I started playing Hitman’s new Freelancer mode last week and, so far, it’s really kicking my ass. The new roguelike offering seems really good, but I'm having so much trouble remembering how to be Agent 47 that "seems" is all I can say, for now.
Before playing it, I had been going through my longest Hitman drought since buying Hitman 3 back in 2021. I reviewed the new Ambrose Island map when it was released last July, but after that, I didn’t really touch the game until now. If you’re in a similar boat, there’s a good chance Freelancer will immediately feel like a brick wall. And not the kind you can destroy by collecting a metal ball, gunpowder, and loading them into a cannon to murder a target hiding out behind it.
The roguelike mode is designed to be the ultimate Hitman challenge, and that it is. Before leaving for a mission, Agent 47 must select one campaign from eight procedurally generated challenges in his safe house, newly introduced for this mode. Each offers three destinations for 47 to complete, with more added as you complete campaigns. Unless you’ve mastered every level from Hitmans 1-3, you're likely going to hit one that throws a wrench in your plans. If you fail, you get to attempt one of the remaining destinations. If you fail that, you fail the campaign.
That was me in Marrakesh last week. It's a level I've only played to completion once or twice, and it dropped me in the school, an area I've barely explored. By the time I started Marrakesh, I had already failed Dartmoor — a map I do know well, so no excuses here — which puts enemies in subsequent maps on high alert. I got spotted instantly in Marrakesh, tried to shoot my way out, and died ignominiously. Not very 47 of me.
As you progress through each map in a campaign, you don't get any checkpoints, so you need to be very careful at all times. That’s hard to swallow because after sneaking perfectly for an hour, you can make one wrong move and blow it. That’s what happened to me while attempting to work my way through Isle of Sgail, the island fortress where a bunch of rich assholes have gathered to buy high-end bunkers. I spent 30 minutes slowly dispatching the guards in the tower where I spawned, made it out, and very quickly blew my cover.
Of course, if you’re a Hitman fan, this is all just an invitation to treat Freelancer as the playoffs and everything else World of Assassination has to offer as practice. Because I don't know some levels that well and am rusty with the ones I used to know like the back of my hand, I'm treating my early hours with Freelancer as a training montage, chasing the proverbial chicken around Marrakesh and Mumbai. After running out of Hitman stuff that I was excited about doing over the course of 2021 and 2022, I have something to shoot for again.
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