I’m cautiously optimistic about the new Hitman sandbox murder simulator, which is named simply Hitman [official site]. Developers IO Interactive said encouraging things when Pip had a chat and a play during E3, which I might crudely boil down to “No, it won’t be like Absolution.”
One part of June’s big reveal was a little less clear: how will it be released? Is it episodic? Is it early access? Is it… what would I be buying? Presumably these are questions people have been asking a lot, and so they’ve now answered them.
In short, when Hitman launches on December 8th, it won’t be the full game. It’ll be a large chunk of it, and what you get straight away for $60 will be polished, but it won’t be the full game. The rest of the story arc, with more missions and locations, will trickle out over 2016 as downloaded updates.
Don’t call it Early Access, they say. “Early access can often mean something unfinished or unpolished. That’s simply not the approach we’re taking. All of the content we release live to our players will be complete and polished …”
So… episodic? Nope. “We think the word ‘episodic’ sets up the expectation that we will sell individual content drops for individual prices but that’s not something we’re planning to do. That said, there are some episodic elements to the story in the sense that it’s delivered in chunks over time, so experiencing the story will probably feel episodic.” Uh huh.
So it’s an episodic game only available as a season pass? I’d be inclined to go with that. IO themselves say “we’re calling it a ‘live’ experience” and I’m making a crude wanking gesture with my right hand as I type this hey I’m more ambidextrous than I thought. IO are also planning to sprinkle on “live events” separate from the game’s story, such as targets who’ll only pop up for a few days then be gone forever, and other non-story bits.
It’s an interesting experiment for a full-price AAA game in an established series, certainly; I’m keen to see how it plays out. If you want to be a bit more cynical, it’s also an interesting way to get money out of people while a game’s still being made. Pre-orders are declining, some say (about damn time) but games like this are expensive and risky things to make (‘AAA’ in games having strayed from its financial origins to now mean ‘it costs $60’). It’s possibly a way for publishers to release a game and start making money back earlier to keep numbers up. I’m making that wanking gesture at myself now too. Nice one, Alice.