Deep Dive into HITMAN 3 - Game Informer

(transcribed by Ibbe)

ON TOP OF THE WORLD
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

My first mission begins near the top at the Sceptre, which is being officially recognized as the world’s tallest building. Members of the global elite have gathered in Dubai to witness the formal inauguration and enjoy the lavish celebration. I’d love to join them, but I haven’t technically been invited. Of course, invitations are mere formalities for Agent 47.

For the time being, I have a more pressing concern: getting inside. While I’m technically near the top of the structure, I’m on the wrong side of the glass, following a successful HALO jump.

Agent 47 is standing on a narrow girder that’s only a few feet wide. I don’t know exactly how high up he is, only that if he cranes his head up a little he can see the Sceptre’s topmost floors. Looking at the surrounding haze, I can see the tops of a few hot-air balloons. Farther out, oil fields. It’s a dizzying sight, and it’s probably best to get inside. I wouldn’t want to keep my targets waiting, after all.

I drop down onto one of the structure’s massive support beams and begin working to find a way inside. I can see birds several stories below me, and even further down the tips of the buildings in Dubai’s skyline. I accidentally bump into a toolbox that a careless worker has left on a platform, and it tumbles over the edge. Its contents scatter out with a metallic clank, and I watch as they shrink to pinpoints before vanishing out of sight. I can only hope that there wasn’t anyone in its path on the sidewalk below. There’s no time to dwell on that, however, since I see a window-washing platform ahead.

Naturally, the window is locked. Fortunately, I have a little help. Lucas Grey, the so-called Shadow Client (and Agent 47’s frequent foil) is providing field support for the mission, and he instructs me to scan a nearby keypad with my camera — a new device that Agent 47 is packing for Hitman 3. After lining it up in my camera’s viewfinder for a few seconds, Grey is able to commandeer the window and give me access inside. It certainly beats breaking the glass with a brick.

Game director Mattias Engström says the camera has several different uses throughout the game, which I get to experience during my extensive hands-on time with its first three missions. In addition to scanning items like these keypads, Agent 47 can use it to provide his handlers with in-the-field intelligence. It also works as a camera, with different zoom levels, filters, and more. As someone who loves to get in as close as possible to read messages on screens or notes on in-game desks, this sure beats hauling a sniper rifle around for its scope. And as part of the World of Assassination, the camera is being retrofitted into the legacy missions, which include new photography challenges. Before you ask, no, Agent 47 is not going to be taking any selfies.

Once inside the Sceptre, I wind my way through a narrow access corridor filled with pipes and cables. Grey takes the opportunity to remind me of the importance of the mission. The targets — Carl Ingram and Marcus Stuyvesant - are the heads of two of Providence’s founding families. Hitman veterans will appreciate the significance; otherwise, all you need to know is that these two men help run a global shadow government that’s essentially been pulling the strings in world affairs for more than 40 years. If these two men learn that we’re here, they may get spooked.

If we’re going to spook them, it won’t be because we’re not dressed for the occasion.
We climb a ladder and walk through a curtain, emerging from the other side wearing a stylish gray suit. That baggy sky-diving gear and helmet may have done the trick getting us here, but they’d definitely raise a few eyebrows at this soiree. You’d think you could say the same for Agent 47’s now- exposed trademark barcode tattoo, but we all know the routine by now: Nobody notices that, and we’re fine with it.

I’m accustomed to seeing some incredible locations in Hitman games, but the Sceptre’s interior is jaw-dropping. The building’s interior is lavishly decorated, with an abundance of gold that covers everything from the railings on the balconies that line the entryway to the columns and architectural flourishes that are suspended high above the polished floors. It’s a physical reminder that the Al-Ghazali family wields tremendous power, and that the strings they pull are gilded.

Ahead, I hear the murmur of a crowd, so I head up a grand staircase to see what’s going on. As luck would have it, I’m just in time for the inauguration. Omar Al-Ghazali is giving a speech about this building being the culmination of a long-standing dream. He says it was all made possible after receiving a small loan from his father, which he was able to use to establish a construction empire that, ultimately, led us to where we all are today. He may have glossed over the parts about his family’s ties to international terrorism, but for now we’re focusing on the building. He proclaims that it’s for all the people in Dubai, before cutting a gold ribbon with a sword. And with that, the Sceptre is dedicated. And now the puzzle begins. But before that, let’s back up and talk about a misunderstood franchise.

THE SILENT ASSASSIN

The Hitman series is deceptively simple:
You play as Agent 47, a skilled assassin who travels the world taking out targets. Most games drop the character into sandbox-style levels, giving players the freedom to explore their surroundings and come up with a Plan that best suits their playstyle.

While it’s absolutely viable to go loud, grabbing guns and taking out enemies in commando-style raids, that’s almost never the best course of action.

“Once you understand all the possibilities, how deep it is, and how much freedom you have as a player — all the nuances — it’s pretty amazing,” says executive producer Forest Swartout Large. “l think a lot of people just look at screenshots and think that it’s an action/shooter.”

Instead, the most rewarding moments in a Hitman game come from taking the time to surveil, listening in on conversations to figure out security gaps or points of vulnerability. If you’re a “go-go-go” type player, Hitman’s lengthy periods of inactivity may seem excruciating, but they’re also a large part of why successfully hitting your objectives and slipping away undetected can be so rewarding.

“It’s a game about patience, and it has a certain aspect of voyeurism where you’re just looking into peoples’ private lives,” Engström says. “You’re meant to take it slowly and figure out the puzzle and then it’s up to you how to solve it, basically. It’s hard to put that into a trailer.”

When the team at IO Interactive talks about Hitman being a puzzle game, they don’t mean Agent 47 has to solve Tower of Hanoi challenges or push crates onto pressure plates. Instead, each sandbox level is hand-crafted to be an intricate puzzle box.
Calling them “levels” or “sandboxes” is a disservice to the designers, however. Every mission is a methodically detailed showcase, taking players to Paris for a fashion show or to the fictional Italian seaside town of Sapienza, for instance. Once you arrive, you’re given your objectives and free rein; if you want to disguise yourself as the wait-staff and poison your target, go nuts. Or maybe you could arrange a private meeting with your prey — after walking the runway as a model, of course. Once you get into its peculiar rhythms, coming up with a plan (no matter how ludicrous it may seem) is the easy part. Executing it is the challenge.

In many levels, one of the tricks is figuring out how to even approach your targets.

Hitman 2’s Miami level is a perfect example. It’s set in and around a racetrack, and one of your targets, Sierra Knox, is participating in a race. If you activate Agent 47 's instinct mode, which desaturates the colors and highlights targets in red, you can see her tiny silhouette whizzing in circles in the distance. The puzzle then becomes: How can you get access to her? Can you intervene during a pit stop? Or maybe wait until the victory celebration? Different options reveal themselves as mission stories if you explore and listen enough, giving more structured objectives that often have darkly comical or horrifying resolutions.

Back in the Sceptre, I turn on instinct mode for a few seconds and see the tiny figures representing my targets high above me. According to the mission briefing, Ingram is in his private suite on the sheikh’s penthouse floor. Stuyvesant, on the other hand, is checking out an art exhibit inside the building. I’m weighing my options near the hors d’oeuvres table when a conspicuous ponytailed man in a burgundy blazer walks up and starts peppering the server with questions. He’s particularly curious about the guest list, which is clearly beyond the scope of this woman’s job or interest level. She deflects, telling him to talk to security. He wanders away, and I follow at a safe distance.

We’re about halfway to a guard post when Grey interrupts my surveillance of Mr. Ponytail with a request. He says he wants to address the Providence partners directly, so they can fully understand why they’re being killed before I handle the task. As effective as it may be to, say, drop a piece of art onto Stuyvesant’s noggin, Grey isn’t interested in making this look like an accident. He wants these men to suffer first. To do so, that means we 'II have to get them both together. He has an idea, but it requires accessing a building directory first.

Grey’s plan sounds like a winner, but I can’t resist listening to ponytail guy make his case to a clearly disinterested guard. He asks if the guard has access to the guestlist, adding that he’s done some investigating and found a couple of particularly cryptic names. The guard isn’t having any of this, and he tells off the partygoer/sleuth. I file this little bit of info away, determined to follow this thread further along the next time I replay the mission. In the meantime, I see a kiosk.

It’s not a major addition, but Hitman 3 adds some nice touches like interactive computer terminals. In this case, I’m able to interact with the terminal, and then choose different menu options such as learning more about the sheikh, or, more relevantly, get a look at the building’s floorplan. Grey says that I’ll need to worm my way into the server room via the staff area, which is a key step for him to deliver his personalized message. And with that, my plan is coming into focus.

“For many players, that feeling of, ‘Holy s—!’ can be daunting,” Engström says.
“Especially on the bigger missions, where you go in and you have up to three dots and they’re far away, and you’re like, ‘How am I even going to approach this?’ It’s exhausting, I think, for many players. But it’s also one of the strengths of the game, right?”

The door to the staff area is, unsurprisingly, secured. There’s a keypad next to the door, but Grey is able to access the camera feeds and see where someone has written the combination on a whiteboard. Oops. I punch in the code — again, like with the terminal, actually entering in the digits one at a time — and enter.

“I’m a huge fan of immersive Sims, and I think the Hitman games aren’t straight immersive sim games, but it definitely does straddle the line,” Engström says. “l think a lot of the features that we did add in Hitman 3 are actually in the immersive-sim genre. Like, we have the keypad, which is one of the new set-pieces that we wanted to have. It’s a new way for us to create a puzzle element for you to get behind an obstacle. How do we make sure that players find a password? That was something that players or our developers could use to create puzzles.”

I’m now in the staff area, but I’m now officially trespassing and need to be cautious. Using instinct mode, I see some employees around the corner. Rather than choke one out in front of his friend, I decide to tum on a nearby vacuum and hope that somebody decides to investigate the sound. Before I hide, I grab a hammer from a nearby crate.
Sure enough, the worker wanders over to turn off the device. I emerge and toss the hammer at his head. I’m not a huge fan of the gold brocade, but I take his event-staff outfit and drag the employee into a locker to sleep it off. Sorry, man.

The server room isn’t a straight shot from here; I have to go out another window and do some more scaling and climbing. Even though heights don’t usually wig me out, I’m not looking forward to dangling over oblivion again if I’m being completely honest.

IO really did an effective job of conveying the sense of height that’s at play here — and that’s not even considering how it is in VR (see “Hitman VR” sidebar). As I learned, that was something that took some effort.

“The location kickoff, the keywords were ‘vertigo’ and 'verticality,”’ says Swartout Large. “We wanted to make sure that we were really delivering on that promise, and Mattias [Engström] felt like, 'Yeah, we’re not really coming through on that, so we need to look at what else can we do. How can we fix this?”’

“For the longest time, you always started inside of the elevator and you’d go up and you walked into the inauguration,” Engström says. “That was cool and awesome, but you didn’t really get the connection that you were super high up, and we didn’t feel happy about the way that you’re in the highest skyscraper in the world but it didn’t connect immediately. We really wanted to have that feeling established immediately. Why not just start outside where the intro cinematic ends and let the player enter themselves?”

Or, in a few other cases, exit themselves. After some more back-and-forth between being on solid ground and feeling like I’m going to fall to my death, I’m in the server room. According to Grey, the targets know that moves are being made to undermine their power, and they’re keen to retain it. We can capitalize on that by setting up a Phony meeting with a third party by hacking their calendars, then luring them into a lounge area that can conveniently be sealed off.

That functionality is ostensibly for privacy and security, but we’re going to turn it into a trap.

The server room seems fairly secure, so I grab a disguise from a hapless maintenance worker just in case I run into any other employees. I pause by a nearby whiteboard and see a bunch Of notes scribbled on it, including a Post-it with a “Talk to Allan for details” message on it — a gag that’s become one Of the series’ recurring Easter eggs.

Inside the server room, I see four massive banks of servers. There’s a terminal in the middle of the room with calendar access, but it’s currently locked. Grey tells me to pull one of the server racks out, which seems a little suspect. Sure enough, I pull one out at random and a silent alarm is tripped, putting the room on lockdown and shrouding it in an ominous red light. I hide behind one of the Clusters while a pair of security guards investigate the issue. They go about their rounds, but I’ve played enough Hitman to know their usual behavior. That predictability is important.

“You have to be able to rely on the AI,” Swartout Large says. “It has to be consistent. We will live with the stupid-seeming A.l. if it means that we’re adhering to the rules of the game.”

“We’d rather be in a place where the game is fun and interesting to experiment with, and also sometimes the A.l. will feel a little bit stupid,” Engström says. "We are lenient in that way, and we don’t want it to be hard.

We can make some puzzles hard, and that’s part of the puzzle element, but that’s specifically designed to be that way. But the systems, they need to be wide and lenient enough for our players to experiment and have a good time figuring out the puzzle elements. You can make the A.l. look very stupid in some situations, and we say that’s fine. When people put it on YouTube and laugh, we will laugh, too."

I won’t spoil the rest of the mission, but, surprise, Grey’s plan is ultimately a success. Along the way, I get a few tantalizing glimpses into some other potential scenarios, including one that involves a lockdown drill, thanks to a loose-lipped guard freely giving away the location of keycards and the passcode. My favorite, however, has to do with a disgruntled employee and an exploding golf ball. That may not have the elegance or sophistication of giving the partners a speech before killing them off in a hacked room, but it does sound like fun. And that balance between the absurd and grim is a fundamental part of the Hitman experience.

“l think the deadpan humor leaves so much room for the player,” Swartout Large says. “Sometimes Hitman is, at its best, peak role-playing. That deadpan [tone] allows you to sort of put whatever flavor or spin or mood you’re feeling in that moment.”

Before he got involved in the Hitman series, Engström says he thought Agent 47 's stoicism made him a little boring. But he’s grown to love him, particularly how willing the assassin is to take a mission to its end, no matter how absurd it may be — even if that means dressing up in a mascot costume. “l think he has a way to play things super serious and he doesn’t really care if he’s a flamingo,” he says. “And he’s dressed up as a flamingo and he’s going for a kill and it’s pretty hilarious, but he doesn’t really realize it himself. He’s just playing it straight. There’s some sort of irony in not seeing the fun in that himself.”

WHERE DOES HITMAN DRAW THE LINE?

Death is an inescapable part of the Hitman franchise; even though your targets are almost always irredeemable monsters, you’re still killing them. The series has given players creative ways to complete their missions over the years, sometimes comically (dropping a moose statue onto a target during a TV interview), sometimes disturbingly (drowning a man in a hot tub). Walking that tonal razor wire is challenging, particularly in a game that offers players so much freedom. That had me asking the question: Where does the team draw the line when it comes to violence in Hitman?

“l think we’re careful,” says game director Mattias Engström. "We do find ourselves in situations where we say no to stuff. Maybe it’s too creepy or not aspirational enough. It’s still a pretty brutal game, of course, so not to be hypocritical, but I think there are some things we stay away from. I think when it becomes too creepy or sexually predatory, that’s what we want to get away from.’

“An example of that is Alma Reynard from the New Zealand level in Hitman 2,” says executive producer Forest Swartout Large.
“We had to recast and rerecord her, because the original take was too young-sounding. We fixed that with a more mature-sounding actor, and we changed her outfit as well. We just weren’t comfortable with the previous version.
…We do celebrate player freedom, and we are offering a large and deep toolbox to the players, but we’re the ones creating the tone and the environments in which the players are executing sometimes very brutal kills. We’re creating and curating that toolbox, and it is a big responsibility.”

HITMAN VR

PlayStation owners who pick up Hitman 3 will be able to play through the missions in VR at no additional charge. You have to pick up the legacy packs to play through earlier missions that way, but all of the World of Assassination trilogy is going to be available for PlayStation VR.

The team says it was curious to see how shifting Hitman’s traditional third-person perspective into a first-person VR experience would work. Would the sandboxes translate well? Would the visuals hold up to that level of viewer scrutiny? Was the sound good enough to provide players with needed context?

“And what we found was, ‘Oh my god, this game, we actually made it for VR without knowing it!’” says lead game designer Sidsel Marie Hermansen.

Any questions about the game’s visual fidelity holding up when zoomed in via a first-person view were tossed out the window early on. Senior game designer Eskil Mohl gives an example that centers around an in-game USB stick. “It’s an intel item, something you pick up and you just go, ‘Bloop!’” In the normal version of the game, it’s only a few pixels on the screen, and it’s obscured by the Ul. In VR, he says you can look at it closely and see that it was originally modeled with a little light on it and a detailer wrapper. “It almost had fingerprints on it,” he says. Similarly, the team discovered that weapons that were never designed for first-person combat were modeled with details like functional holo sights — details that would have otherwise been unnoticed.

VR lets players become more attuned to the action, which can lead to humorous situations like having a virtual makeup artist dab brushes around your face while you’re taking on the role of model Helmut Kruger in Hitman 2016’s Paris level. It’s also easy to see how the game’s violence can take on a more intimate feeling in virtual reality. That wasn’t something that was lost on the team, either.

“In that way, it actually feels more personal, the stuff you do,” Hermansen says. “If you f— up, if you have to murder some innocent civilian, then for me, personally, I feel pretty bad. I’m not going to do that again. Like, next time I’m going to do better, because it’s on me to be a good assassin.”

In addition to the metaphorical changes in perspective that VR may provide, the team is particularly excited about giving players a chance to experience levels in completely new ways. For example, the cover system has been reworked. You don’t lock into a cover mode now. Instead, VR players can stay out of sight by physically crouching, and moving Agent 47’s hands up to see if anyone can spot him. And players now have free-form movement with many of the game’s weapons, which sounds like a liberating alternative to the original design’s approach of using scripted animations for many of those attacks.

Hermansen says that what started off as a small experiment has turned into a passion project within the team, which numbers around a dozen or so core members. “That excitement has really driven us, and we’ve done much more than should be possible on a relatively small team because of the excitement,” she says. “l don’t know if that was surprising, but it’s been a beautiful thing.”

DEATH IN THE FAMILY
DARTMOOR, ENGLAND

Originally, all three Providence partners were gathered at the Sceptre for its opening ceremony. It was an irresistible opportunity, even if Grey and Agent 47 were only able to dispatch two-thirds of the trio. The final member, Alexa Carlisle, realized that some- thing foul was happening, and she fled to her family estate in England. Thornbridge Manor may be secluded, but she’s about to learn that it’s already been compromised from the inside.

The Carlisles have assembled to mourn Alexa, who is still very much alive. She’s faked her own death, giving herself time to shore up Providence, which is now quite clearly a house of cards. Its former second-in-command, Arthur Edwards (aka “the Constant”), has been working behind the scenes to consolidate both that organization and the International Contract Agency that Agent 47 and his handler Diana Burnwood work within. It’s a complicated situation made only further so by the revelation that, while Alexa is alive, there’s still going to be a funeral at Thornbridge: Alexa’s brother, Zachary, is dead. She suspects foul play, leading to one of the Hitman series’ most fascinating missions yet. Don your tweediest coat and get your notebook ready - there’s a mystery afoot!

Agent 47 arrives on the scene via motorcycle, which he discreetly parks away from the manor’s main gate. It’s a gorgeous sight, even though the weather is about as English as it gets. The skies are cloudy and gray, and a layer of fog clings to the surrounding moors. It all frames the manor itself, which is an imposing structure in the distance.

I slowly walk over to the main gate, staying out of the guards’ sights the best I can. They’ve got their hands full at the moment. A man introduces himself as Phineas Witmer, a private investigator from London. The guards call the house to confirm his story that he’s been summoned by Alexa herself. Once satisfied, they open the gate and let him in.

I follow along through some bushes, luring him closer by throwing a few coins his way. “A lot of our NPCs, they’re poor,” Engström jokes. Sure enough, Witmer leans over to pick up the prize and exclaims, “Killer!” at his good fortune. If only he knew. A well-placed punch later, and I’m back on the road in his clothes, with nobody the wiser. I’m welcomed by a member Of the staff, and she says that things are very tense right now, as evi- denced by the fact that people are being frisked by security before they’re allowed inside. Fortunately, I didn’t bring any firearms or prohibited items along with me during the mission’s planning stage.

And with that, I’m led into the manor’s large foyer. Moments later, I’m in the unusual situation Of interacting with my target face-to-face only a few minutes after starting the mission. I could snap her neck right then and there, but that seems a little gauche, not to mention unnecessarily risky. Instead,

I decide to hear her out and see why I (in my Whitmer disguise) was summoned.

She tells me that she needs a situation handled. Her brother has been killed, and she wants me to investigate the crime scene. His death has been presented as a suicide, but something about it doesn’t ring true. “In my experience, a thorough examination Of a potential crime scene is half the job done,” Agent 47 replies. She’s a busy person, So she leaves me to Fernsby, the manor’s butler, for further instruction.

“The wish to do a murder-mystery level has been strong and long-going at IOI, but always been daunting,” Engström says. “How do we pull it Off? Is it going to be a new killer every time, or do we want to go all-in on one story? It’s all these things. And how do we tie it into the gameplay? It’s not really core for Hitman, but at the same time it really, really fits a Hitman game. We talked a lot about this. Should we do it? Should we not? And then it was like, 'F— it. Let’s go for it, because it will be awesome.”’

“Hitman 3, we definitely had the core fans in mind,” Swartout Large adds. “This is closure for the fans. But selfishly, it’s also for us, too. We saw this as an opportunity. All those things in the backlog, all those things that we dreamed about and talked about at the bar on Fridays — all the things that we wanted and previously have been too afraid to do or there wasn’t enough time, we just said, 'Let’s do it.”’

Fernsby restates the importance for discretion for this investigation, saying that there would be consequences if word got out that Alexa Carlisle is still alive. “I’ll consider her dead when I leave,” Agent 47 responds. He leads me to the crime scene, and I’m able to soak in the manor along the way. It’s not a bright space, but it’s cozy nonetheless. Dark wood and brass dominate the décor, and family portraits and other works of art line the walls. Ornate carpets muffle footsteps in the halls, and you can practically smell the pipe tobacco through the screen.

I ask if, because the artists on the Hitman games are working on half a dozen or so environments in each entry rather than a fully open world, they have more time to hone their craft while working on smaller, more intricate levels. Swartout Large says “No,” professing a teasing admiration to their incredible attention to detail. “They’re just really, really good,” she says. “They’re so skilled and so fast, and they are brave.
They just plow in — and it’s really annoying, actually, because they’re always finding ways to make it better and better and better, to the point where I have to say, ‘It’s good, it’s very shippable — I thought it was shippable four months ago.’ [laughs] But it’s part of the craft, the passion for quality.” She says that one of her biggest Challenges has been getting artists and other developers to peel themselves away from whatever it is they’re working on at the moment.

I bring what I hope is a fraction of that attention to detail when I enter Zachary’s room. Alexa’s younger brother is dead in his bed. His room was locked from the inside. I walk around a bit, looking for clues. I find his purported suicide note, which Diana tells me on my earpiece will be handy for comparing to other handwriting samples to rule out other suspects. A nearby laptop shows that he was shopping for rainboots the night he died, which is a little odd. And then there’s his body. I scan it with my camera and see the markings on his throat. Agent 47 recognizes the cause of death as poisoning by a plant-based toxin — probably ingested via the whisky on his nightstand. Agent 47, who knows a thing or two about poisoning, places the time of death at around 10 p.m. the previous night.

I look at the room with Agent 47’s instinct vision, and I see a highlighted book on a shelf. Pulling it reveals a secret room. Inside, there’s a blueprint of the manor with secret passageways, which explains how the culprit may have been able to leave the door locked from the inside. And with that, it seems as though I’ve seen everything there is to see for now. I talk to Fernsby, and he helpfully adds a list of family members to talk to. According to him, the staff hadn’t arrived before Zachary’s death, leaving the members of the Carlisle clan as the only possible suspects. Well, them and Fernsby, but who could possibly think the butler had anything to do with this?

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CRACKING THE CASE

Now that I’m fully briefed on the situation, I’m able to fully explore the manor and its surrounding grounds. There are two notable exceptions: Alexa’s office is off limits, and so is a small room for the security detail — but everything else is a go. It’s a strangely liberating feeling for a Hitman game, walking around freely without having to worry about being detected. It takes me a while to get over the urge to crouch around every guard I see.

“If we wanted to do this properly, we really needed to lean into this murder mystery and let that disguise allow you to pretty much go anywhere,” Engström says. “And that’s fine. I don’t think a Hitman game needs to be hard or a level needs to be hard in order to be fun. That’s not needed, and I think we prove that quite well in England.”

Indeed, solving the mystery isn’t challenging per se, but it’s incredibly rewarding and interesting. I find members of the Carlisle family throughout the manor, and I interact with them to learn what they thought of Zachary, what they were up to the previous night, and if they’d heard or seen anything unusual. As these questionings are completed, the findings are summarized in my intel log. And as I gather clues or evidence that rules someone out or corroborates another person’s alibi, that information is added, too.

The team ultimately decided on having one definitive culprit behind Zachary’s poisoning, but the mystery is designed to reward perceptive players with additional information and context, even if they know the murderer’s identity. “There’s replayability, because you need to play it many times to really understand how everything connects,” Engström says.

“The main writer on this mission, Christel Cecilie Graabæk, had this large corkboard with hundreds of tiny little Post-its connected by strings and pins, and it was just amazing to see this corkboard evolve over the course of the year,” Swartout Large says. “It’s not just the scripting. It’s the writing and the art and the sound. I wish we’d done a time-lapse or the making-of, because it was quite spectacular to watch it from the side.”

I played through the scenario several times, and I discovered some new secret or interesting facet to the case each time.

For example, Edward Carlisle is a bit of a neurotic who’s busy writing the eulogy for his mother’s funeral and bracing himself for the inevitable critique that she’ll provide afterward. Most of the time, I’d catch him as he was preparing the speech. Once, however, I saw him standing by a window, where he left a phone message to someone I can only presume was either his therapist or mistress. Either way, I felt a little sorry for whoever was on the other end of that call.

If you stick around, you can watch the young Playboy Patrick Carlisle talk up one of the servants, saying she could be a model and that he has connections in that world if she is interested. Or, you can spy on people you just questioned and listen to them talk about your presence. Some of this is just background info to flesh out the cast, while other bits provide leads or things to pursue on your mission to solve the crime.

When you have enough evidence, you can present it to Alexa. Once again, I won’t spoil the outcome, because it’s pretty great. In addition to calling out the correct culprit, it’s possible to get evidence that leads in another, incorrect direction. Or you could purposefully gather all of the evidence and make a convincing frame job, if you want to sow chaos. Ultimately, play your cards right and you can get the case file on Arthur Edwards, take care of (ahem) business, and stroll right out of the place.

This being a Hitman game and all, this murder mystery is just one of the ways you can take out your target. I wandered into another structured narrative loop that involved posing as a photographer and taking a group shot of the Carlisles. It culminates in one of the funniest moments in the series, which is the closest I’ve seen it come to pure slapstick. Before that moment happened, Alexa told the family She had to share some information with the group after the portrait session — giving players who want to squeeze every drop of story from the game yet another reason to come back for more.

And yes, members of the team are aware of Knives Out, Rian Johnson’s 2019 murder mystery. “l think a bunch of us went to see Knives Out,” Engström says. "Awesome movie, by the way. But [Dartmoor] was not because of the movie, because we worked on it for some time before it came out. But I think there’s a baseball in there, which is a small reference to that movie that you can find somewhere. "

JAMES BOND?

We are clearly excited about Hitman 3, but IO Interactive recently announced a completely different new project: an all-new James Bond 007 game. We asked IOI’s CEO, Hakan Abrak, what he could share about this upcoming title.

“Not much,” he says, laughing. “l think we’ll wait for that. It’s so fresh. We’ll wait talking specifically about that until a bit later, But I can say that Hitman means so much to us. Hitman and IO Interactive are very, very closely knit, obviously. But I think, moving forward, IOI should not necessarily be mentioned as ‘The Hitman studio IO Interactive,’ but first and foremost, people should think about IO Interactive as IO Interactive first, creators of different IPs and a place of creativity where Hitman is definitely one of our children, but there are going to be more children in the future. And one of them is 007. Without being too specific, I can only say that we are extremely excited about this. It’s a great opportunity, and I think we’re working on something very special.”

MISSION 3
BERLIN, GERMANY

Hitman 3’s third mission is where the trilogy begins to roll toward its inexorable conclusion, and as such I don’t want to give too much away.
IOI is understandably cautious about spoilers, and after seeing where the story appears to be heading, I completely understand.

With that in mind, I won’t go into why you’re in Germany. I won’t even tell you anything about the targets. This is the culmination of years of Hitman storytelling and lore-building since the 2016 game (and far beyond, actually), and it’s something that is, without question, best experienced first-hand.

That all said, I need to talk about Berlin — or as much as I’m able to right now. Emerging from a wooded area, I see the telltale cooling towers of a nuclear power plant. It’s a place that generates large amounts of energy, though as I get even closer, I see it’s not relying on fission. The site has been repurposed, and getting inside isn’t going to be easy. Even if I was on the guest list, there’s a line that winds its way several hundred feet beyond the entrance.

On the side of the building, I hear a man talking on the phone about how his bike had been moved, along with his stash of “allergy” medication that he needs for his “allergies.” That’s a possible way inside, as is a doorway that is locked from the other side. Hitman 3 is taking one small cue from the Souls-like games: Players can make their lives easier in future playthroughs by accessing doors and alternate paths to create shortcuts.

“Some doors in Hitman 3, you cannot open them no matter what from one direction, but then when you open them they stay open forever,” Engström says."That’s sort of a tactile, more hands-on way to master a mission. I opened a door, I did something in a mission. We wanted to give players a more tactile feeling. "

For now, I’ll have to be content with jumping a fence and sneaking around, and I’m able to appreciate the location’s size. It’s truly a massive area, and it feels like the culmination of everything the team has built with its Hitman trilogy.

“The first time I played it in its content-complete state, I cried with happiness. It was game development at its best," Swartout Large says.

END OF AN ERA

Hitman 3 naturally concludes the World of Assassination trilogy that IO Interactive began in 2016. It’s been a long journey for the series, as well as for the people who have worked on it over the years. Over the course of conversations with some of the people behind it, it’s obvious how important the franchise is to the team and to IOI more broadly speaking. And saying goodbye — at least for now — appears to be a bittersweet experience.

Christian Elverdam, IOI’s co-owner and chief creative officer, worked on Hitman: Absolution and directed Hitman 2016. He recalls having conversations with lead writer Michael Vogt several years before the trilogy launched about the story they were hoping to tell. “We didn’t plan exactly how it would go — that’s not how creativity works,”

Elverdam says. “But if you look back at the notes we have scribbled down from then, they are very much true today. In that sense, it feels like it ended exactly how we wanted, not exactly how we would have predicted. That feels extremely, extremely good.”

Looking back, Elverdam says the studio faced its share of skepticism over the first entry’s episodic model, with some players wondering if it was all a big scam. The idea of a largely single-player project that builds on itself over several installments remains an unusual concept today. Other experimental concepts, such as elusive targets that were only available for a certain period of time — with players only getting one attempt to succeed or fail at eliminating — further cemented IOI’s willingness to take chances and push the form. And now, we’ re reaching the end of the journey.

“It’s a real honor,” says Swartout Large.

“It’s a real privilege to be a part of this closure together with the rest of the studio and the team. Part of that hand-crafted nature means that people leave their mark. When I’m playing something or when I’m watching Mattias [Engström] play something, I can just tell who did that. I can tell which artist did that, I can tell which sound designer did that, I can tell which level designer was a part of that just from the pacing or the feel or the tone. I think for me, the nostalgia is not so much about the game being done, because it will live and it will be live and people will play it. It’s more about the privilege of getting to make the third iteration with this group of extremely talented, really excellent people who just care so much about their work. It’s been an incredible journey.”

“l think we will miss it, for sure,” Engström adds. "l think it’s going to be something we talk about for years to come. How awesome it was. Even though we’re going to work on awesome stuff in the future, it’s going to be so much fun to talk about all the things we did and didn’t do and what went wrong and what went right. When I explain to someone what the game’s about, you need to talk about it a bit. […] It’s a snowflake, a pretty unique game, I have to say.”

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This forum redesign was all an elaborate ploy for Cake to be the creator of all the most popular topics on the forum!

Anyway, thanks to the poster of the article, we all know most of us were never gonna buy that magazine. I’m a little worried about spoiling too many things by reading it though, I just want to know new gameplay features and nothing else :thinking:

[Ruddy’s back with an underscore, baby!]

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hehehe :smiling_imp:

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i think it’s worth copying to here the PS Magazine article about H3 back in July


Setting up a hit-trick

Mattias Engström tells Oscar Taylor-Kent about bringing the world of assassination to PlayStation 5 with Hitman 3

Towering above us, the grandiose Dubai skyscraper isn’t just our introduction to Hitman 3, it will be yours too as it’s the opening level. And if your first thought was the same as ours, creative director Mattias Engström is happy to confirm you’ll be able to push someone off the top of it “[The level] was built intentionally to introduce you to some of our new features for the first time”, he shares.

Offering six dense levels at launch, all packed with possible methods of assassinating your targets, Hitman 3 is coming to both PS4 and PS5, and plays host to all previous stages from the trilogy as an assassination hub.

“Hitman is in our blood at IO, so there is never any shortage of ideas” says Engström when we ask whether it was a challenge ensuring these new levels feel fresh next to the older ones. “Because of the creative nature of the game you can’t help but think up new ideas for 47 all the time - so in terms of ideas for content we have plenty.” (We know what he means. After our own binge sessionsx we often can’t help imagining hypothetical Hitman levels.)

Engström elaborates: “The challenge is picking the right ideas that fit the overall vision, the story, and the systems at play in a Hitman game. At the same time, we wanted the game to feel fresh and offer something different both finally and gameplay-wise. All these moving parts need to work in synergy with each other, and it can take quite a few iterations on every location before we got gold.” So far, each Hitman game has felt more ambitious that the last, both in terms of environment designs and the way you have to interact with those places to pull off your social stealth, puzzling you way to creative kills.

Box of Gadgets

While the game will be cross-generational, PS5 has opened some new doors to the team the console’s proprietary SSD has been of particular interest as it’s not uncommon to have multiple quicksaves as you play through a level, either to enable you to play around with different approaches, or to revisit the maps at specific moments to rack up multiple permutations of a kill. “Hitman is a game about experimentation. We invite the player into a sandbox, and we let them experiment the way they want,” Engström says. “Therefore we see the save/load as an important feature to encourage just that. The blitz-fast load times we are seeing on the PS5 makes it the perfect home for the Hitman trilogy, encouraging experimentation more than ever.”

The World Of Assassination storyline wraps up in Hitman 3, closing out the trilogy. All three titles have been powered by IO’s Glacier engine. “Hitman 3 is going to mark yet another big leap forward for our technology, driven and inspired by the capabilities of the PS5,” says Engström. Not only does it make use of the SSD, but the power of the console allows there to be more going on, better resolution and framerate. “[It’s an] extraordinarily complex game that has multiple systems running at the same time that support each other, so having more power to play with gives us more options and lets us do significantly more,” he says. Given how busy some Hitman maps can be, we can’t wait to see what can be achieved with more power.

Executable Files

As with the last game, improvements for Hitman 3 will be reflected in the levels brought over from the first two games. “One great example of how new items in Hitman 3 can be used across all three games is our new camera,” Engström tells us. “You can take it with you back to the locations from Hitman 1 and 2 - but it will have some really unique and cool functions that are only possible in Hitman 3 locations.”

Technical improvements are being made too. “We’ve been very careful about choosing our locations for Hitman 3 to take you on a journey and for them to line up thematically with where you are in the story at the time that you encounter them,” says Engström. “I am staying completely away from spoilers, but we’ve got some locations that are going to be extremely memorable and a big part of that is thanks to our environment and lighting artists.”
“Specifically, screenspace reflections are truly pushed to its limits in Hitman 3. These improvements will be added across the tirlogy,” says Engström. “The other day Dag, one of our tech artists, showed me some before and after shots on the Paris fashion show and the differrence in quality was mind-blowing to me.” You’ll have more than enough reason to replay your favourite levels.

Violent Vacations

The game’s reveal trailer shows a dark forest illuminated by searchers’ flashlights, a pulsating nightclub, a rain-soaked, neon-lit side-street in what looks like Hong Kong, and an english-looking country house - could that last one be a throwback to Hitman: Contracts’ Beldingford Manor perhaps ? Engström teases us: “There are some locations in Hitman 3 that definitely feel like an ‘homage’ to some much-loved locations of the past.” But we should stress that so far only Dubai has actually been confirmed as a playable location. Still, we can’t help our minds buzzing with possibilities. Thats’s the joy of Hitman, after all.

“I’ve lost count of how many times we have championed ‘freedom of approach’,” Engström says. “It is a core part of the game and our Mission Stories are a huge part of that. They started out as a way to make sure players knew about some of the cool, unique and creative ways that you could complete a mission - but just being able to turn them off entirely is equally important for players that want the challenge.” These Mission stories essentially guide you through a few unique set-piece-style kills for each level, showcasing how they work, and easing you into thinking about how to accomplish the game’s challenges and make dramatic kills of your own. Killing is never as creative as it is in Hitman.

Because of that creativity, levels are massively replayable. It’s no exaggeration to say you could easily spend as much time on one Hitman map as your might in the whole of some other games. We ask Engström what things the devs have to consider when designing for that much replayability. “Everything. That’s the very short and probably unhelpful answer, but still a truthful one,” he says. “Replayability is something that we consider from the very conception of a level and needs to stay strong thoughout the development process. We can’t compromise on it and it flows through all elements of the design. it’s impossible to pick out anything specific because it’s like a house of cards. If one part of the design feels weaker than the others, the whole thing will collapse and won’t be fun to replay.”

Future Crimes

We can’t resist asking what comes next. “We’re really happy to have Hitman be known for releasing new content after launch,” says Engström. Elusive targets and escalation contracts will be included to add some extra replay, though the team aren’t ready to talk about post-launch DLC or multiplayer modes yet. A lot of features are the result of listening to the game’s passionate fans, and thanks to the team self-publishing Hitman 3 this is only set to grow. “We have alwasy had a close relationship with our players for as long as I can remember,” says Engström. “I know that contracts mode [allowing players to create challenges for one another] was introduced into Absolution because of what players were doing in Blood Money in 2006.”
There’s still plenty more to learn as we draw closer to the January 2021 release, but from what we already know - that we’re getting new and highly replayable maps, plus revamped maps from the previous two games (and progress from Hitman 2) coming to PS5 - we can see it’s already shaping up to be a mainstay on the console. In short, it’s a certain hit.

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New Game Informer feature:

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Nice

Dartmoor sounds more like a 15 mastery level than a 20, but maybe it’s “bigger” than expected (not so much in size as in content)

all maps will have 20 mastery levels

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hyped for the immersive sim elements; i like this kind of stuff

Just commenting to say I didn’t realize this. Hoping this means that each level will be at least comparable to the better outings in HITMAN 1 and 2. Still haven’t seen anything that would elude to Miami or Mumbai scoped maps.
BTW, in IOI’s defense when I talked about them downsizing in the middle of HITMAN 2 and I’m not sure about the 3rd installment being better… Someone made known that they have up-sized since then and have even opened a new studio.
We just gotta wait and see! :crossed_fingers:

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Rapid-fire questions with Hitman 3 Game Director, Mattias Engström.

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I love the article’s visual design. If the UI resembled something like that it’d be amazing I think.

I have now reached the point of insane daily hype for hitman 3, where I’m constantly checking the announcements thread and marking days off of my calendar. I had gotten a little burn out with the series early this year and haven’t played it since, so the hype train was a little late this time. But it is in full force now and I can not wait for January 20th!

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well… i think you should take a break from hype for the rest of this week :grin: things will start back up next week, after the holidays

Yeah i can barely tell.

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Wait a minute, about the new camera system, isn’t 47 have one before. I mean how Diana always know when a target is eleminated and announcing opportunities? Don’t tell me she’s actually a psychic.

That’s a mystery in the game, which never be solved.

I always imagined that Diana heared the deaths through a tiny ear plug / microphone on 47 clothes… but that’s true sometimes she comments about things you can’t hear only view/ watch.

I also thought always about a ICA thermal satellite or something like this… but then there would be to many thermal sources like lights, other persons aswell.

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A new vending machine texture has appeared.

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