Three Problems With HITMAN™ 2 And Why They Degrade Player Experience

I have some problems with HITMAN™ 2.

Let me start by saying that I believe this game is one-of-a-kind. HITMAN™ 2 (as well as HITMAN™) has really succeeded in creating a solid, refined, and complete assassination experience. It all started when my friend recommended me to try HITMAN™. I wasn’t really interested in the game that much until I finally decided to try the HITMAN™ 2 Starter Pack. I played Hawke’s Bay once, and I was a goner. HITMAN™ 2 had me hooked, with me now logging 769 hours on Steam and counting. This game gave me a fresh experience no other game had before, and I appreciate this game for it.

However, I’d like to see three things changed:

The Elusive Target system causes more frustration than fun, IO Interactive’s focus on exclusivity degrades the experience of newer players by keeping them from accessing content that they want, and always-online DRM causes hassles and serious problems that could be easily avoided.

Before I begin: IO Interactive did change publishers recently, with Square Enix publishing HITMAN™ and Warner Bros. publishing HITMAN™ 2. Therefore, we can suppose that any features that are present in both games were the result of a decision on IOI’s part. If that is the case, this is good news because the problems that will be discussed shortly can be fixed. They aren’t problems that cannot be worked on due to publisher pressure.

FIRST POINT

On paper, Elusive Targets are a stroke of genius. New targets on existing maps that challenge the player while giving them something fresh to do as they repeatedly play through the main missions. These new targets would appear periodically for a limited amount of time so that players could feel like real assassins. Exciting, right? Yeah! On paper. In practice, however, they’re not nearly as glamorous.

It must be acknowledged that Elusive Targets can be fun at times, in the heat of the moment, and provide a refreshing break from regular HITMAN™ 2 missions, which you’ve redone so many times. However, there are two major problems with Elusive Targets which don’t allow them to be truly great pieces of content.

First, Elusive Targets clash with the fundamental gameplay of the series. You go in, scout out the area, and improvise, eventually finding a way to eliminate your target. Then you play the mission again, this time trying a different method. Then you play the mission again, and so on and so forth. Just take Yuki Yamazaki, for example. You could corner her and shoot her outright with a pistol, or you could lock her inside an overheated sauna, or you could kick her off a cliff while posing as her yoga instructor, or poison her favorite sushi, or loosen the valve of a propane tank so that when she smokes a cigarette, well, you know the story. Main missions in HITMAN™ 2 (and HITMAN™) encourage replay heavily, but Elusive Targets punish it by only giving you one shot. This results in players taking the safest route possible in order to eliminate the target, which restricts creativity. The players that really want to go out of their way to design the most audacious and creative assassinations must rely on inconvenient techniques such as disconnecting from WiFi and Alt+F4 in order to restart Elusive Targets, even after completing objectives. This makes the gameplay of Elusive Targets restricting and stressing for many players. So, yes, one-shot contracts they are and that’s exactly what they’re meant to be: non-replayable targets. The whole point of ETs are to make players feel like real assassins. But by being this way, they go against the fundamental concept of this game: replayability. And that’s the whole issue, because ETs, by definition, don’t allow for any of that.

Second, locking cool cosmetics, and in rare instances, items, behind the condition of succeeding the mission is frustrating. Again, on paper, having Elusive Target rewards sounds genius. It’s a simple and straight-forward way to keep players engaged, should they ever begin to get burned out. However, the problem arises when the Elusive Target rewards, which could very well have been intended to be small and only to encourage players to play ETs, become too desirable. For example, cosmetics, such as location outfits, that are earned by playing ETs can be used on other maps, which makes them valuable to those that want to play with outfits that don’t necessarily blend in with the map. Should such desirable content be withheld from a player because they could not complete a task that is so different from the core Hitman experience?

In conclusion, Elusive Targets give us a fresh challenge that can be fun, at times. This can replicate the feeling of a real assassin, but at the same time, Elusive Targets clash with the core gameplay of HITMAN™ 2 by going against the replayable nature of these two games. To make matters worse, ETs lock desirable rewards behind the condition of succeeding the mission. These rewards cannot be acquired otherwise. They therefore unfairly punish players who can’t get them.

For these reasons, Elusive Targets, at least in their current implementation, produce more frustration than fun. Not to mention the fact that the effort put into them is lost forever in many unused bytes of internal storage. I feel like we could value those contracts more and reduce (possibly even remove) frustration, while making the whole thing fairer.

The following thread, created by my friend Nouche, proposes possible solutions to fix at least some of the frustration surrounding Elusive Targets:

In summary, many ideas were proposed throughout the thread, such as making all Elusive Targets available to play at the end of a season, but with set cooldowns, or having Elusive Targets be replayable, but only if the player completed them successfully the first time (this idea, in particular, was supported by Clemens and Travis, two well-known employees at IO Interactive).

Feel free to give it a read.

SECOND POINT

Being a relatively new player, I can’t speak about pre-HITMAN™ games in the series, but it seems that at least from the release of HITMAN™, IO Interactive has had a focus on exclusivity.

Throughout HITMAN™ 2, there are many exclusive items that can only be acquired through time-limited events. Some of these time-limited events exist to engage the players more. Others, such as exclusive items in HITMAN™ 2 only obtainable by owning or playing something in HITMAN™, provide little rewards for loyal customers. However, no matter what the intention is for this exclusivity, exclusive items slightly degrade the experience of newer players that have only just discovered the Hitman games. These newcomers are locked out of exclusive items and cosmetics, their only crime being the fact that they just happened to come late a party they didn’t previously know existed. For example, new players to the Hitman games can’t ever get any of the ICA Performance Coins, the Aluminum Travel Briefcase, or the explosive pen, simply because they didn’t play a certain event in HITMAN™, didn’t play HITMAN™ prior to the release of HITMAN™ 2, and missed the first Elusive Target in HITMAN™ 2, respectively. Not to mention the Elusive Target rewards we already discussed.

But why should new players care about these items? At the end of the day, it’s all just cosmetic, right? While cosmetics and functionally redundant items (e.g. Aluminum Travel Briefcase) may not matter to some, they aren’t insignificant. Some exclusive cosmetics just look nicer and fit with their environment better. Why wear the pee-colored VIP Patient outfit on Hokkaido when you can wear the sleek modern-looking White Yukata? The White Yukata really fits in with the aesthetics of the state-of-the-art GAMA facility. Cosmetics DO matter, just as if every kid had a super shiny Halloween disguise and you happen to be the only one wearing a carboard box because your parents couldn’t do better. On the other hand, some exclusives are just there for players to have fun with. Why dress like a tourist in Santa Fortuna when you can be Santa 47 on a murderous rampage? Some exclusive items just make things more fun. Why use an ICA Remote Explosive when you can live out your assassin fantasy and blow up your target in style with an explosive pen? Not having access to such items can be a slight detriment to the experience, at times, and sometimes an annoyance. Not to mention that completionists will hardly stand to boot up a game that is filled with locked things they can seemingly never get done/unlock.

In conclusion, even if exclusive items are given as a gesture of good will to loyal customers, they still degrade the experience of newer players by barring them from accessing content that they want. Not to mention the players that knew about the series but didn’t have the time to unlock these exclusive items due to real-life responsibilities or simply couldn’t afford a full-priced AAA at the time.

THIRD POINT

Always-online DRM. This is a feature of HITMAN™ 2 that requires all players to be permanently connected to a server in order to access the full game. Without an internet connection, the game is very barebones with no access to challenges, mastery, or escalation contracts, among other things. We basically only get the raw mission and the mission stories, which are limited on their own. Even the in-game progression system is blocked. All you get is what you had already unlocked. On the one hand, always-online DRM allows HITMAN™ 2 developers to perform live updates (and avoid weekly updates) and collect information that can help them improve the game. However, aside from that, there isn’t much going for the implementation of this DRM in HITMAN™ 2. Furthermore, we even find out that online mode and offline mode saves are completely separate, meaning there’s no way to continue a run from a save or from currently loaded progress if your connection has to go offline. It’s most annoying.

Always-online DRM could make the process of cracking a game slower, but it doesn’t prevent any game from being cracked. There are methods that people use to trick the game into thinking that it’s connected to a server, when it isn’t, and still access the content. So, if the point of this DRM is to stop piracy, it does that job terribly.

Perhaps the reason for this DRM is that IOI is simply trying to employ every single strategy in the book to stave off pirates, as the company goes as far as restricting things like the game’s 3D models or code. In a sense, it’s a good way to protect it, but in practice, it makes HITMAN™ 2 one of those fantastic, yet unfortunately unmoddable, games. It’s disappointing, considering what cool stuff the community could also make, such as fan-made maps. Maybe is that all linked to exclusivity?

In any case, practically the only thing that always-online DRM does for this game is be a nuisance, and it has an impact on player experience.

If a Hitman player travels a lot or lives in an area without reliable internet, they won’t be able to enjoy the game to its fullest, or even close. They’d be missing a gigantic portion of the game’s content, and this is a huge downgrade to the experience. Even for people with reliable and fast internet, there’s still the hassle of waiting for your computer to connect to the HITMAN™ 2 servers when you boot up the game. On top of that, whenever IO Interactive shuts down the servers for maintenance, players need to wait until the maintenance period is over to play the full game again.

What I’m saying may seem trivial, but it’s still a hassle (and a serious problem to some) that doesn’t need to be there. HITMAN™ 2 is a mostly singleplayer game, with multiplayer portions only being a relatively small part of the game. There isn’t much reason for there to be always-online DRM in the singleplayer portions of the game.

All this hassle and these problems could easily be avoided if IOI removed always-online DRM from HITMAN™ 2.

I genuinely have had so much enjoyment out of this game, but if these three problems are fixed, the game could be even better.

3 Likes

H2 definitely isn’t “unmoddable”. it’s just that making tools to be able to mod a game requires a lot more work from the developers.

alright, while i agree with you that HITMAN being online-only sucks, i don’t agree with your analysis of ETs. ETs are not replayable, but that does not mean they violate the core principle of the vanilla game. it is a feature to go alongside it. ETs not being replayable means you get an experience you cannot get in the regular game, with failure not being merely a way to learn the game, but an actual thing you don’t want to happen. it can make for some really tense and unforgettable moments.

i nearly died while trying to get to the exit on the ex-dictator while hotel guards were shooting me. it would not have been nearly as thrilling if it was just a regular contract. i am glad the game is harsh about failure. i died when i first played the entertainer because i killed myself while trying to open a door with a breaching charge. i also failed the appraiser after i got spotted and died in a shootout. these are failed contracts that i have to live with.

another thing is that most of the ET rewards are terribad anyway. “yay, i get the italian suit, except it’s ruined by pointless driving gloves.” and the few ET rewards that are good? well, this sounds harsh, but get over it. why should IOI just hand out all these rewards for free? the only reward i can understand people wanting for free is the signature suit with gloves. it makes no sense that it is not in the game from the beginning. the gloves are a part of his iconic suit, after all. it should be the other way around. the signature suit without gloves should be an ET reward, and the suit with gloves should be the default.

8 Likes
  1. Elusive targets are meant to be one of a kind, singular opportunity, different from the other replayable content of the game. Most of Hitman is replayable content. Elusive targets are designed to novel and spike interest in the game, periodically – where these kills will be advertised on Youtube for increasing the fanbase of Hitman.
  2. There is no expired content in Hitman that provides items that are vital for completion of the game. The mostly reskinned items given out for those that pay early or complete particular content is just a little incentive for players to engage in the game.
  3. Hitman is always online because the game is ported through the Microsoft Azure server. The advantages to IO interactive in being able to track player behavior in real time, and to be able to upload fixes and updates rapidly on the server, more than outweigh the inconvenience.
2 Likes

If you think the ETs reduce creativity, you should really check out the threads on them here, not so much the last one, that guy doesn’t do much and kinda sucked, but some of the earlier ones have crazy creative kill videos. Some people see only having one shot at a Target as a reason to go all out, instead of playing it safe.

Elusive targets should be like, if you choose to accept it, the countdown for 48 hours will begin , no matter when you buy the game, they are just there for you to play as long as you don’t fail or die during the gameplay. What if someone buy HITMAN now? Which means he can never unlock any ET suits. Which sucks.

2 Likes

As someone, who still have neither H2016 nor H2, I can’t agree more

cakeblock941: In a sense, yeah, probably any game is moddable. I think they meant something closer to wondering why the game was made so restrictive compared to others. But of course, there are mods for the game. Too bad there’s just a small nicher niche community around that, while I think it could be really interesting to have modifications.

Niobium: I guess the whole ET rewards dilemma is all very personal. We’re more thinking about the philosophy behind the whole thing. I think gloves can look nice from time to time, especially when using a sniper rifle, and unlocking the location suits for all maps is an interesting feature anyway. My favorite suit of the all the signature suit with gloves, for instance. Too bad it happens to be an ET reward. So yes, I have it, but I feel like doing the ETs was more like dealing with some duty each month. I wasn’t as excited about them as I could get with other things.

1 Like

David_Spafford: So, if I understand, ETs are meant to increase the fan-base. Assuming that’s true (honestly it’s totally possible), it doesn’t prevent us from not wasting that content once gone. We could AT LEAST make the rewards live and the challenges and basically the contract a post-season thing. So if you missed a SA, you can still get it later as well as try some other strategies without any guidance. I’d love to do that for Sean Bean. But the thing you’d have missed by not playing live are rewards. It would be more forgiving considering you don’t need all targets to unlock everything, and completionists could still get their missed SA ratings or simply play around with the contracts afterwards.

For the always-online part, I still don’t see why we would block everything for offline players. Collecting data when you’re online is okay, but don’t make it an inconvenience when you don’t have an Internet connection.

I just realize that it is possible to play undefinitely ET’s with your post. Just have to disconnect PC from internet after the mission is launched…
I was also using “the out technique” with consists to quit brutaly the game when the situation begins to become critical.

What is very frustrating with ET is for people who discover the game and will never have the opportunity to eliminate past ET.
Because ET are not simple targets that you could create through contract.
There is a scenario, motion movement recorded, new characters, and dometimes new ambiance.
It is what I have proposed to IO to SELL a pack of past ET’s for people ready to pay (as me & lot of others) .
Please IOI, sell me the pack, tell me your price and I will buy it…

1 Like

I guess IOI could sell a pack containing all the past ET for H3. That would be an impressive pack. Having them port all the content from Season 1 and 2 along with the content for Season 3, all ET available to play at your leisure… a man can dream.

1 Like

The limited time content is a pretty minor part of the game. I get that it’s not everyone’s bag (it’s not mine either honestly) but it’s a rather insignificant part of the whole package, value wise.

As for the DRM, the game works offline as far as core gameplay goes. The challenges and such are online only for a variety of reasons from incentivizing purchases to keeping them legit. I would assume… or at least hope… that when the game is fully complete, after Hitman 3’s support is ended, they will patch it to work completely offline. Maybe they’ll let you play all the elusive targets then too, who knows. It would certainly be what I would do, to preserve the game for history.

2 Likes

I appreciate the reply.

What I was saying was not that Elusive Targets are objectively bad. I explicitly stated that ETs can be fun, at times, in the heat of the moment. That is absolutely true.

I also agree that they are a side-feature. At least, they should be, by design. One of my points was that the issue of Elusive Targets come from the fact that the rewards are too desirable, which is what makes them more than “just a side feature.” And here is where we disagree.

When I speak about desirable cosmetics, the first things that come to mind are the White Yukata, Signature Suit With Gloves (which you mentioned), Santa 47, Imperial Suit With Gloves, Casual Undercover, etc. I don’t want this to become an argument about what looks good, so I’ll leave it at this: a lot of ET rewards are desirable, at least to some.

And IOI shouldn’t “hand out these rewards for free,” but at the same time, what about the players that missed ETs because they hadn’t known about the Hitman series at the time?

Of course, at the end of the day, this is all personal, and nobody is 100% right or wrong. :slight_smile:

2 Likes

Oh, sorry if I wasn’t being very clear. When I said “unmoddable,” I was saying that players currently cannot mod the game. Mod support or even access to code is currently restricted. I wasn’t saying that “H2 can never be modded because that’s never going to be possible”.

Sorry about any confusion relating to my statement. :wink:

On the basis that they are time-limited challenges and non-repeatable, the elusive targets feel more consequential in completing successfully, more memorable, more stressful and a more challenging, exciting experience.

If IOI allowed access to players in repeating elusive targets over and over, then the uniqueness of the elusive target experience would be lost.

That being said, most of the elusive targets outside of Sean Bean and one which combined two previous targets in one, are legacy targets which are repeats of elusive targets presented in 2016-2017.

  1. Absolutely. As for Elusive Targets spiking interest: that’s entirely possible. I saw them more as things to keep existing players engaged. I don’t disagree with you at all. One of my two only problems I had with ETs were that the cosmetics gained from them are too desirable, which is a negative thing for the reasons previously stated.

  2. This is completely true. However, I just found that, assuming that we can agree that cosmetics DO matter, it was unfair to lock suits/redundant items behind the condition of being there at the right time and the right place. Some people just didn’t know about the Hitman games.

  3. Always-online DRM is always a controversial subject. You support it, and I’m not going to immediately become your enemy for that opinion. I don’t think that the positives outweigh the negatives, especially for those with real-life commitments, those who travel, and those with bad internet. :wink:

Not picking on you but I think you need to differentiate “always online DRM” from this game. You can play all the levels, all the stories, any way you want, completely offline. While yes, pretty much anything beyond that is online only, it’s a massive difference from a game that literally doesn’t work offline at all like Destiny or The Division or whatever.

1 Like

I was more talking about the general playerbase. For the most part, your average Joe isn’t going to really want to risk crazy assassinations, for fear of failing the mission.

However, those who use inconvenient methods such as disconnecting from WiFi and Alt-F4 to make Elusive Targets open to experimentation (even after completing objectives, which normally blocks you from restarting via the menu) are indeed perfectly able to design very creative assassinations.

But the hassle of fighting the system is quite annoying and not worth it for a lot of people.

Yeah, of course. I didn’t think you were :wink:.

I totally agree with you that you have access to the raw mission (and I said this in my essay). Functionally, except for the in-game progression system being blocked, you can do everything (aside from online-only content such as ETs, for obvious reasons) in H2 without any problem. But most of the content that is locked behind a persistent connection, at least to me, is substantial and important enough to call always-online DRM a problem.

And I totally agree; it could have been much worse, when compared to other games.