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Hitman: Absolution Developer Interview

Simon Bramble's Avatar + Posted by Simon Bramble on Jun 21, 2011 // Content Producer, SCEE

Hitman: Absolution was one of the most talked about games at E3 earlier this month after an impressive behind closed doors showing and the release of this atmospheric trailer. There is still plenty of mystery around Agent 47’s upcoming mission so I recently caught up with Tore Blystad, game director and Christian Eleverdam, gamplay director at IO Interactive to get some further intel.

How does it feel to be bringing Hitman back after such a long time away?

TB: It feels super great. Part of time was spent building a brand new engine from scratch. We looked at all the previous Hitman titles and said, “Okay, there’s a lot of DNA here, what do we want to improve?” We looked at everything, from Agent 47 himself – how does he move? what can he do? – to the AI. We had quite a few binary reactions in the old games, where if you got discovered it turned into a bit of a clumsy combat situation. We wanted to widen that a lot. Obviously we still have a lot of stealth elements in the game.

Let’s say you get discovered by a police officer. He won’t immediately try to shoot you, he’ll attempt to arrest you. This means that in Hitman: Absolution we have a bit of rubber-banding, a bit of leeway to try things out. You can back away, find a dark corner or try to disarm him.

We created a lot of different scenarios. So for example there’s a kind of hippies’ apartment which Agent 47 enters disguised as a police officer. These guys don’t like cops, so this disguise is not a good idea in there. But they won’t just attack you without warning. They’ll want to know why you’re there and warn you off. Of course, they might try to attack you, but that’s probably not going to end well for them.

Now, if you go in there dressed as Agent 47, they probably would allow you to be there, even though you’re trespassing and would arouse suspicion. There’s a lot for us to play around with.

Hitman: Absolution for PS3

So a lot of the experience will depend on you reacting to what’s going on around you?

CE: Yes, you need to play with your eyes open. Disguises play a big part here to alter how the game pans out in front of you. A lot of the disguises have their own attributes, and the Instinct system ties in there too. Instinct allows you to see potential challenges in real time. If you’re disguised and it’s cop versus cop then you can try to bluff them and sneak away to save ammo.

Is Instinct always available?

CE: No, Instinct is an economy. You have to earn it by doing the sorts of things a real hitman might do – by carrying out silent kills, successully concealing bodies and bluffing a large number of people, for example. You have to use it carefully on the most expert difficulty settings, while it’s more prevalent on the easier ones.

The demo we saw was set in a rain-lashed Chicago. Is the whole game set there?

TB: I can’t get into specifics there I’m afraid, but there are a lot of locations and Agent 47 will be collecting his air miles.

Hitman: Absolution for PS3

What’s the nature of Agent 47’s assignment this time?

TB: It’s a much more personal journey for Agent 47. He’s completely invested in the story, and we see an interesting turning point where he gets betrayed. This sets him off on a hunt for the truth, but, of course, it’s still very much about finding people and killing them.

There’s a real sense of non-playable characters’ micro-dramas happening all around you.

CE: Well an open world game needs to feel alive, so that’s what we’ve gone for here. The characters can do so many different things according to the situation. Along with the cinematic sequences, this has been the toughest thing for us to get right, hence us having to build our own brand new tool set and basically attack it from any angle.

If you take out the guy that was supposed to turn on the lights in a room, it changes the situation completely. Every action, however small, has its own consequence.

TB: We have a rookie cop character who has been called out with his colleagues to a library which Agent 47 is stalking round. This new guy is always getting told off by his sergeant, and you can actually distract him. He will go off and investigate before carrying on with his own little story. If you take a different path through the library, you can see his story unfold from a different perspective.

This allows you to play with your morals – you can kill the rookie without a second thought, or isolate his sergeant and kill him instead, giving the new guy a bit of a break. We really wanted to include a lot of this kind of stuff. Imagine playing through this big, dark library without this and it’s just a normal stealth game. It loses a defining Hitman characteristic. Nothing else has that. Whichever way you play it, it should always be entertaining.

Do you create the characters first, then build the game around them?

CE: It goes into a big jumble. Often we think of a cool disguise then devise a way to get it into the game, like the chicken suit in Hitman: Blood Money.

We sometimes think of the situation first then devise the characters to populate that – like the library full of cops. Pacing is always top priority, so anything that can add variety is a good thing because it makes the player think differently.

Who dreams up the various ways to assassinate people?

TB: We had a base of mechanics from Hitman: Blood Money that we started off with, and we added to that whatever people could come up with. Plus, many of the improvised weapons are location specific, so you wouldn’t find too many heavy books outside of the library.

So does that mean people from IO Interactive go home at night and sit there thinking up ingenious ways to kill people?

TB: Yeah! People come in the next day and go, “Hey! I had this great idea last night about pushing a cop off a ledge”, or whatever. Everyone’s a closet hitman.

//Add Your Own

35 Comments

1

+ MarkakaJin on June 21st, 2011 at 7:10 am said:

Finally. A new Hitman game.


2

+ FredNation on June 21st, 2011 at 7:13 am said:

This game looks amazing! Can’t wait!


3

+ Revolutionary on June 21st, 2011 at 7:18 am said:

As a die-hard Hitman fan (have bought every single one since Codename 47), I can’t help but feel worried about the direction of the franchise with Absolution. This “instinct” mode goes against everything that made Hitman what it is: rooted in reality. 47 may be a clone but that does not mean he should possess supernatural powers, or have access to Batman’s cowl (or whatever explanation for Instinct that IO will come up with).

I understand IO’s desire to get the games into the hands of more gamers, but this is not the way to do it. IO better hope they don’t alienate the true Hitman fanbase with their decisions, or else the Hitman franchise (as we know it) may die with this one.


4

+ MarkakaJin on June 21st, 2011 at 7:21 am said:

I agree with Revolutionary.


5

+ Christian399 on June 21st, 2011 at 7:24 am said:

Well, I’m out. Just Kijijied my 2 grand worth of PS3 games and systems (Go, Move). Shooter #999999999999 is the straw that broke the camel’s back. There’s something CRITICALLY wrong with the game’s industry when I can grab Order & Chaos and Eternal Legacy for $1 and play them in HD on my phone and Sony (Nintendo and MS, for that matter) is struggling to understand consumer interest in the slightest. The prices for the generic slop that we’re being asked to ingest are ludicrous. If I want fluff, it should cost $0.99. Apple GETS this. I for one, welcome our new Apple overlords. Sony should weather the storm well, with their 20 some odd 1st party studios, but the days of hardware like this are over. Troll me all you want, but mark this post, come back to it to see how right I was in 5 years.

I am an almost two decade Playstation fanboy signing off. This generation has been an absolute disappointment and it feels good to move on. Peace and gaming to all.


6

+ Dodo-al-jaddi on June 21st, 2011 at 7:49 am said:

Haha “Everyone’s a closet hitman!”
But yeah, this game sounds amazing. Very happy that Hitman is back ^^


7

+ Robertto91 on June 21st, 2011 at 8:20 am said:

say thanks to consoles for casual games and “instinct modes” ¬¬


8

+ mgsnull617 on June 21st, 2011 at 8:59 am said:

I Eat Sleep and Breathe Hitman……Simon keep up the good work!!!!!Great Post
please dont change much of the game from bloodmoney that game was a masterpiece.
The only concept of instinct I understand is when you take a cops outfit you get his kevlar vest correct?


9

+ mgsnull617 on June 21st, 2011 at 9:00 am said:

Do we get to buy this game soon I dont think I can wait a year or two for it?


10

+ BoDy-_-BaGz on June 21st, 2011 at 9:15 am said:

So while we wait for this to release can we get remastered HD versions of the old games on PSN, Please?


11

+ MACMARK007 on June 21st, 2011 at 9:20 am said:

Nice Teaser Just Makes Me Want It Even More


12

+ AguilarX on June 21st, 2011 at 9:22 am said:

pretty hot trailer, hopefully the gameplay can back it up.


13

+ devilforce12 on June 21st, 2011 at 9:23 am said:

Agent 47 is back……YEAH!!!!!!!


14

+ juanpipe on June 21st, 2011 at 9:36 am said:

Great interview! It must be sometimes awkward to work in IO with all the ideas of killing someone!


15

+ mgsnull617 on June 21st, 2011 at 9:38 am said:

I agree with BodyBagz I can wait as long as you say if you make the older versions for sale…
What if Hitman had co-op i dunno use the storyline from the movie the mechanic
let one player be 47 and another be his protege? you guys need people like me for ideas dont ya lol


16

+ mgsnull617 on June 21st, 2011 at 9:43 am said:

Solid Snake even passed the torch to Raiden…..Its time for 47 to pass his skills on to the next generation especially after his near death situation in blood-money it would just be epic….hear me out yo….47 got to die he’s a marytr


17

+ I3rand0 on June 21st, 2011 at 9:44 am said:

Nice softball interview, but the real question is where’s Jesper Kyd and David Bateson?


18

+ ToxicGinseng on June 21st, 2011 at 10:11 am said:

This looks swell! I really enjoyed the Hitman series, and I am glad to see it back again. The new game engine was sorely needed.


19

+ Sarge435 on June 21st, 2011 at 10:25 am said:

I’ll be to busy with Battlefield 3 and Uncharted 3.


20

+ WEIRD-PASSWORD on June 21st, 2011 at 10:42 am said:

cant wait for this game to come out…


21

+ EvoAnubis on June 21st, 2011 at 10:47 am said:

Just gonna come out and say it; I don’t really care for the Hitman games. Now, if IO Interactive were to, say, make another Freedom Fighters game….that’d be a different story.


22

+ Erocktehninja on June 21st, 2011 at 11:02 am said:

Why does anyone ever need to take the time to talk crap? Wait til the game is out first??? I have high hopes, huge fan of hitman games.


23

+ Buchi1324 on June 21st, 2011 at 11:33 am said:

i want this now :(


24

+ mcbuttz78 on June 21st, 2011 at 11:34 am said:

IO makes great games. very unrated developer inthe gaming world..


25

+ cjphase on June 21st, 2011 at 11:36 am said:

Simply Awesome!!! Cant wait!!! I been looking for the trilogy pack they came out with for PS2 so i can catch up on the games storylines and can’t find it anywhere! Lolol! Hope they do the same thing for PS3!!!! Absolution is gonna be great though!!!!!


26

+ RRstrong on June 21st, 2011 at 11:36 am said:

Im am beyond excited, this trailer gets me AMPED. I can’t believe the graphics and how AWESOME this looks!


27

+ FatCap47 on June 21st, 2011 at 12:09 pm said:

You forgot the most important question of all questions. “Is there multiplayer?” and if there’s not you should do something about that right guys… peace in the middle east


28

+ PoInTyNiPs on June 21st, 2011 at 12:47 pm said:

@fatcap47 multiplayer seriously dude to me that’s just plan stupid and don’t try to counter argue with uncharted or assassin’s creed since they were both single player games. sometimes there’s a line you don’t need to cross just stick with what you have and it works better and by the way production time will delay the game. my question is will hitman absolution work better on ps3 since it was originally for ps2 and why does agent 47 look so weird? i hope you guys fix his face because he looks like he’s going to take poop.


29

+ JEC94 on June 21st, 2011 at 1:58 pm said:

cant wait for this!


30

+ SmoggyPhil on June 21st, 2011 at 2:31 pm said:

I’ve got a few questions:

1) IO, You say that the game won’t be too different to appeal to hardcore fans, yet you completely re-change the atmosphere, you hire a new composer, you get rid of the voice actors and choose to appeal to the mass market, as well as trying to give the game an unnecessary movie-like film by developing it alongside a second movie. How does it feel to be such complete and utter liars?
2) IO, how does it feel to work under Square Enix? A company that hasn’t managed to successfully execute a good idea since Final Fantasy X?
3) IO, how does it feel shafting David Bateson, one of the more loyal players in the Hitman series? The guy who voice-acted 47 and even provided the facial model for him? Well done, IO, for completely ignoring him. I guess the stupid idea of “APPEAL TO CALL OF DUTY MARKET AND MAKE MORE MONEY DURP” messed up your senses of moralities over there?


31

+ SmoggyPhil on June 21st, 2011 at 2:31 pm said:

4) Do you guys honestly think changing it will affect sales positively? The reason you got up to Blood Money was because the so-called “hardcore fans” single-handedly funded the Hitman series. I have to congratulate you for alienating them though. Once the sales come in, I bet it’ll overturn Custers “Indians? What Indians?” as the single most stupid mistake of all time.
5) IO, how does it feel knowing that, after this, you’ll more than likely either be tossed aside into the gutter or will be forced to toil away on increasingly generic games like Kane and Lynch 2? You know, just like other innovative companies such as Oddworld Inhabitants, Bullfrog, Infinity Ward etc; who were snatched up by big companies before being hurled unceremoniously into the gutter after a few games. I hope you enjoyed your run while it lasted.

Well, while you guys mull them over, it’s Miller time for me!


32

+ rdmof6 on June 21st, 2011 at 11:29 pm said:

This looks awesome!


33

+ mgsnull617 on June 22nd, 2011 at 6:59 am said:

@SmoggyPhil
you are correct brother…..the whole gaming industry turned COD……hitman has no right undergoing changes…..
jesperkid rocked and so did the actor of 47 but you and I know that change is beyond our control and we have no choice but to cross our fingers and take it up the butt once again..
I wish only the best because I am a huge fan of the series regardless


34

+ samir_blitz on June 23rd, 2011 at 10:28 am said:

Beautiful trailer just perfect.


35

+ Ballin-tuff on June 26th, 2011 at 1:36 pm said:

I have heard great things about the hitman series. Hope it’s great.


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