Often, developers are looking for ways to flog a dead horse, coming up with cheap ways to revitalise a game that’s several years old. But in the case of Hitman: Freelancer, IO Interactive’s ideas are actually good. Freelancer is the new, roguelike mode now available with their World of Assassination trilogy, and it’s a great addition to the many methods and modes of our favourite assassin, Agent 47.
While Hitman has always had some roguelike qualities to it, encouraging players to replay the map to expand the story, Freelancer mode builds on previous gameplay elements of the escalations and elusive targets to create a challenge for even the most experienced Hitman player. You start by selecting a campaign from eight options, each tackling different maps and rewarding different playstyles. For example, Psy Ops challenges favour silent assassin playstyles, where the Big Pharma route, well, you guessed it, favours poison.
For those coming to Hitman for the first time, it’s best to play through the stories first. Not only do they pack a punch, but success in freelancer mode relies a lot on familiarity with the level design. I found myself selecting campaigns based on my preferred maps rather than playstyle; Maldives, too easy, Colorado, a firm nope.
The challenge from there is to progress through 18 missions, with four campaign showdowns. Easier said than done. If you fail a non-showdown territory, you’ll return to the safehouse nursing a couple of wounds, and the next mission will be in an alerted territory. These are not as challenging as you’d think; it means the targets are alerted to your presence, but ranged or poison assassinations work well in these situations.
At the end of each set of missions, you enter a showdown, where you’ll need to determine the target from several potential suspects using the clues from Diana Burnwood. Killing the wrong suspect is not a dealbreaker here, as they often carry burner phones which can be used to arrange meetings with the other suspects.
However, if you take down the wrong target and are detected, the actual target will run for the exit. Quick thinking assassins can use this to their advantage; there were a couple of times where I got them before they left, although expect heavy fire from their entourage.
Gone too are the days of starting a level with your favourite gear, instead getting randomised gear through a crate in your safehouse and within levels. In this, I realised how much I relied on the humble coin and lockpick combination to complete levels, and have been challenged into using new kit – some of which, like the remote taser and emetic grenades, are very useful.
Succeeding at your missions advances your mastery level, opening up new features in his forest safe house. It’s about as cosy as Agent 47 gets – minimalist furniture and a concrete underground bunker. But I can’t help having a certain fondness for this lil’ blue-eyed assassin, wanting to give him a nice, warm house after his tough childhood.
It’s also clever how the house is used to improve your opportunities; opening up the kitchen gives you access to a banana and a red wine bottle to take into the levels. These are vital distractions which aren’t as easy to access when your gear is limited in the safehouse. I never knew how useful bananas were until Hitman: Freelancer.
The worst thing about freelancer mode is that it’s a sobering wake-up call to my Hitman skills. Despite the many hours invested in exploring every nook and cranny of each map, while replaying missions until my assassination skills reached level 239, I had a weak-spot: the save file.
In my classic playthroughs, I’d sit there smugly preparing for the perfect silent assassin suit-only combo, brushing the dust off my shoulders as no one looked sideways at my exit. But in Freelancer mode, you can’t rely on your carefully timed save file management. There are no saves, only zool… I mean, failure.
In Freelancer mode, I’m running for my life from security because I’ve accidentally pulled a knife out in a public place. I’ve organised the perfect quiet spot to lure a potential syndicate boss for a rendezvous, when eight people show up in succession, busting my cover as I run out of space in the hidden basket. I make one slight mistake in my timing on the last mission, and get the epic Campaign Failed message. As they say, you better ‘git gud’.
Hitman: Freelancer is messy. I’ve had to give up on my precise playstyle to get through the levels, relying more on the classic ‘overflow the sink neck-snapper’ method, or the ‘throw a pointy object at their head from behind a shrub and run away’ style. And where I never used guns in my previous playthroughs, I’ve started utilising them for ranged kills, often the best option when you’re close to an exit. It’s challenging the very methods I’ve relied on for so long, making the game a fresh challenge.
I had a great time going back to the world of Agent 47 in Hitman: Freelancer. For those experienced in the ways of the assassin, Freelancer is the perfect challenge to escalate your skills.
I received a free review copy of this product from https://keymailer.co.
As an independent reviewer, this does not influence my opinion of the game.