As video games become more ingrained into the pop-cultural lexicon and multiplayer grows more popular than ever, the challenge of traditionally single-player franchises to transiition into multiplayer becomes more pertinent than ever. While series like Assassin’s Creed and Max Payne incorporate online multiplayer in new and innovative ways, other series such as Ninja Gaiden and Spec Ops lose their way in the shuffle. When IO Interactive announced that their upcoming Hitman: Absolution would feature the series’ first foray into online multiplayer -- in a new mode dubbed “Contracts” -- many fans were worried about the loss of another single-player franchise to the corporate multiplayer machine. During my hands-on time with the multiplayer with game director Tore Blystad, however, I was shown just how innovative Contracts is, and should quell any doubts fans may have about this entry to the series.
Rather than incorporating traditional 16+ person multiplayer into Hitman: Absolution, IO Interactive is making the transition from single to multiplayer almost seemlessly, allowing players to challenge others with “contracts”. These challenges appear in real-time during campaign, prompting you to temporarily divert your attention from the main objective to assassinate a peripheral character.
Our demo began with Agent 47 trying to escape a library from a group of police officers. While gameplay was initially more reminiscent of Splinter Cell or Batman: Arkham City, with Agent 47 sticking to ledges and shadows to avoid guards, a contract popped up that would send Agent 47 into a play style instantly reminiscent of classic Hitman titles. The contract popped up assigning 47 the task of assassinating the nearby police sergeant. After accepting the contract, players restarted the area, and classic Hitman creeped in. Our demo player went down to the bottom level to stealthily take out a police officer with Agent 47’s trusty fiber-wires. After hiding the body out of sight, Agent 47 donned the police officer’s uniform, allowing him to travel freely amongst the other officers. Locating his target through the new “Instinct” ability (basically Batman’s “Detective Vision” from his recent duo of games), Agent 47 bided his time until both him and his target were out of the field of vision of any nearby police officers, promptly taking him out with his trusty silenced Silverballer pistol. Nonchalantly making his way to the exit, our demo player was able to make it out before any officers found the body. The contract was complete.
Of course, that was just one of many ways that this contract could have been completed, but the most interesting aspect of Contracts mode is through player creation. Players can create their own contracts by playing through the single-player missions, but marking their own targets and choosing which way to assassinate them. Up to three targets can be marked in a level, and it’s up to players to think of creative ways to bring them down. After taking down your targets and exiting the level, you have created your contract, allowing players online to try to recreate your hit, and possibly do better.
Depending how you create your contract, you can determine certain parameters for other players to meet to earn cash bonuses. Depending on what outfit you wore, which weapons you used, what order you hit your targets, and whether or not you were seen. Time is also a factor, meaning if players are able to accomplish the hit with the same conditions you originated then they will outscore you and earn more cash, which can then be spent on outfits and better weapons to perform better contracts.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of Hitman: Blood Money was sitting down with a friend and comparing and contrasting how differently each of you would run through levels. With Contracts, the developers of Hitman: Absolution have brought this experience online, creating a new type of multiplayer that stays absolutely true to Hitman’s roots.