E3 2018: IO Interactive Discusses Teaming up with WB, Building Giant Levels for Hitman 2

Earlier this year, IO Interactive announced that they had bought their independence and the Hitman IP from Square Enix. At E3 2018, they surprised and delighted fans when they announced that Hitman 2 was in development and would release later this year. We sat down with Christian Elverdam, Creative Director at IO Interactive to learn what it took to get Hitman 2 off the ground and what players can expect from Agent 47 this time around.

[Hardcore Gamer] What’s Agent 47 been up to since the end of Hitman? Who are his targets this time around?

[Christian Elverdam] The game picks up right after the end of Hitman 2016. Agent 47 and Diana make an uneasy alliance with the group called Providence. It isn’t what they want to do, but a man with the organization alludes that he knows something about Agent 47’s past. So, Diana begrudgingly agrees to work with this group, and that’s where we start. The Miami level actually takes place very early into the game. He’s hunting two Providence members that are planning to defect to the shadow client.

Earlier this year there was a big shift in IO Interactive’s future. You bought your independence and the Hitman IP from Square Enix, and now you’re working with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. How has this shift affected development of Hitman 2?

Many things happened. First and foremost, and what I think is crucial, is that the team has had a razor-sharp focus on building Hitman. We didn’t know what was going to happen and while all this was going on, the guys and girls back home kept working through all the noise. In that sense, I would say it reinforced for all us how special of a team we have. Being the masters of our own fate and feeling a huge level of support from the fans that love Hitman has been outstanding. It’s nice to know that so many people out there want Hitman to succeed. It gave us the boost of energy we needed at the time.

The big hook with the last game was that it was the first true next-gen Hitman experience. You were able to build these huge levels with tons of AI, paths, and ways to approach a target. Where does Hitman 2 go from there?

I think it’s evolved in many different ways on different levels. There are some things you can call out like new features such as hiding in crowds becoming a real game mechanic. You can look at crowds as a social stealth system. If there are enough people and you go into a crowd you’ll be hidden. If someone knows you’re around you can just instantly step into a crowd to throw them off your scent. We’re also expanding how you can use foliage to slip into cover and avoid NPCs. Obviously, if they see you run into the bushes or make a noise the AI will find you. We really think this is a tangible game mechanic people can use.

Beyond that, just looking at Miami as a showcase, in the previous game we never would have thought to do a race course as a setting. Before we built Hitman we never would have thought about building a map like it. I think we learned a lot from building the previous game, and you can tell throughout all the levels of the game where we experiment with things I won’t spoil here.

Break down what goes into making a Hitman level. They’re huge, you need to develop different ways to take out a target and then you had to populate it with enough AI to make it a challenge. What’s it like?

It takes a lot. We have a long pre-production phase as we try and figure out what the story’s about, who the targets are and what locations we’re going to use. Take the Miami level as an example, we have our target who is a race car driver, which means Agent 47 is under a time constraint. We then thought about what he could do to take her out before or after the race. If she was in a normal office it would be a little more common. We always try and think about what our audience would like to witness and then execute it. In this case it’s going to a race track in Miami and getting to explore backstage.

Hitman 2016 was an episodic game and that model was well received. With Hitman 2, however, you’re going back to a full release. What was the decision behind this change?

We’ve said a lot of times that we try to listen to player feedback on the game. I do think that a lot of people were convinced that our live process was cool because they could really spend time in our levels between releases. At the same time we heard a lot of people that said they don’t care for this and want the story in its full and hated the wait between episodes. So, we worked to find a good middle ground where you get the entire story, but you aren’t getting all the live content right away. We have a ton of live content planned like elusive targets. We learned that episodic works very well and that players will want to explore our levels. So, we came to the conclusion to just release the story in its entirety and then continue to add new live content post-launch.

When can we expect Hitman 2 to launch?

November 14 on PS4, Xbox One and PC.