For a game that has just a glowing reputation among players, ‘Hitman’ has a history that’s frustratingly difficult to follow. The first ‘Hitman’ game, with the subtitle ‘Codename 47,’ hit shelves in the year 2000. That was followed by the sequel ‘Silent Assassin’ two years later, and a third game called ‘Contracts’ two years after that. From there, we have a third sequel called ‘Blood Money’ in 2006, and a fourth called ‘Absolution’ in 2012. That’s five official ‘Hitman’ games without even taking into account the spin-off games ‘Hitman: Go’ and ‘Hitman: Sniper’ in 2014 and 2015. How is it, then, that the game that’s due to be released to stores in January 2021 is called ‘Hitman 3?’
The answer to that question is a simple one. In 2016, the company behind the ‘Hitman’ series decided to rip up the whole history of the franchise and start again with a new game entitled simply ‘Hitman.’ ‘Hitman 2’ followed in 2018, and now we’re braced for ‘Hitman 3.’ The titles might be a lot less imaginative than they used to be, but the games are a lot better. Things have improved dramatically since the ill-fated ‘Hitman’ movie, which was released in 2007 and currently suffers the embarrassment of being ranked as a one-star film at the Rotten Tomatoes website.
Despite the sometimes-chequered history of the franchise, the game has captured the imagination of players around the world with an intensity that’s surprising for creation with such a basic premise.
A few years ago, a professional wrestler known as Low Ki started appearing in the ring for the company Impact Wrestling while dressed as Agent 47. There was also an officially-connected ‘Hitman’ online slots game released in 2007; the same year as the film. While most people like to pretend the film never happened, the online slots game still attracts players on a regular basis. Very few video games ever receive the honor of having their themes and imagery converted and re-presented for online slots websites like OnlineSlotsUK, and of those that do, only ‘Street Fighter 2’ has enjoyed significant success.
There must be something very special about ‘Hitman’ for it to have persevered as both an online slots game and a ‘real’ video game for so long, and whatever that magic formula is, we’re about to find out whether it will still work on the next generation of consoles.
By going with a January 2021 release date for the third game in the revamped ‘Hitman’ series, developer IO Interactive has given itself a problem to deal with. The new Xbox and PlayStation will have been released by that date, but the majority of gamers will probably still be using current-gen hardware. To get around that issue, they’ve gone to the trouble of coding different versions of ‘Hitman 3’ for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox Series X, and PlayStation 5. That must have been a mammoth task and will have incurred a great deal of expense, so the company could have been forgiven for wanting to claw back as much money as possible and not offering free upgrades from one generation to the next.
They’ve instead decided to err on the side of generosity and offer the free upgrade, but it comes with a small catch.
Anybody who buys a copy of ‘Hitman 3’ for the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One will automatically be entitled to pick up a free version of the same game if they upgrade their hardware to the next generation along – but only a digital copy. If you buy a hard copy of the new ‘Hitman’ game for your current-gen console, you’ll also have to buy a hard copy of it for your next-gen console and swallow the extra cost. Only people who download the new game will be able to have it automatically upgraded free of charge. For players who don’t have the storage space to download the digital version of the game, or those who simply prefer to receive a hard copy of the box and the disc for display purposes, this may seem a little unfair, but that’s the way it is. To make matters worse, it’s likely that the next-gen version of ‘Hitman 3’ will be significantly more expensive than the current-gen version.
IO Interactive is far from the only developer who is currently struggling with this issue. 2K, which has had a dreadful twelve months following on from the miserable failure of their WWE 2K20 game, recently found itself attracting further negative press after announcing that ‘cross-generational support’ would only be available for its new NBA 2K21 game to players who bought an expensive ‘special edition’ of the current-gen game. While it hasn’t been confirmed yet, it’s highly likely that the same issue will affect the new ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops’ game too.
There are always growing pains when new games have released either right at the end of one generation of hardware or right at the beginning of another, but this is the first time in video gaming history that there appears to have been an attempt to pass the cost of those growing pains on to the consumer, and developers may find that consumers push back against them. We’ll know if that’s been the case when sales figures for the first quarter of 2021 become available.
Ignoring that controversy for a moment, all signs indicate that this will be the best version of ‘Hitman’ ever made. It’s certainly going to be the classiest. Based on the trailers we’ve seen, part of the game will involve players taking a trip back in time to take part in a murder mystery written in the style of Agatha Christie. We never knew how much we wanted an Agatha Christie video game until we saw the trailer, and now we’re hoping that someone will flesh out the idea and take it further.
Not every game developed for the new breed of consoles will be worth the higher price at the point of release, but we’re willing to stick our necks out and say this one will be. We’ll find out whether or not that was a smart move on the game’s release date, which is currently penciled in for January 20th.