Hitman is a 2016 stealth video game that was developed by IO Interactive and was released episodically for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One from March to October 2016. The game, which has six episodes, is the sixth mainline entry in the Hitman franchise and the first installment of the World of Assassination trilogy, taking place six years after the events of Hitman: Absolution (2012). It follows professional assassin Agent 47 as he goes on a worldwide adventure and solves a mysterious series of seemingly unconnected assassinations. Hitman features a number of large, open-ended sandboxes that Agent 47 can freely explore. The game presents the player with various assassination opportunities, many of which are unconventional. IO Interactive introduced a “live component” to the game with new content being regularly delivered in downloadable form.
Square Enix set up a Montréal studio to work on the next Hitman game, but IO Interactive returned to lead the game’s development following the under-performance of Absolution. The title was conceived as a soft reboot and a re-imagining of the franchise as the team attempted to integrate the gameplay of Absolution with the open-endedness of earlier installments of the series.
According to the team, Hitman is a puzzle game with action and stealth elements; the developers refined the simulation and artificial intelligence of each level. The game adopted an episodic model and the team envisioned the game as a service. It was marketed as a “World of Assassination” and provided a platform that would expand and evolve over time, and inspire a trilogy of games.
Upon its release, Hitman received positive reviews; critics praised the game’s episodic release format, locations, level design, and its replayability but criticised the always-online requirement and excessive handholding. The game under-performed commercially and caused publisher Square Enix to divest from IO Interactive in May 2017. Following a management buyout, IO retained the rights to the series and partnered with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment to produce a sequel titled Hitman 2, which was released in November 2018. The World of Assassination trilogy is set to be concluded with Hitman 3 in January 2021.