Interview with Forest Swartout Large and Travis Barbour

IO Interactive set Hitman 3 sights on a killer final act

ALL good things must come to an end, and Hitman 3 marks the final chapter for the classy assassin trilogy.
But before Agent 47 runs out of bullets, we were lucky enough to grab a chat with the game’s executive producer, Forest Swartout Large, and Travis Barbour, communications manager at IO Interactive, about what is in store.

Agent 47 is back to finish business and the world of assassination trilogy

Travis said: You can expect a dramatic conclusion. It is three games that mean a whole lot to us as a team and to our players. It will, hopefully, be the pinnacle of what a Hitman sandbox title can be.”

Forest was even more succinct. He added: “I will just add three words ‘intimacy, darkness and hope’.”

The team has put a lot of work into the tale this time round. They have gone for a real impact on players by adopting an even darker tone.

Forest laughed and said: “We can take things to a whole level of dark in the series. We are talking sobbing levels of dark. As a tone from sinister to sad and even lonely - there are so many versions of that feeling and we really have tried to explore them all in the story.”

Travis added: “A good comparison is to look at the trilogy as a whole - the first game was quite professional in a way. In a lot of ways it was a return to form for the series and very formal and polished.

“Hitman 2 took the more fun elements and went a lot more closer to the silly and playful nature of the series - with the slapping people with fish and suitcases that go in slow-mo when you throw them. We really embraced the unusual aspects of the game and it was a real juxtaposition as you try to kill someone while dressed as a pink flamingo with a huge sea bass.

Forest Swartout Large is the Executive Producer on Hitman 3

“It was all a bit bizarre to be fair. The tone in Hitman 3 curbs that quite a lot. That’s not to say you can’t find those moments of humour but, generally speaking, the game is more a reflection on what you are doing as well as what you have done and the reaching the end of the story and 47’s journey.

“The game offers and feels like it’s going along that journey as well. It is considerate of where we are as a dev team finishing the story, as well as the players finishing the trilogy.

“How everything will be wrapped up makes for some really interesting moments, diving into the psychosis of 47, how he operates and things like that.”

They admitted that the whole journey had been well planned - with this end game in sight. Forest said: “We knew when we started the series would be a trilogy but we didn’t know how the story would end in Hitman 3 but we wanted to hit set notes along the way.

Agent 47 look to be heading to some new and very interesting locations

“I would say in the first half of development we were simultaneously working on the game and the story. That was challenging as we wanted to merge the story into the missions and locations, as well as the emotional journey the player is on.

“I would say about 30 maybe 40 per cent into the series development we knew how we wanted to finish it.”

Travis added: “We wanted to put the story into the game a little bit more. One of the things we really focused on in Hitman 3 is that the first time you play through a mission or location, it will be filled with more hand-crafted moments than you might expect.

Travis Barbour is the Communications Manager on Hitman 3

“That’s for a few different reasons. We have put some of the core story moments as part of your gameplay, but you still have the freedom to pick and choose so if you want to throw people out a window, you still can.

“But you are a little bit more exposed to the story beats we really want to tell you as you go along – although, crucially, it’s only on the first time. There’s a real focus on that one-time play-through of making you see the story beats, as well as making sure they make sense to you.

“It’s done in a gentle way, where we are not having to put cut scenes in the middle of missions, and it makes sense in terms of the gameplay. Then after that first run it becomes a completely free roam.

Hitman 3 looks to be a much more story focused affair

“One really good example is in the first mission in Dubai. You start outside the mission area where you are trying to get into the building. That’s where we’ll bleed in story beats from dialogue from other characters. Then you enter the building and it opens up to the Hitman level you know.

“You know what you’re doing and why you are there, but you have also been given a few story details then you do what you want to do in the mission and we pick it up again at the end with a little bit more detail.”

Agent 47 is back for more murderous antics

Agent 47 is no stranger to globetrotting and he gets some decent trips this time as well. Travis said: “We have already shown the first two locations as well as announcing 47 is heading to Berlin in Germany and he’ll be going to China – so that’s the first four.

“We have another two locations which haven’t been announced just yet. There is a really nice variety and mix in the first two - going from a skyscraper at the top of the world in Dubai to an English mansion in Dartmoor which is a bit wet, grey and gloomy.

Dubai is one of the locations featured in Hitman 3

“The gameplay also evolves from location to location, as Dartmoor is an old building there isn’t as many high cameras or kit to look out for. It’s fun seeing players spot that because the game doesn’t tell you.”

Forest added: “We try to twist the gameplay for every mission to offer a new element to enjoy. I am sure that, in making the Dartmoor mission, we were inspired by the Mumbai mission from Hitman 2 in the choosing-your-own-adventure side of things. It’s a murder mystery with different outcomes and a number of ways to complete it.

“I wouldn’t say that we take one idea and build it up over a number of missions, instead we look at what fresh take can we have with a location or environment and what sort of target is there. That’s what we aim for to surprise the players.”

The game is also making the jump to PSVR because the team love the virtual reality experience. Forest said: “It all came about because of passion in the studio especially Eskil Mohl and Sidsel Marie Hermansen, who are both designers and have been going wild for the VR side of things and hyping it up.

“We started working with Sony and VR has been extraordinary. Every square centimetre of the game and interaction as well as all the technical systems had to be revisited for VR.

“And it’s also not just Hitman 3, it was also Hitman and Hitman 2. I have been blown away with the final version of the game in VR.”

Stunning graphics will help showcase the power of next-gen gaming systems

In another new twist, the game is heading to the Switch later in the year thanks to the new Cloud systems. Forest admitted: “The Switch was sort of a later opportunity that came to us and we took it as an independent developer. We are working on it just now and hope to release it soon.”

Travis added: “We have played Control which uses the same Cloud system and it’s really cool and we have had the game running on the Switch. One of the programmers was playing the game on his Switch while filming it on his phone cam.

“It’s actually pretty amazing seeing it run on the console, thanks to the power of the Cloud. It would not be impossible to run the game running on Switch without it, but it would be a massive technical challenge and would likely water down some parts of the game.

“With the Cloud it plays how you would expect a Hitman game to play on any of the other consoles. I’m sure Switch players will really enjoy it.”

Like most game firms, the pandemic brought its own challenges. Forest said: “It is with perseverance and stubbornness, a bit of sweat and a lot of luck that we have been able to get there.

“I have been a producer for over 20 years and I have never experienced or witnessed anything like this and I’m sure we will be studying the effect of this pandemic for years to come.

“We had to dig deep then go deeper - it’s been tough. On the development side the people that fared the best were the introverts who were very happy locked down and working away doing their thing. We have experienced and learned a lot.”


Forest Swartout Large. What a name!

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Yes, i still can’t believe someone is named Forest Swartout Large. It looks cool tho, i hoped my name was that cool.

It is likely a English translation from another language such as Chinese