I’m holding out hope that IO Interactive’s new version of Hitman ends up being successful. It’s already getting good reviews. As I’m writing this, Chapter 1 has a 77 on Metacritic, Chapter 2 has an 84 and Chapter 3 has a 75 for the Playstation 4 versions. Those aren’t extraordinary scores, but this is without a doubt the best Hitman has been since series favorite Blood Money, which launched a decade ago.
IO’s new version of Hitman is downloadable only, and it’s episodic. Three episodes are out so far (not including the Summer Bonus Episode) and IO’s planning on releasing about one a month until six missions are out, and those six will comprise the complete game. Early next year after all the missions are released, a disc version is planned for brick-and mortar stores.
Although I doubt Square Enix is pinching pennies considering they have a plethora of high-profile games, I want Hitman to be financially successful. I’m worried this excellent title is being overlooked because the physical collection will ship so long after the first episode debuted, and it doesn’t have a shelf presence in stores in the meantime.
Why do I care? Because I see this new Hitman entry not as just a game, but a platform. Theoretically, IO Interactive could keep pumping out levels for this game forever. I’m sure a lot of time, money and manpower goes into crafting just one single level, but the framework is there. IO has a working engine, AI and all the imagination it needs to craft these delicious sections of gameplay.
Hitman as a platform is suited to this era of downloaded gaming, and it also falls in line with how older Hitman games felt. Aside from Absolution and some of Silent Assassin, the entries in this series were made up of levels that had nearly nothing to do with each other apart from a small story thread tenuously connecting them. At any moment Agent 47 could be sailing on a boat in the Mississippi river, attending a rave in a slaughterhouse or traversing snowy valleys in Japan.
This segmented design is already the route IO is going with the new Hitman, so if IO uses Hitman as a platform, then it means they can keep releasing levels and making small patch tweaks along the way. The current engine doesn’t have any huge issues noticeable to me, so if IO wants to keep this engine going for a while, that’s fine with me — I think they should let this one breathe and keep producing content for it. Luckily with the Summer Bonus Episode IO released, it’s obvious they’re open to making more than just six base missions, and they’re up for tweaking existing locales for more playability.
With that in mind, what I’d really like to see is IO remake old Hitman levels in this new platform. They’re already experienced with remakes, as the majority of Hitman: Contracts featured levels from the first, PC only, Hitman title. There are several outstanding and memorable levels from the history of the series, but they don’t generally play well for newcomers trying to go back and experience those missions — the AI in older games had a tendency to go bananas at the slightest move, and the learning curve back then was more like a brick wall.
I’d love to play some of the older, classic missions redone in IO’s current Glacier engine and recent concessions to players, such as the new Opportunities system. Maybe if Hitman is successful enough and Square Enix sees the potential, the missions will keep on coming. I’ll be keeping my fingers (and fiber wire) crossed for the possibility.