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Hitman's episodic approach could be a neat solution to big budget bloat

Here’s a hot take that’s both more than a little lukewarm and likely isn’t all that controversial: I think I preferred Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes to its full-blown follow-up The Phantom Pain.

When Konami first announced its plans for a smaller, splintered Metal Gear Solid 5 ahead of the main event, the feedback wasn’t entirely positive; it was the most expensive demo ever made, asking an eye-watering £20 for a mere two hours of play and was nothing so much as Konami nickel and diming a fanbase ravenous for another slice of one of gaming’s most revered series.

It’s hard to find anyone sympathetic to Konami in the wake of its messy divorce with Hideo Kojima, and maybe the partitioning of Metal Gear Solid 5’s opening chapter was no more than a cash grab. Maybe, at a time when big budget console development had clearly fallen out of favour in the halls of its Roppongi headquarters, something that became painfully clear in the miserable aftermath of The Phantom Pain’s release as Kojima’s own pocket of Konami was shuttered, it’s an injection of cash that gave Metal Gear Solid 5 a final stay of execution.

Yet there’s more to Ground Zeroes than just canny business sense. Its self-imposed limitations made for a more instantly gratifying game. In the confines of that camp, the systems that made The Phantom Pain are there in potent concentrate: a mouth-burning shot of pretty much everything that made Metal Gear Solid 5 so great. Maybe it’s the lingering disappointment of The Phantom Pain’s final hours talking, but Ground Zeroes had a real punch that its follow-up lacked.

I’m reminded of all that in the immediate wake of this week’s release of the first chapter of IO’s Hitman revival. Square Enix somewhat muddled its way to the eventual business model – its fiddling and fumbling in the run-up to release was as clumsy and cumbersome as one of my own attempted hits with Agent 47 – yet it’s landed in a pretty sweet spot, an episodic release with the first instalment coming with an agreeable price point that’s less than you’d pay for a round at the pub.