Will The Next-Gen Hitman Game Be A Return To Form?


Agent 47, the bald assassin without any guilt or expressions, is set to make another comeback but the question is, will it be any good? With the adoration levels high after Blood Money, Absolution unfortunately failed at delivering a better experience as it was revamped heavily to help make it more accessible, thanks to its Instinct meter and insta-kill button a-la Splinter Cell Conviction. Hitman Absolution was a solid game for sure, but a poor entry in a fantastic series. Can the next Hitman mark a glorious return to form for 47? Let’s discuss.

Why It Might Succeed: IO Interactive Cares About Their Brand

IO Interactive have been working with the Hitman series for over a decade, so it’s fair to say that the team do have a strong passion for working with Agent 47. Each Hitman game they released received critical praise and offers an addictive and highly replayable experience that encourages different play styles from silent assassinations to crafty “accidents”. Long story short, IO Interactive know the ins and outs of Hitman; they know what works and what doesn’t and each game they release is a learning experience that helps subsequently improve on the next project.

Why It Might Not Succeed: Square Enix’s Expectations Are Too High

While IO Interactive may be truly passionate about Hitman, Square Enix have a history of having profit projections that are too high and frankly, rather deluded.  For Hitman Absolution, Square Enix announced that the game had sold about 3.6 million copies at retail. This means that Absolution had 50% more sales than Blood Money (which sold 2.1 million) yet despite the good sales, Square Enix expressed their disappointment with this, expecting a lot more. In a similar case, they hoped that Tomb Raider would double its total 3.4 million sales in the first month which is a frankly unrealistic pie-in-the-sky figure. Square Enix’s expectations for this future Hitman project could end up crippling it. Big business might sabotage the project or end up dividing into portions of DLC, micro-transactions or other wallet-unfriendly promotions. Square Enix need to rethink their profit projections in general or they could implement new features that could detract from future projects.


Why It Might Succeed: Next-Gen Tech Will Allow For A Better Product

In an open letter to fans, IO Interactive sent out a message to Hitman fans worldwide that give some incredibly exciting news about the upcoming Hitman game and what direction it will take. Fortunately, IO have noted their attention is soley focused on this project and hope to create “living, breathing and believable levels which will allow gamers to play around with the AI to create those unique moments every fan of the Hitman franchise loves.” While Hitman Absolution utilised the tech of last-gen systems to produce some great effects such as large crowds and amazing graphics, a Hitman for next-gen will certainly push the console to their limits, using new techniques or even possibly expanding on already well-developed concepts. Either way, the final product would be one with a high level of polish and detail which would have not been possible on the PS3 or Xbox 360.

Why It Might Not Succeed: Too Much Emphasis On Story (Again!)

One of the hallmarks of Hitman is the thinly-veiled story that sees Agent 47 being sent around the world to perform high-profile assassinations. Even Hitman Contracts’ entire main story is told through a flashback. The issue with Absolution for a lot of people was that there was too much of a “grindhouse” story in the game and a personality was given to 47 that was virtually non-existent before. Hitman’s core focus is on the assassinations and locations, not the story about how or why Agent 47 is there. The story has always been rather bare, which certainly works for the mysterious nature of 47. He’s an isolated and emotionless figure of death that works for a shadowy agency through his loyal handler Diana. That’s the guts of it. If the new Hitman was to follow suit of telling an overly complex story, could it take away from the experience?

"Although Hitman had style, it lacked the authentic feel the fans were used to."

Why It Might Succeed: IO Are Catering To Classic Hitman Fans

The next Hitman is “drawing inspiration from past titles like Contracts and Blood Money to fulfil the core Hitman fantasy.” This is an indication that IO are taking the best bits from the older games (the creepy mansion, the Mardi Gras level, the ol’ switch prop gun with real gun assassination and so on.) and interpreting them into something new. On top of that, their plan to remove Agent 47’s “magic pockets” (Could the “choose your loadout” option return?) and adding in another Contracts mode shows that IO are delivering content that will keep the classic fans smiling and certainly coming back for more.

Why It Might Not Succeed: Are IO “Only” Catering To Classic Hitman Fans?

However, the “return to form” could lead to diminished sales and a limited success rating because of how “niche” it could be. That’s the problem with making sequels on a established franchise. You need to construct a delicate balance point of catering to old fans and welcoming new ones. If it’s too focused on the old, the new fans will be lost and might be driven away. On the other side, if it’s too focused on introducing the series, veterans will cry out that the game has been watered down so everyone can jump in; “Where’s the hardcore experience for real fans? This is too easy.” they’ll complain. But if IO only focus on keeping the old fans happy, they may be limiting themselves to keep growing their fan base and continuing their success.


Why It Might Succeed: It’s Still An Incredible And Unique Series With A Lot To Offer

The Hitman series is one of the most creative but certainly grounded game franchises to come about for a long time. With the fun ways you can interact with the AI and their believable world and the multiple assassination techniques you can use, the Hitman series has always been enjoyable. It’s an incredible feat to be able to create a semi-believable world that also has almost-Loony Tunes level of assassinations but the great thing about the Hitman series is that there is still so much to offer. There’s thousands of variations on assassinations that Agent 47 could utilise and multiple locations he could visit for espionage and contract killings. On top of that, there’s a rather social element to the game where you can discuss how you killed someone from the sly poisoning of food to the not-so-subtle explosion treatment and that Contracts mode will have you competing with others to see who is the best Hitman around. The main point is that the Hitman series is still going strong and will certainly continue to do so for quite some time. If that IO Interactive open letter is any indication, we could see a strong interest in the Hitman series forming for next-gen. Keep up the good work, 47.

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