According to a developer, “it covers many things,” the first of which is Elusive Targets. These are Contracts that are available only for a limited time.
“An Elusive Target is the closest thing to the Hitman fantasy that we’ve ever created,” the developer said. “These targets will be custom-created characters that are added to existing locations and are only there for a limited time in real-time. You’ll only have one chance to take them down. If they escape, they are gone for good. If you kill them, that’s the way that you killed them. There are no do-overs and no second chances. When an Elusive Target leaves the game world (one way or another) they never return.”
Each Elusive Target will have a unique “briefing video” and a backstory that explains their reason for being where they are. The target will not appear on your map or when you’re using Agent 47’s Instinct abilities.
“In order to find them, you’ll need to use clues from the briefing video and a photograph that you will be able to review,” IO explained. “You’ll need to explore, find your target, learn their patterns, and come up with a plan to eliminate them–all whilst playing. The pressure will be on when you’ve got the target in your sights. If you miss the shot and chaos breaks loose, you will need to have a plan B, because the save-game is disabled during an Elusive Target. If you kill the wrong person or die when trying to exfiltrate, that’s it. Game over, the target escapes.”
Players who complete multiple Elusive Target contracts will earn special in-game rewards, including “signature suits” from past Hitman games, as well as versions with gloves.
“We know that Elusive Targets are not going to be easy, they were designed that way,” the developer said.
Another component of Hitman’s “Live Content” is the Escalation Mode. This mode, a franchise-first, involves a multi-stage hit.
“As an example, the first stage could be to eliminate your target with a sabre. Then, the second stage could be to eliminate your target with a sabre whilst dressed as a waiter and removing any security camera recordings within two minutes,” IO said. “We are able to change where the security cameras are and also add additional ‘security’ measures to the locations, such as laser trip-wire explosives that you’ll need to avoid.”
IO added: “Escalation Mode has a strong focus on having fun with the game mechanics and mixing them up–pretty much anything goes in this mode. It’s more about being playful than realistic. For each Escalation Contract, there are five stages and you’re free to replay them as you wish to climb the leaderboards. As with Elusive Targets, the save-game functions are disabled.”
The Elusive Targets and Escalation contracts will be released on an ongoing basis following Hitman’s launch in March, though IO did not provide a specific timeline.
Another Live Content feature for the new Hitman includes a Contracts Mode, which returns from 2012’s Hitman Absolution. Players can mark their own targets and designate how to kill them, then challenge the community to take a stab at their missions. IO will even collect the “best of the bunch” and put them in a Featured Contracts playlist.
Lastly, Hitman will include “Live Challenges,” which are community-inspired challenges. IO cautioned that this is just an idea at this point and may not make it into the full game.
“We are looking into creating new challenges that we can periodically add to the game,” the developer said. “These challenges will be an homage to some of the more elaborate, amusing, difficult, or creative feats that we see our players complete.”
One example is a live challenge performed by the player 2AngryGamers during the recent PS4 beta in which they could only use a hammer to take down every guard.
“At this stage, community-inspired challenges (or whatever we actually decide to name them) are just one of the ideas we are working on to keep the game fresh and live as we go through the season,” IO said. “These are not a guaranteed feature but something we’re testing and trying out.”
The Hitman PS4 beta started February 12 and ends tomorrow, February 19, at which point PC players can jump in. The PC beta ends on Monday, February 22. The only way to guarantee yourself entry in the beta is to preorder the game.
The full version of Hitman arrives on March 11 as an episodic title. For more on why the developers chose episodic as a business model, you can read GameSpot’s interview on the subject.