Hitman 2 will thrive on larger crowd sizes when the assassination game starring Agent 47 debuts later this year. That will both please and vex players, as they can hide in crowds more easily, but it will also be harder to pick off your target with so many people watching.
I played through the new Miami level of Hitman 2 at the 2018 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) trade show in Los Angeles last week, and I interviewed Markus Friedl, executive producer of Hitman 2 at developer IO Interactive.
IO Interactive came up with a clever episodic release of its Hitman reboot in 2016. But Square Enix decided to let both the studio and the intellectual property go. IO Interactive went independent, and then it found a new publisher in Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
With the new game, you’ll be able to knock out a target with a dead fish, or disguise yourself as a giant flamingo to close in on your target. You can poison a mechanic and then steal his credentials and clothes, making your way to the pit garage, where you can plant a remote-controlled bomb on the target’s car.
The game launches on November 13 for the PC and consoles. I’ve included Jeff Grubb’s video playthrough of the Miami level.
Here’s an edited transcript of my interview with Friedl.
GamesBeat: The Miami location is fairly large. Is it about the same size as levels like Paris?
Friedl: I’d say Miami, our E3 demo location, is probably the highest fidelity sandbox that we’ve built to date. Especially when it comes to how you can interact with the world, the different tools we give to the player. The fish, for example. I don’t know if you slapped someone with the fish. There’s almost 2,000 NPCs in the crowd, which is a number we didn’t achieve before. Both the fidelity of the crowd and the size, it’s much improved.
GamesBeat: Do we have more complex AI here as well?
Friedl: Yes, we also looked at the underlying AI systems rather drastically. One example is mirrors. Now NPCs can actually spot you through mirrors, which adds another interesting layer. Mirrors are a big gameplay element. We also looked at the vision system, all the sensory systems of the AI. That’s significantly improved in Hitman 2.
GamesBeat: Any major lessons you learned from the last one that you’ve applied to Hitman 2?
Friedl: Like I said before, the assortment of tools we give the player, we’ve turned that up a notch. We’ve perfected the assassination sandbox, I’d say. You’ve never had so many ways, in a Hitman game, to interact with the world, and the world will interact with you. I always find it exciting to see what our players can actually do with our sandboxes. There are so many ways to interact that we can’t plan for everything. Our players are super creative and we’re always excited to see what chain reactions they can create that we might not have thought of ourselves.
GamesBeat: Do we have quite a complicated flow chart here, all the different branches you can follow?
Friedl: It’s always an exercise in making sure the underlying systems are working well together, that they’re orchestrated properly together. But as I said before, it’s exciting and challenging at the same time. We can’t plan for everything. We can’t force every possible way to interact with our sandbox. It’s always fun to go on YouTube and see something that was never on any flow chart.
GamesBeat: As far as this level goes, how difficult would you say it is? How easy is it to get caught?
Friedl: We’re still working on the difficulty balancing and the various settings. That’s not really finalized yet, so I can’t say.
GamesBeat: This one’s not going to be episodic, right?
Friedl: No. We’re releasing the main game, day and date, digital and on disc, November 13. We’ll have six locations in the main game. What that means for us and for players is that the main story, you can go through that at your own pace, and do as much or as little replaying you want to. That’s one aspect.
The other important aspect, though, is that we’re going to have post-launch live content, which was a big success for the previous game. The elusive targets, the challenge packs, escalation contracts, contracts mode, that will all be back in Hitman 2. Releasing the game that way means that from day one, we can provide much more varied post-launch content. We have all six locations available to work with.
GamesBeat: Do you think you’re giving fans more of what they had in Hitman, or are you changing what they’re going to get in Hitman 2?
Friedl: It’s a very new experience. It’s a full-fledged sequel to our previous game. The locations are going to be incredibly unique. They’re going to be brand-new locations we’ve never seen in a Hitman game before. We have many new features. I talked a bit about the AI, but you can also hide in crowds, and hide in vegetation.
The picture-in-picture feature we’ve added is an extremely important addition to gameplay. We’re able to give players hints and more information they’ll need to use to adjust their plans and react to situations, for instance when a body is found. When you set a trap, you can see the payoff of your perfect plan in the picture-in-picture, even though you might not be right there. That’s very important given the size of our sandbox locations. The briefcase is back in Hitman 2. Many, many fans asked for that. You can not only hide your rifle in the briefcase, but any other item that you want.
What’s completely new is the Sniper Assassin game mode. You can get access to that right now if you pre-order Hitman 2. It’s a franchise first for us. We’re super excited. You can play co-op online for the first time in that mode.
GamesBeat: As far as where the story takes us, have you said anything about that yet?
Friedl: The story is a direct continuation from the previous game. You may have noticed that a lot of the main protagonists from that game are still alive, which is unusual for a Hitman game. [laughs] Story-wise you get closer to those characters. Everything is getting a bit more personal for 47. He finds out a thing or two about his past that will change the story in interesting ways.
GamesBeat: What’s it like working with Warner Bros. now, instead of being off on your own?
Friedl: We’re super happy to have found a strong partner in Warner Bros. Together with them we can bring Hitman 2 to the world, to many more players.
GamesBeat: That part at the end where you showed the different options, that doesn’t actually appear in the game, does it? You don’t want everyone to figure out what they could have done?
Markus Friedl: Some of them are not in the E3 build. But for instance, you saw the podium kill, where you can turn up the valve underneath the podium, that’s in the final game. You can do that.
GamesBeat: I got walked through a particular way to do it. That made the kill a lot easier.
Friedl: You tried the remote explosive, the pit stop?
GamesBeat: Yeah. That was nice.
Friedl: It’s only one way, of course.