Hitman – Game of The Year Edition launched on GOG.com this week – and immediately sparked a row about DRM.
GOG is a storefront whose brand is built upon selling games “DRM free” – that is, they can be played offline.
Hitman’s GOG page, like that of so many games on the platform, highlights that it is DRM free. “No activation or online connection required to play,” reads the prominent message.
While Hitman’s story and bonus missions can be played offline, its Escalation missions, Elusive Targets and user-created Contracts require an online connection. This is a warning also displayed prominently on Hitman’s GOG store page, although customers say the game launched without it.
What has emerged since is you also have to be online to unlock new equipment, starting locations, to get mission scores and level up your location mastery.
All this combined caused some GOG users to leave negative reviews for the game complaining about the online nature of certain parts of the experience.
At the time of this article’s publication, Hitman was on a 1.4/5 overall rating – a terrible user score for a game that was met with critical acclaim upon release.
Most of the reviews mention “online DRM”. “You can play through the game with the basic options, but many features, such as unlocking weapons, items, outfits, starting locations and more are locked behind an online requirement,” wrote user Cube1701 in their 1/5 stars review. “The GOG page does not make this clear and is extremely misleading.”
“The only worthwhile AAA stealth game in years (so long as you disable hints and X-ray vision) but over five years later, IO still refuse to implement a proper offline mode so bare minimum, you don’t need to be online to unlock new equipment, starting locations, outfits, etc,” wrote HeavilyAugmented in another 1/5 stars review.
“In other words, 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.”
“This game doesn’t belong here,” said talen.zero.
GOG responded via a forum post that told disgruntled customers they are free to refund Hitman if they’re not happy, and to issue a warning over “review bombing”.
“Thank you for bringing this topic to our attention,” reads a statement issued by a rep called “chandra”.
“We’re looking into it and will be updating you in the coming weeks. In case you have purchased Hitman and are not satisfied with the released version, you can use your right to refund the game. At the same time, 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.”
As you’d expect, this statement didn’t gone down well, and the thread is packed with negative replies that take issue with GOG using the phrase “review bombing” to describe what is going on here.
Chandra followed up to say GOG will not remove reviews that provide information on Hitman the storefront currently does not, rather those reviews that “are against our review guidelines”.
But that has done little to calm the negative reaction. At the heart of it is what some feel is the breach of GOG’s main selling point: DRM-free ownership. Those familiar with 2016’s Hitman will know much of the game depends upon an online connection. The question is whether GOG should be selling such a game as it works now in the first place.
Meanwhile, customers are debating what kind of update GOG will provide “in the coming weeks”. Will a special version of Hitman be made just for GOG, one that can be played entirely offline? We’ll see.