You’ve probably heard this one before. A buzzy game hits the market. It demands some degree of internet connection. Everyone flocks to play on day one, only to hit a series of frustrating roadblocks. Online connectivity is shaky, if functional at all. There are issues with save data and character progression. Some players spring for upmarket versions—say, an “Ultimate” edition—and have trouble accessing the stuff they paid for. The developer fires off a series of apologetic tweets, says it acknowledges the situation and is “looking into it,” and publishes a FAQ addressing the most common issues with a string of answers that are thin, at best, and vague, at worst.
The game’s launch, in other words, is a mess.
The disaster du jour isn’t a Destiny or a Diablo or a Division. It’s Hitman 3, the latest in IO Interactive’s recent series of interactive Instagram posts, out this week for a whole bunch of platforms.
Hitman 3’s problems started, allegedly, prior to launch. IO’s Hitman games have always had an online element, which relies on a persistent internet connection to track your progress. Kotaku’s Riley MacLeod told me that, when he was reviewing the game, connectivity would fade in and out. As far as he could tell, it didn’t have any major bearing on how he played. (In reviewing the game for PCMag, Mike Williams ran into similarly wonky connectivity.) You can technically play Hitman 3 offline, but you’ll miss out on some unlocks.
In a vacuum, no, that wouldn’t be a problem. It’s common for online games to have server issues before launch. Hitman 3’s servers were up and running (on paper) during the review period, but still hit some snags. And keep in mind that such issues existed despite the fact that only a small crop of reviewers—rather than the broader game-playing public—had access to the game.
Server issues persisted when the game officially launched on January 20. Bonus points if you saw that one coming.
That’s not all. Hitman 3 technically allows players to carry over their progress—both in terms of character progress and unlocked levels—from the prior “World of Assassination trilogy” games, Hitman and Hitman 2. That process, too, hasn’t rolled out as smoothly as advertised.
Hitman games are defined as much by their locations as anything else. Prior games sent Agent 47 to ritzy destinations like Marrakesh, Morocco; Hokkaido, Japan; Miami, Florida; and Sapienza, Italy, which is not a real place but, c’mon, may as well be a carbon copy of Positano, Sorrento, Praiano, or any other vacation hotspot on the idyllic Amalfi Coast. If you owned Hitman 2, you could import any unlocked levels into Hitman 3 by downloading expansion passes called Access Packs at no extra cost. (Those who owned Hitman or Hitman 2 on disc have had to go through an even more convoluted download process. It’s a whole thing.)
Trying to find these Access Packs in each console’s proprietary storefront, though, could show them listed at price. Instead, players had to navigate to Hitman 3’s Store tab via the game’s main menu. But even that hasn’t guaranteed success. Some Xbox players have been entirely unable to access the first game’s Access Pack, even if they follow the guidelines to a tee. IO says a “resolution” is in the works.
PC players, meanwhile, faced some mixed messaging about whether or not PC players would have to repurchase Hitman 2 on the Epic Games Store, where Hitman 3 is a timed exclusive. Currently, Hitman 2 is not available on the Epic Games Store, but you can buy the Hitman 2 Gold Edition Access Pack—which includes the base game and its add-ons—at an 80-percent markdown through February 3. In other words, if you own Hitman 2 on Steam and want to play that game’s levels in Hitman 3, you’ll have to pay again. IO says a fix is in the works. It’s unclear why the Hitman 2 Gold Edition Access Pack isn’t marked down completely. (Kotaku has reached out to IO representatives for comment.)
And then there’s the actual data transfer. If you played Hitman 2, you can port your player profile—your XP rank, your Master levels, your unlocked suits, things like that—into Hitman 3. IO Interactive even set up a dedicated site allowing players to seamlessly settle the process. The site almost immediately buckled under the strain, with some players encountering error messages. At 2:57 p.m. ET, IO Interactive acknowledged the issue, writing, in a tweet, that anyone seeing a failure notification has been “placed in a queue on [their] end and processed. You can do no more.”
“We’ve taken steps to stabilise the carryover progress,” IO wrote in a FAQ Thursday morning. “We’re cautiously optimistic that we’ll avoid further issues and we’re on deck to keep thing[s] smooth as we reach peak hours.”
And then there’s the issue with cross-gen enhancements. It’s no secret that upgrading a game from its PlayStation 4 version to its PlayStation 5 one is already a confounding process. Hitman 3 throws an extra wrench in it. In some cases, PlayStation players have reported issues using a PS4 disc of the game to upgrade to the PS5 version, despite pre-launch promises from IO stating that next-gen upgrades would be free. Today’s FAQ directs players to first download the PS4 version onto their PS5, and then head to the PlayStation Store (on console only) and download the Hitman 3 Disc Upgrade Edition.
On top of all this, some small bits of downloadable content apparently aren’t even carrying over at all. Per IO, the Requiem Pack—which, fun fact, featured a white rubber duck—is currently “AWOL.”
It always happens, doesn’t it?
Speaking to Kotaku in 2019, developers rattled off a list of common issues that could potentially kneecap an online game, including crashes, system failure, a code issue, an unexpected influx of players, or even bugs on an individual player’s machine. Developer Rami Ismail, of Vlambeer, likened such launches to Mini Metro, the terrific minimalist management sim about building accessible transit in major metropolitan areas.
It’s important to remember, too, that issues like this aren’t universal. (See: All of the people who reply to articles about Cyberpunk 2077 with some diatribe about how the game runs swimmingly on their gazillion-dollar rig, and that it’s the game of the year, and why is it getting so much bad word of mouth anyway, what’s the problem?) For some Hitman 3 players, everything is peaches and gravy. For others, the entire ordeal has been an exercise in frustration.
And this is a tale as old as time anyway. Mass Effect: Andromeda launched as a buggy mess, before BioWare turned the ship around and transformed the game into, if not the best Mass Effect, a solid series entry. Similar things could be said about Halo: The Master Chief Collection—which is a freakin’ blast these days—or Diablo III. And everyone knows the No Man’s Sky redemption ark by now. Is Hitman 3 the next chapter in a long saga of now-great games that sputtered at launch? Only time will tell if IO can pull off this job.