GOG release of 2016 Hitman reignites controversy surrounding online connections for single-player games
GOG, CD Projekt's online store for digital games distribution, has always branded itself around DRM-free games. "We are GOG.com, the DRM-free home for a curated selection of games," reads a notice on the front page, and each game page has a section that says "no activation or online connection required to play." Because of this, many have come to see GOG as a haven for games preservation, freeing games from different launchers and storefronts, and allowing players to actually own them in totality, to play however and wherever they choose. However, the latest major release on the platform, IO Interactive's 2016 Hitman reboot, has angered some fans by locking features behind an online check-in. While this doesn't technically stop you from playing offline - Hitman's story and bonus missions can be played offline - the majority of features require a connection to IO Interactive's server, such as Escalation missions, Elusive Targets and user-created Contracts. There is a prominent warning on the game's store page that says this, though some users are claiming it launched without this warning. However, what isn't mentioned in this warning is that major parts of the game's progression system are also locked behind online connectivity. Unlocking new weapons, new starting locations, location mastery and getting your mission scores require a persistent internet connection. "In other words," says GOG user HeavilyAugmented in his review, "playing the game offline means you never unlock new content and you'll have to start with a default loadout of a regular suit and silenced pistol always."
The game's page is being flooded with negative reviews, and currently sits at an average rating of 1.4/5 (for comparison, the game's Metacritic page currently sits at a 7.5 average user rating). A GOG team member named chandra made a post on the GOG forums thanking users for bringing the issue to their attention, and says they will give an update "in the coming weeks," but also mentions that users are free to use their right to refund the game if they are not satisfied. "At the same time," the post continues, "while we’re open for meritful discussion and feedback, we will not tolerate review bombing and will be removing posts that do not follow our review guidelines."
This response only drew more ire, with many users feeling the term "review bombing," often applied to when fans swarm a product's user reviews with frivolous complaints, was not appropriate here. "It's not 'review bombing' when the reviews give better information on what is actually locked behind online DRM than the game's store page," said GOG forum user Breja. Though chandra clarified that they would only be removing reviews that breach their review guidelines, it has done little to calm the angered fans, and left them with an interesting question: should a storefront like GOG be selling a game when the majority of its content is gated behind an online connection?
Hitman - Game of the Year Edition GOG Store Page