Hitman 2

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

Hitman1 - Three Problems With HITMAN™ 2 And Why They Degrade Player Experience
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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?

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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:

https://www.hitmanforum.com/t/ets-my-word-to-say-about-elusive-targets/36454

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

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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.

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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.

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