Hideo Kojima’s fourth wall breaking in Metal Gear Solid 1 was one of the first instances of using unconventional methods to interact with the gamer. Finding a codec frequency from the game case, swapping your controller to port 2, and having your memory card contents and game stats read by a psychic were out-of-the-box methods to experience a game.
Papers Please used tedious gameplay mechanics to immerse you in their tale of oppressive Eastern European politics.
2016’s HITMAN joins this club by using its episodic format and elusive targets to immerse the player in the role of an assassin.
Those playing at each episode’s launch are confined to one level (and the previous), forced to explore, uncover, and learn the intricacies of the environment and NPCs. Often, the first run is the worst, improving after the player has effectively cased the joint the way a proper assassin might. Having the complete game and playing every mission once could be the worst way to experience it.
The elusive targets take the role playing one step further. You receive the contract via an intel briefing and have a limited time to take out the target before they’re gone forever. You get one chance to die or kill the target, reacting to the mission as it unfolds. These constraints put the gamer in a much different headspace.
In most games, you bang your head against them until inevitably experiencing the same thing as everyone else. With elusive missions however, you have limited time to prepare with no guarantees. Failure and success are yours forever.
The difficulty of elusive targets lines up with players that have already ran through the episodes multiple times. Their familiarity with the environment and gameplay allow them to role play an experienced hitman simply taking another job. Reusing the environments allows the developers to make them larger and more intricate. It’s a fascinating and unique experience made possible by the delivery methods.
Although we’re currently in a stagnant time of gameplay innovations, it’s inspiring to see developers think outside the box to provide new levels of interaction. I hope to see more creativity moving forward using every avenue available.