When Square Enix announced the next Hitman (intentionally dropping all subtitles and numerical suffices), it left many people confused. It wasn't the gameplay, which appears to take things back solidly to the series' roots that confounded us. It was just what we'll be paying $60 for in December.
Developer IO Interactive is preparing to release the title as a full-priced, digital-first offering. It will likely eventually emerge as a boxed product, but if you want to get in at ground level, you'll be purchasing it on PSN, Xbox Live, or Steam.
The plan is to expand the game over time, with new missions, targets, locations, and entire cities. In an abbreviated demo, executive producer Hannes Seifert gave us a look at an expansive environment that makes me excited to step into Agent 47's world later this year.
Hitman is, once again, a murder sandbox. This time though, the number of active AI NPCs has increased six-fold. Not including basic crowds, Hitman Absolution sported approximately 50 AI NPCs. Each had their own story and dialogue.
The new Hitman brings that number up to 300 unsuspecting pawns waiting to be manipulated, while also giving players the opportunity to interact with every crate (and hide items in them), poison every edible item, and tamper with an enormous amount of the scenery larger than anything the series has previously offered. What the new installment won't have as much of is story.
IO is taking a step back from the narrative-heavy bent featured in Hitman Absolution. Instead, the plot will develop during missions, with emergent storytelling as a strong focus. "Absolution was a very story-driven game. We know that some of our fans didn't like how the story pushed the action and made it linear," Seifert says. "The story takes a bit of a backseat in the game, but there is a plot that connects all the missions you play."
Seifert tells us that plans are already in the pipeline for new content, time-limited in-game events, and new Contracts (both player-created assassination targets and those crafted by the development team). Seifert knows that asking players to drop $60 up front on the promise of an uncharted type of post-launch rollout is a risk. IO and Square Enix are asking players to trust that the execution will match the vision, but is hedging its bets by making every piece of subsequent add-on content free for owners.
"The game is going to cost $60, and anything that comes afterwards is included in that. There is no way in the game to spend more money than that," Seifert explains. "When we compare just the single-player missions, the overall scope will be bigger than Hitman: Blood Money. It's a very big offering. Every week we'll add targets, contracts, features. Over the course of 2016, we'll also add new locations. to travel to. All of that is included in one price."
IO plans to reveal more information about the additional content in the pipeline shortly after Gamescom. Seifert assures us that the studio has much more intricate plans than simply changing the targets in a map (especially since players can do that themselves in Contracts mode).
"The thing that's very important is that our players understand what they are getting for the money," he tells us. "We know we need the players to trust that we'll keep our promise. So far we've kept all the promises we've made for this project, and we need to keep doing that. We need to know we can ship at the quality we want at the point in time we promise."
Hitman will be out on December 8 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.