Have You Played… Hitman?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

When it was announced that the new Hitman would be released one level at a time, the response was confusion or worry. Now that its first season is complete however, we know that it was a success. More developers should follow suit.

It’s impressive, first of all, that the levels were released to a steady rhythm. Each is larger, more detailed and more complex than the levels in any previous Hitman game, but there were none of the delays that mar other episodic games.

It allowed the developers an excuse to deepen those levels between major releases, adding new missions, time-limited Elusive Targets, and other bonus content to each one post-release. Best of all, it allowed – forced, maybe – players to spend more time appreciating all the detail and extra content. Hitman is a game which reveals itself to you in layers, as you revisit locations again and again to find new ways of taking out your targets. Not having the option to move on, to reward yourself with narrative progress, encourages you to hang around and play more with what you have. You’ll enjoy Hitman all the more for it.

Io Interactive are already working on a second season of levels for Hitman, which is now a fabulously exciting prospect. They’ve built the tools, they’ve learnt how to work with the tools, and now rather than start over on a whole new game they get to apply what they’ve learned to what they’ve already got. It feels like the perfect marriage of game and release structure – but it’s hard not to wish we lived in a world where new Dishonored levels were being released monthly.

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37 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    I found my original disc copy of Hitman: Codename 47 just the other day when I was tidying up. I assume it won’t look as good as I remember, but will it still be as difficult?

    • Premium User Badge

      MajorLag says:

      The default controls will probably cause you the most difficulty. I remember going back to replay it, and giving up pretty quickly because by modern standards everything just felt wonky as hell.

  2. DuncUK says:

    I love it, DRM issues aside. The earlier games for me were about getting the Silent Assassin rating on each level. Silent Assassin is generally not as difficult in this game due to the relaxing of some of the older games rules (esp. unlimited knockouts on NPCs with no timed wakeups), they have added the Silent Assassin Suit Only challenge which is in general a much tougher achievement (i.e. complete the level without changing suit). There’s also a Sniper Assassin challenge on every level and seperate challenges to perform all of the pre-scripted assassinations which brings plenty of variety and a reason to explore areas of each map that you can easily miss.

    This latest game is now far more about the replayability of each level and getting enough challenges to get level 20 and full starting point / equipment unlocks for each level. These in turn can be used to flesh out your options on the escalations and elusive targets.

    A personal favourite of mine was figuring out how to complete the Ninja challenge on Hokkaido, where you kill both targets while dressed as a Ninja. However, I do still look with some trepidation at doing SASO on Colorado with it’s five assassination targets!

    Having bought the full game once all chapters were out, I will absolutely be buying the the next season on release and playing them as they come out. There’s so much content in each chapter if you decide to go for level 20 on each then to take it all in at once is just too overwhelming. Plus you miss out on ETs while waiting.

  3. grimdanfango says:

    …we know that it was a success. More developers should follow suit.

    Ugh, no they shouldn’t. It was a success because *in spite* of Eidos’ lack of faith and panicked attempt try out new “business models” to extract maximum value out of a franchise… Io Interactive had made a really good, solid game.

    What it *should* be, is a lesson to publishers to have a little faith in their developers to create something good when publishers butt out and allow the to make something without nudging for it to be more cookie-cutter “cinematic” (see Absolution)

    • GenialityOfEvil says:

      This industry also has a problem with trying to adapt “new” ideas to their own work, see: early access, season passes, DRM, open-world design, focus-testing…

    • InspectorNorse says:

      I don’t understand this comment. How could you possibly know that giving the developers more time to develop the game didn’t result in this? This is the best Hitman game ever released and I don’t want to question the methods too much.

      I never understood all the bitching anyway, I bought this game for like 15 bucks (full game), so it wasn’t an expensive way to release the game. I wish people would get half as worked up about the shady Microtransactions all over Overwatch, which is a tiny, expensive game already, instead of quabling about how they have to wait a little for levels.

  4. Premium User Badge

    duns4t says:

    There are 9 pages of news articles on this one game already! If more developers follow suit, I sincerely hope that coverage of episodic content evolves.

    I can’t help feeling that episodic games get an overwhelming advantage in coverage (not just Hitman – Life Is Strange, everything Telltale), while due to finite resources, other newsworthy gaming bits get overlooked.

    Do these repetitive posts still get their share of attention/clicks? Undoubtedly. I have probably myself opened each Hitman article despite not owning it, simply because I enjoy the writing here. But would love to see a wider range of games covered, or at least a more even level of coverage throughout.

    • Raoul Duke says:

      I’ve complained about this many times. The amount of coverage for this game on RPS is, IMHO, ridiculous and out of all proportion to its significance. I’ve even had perfectly politely worded comments making that point deleted without explanation.

      I find it at odds with the unspoken philosophies I perceive RPS as having that they reward ‘episodic’ content like this with vast, vast amounts of coverage. Another one that surprises me is the willingness to write articles about drip fed releases of characters for Street Fighter/Overwatch/whatever. Maybe I’m just wrong about what those philosophies are. But I’d dearly love to see all of the effort that goes into writing 3045893456 articles about Hitman directed towards writing about something else.

      • leeder krenon says:

        “I’ve complained about this many times”

        “I’ve even had perfectly politely worded comments making that point deleted without explanation.”

        probably they were bored of your many complaints.

        • Raoul Duke says:

          Not as bored as I am of reading yet another article along the lines of either “Hitman is a good game” or “Hitman updated to give Hitman-guy a new pair of socks”.

      • Alice O'Connor says:

        We’re not trying to “reward” anyone. We’re trying to post about games that we and our readers are interested in.

        • sosolidshoe says:

          The really hilarious bit is you don’t even seem to realise or care that they played you lot(and the gaming media generally) like fiddles. Every time a new level popped up, another article, every time another task was added, another article, – a constant bombardment of free advertising, all hints of criticism at yet another twist on always-online DRM or the fact the episodic model is a bad deal for consumers as it prevents the game from following the normal price curve, all washed away by listicle after hot-take after premature retrospective.

          And now you’re actually begging other devs to follow suit. So yeah, don’t be surprised when people get suspicious, because the logic of not only accepting but seemingly gleefully embracing the idea that the game media should be led around by the nose by AAA publishers carving up their games into episodes is pretty unfathomable.

          • Premium User Badge

            Graham Smith says:

            We wrote about the game a lot because they succeeded in making the evolution and development of their game interesting over a longer spell than most games do.

            If I like a game, I like when developers keep adding stuff to it. Hitman was designed to have a lot of things added to it, and that stuff turned out to be good. If I like a game, I want to read about when those additions happen.

            The publishers intended to make good stuff and have people pay attention? You don’t say. There are plenty of other episodic games which try and fail and to which we consequently pay no attention.

          • Finjy says:

            I swear to god RPS has the whiniest comment section on the planet.

          • Raoul Duke says:

            “The publishers intended to make good stuff and have people pay attention? You don’t say.”

            That’s not the complaint, as I suspect is clear to you. The complaint is that the publishers quite obviously chose to carve up a game that required no carving up in order to maximise their income and exposure, and it worked like a charm for them.

            I would contrast it with, say, MGSV. RPS didn’t write a breathless new article about every level of that game, because its publisher had the decency to release the whole thing in one go (well… unless there’s an actual ending to it somewhere out there that they are going to give us at some stage).

        • Raoul Duke says:

          Well, I’m not suggesting you’re actively trying to reward them for their approach, I’m suggesting that that is the outcome of the way you guys have chosen to report on the game.

          In a round about way, I’m trying to actually say something positive, which is that this is the best/only site I know of for really excellent writing about games, and I hate to see the limited resources of RPS spent producing this many articles about one mainstream game from a major studio, especially when it has transparently been published in a way designed to maximise revenue and coverage at the expense of consumers’ convenience and preferences.

          It’s your site and you do what you want, obviously. As a mere reader I can only offer my feedback. Personally, I would love to see a clear approach to intentionally ‘drip fed’ content in games from RPS which is something other than ‘with every drip you get 3-4 articles about your game, then a series of retrospectives on the puddle you have created’.

  5. ExK says:

    I don’t like that, apart from the main campaigns, mid-game saving isn’t allowed in Elusive Target abd Contracts. All the maps are huge, so not allowing players to save limits experimentation to very pro-players only.

    IO should have done this differently, like incurring a score penality for every save the player makes.

    The always online design makes the UI painfully slow. Almost every click of a button triggers a data fetch of some sort from the remote server. This leads to a sluggish experience.

    Overall, the game’s meta is riddled with issues that cripple enjoyment and alienate mid-core players, so I recommend getting it only when it’s -50% off.

    • DuncUK says:

      On the limited saves point I do agree with escalations, maybe 1 or 2 saves would be reasonable. You end up repeating a heck of alot of work while trying to figure out how to do it and it could can get quite tiresome, especially as the next level of the escalation will often have you repeating alot of the same actions anyway.

      I don’t agree so much with ETs, they’re supposed to be difficult one time only kills. It’s the possibility of permanent failure that gives attempting those kills an extra thrill. Saves would remove that buzz. That said, in practise ETs are not really that difficult once you realise the restrictions are alot slacker than they seem.So long as you don’t die or kill the target, you can restart and replan the level as much as you like. I think also, contrary to the instructions, once you’ve started an ET you can quit the game and go back another day.

      I typically practise the ET kills by choking the victim unconscious instead of killing them and then making sure my escape plan works. On the recent ET I was even able to practise the USB drive steal too, without actually taking it. BY the time I did the kill I was sure my plan would work, yet still had a heart stopping moment where after killing the target I was very nearly spotted by an over-aware house cleaner. They’re the most fun part of the game IMO.

      • ExK says:

        In principle, yes, but I don’t like to restart and replan over a simple mistake because I’m a mid-core player and I don’t have the luxury of time. I also don’t like the you’re-not-worth-it reminder on the menu after failing the mission. Like I said, they can reward skilful play in another way. I don’t get to be at the top of the leaderboard but I’m fine with that.

  6. HoboDragon says:

    I only bought it the other week after it was on sale – and was positively surprised over the depth.
    Though some repetitiveness when attempting multiple angles are a tidbit annoying.
    One of the things I really love is how alive the world feels. It’s not just three or eight people, it is a whole crowd at times.
    Other than that I can’t say much, haven’t come that far yet, aside from that I noticed how every episode seems to add a bit of more challenge factor.
    Overall I am very happy with this (but glad I bought it after all episodes were released, not having to wait).

    • DuncUK says:

      The game lets you cut down some repetitiveness on the challenges. Lets say there’s a challenge to kill a target with fiber wire and another to push them off a ledge. You save your game with the target in front of you leaning on a railing with a huge drop in front of them. You can push them off the ledge, reload and then garotte them and so long as you subsequently complete the level you’ll get both challenges credited to you. You can even do unsilent kills on a Silent Assassin run (i.e. push a target into a printing press in full view of his henchmen) and so long as you reload and complete the level silently you can get both Silent Assassin and the achievement for the unsilent kill. A bit odd, but massively cuts down on repetition.

      However, if you restart or replan I think you lose all the achievements you’ve completed but not yet finished the mission with. It’s like they’re attached to a lineage of branching narratives stemming from the same original start. Or something.

  7. waltC says:

    I think these games are technically done very well, but it’s just the general theme of running around murdering people that turns me off…It’s just me…I never much cared for the change in FPS games long ago when the onus moved from killing monsters to killing people…didn’t much care for that then, and now. I can understand why people might be fascinated, though, with the games as they are, as I said, done very well–the little bits of them I played before losing interest, that is.

    • jezcentral says:

      I can empathise with that. But IO have made sure that you only need to kill the targets, and they all Horribly Bad People. (Not in the Meat King sense, but you will definitely feel that the world is a better place without them.)

  8. Premium User Badge

    caff says:

    Shame about the Marrakesh map, full of NPCs who speak MURICAN.

    • TobleroneRoloCombo says:

      Pretty much the case with every map. Honestly, I feel it’s better that they go with that, rather than make the dialogue illegible, particularly when that’s a big part of the opportunities system.

      I’ve also heard people complain about the lack of accents, which I feel is a little hollow: the fake accents that feature in the game do get rather jarring. Getting the acting talent to do accents they don’t have a familiarity with just ends up being kind of awkward. The characters who have dialogue in one accent switching to a generic American or English accent just gets rather silly, as well, as can be seen with some characters.

  9. foszae says:

    Honestly, the episodic thing turned me right off. It takes an absolutely exceptional game for me to still care about it by the time all its DLC is released; so waiting that long to even find out the resolution of a dreadful plot just tries my patience too far. Being obliged to grind repetitively for tiny minutiae of conversation to earn achievements doesn’t count as gameplay for me at all. I tried to watch it on YouTube (because Many a True Nerd was doing it), but it was just so overexposed and uninspiring.

    Yet another game that replaces challenge with x-ray vision and spidey sense. A game that grabs your hand and tries to lead you through an easy plot to get a Hollywood style kill just wasn’t worth even watching through, let alone obsessively redoing to earn a superficially different plain black suit.

    They killed the Hitman franchise with Absolution, and this just seemed like a desperate cry for attention as they slowly defiled its corpse. Yeah maybe the time-sensitive don’t-fuck-it-up-ness of the Elusive Targets was a neat innovation, but even then i still didn’t find the levels had enough depth to sit through watching it, let alone paying triple-A price for the chance to play it.

  10. The Algerian says:

    I did, I played it for 110h.

    But I don’t play it anymore, because of one seemigly minor but actually incredibly bad change.

    They made the steam overlay pause the game, meaning I now have to sit through every second of every dialogue and every route some NPCs/target will go through, without a way to do something else in the meantime.

  11. demicanadian says:

    Serious question – after all this timed events that will never come back, does it still make sense to buy this game?

    • indigochill says:

      I would argue “yes”. The only lasting thing the ETs give you AFAIK are suits with a slightly different monochrome arrangement. Well, that and a memory of something that’ll never happen again. But since they’re presumably continuing indefinitely, you’ll have lots more opportunities to make those memories with other targets if you want.

      Also, there have been two map variations released recently. One was a Christmas-decorated Paris, the other was a political campaign in Sapienza. Dunno how long they’ll keep up making those variations, but there’s a lot more game to Hitman than you would think with the small number of maps, because each map packs a ton of content (by which I mean depth of level design and character behavior rather than stabbing the same guy wearing different outfits).

  12. draglikepull says:

    I unfortunately didn’t get the game until after all the episodes were out, so I didn’t get to experience the slow-burn episodic nature of the release, but I had a blast playing all the levels in succession.

    I think my favourite thing about the game is it really lets you spend some time inhabiting a space and getting to know it. So many games these days are about blowing through the content, holding down the sprint key at all times. Developers make great looking levels and impressive spaces that you never get to experience in any detail because you’re always being shuffled off to the next space for the next plot beat. This Hitman game lets you really absorb the locations at a slower pace, which I appreciate. To me the game was less about the kills themselves and more about understanding the rhythm and structure of the environments the kills take place in.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Ericusson says:

    I tried, but the lack of proper context and campaign makes it a chore for me.

    The episodic nature of it makes the missions meaningless as a story, you know, something to make sense of the pixels moving on the screen. Coming back to a simple select mission stage does break my immersion.

    This will certainly not be a game breaker for all but for me, well it kinda is.

    I also found the AI extremely dumb compared to the original hitman when it comes to suspicious behavior.

    I will give it another proper look again soon because I paid for it.

  14. tonicer says:

    I played the first couple of Hitman games but got bored quickly by the third person cheatyness that all third person games have. If you make a game with a third person camera give it a cooldown and have a drone flying around the avatar, only then will a third person camera ever be immersive and authentic/believable to me.

  15. gravy1958 says:

    I wish I had only bought the first episode… I bought the whole season and as much as I love ALL hitman games I was completely bored from playing the first mission over and over that I’ve never bothered with the rest.

    Previous games I have played and replayed many times. Playing a game 4 times all the way through is much more fun than playing the first mission 4 times then the second mission 4 times… I will still pre-order games but I do not see me pre-ordering bits of games ever again. If I have to wait a year for a game to be whole then I will at least get it at a discount price :)

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