In March of 2016, IO-Interactive and Squre Enix will release the latest game in the HITMAN series, and the first for consoles since 2012’s HITMAN: ABSOLUTION. The game is being developed for Playstation 4 and Xbox One (as well as Microsoft Windows), and certainly seems as if it will be the biggest title in the series to date. At this stage, with roughly three months to go until the release, we don’t yet know that much about what will differentiate this from other HITMAN games. However, here’s a little bit about what we do know.

The Level Design

Different HITMAN games have had different structures over the years, and you never really know how the next title will be constructed. But regarding the 2016 title, we learned quite a bit about the structure following E3. The game’s creative director made some comments indicating a sandbox format for the levels, similar to what was seen in 2006’s HITMAN: BLOOD MONEY (commonly viewed as the best game in the series). That basically means we’re looking at open-world areas as opposed to linear levels, which seems like the natural fit for the first HITMAN game designed for modern consoles. One of the main effects of the emergence of the Xbox One and PS4 is that they generally support larger and more detailed worlds, which in turn tempts game designers to push boundaries with open-ended levels.

The Chronology

Word is that HITMAN will function as a prequel to the rest of the series (hence the title, perhaps). This is an intriguing direction, and possibly a very strategic move to reset the series on new consoles. It’s also particularly appropriate after a few years’ worth of fringe releases halted the console side of the franchise anyway. Since HITMAN: ABSOLUTION in 2012, the only titles we’ve seen for this franchise are online and in mobile app collections. On the web, there’s actually a popular HITMAN SLOT game described as having managed to recreate some of the most memorable factors of the “cult” game. Through targeting bonus games and the use of Agent 47’s weaponry in place of slot icons, the slot game is tied surprisingly closely to the franchise. Meanwhile, for mobile devices, both HITMAN GO (2014) and HITMAN SNIPER (2015) have sought to bring the action and intrigue of the season to a simpler format. The former
is a puzzle game, and the latter a first-person shooter. All of these are entertaining on their own, but pale in comparison to the larger games. It will have been nearly a four-year gap since ABSOLUTION by the time HITMAN is released, which makes the prequel concept particularly appropriate.

The Level Structure

Design is one thing, but the structure of how the game will play out is a different thing entirely. And while addressing a launch delay that saw HITMAN pushed back from this December to March ’16, the studio acknowledged that the reason for the hold-up was the desire to follow up the release with a tighter frequency of updates. Specifically, this appears to mean that the creative team will add new levels to HITMAN as DLC after its initial release, essentially setting the game up with an episodic format. The studio reps stressed that the initial release would not be “incomplete,” and that it would be the full-fledged HITMAN game fans expect and want. But there appears to be a very strong determination to set up an ongoing expansion through new levels after the initial release.

That’s about as far as we can go with details at the moment. Beyond these details and ideas it will likely be a fairly traditional HITMAN game, combining action, stealth, and strategy to create a thrillingly realistic experience.

We posted an early look at one of the new levels here.