula could be as good or much better than the old games (the old games always lacked the polish of true AAA games), but after absolution, I’m not sure what to expect.

    • KenTWOu says:

      …but after absolution, I’m not sure what to expect.

      Did you read that? …we are building the next AAA Hitman game for PC and next-gen consoles.

      For next-gen consoles only! It means tons of memory, It means the game will have really big levels with systemic approach and manual saves. The game will be much better because it won’t have the same Absolution issues. It won’t have small scripted levels because of limited amount of memory of current-gen.

      P.S: I love Absolution, especially its Contracts mode. It’s a very good foundation for the next Hitman game.

      • Virtz says:

        That’s… not the issue with Absolution at all. It’s crap compared to the previous Hitman games, and those were even older gen. Memory is not the issue. It’s basic design choices, like putting in cover mechanics, making disguises near useless in favour of Sam Fisher stealth, shoving in QTEs, or putting in a crappy storyline about magical kung-fu teenagers and fighting a big, evil organization. You don’t need more memory not to do these things.

  7. Shooop says:

    I’ll believe it when it actually happens.

    They did take a leap in the right direction by doing something about the psychic abilities of guards to see through your disguises in Absolution, but everything else was a disaster.

  8. Turkey says:

    I’m still a bit skeptical. Not just because of the last game, but because the core of the Hitman games kinda goes against modern AAA game development philosophy. I fear that they’re going to try to empower you at every turn and never have the game push back, cause that would ruin the hitman fantasy and frustrate the lowest common denominator crowd who they probably need to sell 3 million copies or whatever they’re hoping for.

    • Yglorba says:

      Hitman has always been pretty easy if you’re not trying for Silent Assassin, you know. Even on the hardest difficulty, it only takes a bit of care to mow down massive numbers of enemies with dual silverballers.

      (That’s always, I think, been how they managed to do so well — Hitman has a built-in “adaptive difficulty” in terms of how much you care about your rating.)

  9. azrd79 says:

    Geh.. why didn’t they just do all of these things in Absolution in the first place?

    • KenTWOu says:

      Because of current gen limitations. You know, small amount of memory.

      • lordfrikk says:

        Yeah, I’m sure that’s the reason.

      • Emeraude says:

        They could have diminished the graphical quality in order to make more room for systems, and hopefully a better game.

        They didn’t.

        Which goes to show what their target market is, I guess.

        (Yes I’m being jaded on purpose.)

      • LionsPhil says:

        This argument is absolutely ridiculous when you consider that Hitman 2 was released on the GameCube, the Playstation 2, and the original X-Box.

  10. Iskariot says:

    I am still trying to get rid of the bad taste in my mouth Absolution left me with.
    What a terrible, awful piece of manure that game was.

  11. Shuck says:

    Whenever I see a publisher gush about how the next game is going to have “huge, checkpoint-free, sandbox levels,” all I can do is automatically translate that as, “We’re spending a multiple of our usual budget on the next game because everyone wants huge, expensive, open world sandbox games now. If we don’t get two or three times our usual sales, we’ll have to close the studio!” Which just ends up depressing me.

  12. altum videtur says:

    I was a massive fan of Blood Money and Contracts, but bounced right off Silent Assassin (maybe because it was shite?). But even so, the Hitman series always felt kind of… hit and miss. It’s so incredibly easy to fuck it up both in tone and gameplay, and I have a feeling that with the once-fans “growing up” (hey, you played it when you were 16 too), it might be that the garotte-and-suit in the most cold-blooded fashion would no longer be appealing to its intended audience. Although Absolution’s pants-on-head retarded moralism was certainly much worse than that, so. Also, didn’t IO make the Kane&Please Get Lynched games? Maybe it’s IO that’s changed.

    • tobecooper says:

      Funnily enough, Absolution was quite clearly made as a sequel to Hitman: Silent Assassin. It’s got many elements of that game such as more linear levels, not-too-useful disguises, and deadly difficulty.

      So I would say they were expecting to sell it to people who played the oldie and have now grown up + the younger generation (with the x-rays and such). BUT they didn’t take into account that there’s a gigantic group of people in the middle who have played only Blood Money, or Blood Money was their first encounter with the game.

      Plus, there’s that ‘wild’ ‘grindhouse’ element to the art design and the story that really doesn’t fit the Hitman series, but someone working in the modern IO really can’t make a game without it.

      • LionsPhil says:

        I hugely liked 2, kinda bounce off Blood Money a little, and yet not one thing about Absolution has encouraged me to buy it.

        I’m going to go with the Kane-&-Lynch–IO-have-changed hypothesis.

        • tobecooper says:

          Haha, well, the PR did do an awful job of selling the game to anyone, that’s true. But I’ve played all of the Hitmen, and spend many many hours in Absolution. And when you strip it off all the silly stuff in the gameplay menu, you’ve got Hitman 2 with optional Tony Hawk Pro Skater’s objective system and Kane & Lynch’s story/art direction. And the story can be optional too, because of the brilliant Contracts Mode. If they created a better search engine for looking for missions, I’m sure someone would string all the good missions together into a truly-Hitmanesque narrative. I tried doing something like this myself and had a lot of fun with it.

          What I’m saying is Absolution is a strange Frankenstein of a flawed game, but it can be customized to a wild extent. None of my $5 was wasted on this game :D

      • Virtz says:

        Not really. I specifically remember having just enough time to walk right next to a soldier wearing the same uniform as me without my cover being blown, so the disguises were definitely more useful. You didn’t have magic pockets, so you had to carry that sniper rifle through the streets of St. Petersburg. There was no cover shooting. And you visited some exotic, interesting locales, compared to the Rednecklands of Absolution.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      Silent Assassin was mostly good, but it was also a product of an earlier time. I suspect the problem you’re having is that the game does not communicate well why you get spotted or why guards get suspicious. The AI is almost unreadable until you get into the groove of things.

      • Yglorba says:

        My impression is that anyone who played Silent Assassin at the time it came out (or as their first Hitman game) enjoyed it; people who got into the series later and then went back to it found it lacking, because the series has steadily improved since then (Absolution aside.) But it wasn’t a bad game; even though there were a few linear levels, there were also a lot of open ones.

  13. WinTurkey says:

    If only developing video games was as easy as writing an open letter on the internet

  14. DestructibleEnvironments says:

    “You will also be glad to hear that we have removed 47’s magic pockets”

    Does this mean you will have a limited number of items now? Moreso than usual? Or what is that supposed to mean. :-/

    “Checkpoint-free and sandbox levels” makes my brain a happy brain.

  15. Megakoresh says:

    I liked Absolution a lot, was a good game. Looking forward to what they make next. I just hope they don’t waste time on useless add-on crap like contracts. The main campaign should be the focus.

  16. Scissors says:

    I can usually trust Creative Assembly to disappoint me, but what IO-Interactive did with Absolution was Absolution Terrible (c) TM.

  17. Aiun says:

    The only thing that REALLY bothered me about Absolution was, “How many points can you get? Compare it when your friends! Tweet your results! LEADERBOARDS! OH GOD LIKE US ON FUCKING FACEBOOK, PLEASE” mobile gaming bullshit.

  18. Screamer says:

    I see no mention of fixing the fucking useless disguise system. IO Interactive, as oblivious to what their fans want as ever I see.

  19. Josh W says:

    That sounds pretty good, like one of those “we have absorbed your criticisms and yes, you are completely right” posts.

    I suspect the real reason that the last hitman was weird was that they had last been making a load of linear action games, and it took a while to get out of that groove. But fundamentally, hitman is an adventure game, or at least follows on from that legacy, “wear ___ to get into ____, use __ with __” with the physics and the body dragging and the shooting acting to blur the edges of that adventuregame-ness so that mistakes can be accounted for and bodged up. But the game has to stand up as a multi-solution puzzle adventure game when played “right”, so that the less professional more violent stuff around it has the correct feel of covering over your mistakes.