On October 31, 2016, the last episode of the first season of Hitman was released, and recently we received the entire first season. Over the past 17 years, IO Interactive has handled the series in different ways, but this time it seems to have found the right format. Players found the passage of the mission in separate episodes less tiring, and thus the developers got the opportunity to work on bugs in real time and keep the public interested. It should be noted that IO did not come to this immediately, the series managed to survive several ups and downs and even visited the verge of cancellation.
Hitman: Codename 47 (2000)
Surprisingly, after all, once a silent bald man in a suit had to hold in his hands not at all a noose and not a handkerchief soaked in chloroform. Instead, Agent 47 must shoot enemies left and right in the spirit of John Woo films. Then, in 1998, the newly founded studio IO Interactive seemed like the most suitable idea. The company wanted to earn the trust of the publisher and in order to bring them more profit, IO decided to release a trendy high-speed action game.
The entourage of a hired killer was invented much later. At some point, one of the developers had the idea to start the game with an escape from the hospital, and everyone decided that it would be even cooler if the main character escapes wearing someone else’s clothes. This idea became the cornerstone, after which the whole development was directed in the other direction. And when David Bateson knocked on the door of the studio and offered his voice for voice acting, one of the game designers without thinking twice borrowed from the actor and his charismatic appearance.
From an action movie, the game turned into a tactical stealth game, where almost any attempt to complete the level in Macedonian was doomed to failure. By the way, this is what turned many fans away from the game. To understand the possible options for the passage of the mission, it was often necessary to act almost at random, which often led to the restart of already tedious levels. It was also the first time IO had worked on a PC game, and as a result, there were technical issues, including those affecting the controls.
Hitman 2: Silent Assassin (2002)
Using Silent Assassin as an example, one could easily write a guide on how to make a sequel. The developers took into account, probably, all the mistakes of the first part, fixed them and added what could not be implemented in Codename 47.
As a result, it was the second part that made Hitman a recognizable brand. Signature Colts with Silencers Silverballers, garrotte and the same memorable character with a barcode on his head, but now in much better graphics. Separate praise deserves the levels, getting into which the player had any desire to “run through” the game in a fast way.
There were also slippery situations. According to the plot, the Agent, having destroyed his creator Ort-Meyer in the last part, decided to move away from criminal affairs and took refuge in a monastery. The agent’s return to business is forced by the kidnapping of his friend, the priest Vitorio. In fact, it was originally planned to make a plot in which the mafia blows up a bus with nuns. The scene was cut just in time, saving the publishers nerves.
The outstanding work of IO Interactive was recognized on merit. Silent Assassin sold a solid 4 million copies and brought a new army of players into the ranks of the series.
Hitman: Contracts (2004)
With Hitman: Contracts, everything went wrong this time. Perhaps because the developers temporarily shifted their focus to Freedom Fighters, or because their publisher Eidos Interactive bought out IO and the independent days are over.
At some point, the developers realized that the standard two years would not be enough for them, and decided to make something like version 2.5. They singled out a few people from the team and they completed the Contracts in less than eight months. This became possible, among other things, thanks to the use of ready-made levels, because according to the plot, the wounded Agent 47 in agony recalls the events of the first and second parts through flashbacks.
Not to say that Contracts was a complete failure, but the title clearly did not live up to the expectations that appeared after the brilliant Silent Assassins. By the way, both fans and developers prefer to consider Contracts a forced step aside, and the real third part is called Hitman: Blood Money.
Hitman: Blood Money (2006)
According to the vast majority of hardcore Hitman fans, Blood Money is the pinnacle of the series.
As if anticipating a possible success, IO worked out the game well, and brought many new details to the already familiar gameplay. At each level, in addition to several ways to kill the target, there was also an additional method that did not raise doubts that the tragedy was the work of chance. For example, a chandelier falling at the right time or a poisoned cake.
Another addition was the «Fame» parameter. During the passage, the Agent’s face can be filmed on security cameras, or noticed by a witness who entered the room at the wrong time. All this leads to the fact that your «Fame» increases, as a result of which it becomes much more difficult to get lost in the crowd in subsequent missions.
As blatantly violent as it is, Blood Money added fuel to the fire with its advertising campaign, which featured a half-naked woman murdered. The caption read: «Beutifully Executed.»
To build on the success, in mid-2007 IO released the Hitman Trilogy compilation, containing all but the very first part. In 2013, the collection was also released on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, thus reaching as many players as possible.
Hitman: Absolution (2012)
Having rehabilitated the status of the series after sagging in the face of Contracts, the studio decided to take a break and turn towards simpler genres, which once was supposed to be Codename 47. Unfortunately, neither of the two Kane & Lynch parts even came close to the success of Hitman. Neither the charismatic protagonists nor the frantic pace of the game could close the players’ eyes to the lack of originality. The action-adventure experiment Mini Ninjas also brought nothing but mixed reviews and the desire of the developers to return to what they did best.
With Absolution, the developers decided to kill two birds with one stone. They assured that the game would be extremely friendly to casual players, while maintaining the signature hardcore elements.
It turned out that they overdid it with friendliness. Most of the criticism was directed just the same at the linearity of the game. The gameplay was too simplistic and, despite the impressive graphics, even those who always complained about the excessive complexity of the game felt that they were missing something. Even the mission designer did not arouse much interest.
One way or another, although the game did not manage to become the next Blood Money, Absolution is still a serious AAA title, and all claims concern, first of all, connoisseurs. IO wanted to appeal more to the audience with simplicity, and they succeeded.
IO decided not to wait until she was once again accused of provoking violent behavior, but to strike first and get a large portion of attention. To do this, as a promotion, the company released the Attack of the Saints trailer, in which Agent 47 cracks down on a crowd of hired killers in the most brutal way. Everything would be fine, but the killers were women dressed as nuns. Provocations on all fronts.
Hitman Go и Hitman: Sniper (2014–15)
Before releasing the next title, the efforts of Square Enix Montreal managed to try the series in unfamiliar territory, namely mobile games.
One of them was Hitman Go, a puzzle visually made in the form of a board game. Initially, the very idea of such a project met with skepticism, but in the end the game turned out to be very successful and was eventually released on PC, PS4 and PS Vita as well. Things went even further when the successful format was borrowed from other franchises, thus giving birth to Lara Croft Go and Deus Ex GO.
Another successful experiment was Hitman: Sniper, an expanded version of the Sniper Challenge minigame that was given away for free with Absolution pre-orders. Sniper’s minimalism appealed to the players and brought the studio a good profit.
It’s hard to believe, but IO Interactive was a centimeter away from losing control of the series. Initially, the publisher entrusted the development of Square Enix Montreal, which has earned the trust of commercially successful GO games. However, in the end, the reins of power again passed to the progenitors of the series. However, the freshly minted Hitman was the first title not to feature the music of Jesper Küd, the franchise’s once-permanent composer. Now composer Nils By Niles sat in his chair.
The whole point of the new Hitman is a return to the roots. The developers discarded the linear levels a la Absolution and offered the players, as in the good old days, to explore small sandbox locations and find all sorts of solutions to problems on their own. The quieter you complete the mission, the higher your «Mastery Level» will become, which gives you access to different gadgets, weapons and locations.
Since March, every month except for June and July, the developers have released an episode, and this is not counting all kinds of bonus content. Each new episode bounced the game’s rating up and down, but the full version seemed to suit most. The developers claim that the first season is just an acceleration to get acquainted with the characters, and we will see the main plot twists and turns in subsequent releases.
The fact that nothing good came out of both film adaptations did not particularly surprise anyone. Vin Diesel was even planned for the main role in the first, but later the actor left the project and Timothy Olyphant was put in his place. Neither one nor the other picture echoes the plot of the game and offers an alternative version of the development of events. In the 2007 version, Agent 47 was presented not as an experimentally grown clone, but as an orphan, who was picked up by the Organization as a child and turned into a skilled killer. Be that as it may, the film pleased the producers, collecting a box office four times the budget.
Hitman: Agent 47 (2015)
It would seem that after eight years there is every reason to expect a suitable second attempt. After all, we already got the bad one. But as it turned out, there are always levels even lower and the film adaptation for the second time turned out to be a failure.
As in the case of the last time, the fairly well-known actor Paul Walker, again playing in Fast and Furious, claimed the main role. Unfortunately, Walker died in a car accident before filming began, and the producers brought in Rupert Friend. The film did not receive the hearts of fans of the series, but received about 90 million at the box office with a budget of 30 million.
Not so long ago, IO Interactive said that due to the financial difficulties of their parent company Square Enix, the studio does not plan to experiment with other projects in the near future and will put all its efforts into taking Hitman to the next level, whatever it may be. With that kind of focus and a successful first season under its belt, you won’t have to worry about the fate of the series for a while.