To many people, Hitman: Absolution was a let down. While the game certainly improved upon its predecessors in some regards, the linear nature of the game and the poorly designed disguise system didn't do it any favors. A year after the game's release, Hitman's developer IO Interactive wrote an open letter to the community stating they wanted to fix their mistakes. And here we are, one and a half years later, with the new Hitman game being shown at Gamescom. Will it live up to the promises?
The focal point of the new Hitman game is freedom: you can execute hits in many different ways. You can go in guns blazing, take up a vantage point and kill your enemy from afar or sabotage the environment, making the death seem like an accident. All in all, it seems Hitman will be much more like Hitman: Blood Money and much less like Hitman: Absolution, which is undoubtedly a good thing.
This became very clear at the start of the presentation. The developers showed off the various different weapons you can choose prior to starting the mission, and there seem to be a lot of them. Axes, sniper rifles, assault rifles and of course the trusted Silverballers are just some of the player's options. This alone opens up many different ways to play missions. Agent 47 no longer has magic pockets either: if you want to bring the WA2000 sniper rifle you'll either have to bring 47's trademark briefcase, or have it delivered to a hidden part of the map.
So what does this freedom actually entail? The following scenario was presented to us in the demo: 47 is tasked with assassinating Viktor Novikov, the host of a large fashion show in the heart of Paris. Naturally there's more to him: he's actually an infamous arms trader, which means that security is heavy. Get in, eliminate the host and escape.
Agent 47 is dropped off at the entrance of the party. There's no mission markers to tell the player what to do: you'll have to look around and scout for the best way in. 47 does have a VIP pass to the party, but there's many more interesting ways of getting inside. Do you prefer knocking out a caterer and stealing his uniform, or just silently take out the guards at the back door? It's all up to you.
The game's environment certainly seems to provide many more options for taking out targets than any of the previous games ever did. While walking through rooms, 47 had various options to sabotage heaters, chandeliers and many other environmental objects. Different areas also require different disguises that are much more difficult to obtain. There's certainly no lack of choice.
Exiting missions works in a similar fashion to Absolution. After you kill your target, the exit will be marked on your map, but while playing the game you may stumble open better exits that may fit your approach better. This is especially important in the game's contract mode, which returns from the previous game. This mode allows players to design custom assassinations on existing maps. Rather than having to kill Novikov, 47 could instead be tasked with eliminating a guard in a cellar with a certain weapon while wearing a certain disguise.
In addition to this mode, IO Interactive will continue adding their own missions after the game's release. They'll also organize Live Events when the game is released that'll take place every two weeks. These tasks will have you eliminate a random target somewhere in the game. You don't know the identity of the target, so you'll have to work with other players to determine who to kill, and what method to use. It's a good way of keeping the game fresh post-launch, but the question is whether or not it'll be enough to pull players back into the game.
Everything about the demo shows that IO Interactive has really listened to the players' feedback. Agent 47 is no longer the prey, but the hunter. The player can do things their way and plan in advance, rather than being thrown into missions without knowing what's coming. If all missions are as large and sprawling as the one we saw in the presentation, then both old and new fans to the series have something to look forward to.