On March 11th, Agent 47 will officially enter the bold and evolving world of episodic gaming when Hitman debuts at various digital outlets around the globe. While this exciting formula worked for meaningful games like The Walking Dead and Life Is Strange in the past, the verdict is still out on whether or not this structure will work similarly for a franchise of this magnitude.
After spending some hands-on time with the Hitman beta this past weekend, I’m compelled to share my thoughts on the positives and negatives of this change and how it could impact future installments. However, before doing so, I want to explain what this new format is for those who haven’t been paying attention.
Hitman is a series reboot that takes place directly after Hitman: Absolution. IO Interactive and Square Enix weren’t satisfied with the notion of releasing a full game at launch and decided to take an episodic approach this time around. The end result will allow players to participate in weekly events, the returning Contracts mode, and a new campaign featuring six different sandbox locations over the span of the next several months.
The Intro pack launching later this week costs $14.99 and includes a prologue level and Paris missions. Italy, Morocco, Thailand, USA, and Japan can all be purchased for $9.99 each as they are released. Likewise, those who want to pay the full $59.99 in advance can do so at their own discretion. Now that there is a better understanding of how these episodes will rollout, here are a few of my thoughts on the pros and cons behind this new business model.
One of the single biggest pros to creating the game this way lies squarely in the fact that players can spend multiple hours exploring different ways to eliminate their targets. I experienced this firsthand in the beta, as I was able to replay the first two missions and use unique opportunities to my advantage. It’s worth noting that this game doesn’t follow a linear structure. Hitman: Blood Money is the main inspiration behind the levels and gameplay mechanics. Knowing these factors alone are more than enough to keep both new and old fans of the series engaged from start to finish.
Another very significant advantage to this episodic format is that it will allow the developers to get player feedback and create more challenging and creative kill scenarios in future episodes. IO Interactive has gone on record many times saying that they are aiming to create a living, breathing title that can evolve over time. This surely is an ambitious goal to have, but it certainly isn’t impossible. If they are able to successfully make this work then this will definitely become a standard practice in not only this series but several other AAA game franchises as well.
With two strong positives already mentioned, it’s now important to address the negatives involved in this particular practice. While IO Interactive have already laid out their framework for monthly releases, they haven’t yet given any specific dates on when fans can expect to play the latest episodes. In an industry as fast moving as this one, new games are releasing every week and giving consumers less time to play everything. While someone may be heavily interested in Hitman, that same person might also be looking forward to Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and will most likely be pulled away from a title with no guarantee of coming back to it at a later date. At its core, Hitman already is a great game but it will be interesting to see how it fares over the next several months among other major releases.
Another negative that could result from this practice is the lack of an engaging storyline and lackluster missions over time. By making the decision to release episodes, IO Interactive is running the risk of making certain missions that everyone might not be fond of. This is important simply because first impressions are everything and a developer really only gets one shot at leaving a lasting impression. This is why having a compelling storyline and endless kill scenarios will be essential to the overall life cycle of this title. If they fail to deliver in both of those categories, then it’s a guarantee that most players won’t come back for more. Again, it’s too early to tell how far they have thought this through but we certainly will find out soon.
This concludes my article on the pros and cons of Hitman‘s episodic series. While I have some concerns on how well this new format will work, I must admit that both Square Enix and IO Interactive have convinced me so far that this title is definitely worth investing time and money into.
Are any of you planning on picking up Hitman at launch or later this year once the full game is released? Please feel free to let me know in the comments section below.