The game is too easy and too predictable for experienced players
I played the freelancer technical test, and after it was over I played some elusive target arcade in the base game today.
I there is something missing when playing hitman after you have played all the maps and found all the different ways to play them. The entire game becomes deterministic. When I open the map on any gamemode to check where the targets are, I know within a second how to get there and how to take it out.
The gameplay then is just spooling through the performance. A series of quicktime events.
The highly deterministic gameplay works for the base game missions as long as you have not completed each map, and that means having played it over and over to find all the ways to play it. And it is a great experience for many hours of gameplay. The game was built for replaying missions and finding new ways and stories. And no other game does it as good as hitman.
However once you are through with it, and know everything, then the challenge is gone. I would even say most of the gameplay is gone.
Because if you are an experienced player and you play a random contract, do you really “think” of how to complete it? Does it feel like an engaging complex web of situations to solve? Or is it just a thing you run through to get an unlock?
Freelancer solves that partially in the syndicate takedown missions which are 4 out of 18 campaign missions. However the remaining 14 missions do not solve it, they are deterministic quicktime events.
If you are an experienced player what makes you feel fear or a sense of tension?
For me it is only:
Syndicate takedown missions (if alarm goes off, more targets flee than I can shoot, possibly ending the campaign)
Lining up a complicated situation to get a challenge completed in the base game. Because screwing it up means you have to redo it.
Failing an elusive target.
However what is never causing me any sense of concern is the amount of guards in an area.
This post is not specific for freelancer, more a suggestion for the game as a whole.
So here is a set of suggestions that could be packaged into a new difficulty setting that would be used for all gamemodes.
Increase weapon damage to realistic levels
This would be a small change in the gameplay code.
Make all pistol shots kill the player in 2-3 shots, and all rifle shots in 1 shot.
And turn off autohealing.
Because currently, the player is an unstoppable terminator that regenerates after using cover for a few seconds. I think there is almost no situation in the game where there are enough guards present to stop a player to get what he wants.
Do a thought experiment (or try it ingame for yourself). Imagine you would get your favorite suit unlock by killing 20 guards in a crowded map in under a minute. Most experienced players would solve that on their first try, with an unsuppressed pistol.
And I think this is the ultimate test to see if a gameplay feature “works”. Give players an irrestible reward they value, and see how quickly they get through the obstacles to it.
Here is a gif to demonstrate it:(I wanted to make this a gif however giphy appears to be overloaded)
What you can see in this first clip:
I pull out my gun in full view of 3 yakuza bodyguards.
Then I wait for the initial reaction (at which I could have started shooting) until they raise their guns and do the prompt to surrender.
Then I fire at the first guy, and the second guy gets one shot off before I get him too, and the 3rd guy (with a submachinegun) does not even fire.
All of this is on master difficulty.
- I throw a wrench at the third guy, grab the first guy and defeat the second guy in hand to hand quicktime before anyone fires a shot.
What this should show is that:
There are almost never enough guards in a given area to stop an experienced player
gunfire or fear of death, and related to that, being spotted is not a concern players have, the only bad consequences would be a failed challenge objective. And a player who does not care for that has no callenging gameplay left in the game.
Freelancer sort of has high weapon damage as a feature, some npcs are assassins, that if they spot you, can take you down in 2-3 hits, and they raise their guns faster and spend less time with warning or “startled” behaviour.
Imagine the possibilities
Imagine all nps with guns, even lone ones would be such a dangerous threat that it could end your mission in 2-3 shots, and with rifles 1 shot.
Imagine running away from a sitution in santa fortuna with guards with rifles and mac10s spraying the area with gunfire. Imagine the tension of one rifle shot ending the mission. The feeling of reward of sneaking past this.
Stealth should not be “too” optional.
I think this would enrich the game. An extreme example is alien isolation, where the alien is an unstoppable monster that you have to get away from. That you have to outsmart, outsneak, avoid. Would Alien Isolation have been a great game if the stealth was not a necessity and just an optional thing? You could still fight the alien with guns and flamethrowers, however it would only scare it away from a short time, and your ammo was limited. And this is how it should be in Hitman. You can still try to use guns to force your way through however the odds would be overwhelming.
The game is supposed to be about a master assassin sneaking into areas where there is an overwhelming force presence of armed guards, and he completes the mission by mostly not being noticed. And combat should be an option, however not a comfortable choice. Currently that risk is not present, experienced players can choose to turn into terminators that should everyone to get out. And I think many players quite often shot their way through certain maps just to get to an unlock faster.
All it would take is a new difficulty setting that increases weapon damage and turns off auto healing. It would not require a new set of achievements or recognition for playing it. It would just be a great and efficient way to reintroduce challenge into the game for players who have seen it all.
Imagine you play the game just for the core gameplay substance. Not for an unlock, or a challenge, or mastery. Just to have an engaging stealth experience as a master assassin trying to sneak into highly guarded areas to take out a target without being seen.
Is there anything to make you feel excited if there is nothing to lose?
Do you really care about getting seen on a camera in Santa Fortuna and 10 guards with automatic rifles come looking for you unless you want to play silent assassin?
Increased weapon damage (as a new difficult setting) would be a highly impactful change with very small development time.