When Hitman released in 2016, it took many gamers by surprise. Not only was Agent 47 back, but the new title was essentially an episodic reboot of the popular franchise. It featured completely redesigned and fresh gameplay, with a large focus on sandbox environments and incredibly well devised stealth gameplay. IO Interactive’s attention to detail made the game instantly memorable, and effectively breathed new life into an ageing franchise.
Once Square-Enix let the company go after the game’s rebooted success, IO Interactive became independent and eventually found a new publishing partner in Warner Brothers Entertainment. With the corporate drama out out the way, the independent studio threw themselves into work on Hitman 2. Thus giving us the opportunity for this Hitman 2 interview.
At Comic Con Africa 2018, I managed to get some hands-on time with the upcoming stealth title; namely the recently announced Miami level. I was also given the opportunity to interview IO Interactive’s Marketing Coordinator, Theuns Smit. During our Hitman 2 interview, we discussed the game’s new narrative structure, the company’s stance on community feedback, how loyal players will be rewarded, the way in which new gameplay elements will add to the game’s overall appeal, and the company’s commitment to co-op experiences.
As per our Transparency Policy, this Hitman 2 interview has been transcribed as accurately as possible. However, grammatical edits have been made for both brevity and clarity. Enjoy!
Hans: IO Interactive appears to have a much better grasp on transparency, in terms of new content. Is this a new venture for the company or is it merely an evolution of the company to be more engaged with fans?
Theuns: If you are talking about all of the new features and new things that we are busy showcasing to let fans know; we love to keep them informed because we have a really active community. A lot of fans love the game and, you know, have been fans for a long time, throughout all the various games that we have released. And so far, going from the previous games to Hitman 2, there are a lot of innovations that we want to bring into the game that will take it to the next level. So we want to communicate this to the fans. We want to let the people know that “guys as soon as you buy the game, this is everything you can expect from it”.
Hans: With that said, does IO Interactive want the community to be more involved with the process of development than before?
Theuns: Yes, it is a give and take, but we love that our core community are so engaging and that they enjoy the game, and love what we do. It is a really healthy kind of group. If you check the forums and things, people love talking to each other. People love engaging, like “did you see this?”, “I did this mission like this”, “I pulled it off in this amount of time”, “I didn’t know that this would happen with that opportunity”; and things like that. So we love engaging with them, hearing from them and their feedback, and what they like in the game.
Hans: We have seen the World of Assassination. That obviously encompasses everything that future games will offer, including new game modes, new locales, and even returning old ones – especially with Hitman 2. Does this mean that the company wants Hitman 2 to become more of a platform for new content, versus there eventually being a Hitman 3 and 4 and so on? More as a ‘games as a service, if you will?
Theuns: You can think of it like that, in a way. Our dedication is to the World of Assassination. Having everything Hitman under one roof – ever expanding, ever growing. And from Hitman 2 now, moving forward, that is why we introduced the legacy pack. So that everybody that owns the previous game, they have free access to all of this. If you own the complete first season [of Hitman 1] and you get Hitman 2, all of those locations will get updated with the remastered version of everything that we offer in Hitman 2. So that is all across one big World of Assassination – all the locations together, all of the features. We think it is really important when you are going from a previous game to a sequel, to not let everything from that [original] game to just fall behind or go to waste. Rather integrate it. That is why our team went the hard route to make this happen. It took a lot of work, a lot of hours and a lot of tech going into it, but they were able to pull it off. And that is why we have this dedication to the World of Assassination.
Hans: That is really fantastic. It is especially good for fans. The longer you stay with it, the more payoff there will be. I really like that. So, the Hitman Sniper Assassin co-op mode allows two players to snipe targets within a limited period of time. Are you planning on a proper “full-fledged” co-op experience with that in mind?
Theuns: We are really excited about this franchise first co-op mode that we introduced with Sniper Assassin. I mean, you also have the solo option of playing Sniper Assassin by yourself, but it is really fun being able do that together with your friends. By like working together trying to get in, not get spotted, hide the bodies, setup some traps, shoot that – so we are dedicated to Sniper Assassin and we definitely want to increase it. So it is going to be like an active game mode playable from within Hitman 2, and we are going to add more locations to it. Currently we have the Himmelstein location in Austria, but there is more coming. So yeah, we are dedicated to it.
Hans: Fantastic. That is very good to hear. Now in terms of Hitman 2, are there any new specific gameplay elements, versus Hitman 1, that have been added to the game going forward?
Theuns: The biggest one, which is like what the community have been asking for, is the briefcase that is in the game now. So the briefcase adds a nice little puzzle element to your strategies. You can, for example, hide your sniper rifle in there and then walk right past the guards. You know, fulfilling this awesome agent fantasy of having a weapon in your hand, but nobody knows a thing; and you are just making your way past – going to setup your snipers nest, get eyes on your target. But the cool thing is that it is not only just for sniper rifles now; you can add almost anything into that suitcase. Things like other tools, other weapons, bombs, things like that. So you can now use it as an extra puzzle piece where you put something inside there. Perhaps throw it over the walls, and some guards come by – you know what happens with unattended luggage – they are going to grab it, they are actually going to smuggle it in for you, so you do not have to do the dirty work. So there is this extra layer of planning, because that is what our core fans love. It is this strategising and having the mind of the assassin. Being like two, three, four or five steps ahead of your target; not knowing what is going to hit them. That is what the briefcase definitely allows. Along with a whole plethora of other things that are in the picture-in-picture, including higher crowd fidelity. Crowds are now actually not just eye candy. You can hide in them, break line of site, you can use foliage… the list goes on.
Edward: Sorry to butt in… on that note, can you even fit disguises in the briefcase?
Theuns: I am not too sure about that. I do not think so currently. I can ask, and if not, maybe even make a suggestion. It sounds very cool. I like that idea man, I should definitely tell the team about that.
[Edward is very chuffed at this point in the interview]
Hans: Hitman 2 is not an episodic title like Hitman 1. Why did the team decide to go ahead with a full on release versus the episodic nature of the previous title?
Theuns: There are a few reasons for that. First of all, there are a big group of our fans that really did enjoy the episodic formula. The fact that you are limited to one location at a time; that really does make the replayability shine because you get to try again, [using] different ways, different techniques, different starting points, [you can] unlock challenges, things like that. But that is still a part of the game now. So you can still play it like that, even though you are going to get all of the locations at once. You have that replayability still there with the unlocks and things like that. But giving it all at once opened up a few more opportunities for us, because [as] you know [in] our live model of our game, that we are dedicated to elusive targets and escalation contracts, [with] live updates continuously feeding in towards this experience. So you can just imagine, if you have way more locations to start with, that is a lot more ingredients for your recipe. So it is a lot more flavour, a lot more variety, and I think that is really going to please a lot of people.
Hans: Okay, let us talk about graphics for Hitman 2. Have the team taken any specific advantage of the power of the latest consoles, like the Xbox One X, PlayStation 4 Pro, and possibly even the Nvidia RTX?
Theuns: Yeah, definitely. We are working with having [Hitman 2] be 4K enhanced, HDR availability, and there is higher crowd fidelity, character resolution – all of these things. So you can definitely see when you have the more powerful hardware. It is going to show. That is just what it is, this is the day and age that we live in. So our team are happy to be able to work with that [more powerful hardware] and give that enhancement and improved visuals. I think you might have already seen from the Miami gameplay that it is just so beautiful. Speaking as a player myself, I really love it. It is so beautiful being there, and then looking at the contrast from the teaser we have revealed, with the jungle – you can just imagine all of the beauty that is coming out of it.
Hans: In the first Hitman game, each chapter was its own self-contained story. Is that going to be the same thing for Hitman 2? I know we have already discussed how it is the full story and that it is not episodic, but is there an ongoing narrative again for the second game, and if there is, are the stories still self-contained or are they all a part of a larger arc?
Theuns: We are able to go more in-depth with the story because it is continued now. We are continuing where the previous game ended off. So the story continues from there, and Agent 47 together with Diana and their new relationship with Providence. You are going to follow the story there as Agent 47 is continuing his hunt for the elusive Shadow Client. But some things are going to happen, he is going to discover some things about his past, and things will just never be the same again. So I am really excited for people to get that story narrative going a little bit more in-depth. The fact that we now have this continuous [narrative], with all locations at once; it allows us to go more in-depth. Like you said, with the previous episodic release model, we had to focus it [the narrative] more until the next location came out, and then the next location [etc]. Unfortunately, it is easier to get a little bit lost in the story [using the episodic formula], like if you are watching a show and you watch it again later; you have to remember what is going on. But now that you do not have that, you can feed more into the story, feed more information to the player. And they can absorb it, take it in, and just get more immersed in the story. So we are very excited about that.
Hans: Tell me, what is your favourite mission from the first game?
Theuns: From the previous one? I would almost say that it is like, two fold. I really liked the location of Marrakech. I like that Moroccan vibe and the traversal across the rooftops, and the broken down school, versus the complete opposite, and amazing, Swedish Consulate. That was really beautiful. I have a few favourites to be honest. Hokkaido was just magnificent in its beauty, the panoramic Japan view and the corridors. I know a lot of people really loved Sapienza, because it is like its own little coastal town. So, it is really hard to pick one. How about you, do you have a favourite?
Hans: I kind of just enjoy the experience of it, I just like being hitman [Agent 47]. So it does not matter where he went or what he did, it was just all really good. I do not know if you are allowed to say much about it, because it has obviously just been announced and it is still coming, but do you already have a favourite [location] for Hitman 2? One or two that you are allowed to speak about?
Theuns: Well, I love Miami [a lot of laughter]. But seriously, regardless of everything else that is coming, I really do love the Miami location. I love that it is also playable for the public now, and that they can get their hands on it. It is just so cool, because we have never before had something like that – where one of your targets is like in a moving race car, at a big event with huge crowds. Miami actually has one of the biggest crowds we have ever created in any of our locations. There are nearly 2000 NPCs [non-playable characters] that you can interact with, that react and respond to you, and it is just beautiful with the water and the vistas, and the Homestead building. I just love the visuals on it. I love bright and sun shiny things. And then, obviously, from what you have seen, I am excited for the jungle. I am excited for what is coming next. It is a sharp contrast… and I am loving it!
It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to interview Theuns Smit. A man who is very clearly a gamer, first and foremost, and who is passionate about Hitman 2 and being IO Interactive’s Marketing Coordinator – his adoration for the studio’s work is infectious.
Hitman 2 is scheduled for release on 13 November 2018 for Xbox One , PlayStation 4 and Windows PC. In the new game, you will once again take on the guise of Agent 47, who is in hot pursuit of the mysterious Shadow Client. I personally am very excited for the title, and I look forward to playing it on release.