Hitman as a rejection of modern game design


#1

Just read this on reddit by user dlibutti and thought it was a great read: https://www.reddit.com/r/HiTMAN/comments/aw1ark/hitman_as_a_rejection_of_modern_game_design/

I see a lot of “this game is so good” posts on this sub and instead of being annoyed by them I almost always read them to see what people are saying, and why specifically they like Hitman so much. Often, it seems people are really excited about the humor, or the story, or the artistry of the world and characters, and while I like these things about Hitman, I’ve recently realized that what makes the series so good, to me, is that it’s basically the antithesis of most modern videogames.

Videogamedunkey actually just posted a great video about how most modern AAA games are basically the same: explore an open world, level up, craft weapons/armor, get new skills, fight stronger enemies, repeat. It’s fucking boring. In the last few years I’ve noticed that I no longer care to play games designed around leveling up, and I think that’s why I have been playing the hell out of the most recent Hitman titles.

What I mean is: a player starting Hitman has effectively the exact same in-game abilities as the most seasoned player. You don’t level up to gain new abilities. You don’t gain increased HP or more armor. You don’t really get any game-changing weapons or tools apart from, perhaps, silenced weapon variants. And yet there’s a huge difference between a new player and a veteran.

More interesting is that you don’t even really get “good” at Hitman by playing it. You just get smarter. You replay levels and approach the same problem from multiple angles. You learn where items and secret routes are, where characters go, when and how to exploit opportunities. Escalations are brilliant twists on the Hitman formula that actually reinforce the core gameplay mechanics of replaying levels and experimenting, because they often make you REALLY familiar with small portions of each level, so when you go back to that level for a new mission, or to replay an old mission, you remember, “OK there’s that wrench here, and that guard will go that way, and from that room I can hop out the window and…” And now you have a new “tool” in your tool set, not because you bought it from a vendor or progressed up a skill tree, but because you invested the time and attention to learn the game, and to thoroughly explore its world.

In a gaming ecosystem dominated by skill trees, collectibles, level-ups, lookout towers, and all kinds of other gamey bullshit, Hitman gives you all the tools you need up front, and in doing so empowers you as a player, putting you into the shoes of a character who actually feels powerful because he starts the game at max level. He’s not killing rats in a sewer for a sword that will let him kill the gnolls in the field outside. There are no mini-bosses. It’s just you and the targets, and there’s never a question about whether you can beat them, but whether you can do so efficiently and effectively. (And if you want to shoot them in the face in a room full of people, you can do that, too!)

On top of that, what “leveling up” there is in the game isn’t tacked on as just some way to make the gameplay loop more addictive. Like Escalations, mastery levels actually reinforce the core gameplay mechanics of replayability and experimentation: mastery rewards don’t make 47 more powerful, they just open up new options for approaching the game’s many challenges. And by trying these options, just like by playing the Escalations, you’re seeing new parts of a level, and discovering new items and interactions, and in doing so, becoming more powerful as a player, rather than a collection of stats and gear.

And this isn’t to say I don’t also appreciate the more commonly-mentioned aspects of the game, like the small story and character details that I’m still discovering after probably 150+ hours. (Hitman may be the only rival to Dark Souls in terms of how much content was included that the average player will never find.) Or how the levels actually have a real-world logic to them. (Hello, bathrooms! I thought you only existed in Fallout and Silent Hill games!) Or the brilliant way almost everything you need to know is conveyed visually in-game, such that I often play without the minimap and, while I find it more challenging, I don’t find it unfair or even that much harder, because all of the information I need is conveyed via Instinct, enforcer dots, in-game signage, NPC body language, etc. Seriously, if you haven’t tried playing without the minimap I highly recommend you try it, because it is way more cinematic and immersive, and will really make you appreciate how incredibly well-designed this game is.

ANYWAY. This got long. But I wanted to share because, while I’ve seen some great analysis of Hitman’s game design, I haven’t seen anyone recognize it for what I believe it is, and what I think makes it so great: a near-complete rejection of modern game design.

I think the same elements I love about Hitman are also what I loved about games like Celeste, Into the Breach, and Shadow Tactics. Because I don’t want level ups. I don’t want skill trees. I definitely don’t want another fucking foraging/crafting system. I want the information I need to make smart gameplay choices. To develop new strategies. To practice the game’s core mechanics, and actually improve as a player, not just get the best weapon, reach the highest level, beat the game, and never touch it again.

TL;DR: ILY, Hitman.


#2

Games now appeal to 6 year olds who only want battle royales wrhere they exploit the game and waste money on “skins”


#3

Yeah that really does seem like the sad state of so many current games these days… :confused:


#4

You still have to buy DLCs to get suits in Hitman, so I see your point, but not a fair comparison.


#5

In Hitman you’re getting suits as a bonus for buying DLC. A lot of games these days just have you pay for “suits” (ie. purely aesthetic upgrades) without any DLC included. Paying for content and getting some suits is better than just wasting money on suits so it’s not really the same thing.


#6

Never said it was the same thing, just not a fair comparison.


#7

I guess I should have said “so it is a fair comparison” instead of “it’s not really the same thing.”

What do you think makes it an unfair comparison?


#8

You’re still paying money to change the appearance of your character. Also, I know that you get extra stuff with your suits, but you can also buy multiple other things with your ingame currency, in most instances anyway.


#9

Hitman is just a susceptible to the “ills” “plaguing” video-games today. I reject the notion that a commonly repeated element in a genre is a bad thing. It isn’t the trope that’s bad it is how it is used.


#10

I don’t think the person was saying it’s bad, just that they personally are tired of seeing it over and over, and that it is unexpected that a game like Hitman would avoid it and still be popular, but it did.

I think.


#11

My point is that you’re not paying for the suits in Hitman. You’re paying for DLC and the suits are just a bonus. The DLC’s were always actual new level content for the game. Also you still didn’t mention how it’s not a fair comparison…


#12

Well I am not tired of them I guess. I recognise that they serve a function in a game, most of the time it is done well and they are simply proliferated in a genre.

When an overused mechanic is bad I will say it is bad but that reason won’t be “I have seen it before”.


#13

That entire post was how it was an unfair comparison… anyway, I don’t want to start an argument so Im going to sleep.


#14

Most of all I like the humor in this game :smile: Once I got the game mechanics down, I could enjoy its puzzle-like qualities. And still after mastering every level and starting to get into the Classics challenges, it’s always a challenge to play. You have to be attentive and creative each time you play, no room for slack.

Right now I’m really enjoying contracts and also think about creating contracts myself, which I didn’t expect at all then I started (and was just struggling to get through a level :joy:) Very cool and clever way to keep the game interesting and have ever-changing challenges :laughing:


#15

Isn’t it more that a franchise a long way from the gaming zeitgeist is now attempting to align with it to some extent to stay alive?

Hasn’t H2 been ‘dumbed down’ and built to appeal to more casuals than 2016? It seems that way to me, and in doing so has lost a lot of the character which made H1 unique. There are five and a bit decent-to-very good maps on this game, and it still can’t keep people’s attention/game-time like some of the maps on H1. And why would it, when there are other banging games out there across the board from RE2 to Apex?

It’s like there wasn’t enough time to get all of the casual type of content into the initial launch, so we’re left in this funky state where the game won’t appeal to a large, new, and young/casual audience; and on the other side a lot of the players used to 2016 are being pushed away by the new ‘loose’ direction (and during this period we have a bunch of confused patches from the development team, introducing new content and updates without improving mechanics, and with no clear information on where this franchise is heading).

As beautiful as the concept of Hitman is, H2 feels like an awkward teething period compared to the bold product we had at various points in H1.


#16

My bad. Wasn’t trying to argue. I think I just misunderstood.


#17

To be honest, I kind of liked how H1 was released episodically. That way we got to spend an entire month playing one level until we knew it very well and then every following month we’d get another new level. I also think that each time a level was released it gave the developers the ability to see what worked and what didn’t in the previous levels. In comparison to H1, with H2 we got the entire game at once and it feels kind of unfinished and buggy with a lot of waiting for updates to fix things every month without very many big updates or expansion dlc.


#18

If you wanna update on the DLC Cake posted some stuff on one of the location threads. It isn’t anything official mostly data stuff but it is interesting.


#19

@David_Spafford What are your thoughts on this read?


#20

@mrdude42 Thanks for recommending this post to HMF. If it wasn’t for you, I’m not sure if I would’ve read this incredible post about HITMAN and its unique game design.