Game: “Hitman Freelancer”
Hitman. Assassin. Executioner. Any way you slice it, the name is synonymous with stealth and precision. They’re like shadows in the night; in and out with no discernible trace left behind, spectres sent to take your soul to the underworld and you’ll never even see it coming… Then, once every lifetime, along comes a different breed of man. A man who can kill a target with a screwdriver from 20 paces. A man who can bean an unsuspecting victim unconscious with a rogue briefcase. A man who can kill you with nothing but patience and a rubber ducky. A man like Agent 47. Welcome back to the cunning and creative world of Hitman.
At A Glance
|+ A lot of fun
+ Creative and additive
|– No real narrative
– No new locations
– No save mechanics
|Price (When Reviewed)
|PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Hitman 3, developed and published by IO Interactive, is arguably one of the best stealth action games of all time. Whether it’s the gorgeous locations ranging from rural Dartmoor to glittering Dubai, or the exceedingly imaginative ways to traverse the level and assassinate your given target, the game was both wonderfully creative and immensely fun to play. Not to mention, with a whole myriad of ways to infiltrate, investigate and annihilate, Hitman 3 has a wealth of replayability that very few other games can boast. Therefore, it should be of very little surprise that their latest free DLC instalment to the series, aptly named Freelancer, contains yet more of their winning formula – but this time with an ingenious twist.
Hitman Freelancer, set sometime after the epilogue to Hitman 3, opens with a short briefing on the latest threat, “a spreading cancer of ordinary people doing unspeakable things”, and it’s up to us (or Agent 47, more specifically) to find these autonomous cells, reveal the trusted Syndicate members, and eliminate them. So far, so same, right? Well, this is where Freelancer takes a sharp turn.
When you first take control of Agent 47, you are in your new base of operations; the Safehouse. This is where all of your missions begin and end, and upon initial inspection, I found that there were several areas locked off behind ‘mastery levels’, encouraging me to succeed in my missions to rank up to expand my base. At the front of the room is a giant monitor screen displaying the world map (you know the one – just picture any military/CIA/FBI drama ever…), and below that sits eight rather conspicuous looking files representing the different Syndicate member contracts. Here you’ll get all the information you need about potential objectives (kill style, XP and cash rewards), and since each contract rewards a different type of playstyle, you can play safe or challenge yourself and risk the potentially disastrous repercussions – the more you’re willing to risk, the more it could pay off later.
After selecting your desired contract, you’ll open the world map and choose where to go -seasoned players may recognise the stunning locations on offer, as well they should, since Freelancer features a mega 19 of the 22 available locations from across Hitman 1, 2 and 3! These areas contain some prominent figures from their respective games too, though these characters have little consequence in Freelancer – we’re after different prey this time.
In addition to location, you will find out how many targets you have to eliminate, as well as how many couriers, safes and suppliers are available, which will help you gather much needed cash and gear – very profitable side-ventures which are worth your time seeking out. You can pick one of three items from a crate before heading out, and I tended to gravitate toward the one that would be most advantageous to the potential objectives for my chosen quest. You can also take any weapons/gear from the safehouse that you have collected along the way, but beware! Any gear that you take with you will be lost if you fail the mission – a devastating blow to any completionists out there who want to own a fully decked out spy pad.
Once you’ve settled on your desired first contract (I chose ‘The Bee’), this will then open the world map and you will have yet another choice – where you want to go first. You may recognise the stunning locations that the game has to offer, and as well you should! Because Freelancer features a mega 19 of the 22 available locations from across Hitman 1, 2 and 3. You will also recognise some very prominent figures when visiting such locations (Hey, haven’t I murdered you before?) but those who played main roles in the story campaigns of their respective games have little to no consequence in Freelancer – we’re after different prey this time.
All that’s left to do now, is grab your passport and jet off to your first destination!
You will find that a lot of the gameplay is along the tried and tested blueprints from before, including faces, conversations and methods of killing, so you’re not going to get too much more out of exploring the maps if you played a decent amount of any of the previous titles. On the plus side, there is much more at stake in Freelancer – if you’re a glutton for punishment and revel in high stress situations where the more you risk the more you’re rewarded (looking at you, FromSoftware fans!), then you’ve definitely come to the right place!
Where Freelancer differs from the other Hitman games are the roguelite elements that have been introduced, lending a sense of suspense and consequence to the whole experience. Gone are the days where you could ‘wing it’ with a banana and a carbine – now if a mission goes awry, there’s a lot more to lose than just your dignity as an elite assassin. Failure to complete a mission will result in the failure of that chosen campaign. Yes, you did indeed read that correctly. Being unable to complete any of your assignments after you land at your destination means you have to start your chosen campaign again from scratch – whether you’ve completed one mission or four, it’s right back to the start.
Harsh, not to mention inconvenient.
And you can forget about saving your progress so you can pop down to the shops – there is no way to save once you have started. If you have to quit the game then the next time you log on you will have failed the mission. Therefore, I would strongly recommend having ample time set aside for playing, otherwise you run the risk of having to leave mid-espionage and having to begin all over again. And, as if all that wasn’t bad enough, a failure results in consequent missions beginning in an ‘alerted’ state, meaning that; NPCs will start on high alert, are able to recognise you and even render your disguises less effective. Then, just to add insult to injury, if you fail an alerted mission you will fail the entire campaign and have to start back at the safehouse with a brand new assignment. Brutal.
It’s not all doom and gloom though! Successfully passing a mission will take you back to the safehouse with a pat on the head and a new assignment to choose from. Complete a run of missions in a contract and you will progress to the finale – a ‘showdown’ where you are tasked not only with getting close to and eliminating your target, but actually figuring out who they are to begin with. You will be given both physical and personality clues to help you to identify the correct target out of a number of possibilities which makes these missions a lot of fun – think James Bond meets Guess Who!
My first showdown had me searching for a target with red hair, glasses, a necklace and earrings who was apparently a foodie and was generally dehydrated. I used the special camera available to help accept or reject potential targets out of my four options – I made the mistake of assuming my target would be female because of the earrings and nearly killed the wrong target. My saving grace was that while spying on my suspected target I observed another man with red hair periodically drinking water and helping himself to food, and suddenly I was rethinking my decision. Lucky for me too, because my initial suspicions were totally wrong and could have cost me the entire campaign! It definitely pays to be vigilant and heed all of the given clues!
Of course, a pat on the barcoded head isn’t all you get for a job well done! Complete a showdown and you are rewarded with a fairly decent weapon, mastery experience and cash too. The resulting campaigns get longer and harder with each success, with more missions, harder objectives, and even areas that start in the alerted state too. Having made my way through three campaigns, I noted that each one became progressively more difficult but didn’t have any kind of running narrative, and that completing an assignment simply replaced it with another. This creates a continuous cycle of missions and showdowns, allowing the player to continue grinding for XP and mastery ranks, unlock more rooms in their safehouse, and collect all of the unique gear needed to fill up their archives.
All in all, Hitman Freelancer is just as fun and addictive as the single-player story of Hitman 3. It has all the charm and creativity of the original games, but goes that one step further by adding roguelike elements to the mix. With much higher stakes, a slew of handicaps to hinder your flawless performance, and ‘permadeath’ qualities, Freelancer certainly takes no prisoners! Ensure to prep your playing schedule though, as being unable to save will mean you’re locked in to play until the mission is complete since logging off part way through is costly. If you’re a fan of the series, I would absolutely recommend Freelancer – it has all the same chaotic tomfoolery with some deliciously deadly adjustments.