IO Interactive is changing things up with their newest HITMAN. Instead of a ‘traditional’ release, the IO and Square Enix are opting for a more episodic approach. One aspect many of us have been wondering about is the ‘live content.’ Because of the episodic nature, IO needs to keep players engaged in between content releases. That is where this ‘live content’ comes in.
The Contracts that are available for a limited-time are what we call Elusive Targets. An Elusive Target is the closest thing to the Hitman fantasy that we’ve ever created. These targets will be custom-created characters that are added to existing locations and are only there for a limited time in real-time. You’ll only have one chance to take them down. If they escape, they are gone for good. If you kill them, that’s the way that you killed them. There are no do-overs and no second chances. When an Elusive Target leaves the game world (one way or another) they never return.
Each Elusive Target will have a custom briefing video, a backstory and a unique reason for being in that location. When you’re actually playing in the location, the Elusive Target will not appear on the map and will not appear in Instinct. In order to find them, you’ll need to use clues from the briefing video and a photograph that you will be able to review. You’ll need to explore, find your target, learn their patterns and come up with a plan to eliminate them – all whilst playing. The pressure will be on when you’ve got the target in your sights. If you miss the shot and chaos breaks loose, you will need to have a plan B, because the save-game is disabled during an Elusive Target. If you kill the wrong person or die when trying to exfiltrate, that’s it. Game over, the target escapes.
As the season unfolds, you’ll earn in-game rewards for completing multiple Elusive Target contracts. The rewards are signature suits from previous Hitman games and versions of those suits with gloves. There’s also a version of the signature suit from the new HITMAN with gloves.
We know that Elusive Targets are not going to be easy, they were designed that way.
Ok, that sounds amazing. Having just one chance to take out a target in a set amount of time ramps up the urgency. Plus, disabling game saves means we’ll have to be on our toes for any situation that arises. My main concern with Elusive Targets is frequency. How often will these targets pop up? Multiple times per day? Once per day? Once every few days?
If Elusive Targets plays as good as it sounds, it’s going to be incredible.
On Escalation Mode:
Escalation Mode is something else completely new for HITMAN and was created as a way to regularly provide a fresh challenge to players. You’ll need to master the location as well as the gameplay mechanics to complete a hit that will escalate in difficulty by adding new elements. As an example, the first stage could be to eliminate your target with a sabre. Then, the second stage could be to eliminate your target with a sabre whilst dressed as a waiter and removing any security camera recordings within two minutes. We are able to change where the security cameras are and also add additional ‘security’ measures to the locations, such as laser trip-wire explosives that you’ll need to avoid.
Escalation Mode has a strong focus on having fun with the game mechanics and mixing them up – pretty much anything goes in this mode. It’s more about being playful than realistic. For each Escalation Contract, there are five stages and you’re free to replay them as you wish to climb the leaderboards. As with Elusive Targets, the save-game functions are disabled.
All Escalation contracts and Elusive Targets are created by IOI and will be released between the location releases as part of the live content.
I like it. Hitman is supposed to be all about playing any way you want. It sounds like IO wants to give us challenges that highlight this open-ended approach while also ramping up the difficulty.
On Contracts Mode:
On top of those new features, we also have Contracts Mode. You’ll know this from Absolution. Play-to-create, mark your own targets, choose how to kill them and compete against your friends. IOI will also pick the best of the bunch and put them in the Featured Contracts list so you’ve got something fresh to play whenever you load up the game.
Not much to add. It’s pretty much the same mode from Absolution. Create your own targets, methods of execution and share them with your friends.
On Live Challenges:
Additionally, we have the ambition of adding community-inspired challenges into the game. As you’ll have seen from the recent Beta period, the game is full of challenges you can complete to prove your mastery of a location. We are looking into creating new challenges that we can periodically add to the game. These challenges will be an homage to some of the more elaborate, amusing, difficult or creative feats that we see our players complete. As an example, one of the first ‘live challenges’ we are looking at creating is called “Hammer Time” and was inspired by a ‘2AngryGamers’ livestream[www.twitch.tv] of our PS4 Beta, where they used only a hammer to knock out almost every guard in the ‘Final Test’.
At this stage, Community-inspired challenges (or whatever we actually decide to name them) are just one of the ideas we are working on to keep the game fresh and live as we go through the season. These are not a guaranteed feature but something we’re testing and trying out.
I would be lying if I said I still wasn’t a little uneasy about IO and Square Enix’s plans for HITMAN. But, the way they are approaching ‘live content’ sounds brilliant. If they can deliver on Elusive Targets and Escalation Mode, I’m 100% on board.
And hey, $15 (Intro Pack) to play the first batch of content and these live challenges isn’t a bad way to see how HITMAN will shake out. In a way, I’m glad IO went the episodic route with HITMAN. My backlog is absurd enough as it is. Maybe I’ll actually finish HITMAN this way.
Let me know what you think of IO’s approach to ‘live content.’ Did you play the PS4 beta earlier this month? What did you think? I’ll be trying out the PC beta this weekend and let you know my thoughts next week.