And now, we get to talk a bit about Escalations in Hitman.
Continuing from where I left off last time...
In his article about the success of Hitman, Kirk Hamilton posits that Escalations help players master small subsections of a given map, and he's not wrong. However, I would add that they add a more important tool to the repertoire of the Hitman player.
That is: They add the element of improvisation and planning to Hitman.
That's not to say that players don't learn these skills during the story missions. Naturally, most of the gameplay in any Hitman game comes from analyzing the environment and what tools one has access to when pulling off the assassination. However, both story missions and contracts give players a lot of safety when pulling them off. Even if one isn't particularly cunning or sneaky, they can still pull of an assassination, and might even pull one off spectacularly.
In Escalations, that's no longer true. Sure, anybody can complete the first few stages of a given Escalation Contract. (And I'm well aware of my performance in this episode as I say this.) However, as new constraints and conditions are added to the mission in later Escalation levels, players have to teach themselves how to handle these new complications. If a mission is otherwise the same, but tweaked in this particular way, how will you, as the player, be able to account for that new factor. The player is forced to improvise in a way that the other modes don't force them to.
Likewise with Contracts, Escalations are usually devoid of the scripted kills often seen in the story missions. Most of the targets end up just being otherwise nameless/faceless NPCs with an AI routine, some spoken lines, and not much else. This means that instead of scripted sequences, players must learn to adapt to playing within the systems of Hitman, rather than relying on Opportunities.
This helps to prepare for the Elusive Targets, and I'll discuss that preparation in the last part of the Escalation discuss, next time.