October 3, 2023


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Hitman is the one series doing sequels right

One of the byproducts of the current trend of diminishing returns is that games don’t age as rapidly as they once did. A four-year-old release like 2016’s Hitman still has the appearance and gameplay of a 2021 debut. So what should a studio like IO Interactive do with Hitman and Hitman 2 as it prepares to unleash Hitman 3 for PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and last-gen consoles on January 20? Well, IO’s plan is to continue improving those older games as it incorporates all of the content into a unified experience.

When you boot up Hitman 3, you will automatically get all of the new levels and missions that come with the game. But if you also own Hitman and Hitman 2, you can access the levels from those games inside of Hitman 3. IO did the same thing with Hitman levels inside of Hitman 2.

On the gaming forum ResetEra, a verified IO Interactive developer with the handle “A Path Finder” wrote about what this ongoing support means for existing stages when it comes to features like the new reflection tech.

“We upgraded the engine with screenspace reflections,” writes the IO dev. “And it’s backwards compatible with the previous two games in the trilogy and lots of surfaces [have been] upgraded.”

You can see what that looks like in Game Informer’s gameplay video.

The Paris fashion show level from Hitman 2016, for example, now has planar reflections combined with screen-space reflections. This enables you to see the entire room reflected in the shiny surface of the catwalk.

IO also found ways to reduce the file size so all of the content from all three games comes in at approximately 100GB. That is a huge improvement, as Hitman 1 and 2 currently come in at 150GB.

Hitman 3 is how you make a sequel

IO’s strategy here is to use its legacy content to flesh out its new release. This essentially turns each new Hitman game into an ongoing remaster. And that is really how I want a game like this to handle new content.

Hitman and its sequels are essentially new seasons. It’s mostly the same game spruced up with a few new features, and the main attraction is the levels. But the reality is that it’s more lucrative to release a new “season” as a full sequel. And even as a player, I prefer full sequels.

Sure, a $60 game is often more expensive than a $30-$40 expansion, but a full game feels like a clean break. It’s the difference between trying to get back into a game you put down and starting fresh.

But the Hitman series has the best of both worlds. The games still feel like a fresh start because of the way IO Interactive positions them. And yet I can also go back and play any of the stages from the early games.

On top of that, Hitman has a progression system that carries over from game to game. So if you have unlocked equipment from Hitman 1 or 2 and continue on the same platform, you can keep that progress.

All of these elements combine to make Hitman a model for how a series should work. IO is delivering a steady stream of new content. Each game feels like a full, new sequel, but you don’t have to leave anything behind. That includes levels, as well as your overall progress. And when a new sequel comes out, the old content gets some visual improvements. It’s how more games should work.

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