Posted October 31, 2018 by David Latham in Feature
 
 

PAX 2018: Hitman 2 interview with Associate Game Director Eskil Møhl


Hitman 2 is out in just two weeks, so when we saw IO Interactive was attending PAX 2018 in Melbourne, Australia we quickly arranged a Hitman 2 interview to see what’s new with the second game of the series reboot, and how Danish developers IO Interactive have gone since going independent from Square Enix. Chatting to the nice folks at the Hitman 2 booth on the show floor, we were directed to a private suite upstairs.

Leaving the show floor and making our way up the stairs felt eerily similar to the convention centre setting in the Miami level demo which was available to play at PAX 2018, so naturally we were checking for security cameras and looking out for bald men in crazy costumes (there were actually quite a few because of the barber they had set up at the Hitman 2 booth!) You can read our PAX 2018 Hitman 2 hands-on preview here, but if you want to know what was asked behind closed doors check out our exclusive interview with Hitman 2 Associate Game Director Eskil Møhl below.

Hi Eskil, thanks for traveling all the way to Melbourne to chat about Hitman 2. Firstly, how complete was the build of the Miami Global Innovation Race mission that we played on the show floor at PAX 2018?

This was a pre-beta build, it was the GamesCom build and honestly I wanted to get some of the newer stuff but then we had to show all the levels and we just couldn’t because we don’t want to spoil everything. So a lot of stuff has happened since then, it’s fairly solid but there is a lot of stuff in that mission that you haven’t seen yet, in terms of stability and sound, even the lighting.

Hitman 2 Preview PAX 2018

It was hard enough trying to hear the sound given the amount of noise coming from the show floor at PAX 2018, particularly given we were right next to the PC hardware booths!

Yeah, the headphones were there trying to block everything out but even I was having a hard time trying to hear it haha, but it’s way more stable now. What we have down there is a fairly solid build but I can see a lot of stuff where I go, “Oh! We’ve definitely improved on that.”

Okay, so it sounds like it’s not a final build by any means which is definitely promising. Moving on from the PAX demo, can you give us some details as to what fans can expect from post-launch DLC?

Yes! One thing we’re working with right now is a new Sniper Assassin map. We are introducing Sniper Assassin co-op into the game. Did you try the new one?

That was the mobile game, wasn’t it?

It actually started back in Absolution as a pre-order exclusive, but by using the same logic where you’re just remotely sitting and sniping. It was still a puzzle game but it had tiers where you would become gradually better and better and get better weapons. If you win then you will get your face in the game. There’s a guy called Rocko who’s a kitchen staff guy who’s late for work in the previous Hitman, that’s actually the guy who won the Sniper Assassin challenge from Absolution. That’s his face, we flew him in and scanned his face and he’s sitting in the Absolution Sniper Challenge.

A similar thing came out on the iPad, it was the Montreal development team who did that I think, and we’ll be doing something similar there but with a new map.

We’re also going to be having a lot of the escalations and ghost mode which is a new multiplayer mode where we’re putting people against each other. So we’re dipping our toes in to what a multiplayer mode would mean in Hitman because we’re very aware that a deathmatch mode would probably not be very good for the mechanics we have, so we’ve created something new called ghost mode and there’s a beta coming for it soon.

We also have two whole new levels that we’re working on currently which will come out in the post-launch period, so yeah there’s a lot. And of course, don’t forget about the Elusive Targets, starting with Sean Bean who’s a celebrity elusive target but we’re also working on new elusive targets for the new levels.

Would they also be celebrity focused?

I can not answer that at this stage.

Hitman 2 interview

Okay no problem! We’ve got a couple of questions about season 1, what inspired you to go back and update it with the refinements made in Hitman 2 such as combat AI, items, and difficulty?

And foliage and mirrors and aiming and so many things! Hitman 2 starts right where we left off, the previous story ended with a cliffhanger right, so we established a lot of characters and gave some depth to it and Hitman 2 is picking up the torch and continuing that story, so we thought that it would make sense that you didn’t have a less polished game not just in a mechanical way but also fewer items in it, like the suitcase and stuff like that, all these new things that we’re bringing in.

Also because we love our levels, and a lot of people love to replay them. Our team like to open up and play old levels from time to time, and so we wanted to make the whole thing a coherent experience. We have a super nice and dedicated fan base right, and when they buy the second Hitman they will get [all the work we’ve put in to the original game since launch] for free, which is nice.

We’re sure they will appreciate going back and playing through those missions again. Speaking of which, do you believe the episodic release structure of season 1 affected its overall appeal?

Yeah, I think it unfortunately did. Producing a game like Hitman, which is all about replayability, for me it felt that it worked. You play a little bit, play some other games, and then come back and play some more, right? But that just ended being the topic. So when we read and heard about the game we heard “I think it’s shit!” “Well I like it!” “Well I think it’s shit!” and people were less focused on how the game is good and special, and instead they were talking about the [episodic release structure]. There were also people saying “I’m just going to wait until they’re all out” and just forgot about it entirely, and so now with Hitman 2 we’re giving everything all at once to remove that topic of discussion.

That’s true, there were quite a lot of people saying “I’ll just wait until it all comes out as a whole season.”

And then they forget about it, right?

Yeah, by then newer games have come out.

Exactly. But we saw a lot of people who embraced it as well, who actually ferociously fought against all the naysayers on the web, and I feel a little sad for them because I also have to say that I enjoyed it and it was really nice to pace ourselves during development as we had a monthly development cycle.

Instead of crunching before launch…

Yeah well we haven’t crunched that much when you listen to how other people can crunch, but we have been working extremely hard.

You’re not talking about that game that just came out are you?

I’ve heard stories.

Hitman 2 interview

Based on what we were talking about before with replaying older levels, has IO Interactive investigated recreating old levels from previous Hitman games, such as classics like the mansion level in Blood Money? Or..

Which mansion level, the one with the guard house or?

The one with the pool in the middle, I remember playing that one quite a lot.

Oh that one! Where you drown the guy! Well you will see, it’s been hinted at in the Untouchable trailer, you will see certain surroundings that should ring a bell or seem familiar to previous games. We’re all huge fans of the previous games, so we’ve thought of ways we can revisit a level.

It’s not like we’re doing a carbon copy build with updated graphics, it’s its own thing but with clear flavours. We also have the Colombia level in Hitman 2. Some of the hits in it are from the Delgado family which are from A Vintage Year in Hitman: Blood Money. Remember that level, it’s in Chili?

The one where you’re climbing along the cliff wall at the start to get in?

Yeah, yeah, and then the airplane that you can use and the basement where the cartel is. And so people from that universe we’re bringing back.

Hitman 2 interview

Almost like a sequel to that particular level?

It just ties back in to the universe. Some of the characters from previous games we loved so much that we thought they could have cousins or relatives that you can take out now.

Oh, okay, that sounds like a lot of fun. While we’re talking about older Hitman games and other platforms, Hitman Switch! You know everyone wants it, but has it been considered?

I can’t answer that! I do know that everybody wants it and I do know that we are very aware about the Switch, but I can’t say anything about that right now.

Sound promising. Another question about future Hitman games, originally there were three seasons planned for the reboot, if that’s still the case should we now be calling this a trilogy? Will the current story end with Hitman 3?

Right now we are super happy to talk about Hitman 2, and we are here to celebrate that that is coming to market, so I can’t comment on what’s coming next.

Fair enough! A criticism of season 1 was that a lot of elements were tied to being online, such as secondary objectives, kill trackers, etc. Is there more of an offline presence for Hitman 2?

The offline got improved during season 1, so the stuff that you unlocked you would have it when going online. I asked one of our tech guys what I could say if this question was asked and he did respond to me. He said “The game does require an online connection for leaderboards and progressions on multiplayer modes. Being connected also allows us to deliver tweaks to the game without having to patch everything. It is possible to play the entire main game offline and anything you unlock when you are online will be available when you are offline.” It’s super hard for us to be able to have our live stuff without being online. “Without being online we can’t run our live model game without forcing player frustration.” So I think it’s one of those situations where one way could be better, but another way could also be better so it’s a bit of a balancing act.

Is it because you guys have such bad internet here in Australia?

Yeah I’d say that’s the main reason Aussies get frustrated by games that require a steady internet connection, a lot of us get constant drop outs and bottlenecks in peak times.

Yeah, yeah, but that could be a thing actually, because in Europe and the US it’s just kind of… the web is here, and the hole in the wall is getting bigger and bigger so for us it just makes it so much easier, but of course I can also understand if you’re getting hit with like a 56k dial-up speed then that would be quite frustrating.

It sure is. We’ve got a couple of questions remaining, so tell us how has IO Interactive going independent affected Hitman 2’s development?

To be honest it’s super hard for me to say because before Square left I was not in a management position, but I always felt like they were really nice people who respected our decisions and creatively I don’t think we had a lot of constraints on us but definitely now we’re totally free to do whatever we want. So that will be felt, and even though it’s been a while it’s still too early to say because we were already deep in to making Hitman 2 when the split happened. I can honestly say that Square treated us really nice in the time that I was there. They were very happy to see us return Hitman to its roots, and they were big fans of the earlier games as well.

So the development of Hitman 2 was basically unaffected by the split from Square Enix?

Well I always felt that we had a tremendous amount of freedom creatively. It wasn’t like they were coming and saying “You can’t do this, you can’t do that, you have to do it like this instead.” It wasn’t like that. But naturally now there’s nobody to answer to, so yeah.

Okay, that all sounds great for Hitman 2. So lastly, I just had a specific question about one of the locations that was revealed just the other day. It’s nice and close to home – Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. In the trailer it was night time, I was wondering if it has a day/night cycle or if it’s entirely night time, and what more you can tell us about that location?

Currently it is entirely night time. It is one of our darker levels in every sense.

So more stealthy?

Yeah! I don’t want to reveal too much, but it has a very dark theme and something that really fits with the Hitman fantasy.

Hitman 2 interview

And was there any reason why you chose Hawke’s Bay exactly?

It fit, and we wanted to also get more dots on the map, and it fits the story as well so that’s one of the reasons.

 

That concludes our PAX 2018 Hitman 2 interview. For more information on Hitman 2, check out the recently released locations trailer, our release date reveal and trailer coverage, and of course our recent hands-on Hitman 2 preview.

Hitman 2 launches on November 13, 2018 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC platforms. For more information head to the official Hitman website.


David Latham

 
David has a Bachelor of Arts (Journalism) from a Group of Eight university, but only uses his very unique set of skills writing about video games. By day he's a stay-at-home dad, by night he's literally Batman. Where does he find the time?