Hitman Absolution: An Interview with Art Director, Roberto Marchesi

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The big, bald assassin with the inexplicable ability to blend into a crowd is making his return this year in Hitman Absolution. After a six year hiatus, players will finally get some time with Agent 47 in what promises to be the most definitive addition to the Hitman franchise yet.

Recently in Australia to promote the upcoming game, was art director Roberto Marchesi. As passionate about Hitman as he is about his epic beard, Mr Marchesi got right into the nitty gritty of why Absolution has him more excited than any other title he’s ever worked on. But for those among you who may not know what a fancy title like ‘Art Director’ actually means, Mr Marchesi put it like this.

“So my job is really to make sure that the game has true-to-life believability but it remains functional and accessible to all players.”

hitman pic1 Hitman Absolution: An Interview with Art Director, Roberto Marchesi

Yup, that looks about right!

“For example, there is always this constant battle between art, animation and actual gameplay. You can have these beautiful animations of 47 going into cover smoothly and gracefully, but if it takes too long the player gets frustrated. No one really cares about animation when they’re being shot at. It’s finding that balance and making sure that you don’t go too far to one side… without upsetting the animators.”

Before I was able to interject with a follow-up question regarding Mr Marchesi’s choice of the word ‘accessible,’ he did it for me.

“Whenever I say ‘accessible’ people always cringe. But I just want to say, before you freak out, that when I say accessible, I really mean enjoyable.”

“The original Hitman, Codename 47, was a very difficult game for beginners. Which is obviously ironic because it’s the first game. But there were really no tools in the actual design to help the player realise their fantasy as the world’s most dangerous assassin. It was all very basic. Guards acted with a hive-mind, the NPCs were oblivious to weapons just lying on the floor and there was no input from the character. He’s a trained killer from birth, but he didn’t feed the player any information. So the new Instinct functionality is our way of streamlining information and trying to simulate the mindset that Agent 47 has. We’ve got so many new gameplay elements this time around that finding ways to convey them all without being obtrusive was a real challenge.

Then, of course, for the hardcore players out there, you can turn all that hard work off! There’s a purist mode that basically shuts down the UI completely. You don’t have access to health meters … guard patrol routes via instinct, nothing. You even need to keep track of how many bullets you have left in your gun.

And all of this is really just giving the player the tools to play the game the way they want to. If you want to be professional and silent, you’ll encounter certain situations other players, who chose the action route, didn’t get. 47 doesn’t have a conscience, the player does. If you want to kill everyone who gets in your way, or save certain people because they are just innocent bystanders, that’s really your choice.”

One of the most exciting new features working its way into Hitman Absolution is Contracts mode. Designed to extend the games longevity, Contracts allows players to create custom levels with specific kill parameters, then upload their masterpiece to the web to challenge other would-be assassins worldwide.

“When we tested some of the more open levels in Absolution, we would tell the players that there was about five ways to complete any given mission. It varies from level to level but that was our rough estimate. Within hours these players had come up with 50, 60, 70 alternate methods and it really made us think this creative player input could be expanded on and make it part of the game.

hitman pic2 Hitman Absolution: An Interview with Art Director, Roberto Marchesi

The good old fiber wire.

Players were already coming up with scenarios with their friends in past games, so we just took it one step further. Contracts, to us, is really a ‘put your money where your mouth is’ mode. Players who say they’re the best assassin in the world can now prove it. But! You can’t just create a crazy mission and say, ‘go on, complete it.’ You have to show others how it’s done first. We are very excited to see what the community does with it come launch.”

It’s not just about adding competition to Hitman Mr Marchesi explained further, but to simply to give fans a new way to experience a particular level.

“Contracts as such is not just competitive. It does have that strong competitive edge that we’d showcased with the online leader boards for fans that are national and worldwide, but it’s also a way to change the game. In the library mission that we showcased at E3, in a normal single player game it’s an A to B mission. But if you actually access the Contracts (and there will be many that will be shipped with the game), the rules of that particular level change. You have a new target and a completely different way to get to him, so you’re taking the same level and spinning it on its head, giving players more replayability and another way to enjoy the game.”

Hitman Absolution drops into stores November 20th. Keep your eyes peeled for our hands on!

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