Its been a while since the release of Absolution,the last entry in the Hitman series. IO Interactive is now looking to give the popular assassin series a fresh coat of paint. With the game due out on March 11, a beta came to both PlayStation 4 and PC, showcasing the game’s mechanics, beautiful visuals, and the massive amount of creative freedom given to players. As I played through the beta, it became clear that IO Interactive’s decision to release the game in episodic parts may play to the series’ strengths. Before getting into that, let’s look at a quick overview of what the Hitman Beta had to offer.
The beta starts off by dropping players on a helipad in the middle of a snowy mountain range, with very little explanation as to why you’re there. It turns out you’ve come to seek answers about yourself and have joined some shady agency. The gameplay at the beginning is fairly simple, as the tutorial mission guides you step-by-step through your very first assassination in the shoes of Agent 47. For any newcomers, this mission was a great way to get a feel for the wide variety of mechanics and options that are at the player’s disposal.
Once you’ve successfully completed your first contract, you find out a tiny bit more about the story of the game before being dropped back into the very same mission. This time, the beta tasks you with assassinating your target in a way different from the one that you were talked through mere minutes before. With a huge range of options at my disposal — drowning him in a toilet, blowing up a dance floor with remote-detonated explosives, or disguising myself as the guy my target was due to meet– I opted to use a crowbar to drop a large container on my target’s head before hopping into a chopper and escaping the scene.
Again, the cutscene that followed divulged a few more tiny details on the game’s story before throwing me into the beta’s final mission. That mission once again throws players into the same scenario, except they now have complete freedom to assassinate the target whichever way they want. It was at this point that the game’s episodic nature began to really make sense.
When Hitman launches on March 11 it’s going to include a prologue mission and a Paris location from the very start. The intro pack (the part of the game that releases on March 11) will also include full access to Contracts Mode, Escalation Mode, elusive targets and other live content. An Italy location will then come in April and Morocco in May, with Thailand, the US, and Japan rounding out the locations at the end of the year. By releasing the game in this episodic format, IO Interactive may have helped to emphasize Hitman’s strengths, and add even more content into each of these areas, rather than bog the game down in its lighter narrative.
Hitman continues the trend of the most recent titles in the series with its focus on replayability. With each mission quite literally having a dozen different ways (if not more) for you to complete your objective, taking on the same couple of missions over and over again in the beta never became boring. Through releasing the content of the full game episodically, the developer has created an opportunity to keep Hitman fresh and exciting.
New events in older locations, new skills with later chapters, and the ability to apply everything you’ve learned to completed sections can help to make every episode feel fresh after their release. While there are no details on just how these events will work, if done right, they could help Hitman maintain its relevancy throughout the year.