Grand Designs: Big Level Blueprints For Next Hitman

An entire building of murder.

After the disappointment of Hitman: Absolution, developers IO Interactive came to the Internet with their collective hat in their collective hands. Without quite admitting that Absolution’s small levels, linear missions, wonky AI, more personal story, and bottomless pockets didn’t pan out, they did write an open letter mentioning that they plan to do away with all those things for the next Hitman game. Reminding people that it’s still being made and they really did mean all that, IO have shown off a little concept art including a building which, they say, “on its own is larger than any location in Hitman: Absolution.”

Click away for the full 1920×1080 2.6MB artwork. “You’ll be able to explore the entire building,” IO say, “inside and out.” It certainly hints at a promising return to form, but is still only concept art.

Perhaps I’d like more of this, though. It feels more honest than a lot of AAA marketing, especially the requisite reels of worthless trailers many publishers spit out. IO have some nice ideas and a pretty picture and would very much like to make them real. I can relate to that! Whatever I imagine and project to fill in the gaps is my own responsibility and my fault, rather than planted by misleading ‘gameplay’ trailers. Square Enix gave the new Deus Ex a similar concept art-y teasing too.

And besides, given that I’ll never have the time nor inclination to play every single video game, I experience most of them as ideas anyway. I’d much rather they stay inspiring in my imagination then be dragged into horrible cardboard mock-reality with faked screenshots and daft trailers. Give me a demo to play, solid footage of actual gameplay to watch, or a lovely string of ideas and evocative pictures. More floaty dreams please, thank you video games marketing.

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  1. Paul says:

    I am very very hopeful and I really really hope this is Prague.

    I was able to enjoy Absolution, quite a bit, but it was definitely deficient in very significant ways to Blood Money, and complete regression. It seems they realize that too, thank god.

  2. Utsunomiya says:

    I’d like to see more Hitman.
    And I even liked Absolution, too!

    • Richard Burton says:

      Same here, I thought it was a pretty good effort. The soundtrack wasn’t as good as the oldies but “Triggerman” was good! I think Jesper Kyd could’ve done a much better job overall than whoever did Absolution but still… ;) link to

  3. Muzman says:

    It’s funny how Hitman is demanded to be bafflingly complex, but Thief isn’t. Except by old school fans of course. Perhaps Hitman just has more of them.

  4. MkMax says:

    i just wish they would do away with the horrible disguise reveal system they used in absolution

    it made no freaking sense, dress as a policeman and all policemen would spot you on sight, dress as a drug dealer and they wouldnt care, wtf

  5. Mctittles says:

    Maybe they are going with the Microsoft Windows strategy. Release something utter crap, then “listen” to your customers and release something better than complete crap but still worse than two generations ago. It’s a quick way to climb to the bottom without loosing everyone on the way.

  6. Hydraulic Meercat says:

    Count me among those who also liked Absolution a lot. Surprised at all the negative press it got. It’s like everyone only started playing at Blood Money, and didn’t know Hitman II had levels based on his personal story also. The claims of levels in Absolution being too linear makes me wonder if anyone played any of these games at all. Even if you had just played Absolution you’d see multiple ways to kill everyone and make your way through levels, and there were even less options in previous ones, so it’s really like people are just making things up.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Completely agree. While I was a bit disapointed with Absolution, I still had a lot of fun. It really had a lot of emergent gameplay, really impressive ai, and the best ai dialogue I’ve ever witnessed in a game.

    • MkMax says:

      while i do agree absolution is quite good, more than half the levels are very linear, every now and then you have a small sandbox to dick around, and while the early ones like the Shanghai mission offer a lot of options they get less varied later

      the broken disguise system makes dicking around much harder however unless you know exactly the best disguise for that room

      in the old games levels were HUGE sandboxes, and disguises worked much better, the options were so varied you can always find videos of ppl doing the mission in a different way

      but i think it was the “personal” story what got more fans with the outright linear “escape from the police” levels, the completely out of nowhere scene just for the sake of controversy, some forced events were stupid (wth is 47 doing wrestling someone ? they mixed up saints row somewhere) and the boring “must save girl” thing, i know the old games had sort of a storyline weaved in the missions but most missions were self contained stories supporting the idea of a “hub” and “choosing your equipment for the mission/how you approach it”

  7. DrManhatten says:

    Come on! Absolution wasn’t that bad it was a bit short but I had some good fun! Just don’t know where they want to take it now without the agency!

  8. steviebops says:

    I wasn’t aware Absolution required an apology.

  9. jonahcutter says:

    I hope they learned a harsh lesson. Most of Absolution was hot garbage. From the often linear broken up levels, to the wannabe Uncharted action set pieces, to banal save the little girl story, to the wannabe Tarrantino grind house vibe, to the forced fail state on a mission for the sake of the narrative, the game was terrible as a Hitman game far more often than not.

    Absolution is a case study in how a unique, idiosyncratic and already successful series can be screwed up by “re-imagining”.

  10. Yglorba says:

    Absolution wasn’t completely terrible. There were a few levels that felt like they came from Hitman’s better era; and it did have a few good ideas.

    I liked the way its achivements worked, which were a good way to encourage exploration — it also improved replayability by giving you vague hints into aspects of the level you might not have learned. And the make-your-own-mission mode was clever.

    It’s just that they screwed up the core design too heavily (Instinct, mostly non-Hitman-ish levels, too much focus on an overarching metaplot nobody had ever cared about.) But I can totally believe that the team could make another Blood Money, since it felt like under all their mistakes, a lot of what made Hitman good was still there.

  11. cheaperthansteam says:

    From all hitman games. Blood Money is the best. Absolution is nice but I can’t stand the A.I even after the newest update. Anyway, I bought my games from here: link to Much more cheaper than STEAM or retail store.

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    phuzz says:

    So from reading most of the comments here, it seems that the only consensus is that fans of the Hitman games have strong opinions, which are probably different to the opinions of all other Hitman fans.

  13. KenTWOu says:

    Absolution wasn’t that bad, it had issues, yeah, but the most important one was they underutilized their new disguise system. That’s why some of the levels were really limited because of the lack of different enemies archetypes, therefore, disguises too. Meanwhile, levels like Terminus Hotel were few and far between. And that was the most important problem. Some of the game mechanics were not systemic enough, especially heavily scripted patrolling routes because of console limitations, that’s why absolutely brilliant Contract mode didn’t really shine.

  14. sd4f says:

    I haven’t played absolution, but what I really liked out of the earlier hitman games was the puzzle element and setting. Actually aiming to get the silent assassin rating made the game more fun for me, and I found it most enjoyable in the levels where you weren’t dropped in enemy territory, but rather could ambulate around examining the detail in the environment and observe what’s going on. The most memorable levels for me have been the petronas towers, meat kings party, health bath hotel, mardi gras, heaven and hell night club; they’re the levels which i found quite memorable because they had an interesting setting, and the opportunity to examine it.

  15. knowitall011 says:

    am I the only one liked it? it was basically cool, compact missions with various ways of doing them. I thought it was a fine game. just different than other games in the genre.

  16. frank9945671 says:

    Hitman Absolution epic fail – terrible short levels, bad weapon sounds(I think best sounds in Hitman Contracts), bad music, and splinter cell style looks stupid in Hitman, and bad contracts game mode. I think coop game mode and versus could be better, for example in Hitman Contracts and Codename 47 we have big interesting levels for multiplayer system.

    How developers can try to create cooperative game mode: first of all players must choose their outfits and weapons, maybe they can choose spawn locations if developers create several entrance zones. Now lets look on Beldingford Manor level – for example players can choose swat uniform and assault palace with silenced m4 and kill all bastards on level, or kill only targets with stealth style. And maybe some script can block some outfits what NPCs use on choosed level.

    How developers can try to create versus game mode: for example they can create 1v1 and 2v2 modes, and team who first eliminate targets and leave level would be won if they survive(or teams must eliminate tagets and enemy team). Players can change their outfit as in singleplayer. Maybe on some levels can arrive police as it realised in Absulition, but for this idea developers must create more free space. And developers can create some alliances as in original Deus Ex or as in Contracts: if police see guy(bandit) with weapon they must attack him and in multiplayer players can see and create epic shootout.

    And maybe developers can add some levels from old Hitman games as bonus missions.

  17. Muzman says:

    They were filled with situations so complicated it was virtually impossible to intuit all the intersecting actors on a first play through. That is high crimes by modern game standards and must be cause of as much bafflement as anything in a Thief game.
    Having to tackle a mission or building on an almost systemic level is something few games really do without a shit ton of aids and helping hands any more.

    I really can’t imagine a Thief developer coming out and saying they want to go back to the old school anymore. It’s usually couched in terms of “well the old games were great in their day, but you just can’t make games like that with what we know now” sorts of language. Even the old Looking Glass folks speak with mild regret at just how complicated they made things back in the day.
    Raging success buys confidence above all else I suppose. The Hitman guys can afford to stick to their dual hardballers.

    Perhaps all the people who hate old Thief games will come by now and say they always loved Hitman games from the start.

  18. booflax says:

    Look how hard this guy is nerd raging, I had a good laugh. Calling people who disagree with your very subjective opinions “nitwits”? Are you even old enough to have played Blood Money when it first came out? Much less Hitman 1 & 2?

    Blood Money was better than Absolution but Absolution was a pretty great game. It had multiple ways of going about the assassination levels just like the old games, nerfed disguise system so you have to be more stealthy, really cool grindhouse aesthetics and a decent storyline.

    RPS and a few other obscure sites that don’t hold much clout gave Absolution bad press. But fans mostly enjoyed it from what I’ve seen. The ps3 version has a 4.5/5 on amazon user ratings, nothing to sneeze at since gamers are so whiney nowadays.

  19. Revolving Ocelot says:

    “…William wondered why he always disliked people who said ‘no offense meant.’ Maybe it was because they found it easier to to say ‘no offense meant’ than actually to refrain from giving offense.”

  20. The Random One says:

    You’re being bafflingly confrontational, here.

  21. Kaeoschassis says:

    Is that a Pratchett quote…? Is feels so much like one.

  22. JS says:

    Well, sometimes harsh words are called for. And someone calling the Hitman games “bafflingly complex” is definitely one of those times.

  23. AlexClockwork says:

    Yes it is. From The Truth.

  24. The Random One says:

    Could you give an example of one such moment of bafflement? I’ve only played 2 and parts of Blood Money, but my experience is that, while it’s true that it’s impossible to comprehend all actors in the first playthrough, it’s quite possible to understand enough of them to pull off a Silent Assassin in most levels. At any rate, observing and understanding the actors is part of the core gameplay, as is (non-baffling) complexity.

  25. Philomelle says:

    Speaking as someone who enjoyed both Hitman and Thief when I was younger, I never found either series to be baffling or even all that complex. They are more or less like big jigsaw puzzles – a bit overwhelming when you first shake all the pieces out of the box and they form a mess of color on the floor, but then you dig through them for a couple minutes, compare with the complete picture for better measure and everything falls into place.

    They might be baffling if you want to hop into the level and immediately have a solution, but then they wouldn’t be heist simulators. A good heist or assassination is all about patiently studying the board before you make your move.

  26. LionsPhil says:

    You could probably quell some feel of reload trial-and-error -based game design if the studying of the venue was actually done somehow upfront, rather than actually putting 47 in there.

    I’m pretty sure it’d be a worse game for it, though, really. It’d add fiddliness for no real gain, and deprive you of the joy of frantically ad-libbing your first few attempts just in case you can still pull this off.

  27. Philomelle says:

    Adding a “preparation” mode wouldn’t do the games any good in my opinion. I found the whole charm to be in trying to turn investigation into action, sometimes with unexpected and hilarious consequences. Separating the two would remove the satisfaction I got from completing the hotel mission in Agent 47, for example, which I completed on my first try with a lot of reckless improvisation toward the halfway point. Yes, I felt like I’m way in over my head, but I succeeded and had fun in the end.

    Also, there’s the whole thing where 47 is supposed to be the ultimate assassin who can perform any hit regardless of the circumstances. Someone like that should be expected to improvise their way to victory.

  28. PikaBot says:

    The preparation phase I would want would be actually going into the level as 47 and casing the joint. A few days before the assassination takes place, he goes in as a repairman or a guest or something similarly innocuous, and he gets to have a look around, get a feel for the level’s layout, maybe hide some gear for future retrieval.

    It wouldn’t necessarily be in the same state as the actual level itself; for example, if you were to implement this system onto Blood Money’s Opera level, when 47 cases the joint the VIPs wouldn’t be in the house, and so security would be laxer.

  29. manny says:

    Although I’m a big fan of the series, Hitman is right to be called ‘bafflingly complex’ because it is. It requires either guesswork improvisation or tons of replays. And it’s highly unrealistic. That’s why I always use playthroughs to help me.

    It would be great if 47 was given decent surveillance. Instead he’s just dropped in their with nothing. Also I find it amazing you aren’t still at this point able to interrogate people.

  30. Muzman says:

    That first time you failed because of something unexpected and you realised you had to take something new into consideration. Or got a bit lost in the architecture. Or blundered into some situation that ruined an attempt without being especially clearly prompted this would result in a fail. Or couldn’t immediately see how to get through something without alerting half the building and cascading your failures into even worse ones and shooting your way through. Any time things seemed a bit trial and error (as that is apparently a grave sin).

    The point is only that old Thief games and Hitman often do quite similar things in terms of level design (if not mechanics). The revision on Thief today is mixed. They were doing it wrong in many people’s eyes (including some of the people who made the games). It was too hard, too confusing, too alienating. People gave up. Simplifications like Splinter Cell that took the design into more linear and discrete small space challenges were correct, according to some.

    Hitman games, by contrast -at least in my experience- didn’t have the same problem. A big building filled with guards and NPCs interacting in complex and often unpredictable ways is exactly what people wanted. Even if you failed a lot or got lost or any number of things that players and reviewers thought might require a rethink of the formula in Thief, it didn’t make a dent in Hitman’s general reception over the years.
    (although, as mentioned above, I could be wrong about this. Simplifying Hitman had some defenders apparently and the developers probably took that road for a reason)

  31. The Random One says:

    Sorry, I’m not sure I understand your position any more. You say the Hitman series hasn’t aged as poorly as Thief (which I haven’t played so I can’t comment) and that its complexity is intended and well received by players. So why do you defend its simplification? By your own logic, it’s unnecessary.

    I also wouldn’t call any of the examples mentioned “baffling”. Baffling to me is senseless, like “unless you pick this flower in the yard you won’t be able to approach the target without alerting the unicorn” – or maybe even “you are 100% certain to be interrupted by the body guard if you didn’t put the peanut in his sandwich”, which makes a tad more sense. If I’m interrupted by a guard I’m not baffled, I just think “oh I dun goofed, I’ll pay more attention to guards’ patrols next time.”

  32. Muzman says:

    Yeah, being a tad off the cuff has thrown nearly everyone it seems. Apparently everyone has a fairly specific definition of baffle where I don’t (and the dictionary actually backs me up, not that it really matters. But these things are a little vague).
    To me its just a state of confusion and frustration, however temporary. Before anyone says it, every game sufficiently complex has some of these and it’s fine. Exactly what I want. I never defended the simplification of Hitman once and would not. But that complexity does permit the kind of failure states that most triple A game developers strive to avoid, it would seem, according to much recent game design dogma.

    Lately I’ve noticed people, games journalists among them, revising the old Thief games as being on the wrong side of that equation. They suggest or even argue directly that the simplified direction Deadly Shadows and the reboot took was actually the right one in a lot of respects, despite what the hardcore Thief fans (ie. me) say.

    When Hitman simplified itself, the audience, critics and fans seemed to largely agree it was a misstep and now the developers have come around to that view as well, by the sounds of it.

    To attempt to summarise: I think every argument that I have heard lately for why Thief was initially poorly designed, frustrating and should have been changed can be leveled in a similar fashion (if not precisely the same) at much of the Hitman series. (nb. this does not mean that the Hitman series was poorly designed or you found it “frustrating”, however one might define it. Only that the criticisms work similarly well applied to both games involving big buildings/structures filled with sensitive AIs. If X frustrated someone in Thief it would have frustrated them in Hitman as well – is my contention)
    But I don’t hear these arguments (although apparently they may exist). Now the developers themselves are keen to return to form, or sound like it. I don’t see this ever happening for Thief and it’s terrible. Because whatever argument says returning Hitman’s complexity is a good thing in that game works for Thief as well.

  33. KenTWOu says:

    Could you give an example of one such moment of bafflement?

    I guess, trying to get Silent Assassin rank on Pro difficulty on Death of the Mississippi mission will be able to show all issues of H:BM game mechanics to anyone.

  34. SuicideKing says:

    No offence.