The new Hitman game is out today... sort of. As you've no doubt heard, IO Interactive decided to split Hitman up into episodic chunks rather than release it all at once - a move that has proved divisive among the community. We'll get into the pros and cons of such an approach in a bit, but first the basics:
Hitman will be spread among seven episodes - each set in a different city - released on a monthly basis starting with the premiere chapter today. IO Interactive's latest can be purchased digitally in three different ways. You can:
- Purchase the Full Experience, which will secure access to all updates down the line, for £44.99 / $60.
- Buy the Intro Pack for £11.99 / $15, then snag the Upgrade Pack for £36.99 / $50, offering access to the following episodes upon release. Total comes to £48.98 / $65.
- Buy the Intro Pack for £11.99 / $15, then purchase the following episodes separately for £7.99 / $10. Total comes to £59.93 / $74.93.
In essence, opting for the Full Experience saves you £3.99 / $4.99 over the Intro Pack & Upgrade, and £14.94 / $14.94 over buying each episode a la carte.
Square Enix noted "pricing may differ a bit on Steam" when it comes to subsequent episodes, so we can't offer exact pricing there. So far the Full Experience is £39.99 / $60 on PC, while the Intro Pack is £10.99 / $15. In short, Steam is cheaper than console in the UK, but only by about 10 per cent.
It's worth noting that you don't have to buy every episode. If you're only interested in certain chapters you can pick and choose which ones to purchase. "You can skip an episode but you will miss out on some of the story elements," an IO representative told Eurogamer when asked about this unorthodox method of purchasing the package piecemeal.
As far as what each episode contains, the Intro Pack includes the Prologue tutorial missions along with the Paris stage, while all subsequent chapters will feature a single new city. April's episode will be set in Italy, May's in Morocco, and Thailand, the US, Japan and an unannounced location will follow through late 2016.
Furthermore, there will be weekly live events offering extra challenges in each sandbox so you'll have more to do while awaiting a new episode.
So those are the facts. But what does this mean for the new Hitman on the whole? Well, there are a couple of schools of thought on this. IO Interactive defended the move as a way to not rush its content as well as react to player feedback.
"The exciting thing about going episodic is that this format allows us to create a living game that will expand and evolve over time," the developer said of this structure. "As we've said before, we want to shape the game with the people playing it and by going down this route we believe we're creating the best possible base for success. We will be able to respond much faster to feedback, analyse player behaviour and implement changes on a regular basis that simply wasn't possible before."
One could also praise IO and publisher Square Enix for offering players greater choice in how they purchase their content. Perhaps you're on the fence about parting with £44.99 / $60 at once, so the idea of taking a punt on £11.99 / $15 to see how you get on with the game is a more appealing prospect.
There are a few downsides to this new format, however. A.) The game could potentially cost as much as £59.93, a sizable increase over standard retail price for most games. B.) You have to wait longer to play all of it. And C.) You can't trade in your copy shortly after release.
Sure, Square Enix will release a boxed retail package once every episode has launched, but by then the so-called "new release" won't actually be that new and exciting. This will no doubt be a blow to the sort of player who likes to burn through new games and trade them in for maximum value while they're still fresh.
The waiting aspect will also be a bother for collectors of physical copies or folks who simply like to keep their hard drives uncluttered.
Releasing a title as popular and anticipated as Hitman episodically is definitely a strange move on Square Enix and IO Interactive's part, with plenty of reasons to praise or condemn this new structure. Either way, the new episodic paradigm will prove to be an interesting experiment, both in terms of commercial success and game design.