After a release push-back and a mysterious pre-order cancelation, developer IO Interactive announces that Hitman will no longer be a full title and will instead release episodically.
It’s been a rocky road for the latest installment in the popular Hitman franchise. First, the game was announced at E3 2015 as a full-blown game with episodic content. Then, a round of “fine tuning” pushed the title back from its original anticipated 2015 launch into a 2016 launch. Then pre-orders placed for the game through the PlayStation Network were mysteriously canceled and refunded, leading to fans questioning if publisher Square Enix was pulling the plug on the game altogether. But it turns out that Hitman isn’t dead just yet; instead, much like protagonist Agent 47 himself, the title is dropping its disguise as a full game and has revealed itself to be totally episodic.
Developer IO Interactive has finally cleared the air on the status of Hitman, clarifying that the game is still slated to hit its anticipated March 11th launch date, but the game will now be chopped up into an episodic entries. When the game hits, it will feature the prologue and first mission, but gamers will need to wait until April for the next update, when the second mission, set in Italy, will go live. From there, the third mission, set in exotic Morocco, will follow in May.
Fans worried that will mean a lot of thumb twiddling between missions need not worry, as IO Interactive promises plenty of monthly content updates. While the developer has not stated what these content updates will entail, they have been said to whisk Agent 47 to far off locales such as Thailand and Japan to complete hits. Furthermore, players will be able to engage in weekly live events such as competitions and score attacks.
While IO Interactive has always been adamant about making Hitman a “living” game with constant updates, IO boss Hannes Seifert said in a statement the jump from a full game to purely episodic was done as a means of ensuring that every release for the game meets the “quality level fitting for a Hitman game.”
Gamers on PS4 and PC looking to take the now fully episodic game for a spin can gain access to the game’s beta by pre-ordering either the “Intro Pack” featuring the prologue and first mission, or by pre-ordering the entire game. PS4 players will be able to play the beta come February 12th, while the beta for PC gamers will go live on February 19th.
Despite now being an episodic title, IO Interactive is still treating Hitman as a full retail release, complete with a collector's edition. Superfans can even plop down $140 to net themselves a PS4 exclusive collector’s edition of the game, containing a digital download code for the game (which will contain only the prologue and first mission upon release), an artbook, a replica of Agent 47’s iconic tie (complete with fancy tie clip), and a statue of Agent 47.
With a box office bomb under its belt and several setbacks already, the latest development in the Hitman franchise may leave some fans uneasy about how the end product may turn out. But with IO hoping to use the episodic approach to fine-tune every release, hopefully this translates into a better game overall.
Hitman will release its first "episode" on March 11, 2016 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.