While Hitman launched as an episodic series, the game recently received a full retail release containing all six chapters. Not only that, but there's a plethora of bonus content thrown in too, including three bonus mission packs, the soundtrack, a 'making of' documentary, and the Requiem Blood Money pack (containing new suits etc.), not to mention all the locations, challenges, opportunities, and escalation contracts featured throughout season one. To celebrate the release, we visited the IO Interactive offices in Denmark and discussed each episode at length with studio creative director Christian Elverdam. Speaking about the conception of locations, targets and the episodic format as a whole, each video offers an insightful look into the design process.
In the first of our video series, we looked at the release of The Intro Pack. Paris was the level which kicked off the episodic series, and we discussed the thought process behind the concept and how the team developed the location. Elverdam explained how the sophisticated setting and exclusive targets tied in with 47's career while pointing out the importance of the scale. "We knew that earlier levels would have to be rather big because we also expected people to spend quite a lot of time in them," he said, "as they were the first episodes they would have to carry a lot of replay value." He also told us how player feedback influenced the rest of the season, noting the negative response to tutorials and load times, as well as discussing why Twitch streams are so valuable for developers.
The next interview focused on the second chapter in the series, Sapienza, which is often cited as one of the best Hitman levels to date. On the level's popularity, Elverdam referenced the lengthy development cycle and its vast yet user friendly design. He also discussed how the team reworked the level's architecture and the game engine to implement Elusive Targets and other time sensitive events without the need for patches, saying: "if the world is supposed to feel living, then we cannot expect people to download huge chunks every time we do something."
"For Marrakesh we wanted to create this confusion or overloading of the senses," Elverdam explained when discussing the game's third chapter. He noted the map's overwhelming number of NPCs and how the team used the crowd sizes to build tension and create a sense of chaos. Talking about Hitman's voyeuristic nature, he also discusses how the variety of environments draws players in by allowing them to experience high society as well as war-torn locations as a fly on the wall.
The fourth interview focuses on the Bangkok chapter and why the developers chose to take a linear approach in its design. The hotel setting has always been a classic staple in Hitman, so it makes sense why IO Interactive would want to revisit this concept. Elverdam discussed the benefits of a contained map, noting the intimacy it offers with the targets, also emphasising the amount of work that goes into creating narrative. The episodic format also comes into Bangkok's enjoyment: "When we chose to do an episodic game, one of the main reasons is that we know if you're going to spend a month in Paris and you enjoy the game, you're actually going to replay it the way it's supposed to be done."
"Colorado was later in the season so we wanted to create a proper stealth challenge with the level," Elverdam explains in our fifth interview video. He discusses the military base location and how that ties in with the step up in intensity that comes with the four targets. While many of Hitman's levels have been references to IO Interactive's previous games, he goes on to describe Colorado as a throwback to Absolution in design and theme. He also compares how the title differs to the new episodic format: "In Absolution we wanted to make more people appreciate what was Hitman, but by simplifying maybe a little bit too much, some of that DNA got lost in the process."
Hokkaido is the final instalment in Hitman, and we discussed why the team chose the location to round off the season. Elverdam talked us through Elusive Targets and what they've managed to bring to the series. "It's us challenging you to say you might know the level, but this specific hit you'll never get to play again, so you have to rely on the skills you've built up," he explains. By looking at player feedback, he also promises the team will continue experimenting with future Elusive Targets.
It'll certainly be interesting to see exactly how IO Interactive plans to innovate with Hitman in the future, and what the developers have learned from its episodic format. You can read our review too, if you'd like to see how we enjoyed one of the best instalments in the stealth series for a while.