Hitman: Contracts is like Hitman 2 - on acid! The single worst opening to an interview ever written perhaps, except that rather than being a lazy journalistic device meant to convey added wackiness, we're in deadly earnest.
In Hitman: Contracts, it's all about the perception altering pharmaceuticals, baby. Well, that and strangling your prey with a length of piano wire, obviously. Codename 47 is back, and this time he's taken a skip-load of drugs (for medical reasons, obviously), leaving the sternly dispositioned assassin in an even more mentally unbalanced state than usual.
Fortunately IO Interactive's level designer Rasmus Hoejengaard was on hand to tell all.
Is Hitman: Contracts a return to the more immoral character of the first game rather than the reformed, reluctant assassin of Hitman 2?
Hoejengaard: Well I don't know if you can say that exactly. Since the game takes place in a dreamscape world, experienced in the mind of a hallucinating pain-killer frenzied 47, what you actually see is his past as seen through his perspective.
This we haven't done in any of the other Hitman games - this way of trying to get the player into the mind of the character. You could say that this is the "real" 47.
What's the story this time round?
Hoejengaard: The game is constructed so that every mission is driven forward by a flashback Hitman gets, that seamlessly connects to the initiating setting of the mission.
On top of all these flashbacks, there's an ongoing storyline that I won't go too much into but let the player experience him or herself.
Have you modified the control system since the last game?
Hoejengaard: Not really; we have optimised a few things and tweaked it a bit, but generally we were happy with the controls in Hitman 2.
What other key new features will figure in the title?
Hoejengaard: Lots of new graphics enhancements, squad-based enemy AI, evolved close-combat, much more consistent gameplay and level design, radically evolved weather and particle effects that play a great role in the mood and the players ability to orient him or herself.
Does Codename 47 have any new moves to rely upon?
Hoejengaard: He has quite a few new close-combat moves, that are dependent on the close-combat weapon of choice, and the relative position to the target the player has chosen.
Apart from this, we've tried to rely on the controls and behaviour of Hitman as we know it.
One of the most enjoyable elements of the previous games is the different ways you can go about your business - can you comment on how this works in the new game?
Hoejengaard: The levels of the new game have a much more consistent approach to gameplay. All the levels have many, many ways of completion, and objectives usually consist of sub-objectives.
We really tried to make the levels even more open and diverse, without making them unnecessarily complex to approach for new players of the game. I think we succeeded really well in that regard.
Could you give us examples of the kind of choices and situations you'll encounter in Contracts?
Hoejengaard: Well an example could be a level that takes place in Siberia, where one of your targets has gone inside a messhall to enjoy some hot soup before leaving to meet his Chechen business associate, regarding a deal on a dirty bomb.
You can choose to either shoot the guy with a sniper rifle from an airbase control tower from far away, across the back of a huge Antonov Transport plane, through a little window into the messhall; or you could choose another approach, and sneak in on him, strangle him, and hide him in the toilet.