By Andy Kelly
IO Interactive’s environment design has always been incredible, from the bustling, neon-lit streets of Shanghai in Kane & Lynch 2 to the grimy, rain-soaked Terminus Hotel in Hitman: Absolution. Whatever you think of their games, most will agree that the worlds they’re set in are always exquisite. A tradition that the most recent Hitman takes to an extraordinary new level.
But you probably didn’t notice most of it. I’ve played over 30 hours of Hitman myself, but it was only when I used a hack to take control of the camera that I realised just how much hand-crafted fine detail is in each level. I knew the game was pretty but, as I flew around with the camera, studying it in close detail, I was blown away by what I discovered.
Whether it’s the ornate gold sculptures and classical frescoes adorning the ceiling of the mansion in the Paris level, or the intricate silverware and delicate mosaics in Marrakesh, there’s an absurd amount of micro-detail everywhere you look. Detail that the majority of players won’t even see as they’re stalking their target and planning their hit.
Even seemingly unremarkable props like wardrobes, couches, and lamps—the kind of level decoration you barely notice in games—have been designed with a ludicrous attention to detail. Behind a bar in Hokkaido there are sake barrels painted with elegant, colourful designs. In the crypts beneath Sapienza, cobwebs flutter on sad-eyed stone angels.
Agent 47’s deadly world tour takes him from a fashion show in Paris to a hospital in Hokkaido, via an Italian coastal town, a market in Marrakesh, a Bangkok hotel, and a Colorado farm. And each level brilliantly captures the essence of the country it’s set in, rather than trying to perfectly replicate it.
But did IO need to render these places in such spectacular detail? Probably not, but I’m glad they did. Even if you don’t notice these visual flourishes, your subconscious does, and it makes the world feel more real as a result. Whoever designed that stunning ceiling in Paris and wondered if anyone would ever bother to look up and notice: I did, although I had to hack the camera to do so. Here's hoping that a future update adds a photo mode to Agent 47's world, so we can appreciate the care that's gone into making it.