Master HITMAN (and revelations therein)

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notnert427

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I have waxed poetic about the greatness of HITMAN 2016 and HITMAN 2 many times over on this site, and I'm here to (mostly) do it again. HITMAN 2 includes HITMAN 2016, and I've set the absurd goal of 100% completing everything. There's a lot that goes into doing that, but it would take forever to detail. Essentially, it means doing every challenge, every mission story, every escalation, and also completing the levels on Master difficulty, which I have finally started delving into. I'll break Master down in a minute, but first let's discuss the ultimate difficulty pinnacle in these games, and that is Silent Assassin, Suit Only (SA/SO). It's for somewhat crazy people who actually care about their score and about making HITMAN into a true stealth game instead of blasting someone in the face with a snowball in front of dozens of witnesses for comedic effect (which, admittedly, is a good time). For those unfamiliar with SA/SO, this requires starting in 47's suit (or any default, non-level disguise outfit), never changing disguises, only killing the targets, never being spotted*, having no bodies found**, and completing the mission. This isn't easy, but is plenty doable on the Normal difficulty setting if you can be patient, careful, and have a good plan, plus you can also trial-and-error save-scum your way through it.

No Caption Provided

On Master difficulty, however, SA/SO can be extremely difficult. Master difficulty adds more security cameras, adds more "enforcers" (the guys with white dots who see through any disguises), takes away a ton of places to hide bodies, moves and removes a bunch of items/weapons, gives NPCs extreme attentiveness to any and all sounds, gives NPCs the ability to spot you trespassing almost instantaneously, and allows only one save during a mission. Honestly, the extra security cameras and enforcers don't make that much of a difference on SA/SO, but the lack of places to hide bodies, the moved/fewer items/weapons, NPCs' vastly improved vision/hearing, and the lone save scum make a huge difference. The NPCs can now hear your silenced pistol, will often hear a guy get knocked out and come investigate, etc. Having the lone save scum means that these hyper-aware NPCs (both civilians and guards) can easily spoil significant time/effort, and they often do. That said, I am patient, I like a challenge, and I adore this game, so bring it on.

Also, because I'm a truly insane person, I typically try to simultaneously do the Sniper Assassin challenge in the same run that I do SA/SO, which means the added challenge of packing my rifle into a briefcase that 47 can't take with him when he climbs pipes or ledges and typically means getting up close and personal with targets. In the current version of the game with the latest patches, you’re *allowed to be spotted by a target as long as you kill them before they notify anyone else and **can get away with having a body found if it’s put to sleep by the tranquilizer gun or if it's a target that dies in an accident. However, for my purposes, I generally consider being fully spotted by anyone or having any body found to be a fail state. The massive difficulty spike of Master, SA/SO/Sniper Assassin and my additional made-up rules reveals some map strengths and weaknesses beyond the typical experience, so I'll share thoughts on that as well as we go through them. On to the journey!

Paris

This is the map pretty much everyone is the most familiar with, and returning to it feels like a bit of a warm blanket. I know virtually every trick to it and the location of everything at this point. Or at least I did. Now I had to figure out all these new guards and their paths, kept expecting to find items that weren't there, etc. I had a pretty good plan, though. My loadout is typically simplistic and features the lockpick, the emetic poison in case I need to send someone to the restroom, and the briefcase with my trusty sniper rifle in it. (If I were just doing SA/SO and not also Sniper Assassin, I'd use the electrocution phone because it somewhat breaks the game by giving you the ability to fry a target in full view of everyone due to counting as an accident kill, but that's too "easy".) I doubt this will be spoiler-y for anyone except a select few, so I'm not going to bother spoiler tagging everything, but just in case anyone wants to play do this crazy shit on their own, SPOILERS BELOW.

The Method:

I started at the main entrance. I headed under the main stairwell to first take care of the camera situation. The timing is extra tight in the security guard room to zap the cameras, but it can be done. The stairwell I used to get down here doesn't go higher than the ground floor (and keep in mind I can't use pipes without leaving the sniper briefcase behind), so I had to carefully sneak around to the kitchen, use a wrench to draw out and the bonk one of the chefs, hide him, and then have access to the back stairwell that can take you up to the second floor. Here's where things became difficult. Both stairwells up to the third floor have plenty of guards around them, and the ladder in the back would have required venturing through the attic with even more guards around. I decided to methodically entice guards into my stairwell to meet Mr. Wrench. I had to take out six of them (guard near the stairwell, two guards by the bottom of the stairwell up to the third floor, and three more NPCs up top. I dragged most into my stairwell and/or closets, but left two upstairs, confident that no one ever paths through there. You can probably guess what happens, but that's later.

Stairwell of doom, pre-body pile.
Stairwell of doom, pre-body pile.

I was feeling pleased, having now a clear path to Dalia's room. I distracted and then bonked the guard in there and also a new bonus guard in the adjacent bathroom and hid them both in the bathroom closet. Here's where things go wrong. I discovered that on Master difficulty, targets and their bodyguards aren't easily distracted. After listening to Dalia's excruciatingly long conversation with her assistant guy, I tried throwing a wrench, which the assistant didn't care about at all. So I waited for their next pathing cycle, then tried turning on the radio in the bathroom. No dice, but randomly some guy way over by the cocktail bar several rooms away managed to hear it and came in to investigate. As taking him out wouldn't help me in any way, I let him come in, turn off the radio, and leave as I hid in the corner behind the closet. I still don't know how that was even possible, but it speaks to Master difficulty's general concept of having useless NPCs investigate everything and having key NPCs ignore everything, which is kind of a dick move, but then again, I signed up for this.

While waiting for Dalia's third cycle, the screen pops up "Body Found" and I'm bewildered and upset. Turns out that I forgot about Helmut fucking Kruger, of all people, who in the level's routines, eventually comes upstairs for a meeting with Dalia and happened upon my handiwork. Sigh. This meant redoing everything, as I hadn't yet used my one precious save. On this second attempt, I made certain to now hide all the bodies in my stairwell, and once I'd cleared out Dalia's room, I decided to go ahead and pop the save so I could do some trial-and-error to find a way to separate her from her bodyguard. This, along with the earlier failed efforts to distract either of them, was rather informative as to what does and does not work anymore as distractions for targets and their "followers" on Master difficulty. Spoilers: virtually nothing works, although sometimes you can briefly make them look at a spot an object is thrown to, which came in handy.

I confirmed that neither Dalia nor her bodyguard care about an overflowing sink, and then I attempted the classic "leave a gun on the ground" trick. The asshole bodyguard went to get a guard, who then came in and took the gun away. Furious, I tried then to just get lucky on letting her walk out of the room, getting the guard to briefly look at a thrown object, closing the door so she couldn't see, and quickly bonking him on the head. This surprisingly worked, and I was home free. I hid his body in the bathroom, closed the door, and Dalia came in all by her lonesome. A bonk with the wrench and then I was able to calmly unpack my sniper rifle and blast her in the face with it. One target down. Novikov, thankfully was far simpler. He paths by my favored stairwell of doom, and his bodyguard, being an armed bodyguard, is susceptible to the "weapon on the ground" distraction. It was easy to separate them this way and then take out Viktor, at which point I made my way through the basement, walked up the stairwell by the entrance, and strolled out with my rifle in my briefcase. Boom. SA/SO/Sniper Assassin in one run.

Sapienza

This is my favorite map in all of HITMAN. Again, I know it pretty well, but it had been a while since I'd played it and I've had many whiskies since then. This map still rules, but SA/SO/Sniper Assassin proved to be way more difficult than it had to be because of the damn virus, my damn memory, and some damn hot strats I wasn't aware of until I looked it up later. (Figuring out how to do things on my own is part of the fun in this game for me, so I actively avoid any and all hints, tricks, walkthroughs, etc. unless I just completely hit a wall of frustration and/or futility. More on that later.)

The Method:

My strategy for Silvio was pretty straightforward. I went in through the building with 47's room in it beside the mansion. I accessed the mansion via the rooftops nearby, then methodically took out the kitchen crew and then the two guards by the observatory. Above Silvio's little video room, there was a guard by the observatory that I needed to take out because he frustratingly overlooks the room from a balcony and another outside I took out for a later part of my plan. Popping in Silvio's tape still clears out the room, which of course came in handy, and a bonk on the head takes him down. Here's where a new wrinkle pops up via Master difficulty’s improved AI. Silvio's guards come back in, freak out that he's gone, and start actively looking for him and yelling for him to try and find him. I had dragged him outside, but before I can pop him with my sniper rifle and stuff him in a crate, one of guards comes out there on his search and sees the body. Crap.

I rinse and repeat, now being careful to more quickly bust a cap in Silvio and hide him in a crate before the guards freak out. I do this, get out of the area, and wait until they settle down. Then I use my save and go after Francesca. Francesca actually proves to be fairly easy. I sneaked up to her third-floor bathroom by her computer, and a few distractions eventually cleared out the area's guards with a few bonks, at which point I took her down and popped her in the dome with my sniper rifle. Two targets down. Now for the virus. I was under the impression due to some shoddy memory that Francesca had the laptop dongle that makes the virus very easy to take out remotely in the lab, and when I didn't find it on her, I figured they just took it out entirely for Master difficulty. This presumption proved very costly.

Yo, fuck this camera.
Yo, fuck this camera.

The lab can be accessed via a stairwell in the observatory building. The problem is that it has not one, but two cameras. The first is easy enough to spot and take out. The second on the bottom of the stairs requires a feather touch inching 47's pistol around a wall in a very tight window in which the camera, which is basically looking straight at you, will easily spot you. It is garbage. I lost at least four attempts to it, and eventually started making sure to take it out first every time I reloaded because shooting that camera was actually proving less repeatable than taking out Francesca and her guards. I finally make my way down to the lab. Heading over to the right side with the rock ledge overlooking the grotto now features a bonus guard, but he and his buddy are easy enough to take out with distractions, and there's still a handy crate to hide them both in.

Here's where things go bad. Believing fully that there is no dongle on Master difficulty and being unaware that it's possible to snipe it or drop a stalactite on it, I decide that I have to make my way into the actual lab in my suit. This is technically possible if you methodically make your way around the back side by the plane. I know this because after multiple attempts at it in which I had to take out everyone in the way and deal with some very tight windows hiding bodies in extremely open areas, I made it all the way into the lab, only to have literally the very last hazmat guy by the virus see me as I threw the wrench at him. After spending about 2+ hours on that for naught, I got furious and looked up the location of the dongle, which was on the lady who goes into the morgue. Right. Ugh. At this point I did that, re-did the above strats, bonked the scientist by the laptop, and remotely destroyed the virus. Another SA/SO/Sniper Assassin down, but I made this one unnecessarily tough on myself.

Marrakesh

I'm not a fan of this map because it has a significant amount of what I'd term as "filler". The ground level features a crapton of NPCs milling around in shops and markets, most of whom aren't interesting or even interactive unless you happen to do something suspicious in front of them, and the level is far too spread out. Both the embassy and school where the targets are are veritable fortresses as well. The only thing that saves this map and made my strategy for SA/SO/Sniper Assassin relatively doable is the tunnel. Marrakesh as a map also has some nifty verticality in spots and some neat/fun opportunities in standard gameplay, so there's that, but this isn't "drop a moose on a guy's head" fun time; it's serious stealth time, so let's get to it.

The Method:

To the tunnel! I'm sure there's probably a way to sneak into the embassy in your suit, but that sounds hellish and I wanted nothing of it. The tunnel can be accessed over by the school, and wrenching a few guards there gives you easy entrance to it. It isn't particularly difficult to KO everyone in the tunnel one by one, but what IS problematic is that you don't have enough places to hide all the bodies that occupy the tunnel, surely by design from IOI's efforts to make Master difficulty exactly that. The reason I needed a clear tunnel is that my plan required pulling a fire alarm to make Strandberg flee into said tunnel, and he can't be finding bodies if I wish to achieve SA. So here I was with an extra body and nowhere to put it, and the parking garage I needed to get through to access the fire alarm has guards all around it who will easily spot me dragging a body around.

This tunnel is MINE!
This tunnel is MINE!

This meant I had to KO the majority of the parking garage. Thankfully, there's a room adjacent to the stairs down to the tunnel in which I could hide bodies, which proved massively useful. I wrenched guard after guard and made a nice little pile in that room, leaving me a clear path to finally hide the last tunnel guard in there as well. Save time. Now it's smooth sailing with Strandberg having to run down my now cleared tunnel. This should be easy. Well, not so much. I soon discover that depending on where Strandberg is in the embassy, he sometimes takes a back stairwell and grabs two bodyguards on the way. After multiple times of trying and failing to take them out in addition to Strandberg (and discovering in the process that even if you can pull off taking out his trailing guard, the guard running ahead of Strandberg magically knows if Strandberg gets KO'd in any way and stops and turns around, which is some bullshit), I decided it would be much simpler to get him to come down the other stairwell alone.

Now, even this doesn't provide an easy kill. Strandberg hauls ass. He is faster than 47. I tried multiple "ambush points" and all of them required whipping a wrench at him in a small window. In retrospect, I guess I could have just sniped him on the run, but I didn't want visible blood anywhere in the tunnel. A bonus guard shows up by the other end of the tunnel once the fire alarm is pulled, and I never confirmed nor denied what his path was. Fearing that he'd eventually make his way into the tunnel to potentially discover a bloodstain, which could lead to all kinds of random guard exploration anarchy and the potential discovery of my body room, I decided not to risk it and just focused on getting Strandberg with the wrench so I could drag him elsewhere for hidden murder. I finally was able to nail the throw after a few attempts and added him to the body pile in the parking garage room, at which point I sniped him in the dome.

On to Zaydan. I packed up my sniper rifle and headed towards the school. The school is actually not that hard to access via the very right side. Bonking a few guards gives you freedom to roam along that outer edge of the building and access several points of entry. I decided to focus on the room with the loudspeaker and toilet. I had initially planned on getting Zaydan in the room with the loudspeaker conversation, but the problem was that there was no way of getting him away from the two guards he scolds, and if you take one or both of the guards out, there is no conversation. However, if you clear out that room entirely, General Zaydan does path close enough by that stairwell to where you can attract him into it with a noise. This is what I did, and then I popped him with the sniper rifle. I dragged his body over to where I had put all the other knocked out guards outside, snuck out of the school area, and strolled out briefcase in hand. Marrakesh is still one of the weaker maps, but I respect that design-wise, it's possible to get around what would otherwise be an extreme headache of sneaking into the embassy to have a shot at Strandberg.

Bangkok

On the surface, this map doesn't have a whole lot going on. And while I wouldn't call it one of the game's better levels, it's...fine. The hotel setting is interesting enough and pays homage to a somewhat beloved mission from earlier games in the Hitman franchise called Traditions of the Trade in which 47 similarly must infiltrate a hotel. Also, I personally dig the gold leaf everywhere because that shit shines in HDR and it looks dope as hell. I digress.

The Method:

Knowing that Jordan Cross is the more entrenched target of the two, I focused on finding a path up to him in my suit, which is tougher than you'd think. Parts of both sides of the hotel are effectively useless and/or too well-guarded to be worth the trouble, but both sides are required for the way I chose to sneak up to Cross. Strolling through the front of the hotel isn't really an option because there are multiple cameras in it that are rather tough to shoot without people noticing, so I made my way up the stairs by the kitchen. As "47's suite" is located here, you have access to the second floor, which is important. The third floor of this side of the hotel doesn't really do you much good unless you want to snipe Cross from it, and given that I was going for the SA/SO/Sniper Assassin in one, I didn't know If there was a place from the other building where his body wouldn't be found, thus spoiling SA. This meant I needed to make my way over to the other side.

47, this is a sneaking mission.
47, this is a sneaking mission.

The atrium allows for this, but not easily. It took some trial and error to discover all the security cameras and figure out when my sneaking window was. The gardener guys have a brief conversation and eventually split up, which is where the move must be made. Crossing diagonally across the atrium leads you into a corner where a bunch of the birthday party and recording crew are hanging out in a room. There is also a camera that must be dealt with and an NPC who mills around on the railing outside this room. The goal is to sneak into and through this leisure room and quickly take out the lone NPC in there. This part requires some careful timing, as you have to monitor the railing NPC, two NPCs having a convo, and when the one you need to KO all aren't looking your way. This necessitates some patience, but the window of opportunity is actually not bad here, comparatively to most Master situations.

I got by and bonked the NPC with my briefcase, being careful to close the door behind me first so no one could spot this. Here's the problem. I now needed to scale a pipe, and I can't take my briefcase up the pipe. At this point, it's necessary to unpack your sniper rifle, strap it openly to your back, and head up the pipe. Openly packing heat isn't actually much different because you're trespassing here anyway, although I swear NPCs have spotted the rifle sticking up from a crouched 47 before, but that could just be paranoia talking. Anyway, the third floor where you enter has a pair of patrolling guards and a recording crew member. You can sneak into a bathroom behind the guards, who path into the bathroom. It's easy enough to take them down one at a time and stuff them in the handy closet in there. Exiting out the other side of the door is where things get interesting.

There are a pair of recording crew members here who need to be dealt with so you can have a chance at Cross as he heads into the recording booth. A surprise "let's make this harder" twist on Master level is that the AI on specifically these two NPCs was tweaked to where they both investigate noises. This means that they're basically stuck to each other like glue, which sucks ass. It is very tough to separate them without them noticing you or the other being taken out, but it can be done with enough patience, as one will eventually not be quite as quick to investigate and return to their post if you distract them enough times. I got one alone enough to KO, made sure to drag his body to a spot in the bathroom where he wouldn't be spotted, and took out the other one. Cross was easy pickings from there. A wrench to the head, and he joined the two crew in the bathroom, where I capped him in the head with my sniper rifle.

I snuck back down the same way I came in. Morgan was much simpler. The bathroom to the right of where he eats the sushi isn't that hard to clear out completely. There are several NPCs to deal with, but all are easy to distract/isolate/KO, and all can be hidden in the far bathroom. Where it gets tougher is Morgan's bodyguard. Morgan himself has to hear a distraction to send his bodyguard to investigate, and the bodyguard won't investigate any noises by himself at all. This meant throwing a wrench at the small bamboo fence and hoping the guard faces the right way. There is a line of sight from dining patrons to most of this area, so the guard has to investigate in just the right spot for you to take him out without them noticing. It can be done, though, and once it is, Morgan can be distracted easily all the way into the bathroom if you want. I did so, bonked him with the wrench and shot him in the bathroom. All targets eliminated.

But wait...there's more. A bonus "eff you" on Master difficulty is the removal of the boat out front as an escape option. Well, to be fair, it's still there, but requires a key now. I had no idea where said key could be, nor was I particularly interested in trying to search the whole map, guess which NPC might have it on them, or cheat and look it up. The lone other exit was in the basement, which now had a camera to deal with and two bonus guards. They can be distracted, but the issue is that there's not a good hiding spot in the small room before it. There's a thin column in the middle of the room, and I had to play a very silly game of spinning around it as the guard comes into investigate. It took a few distractions to get him in the spot I needed him to be, but a bonk on the head and I was home free to easily KO the other guy who was staring at a door. Fin. SA/SO/Sniper Assassin.

Colorado

Man, I hate this map. Not because it's difficult; but because it's difficult for all the wrong reasons. It is open with a ton of sightlines for the map's congestion of armed NPCs to spot you at any given moment. I truly don't mind when I get reasonably spotted by some person I forgot to account for, but some guy halfway across the map instantly discerning that I'm trespassing or spotting a body is garbage. On Master difficulty when attempting SA/SO and Sniper Assassin, this map's issues become impossible to ignore as the game becomes the very worst thing it can be by forcing you into a linear path where you have to get the timing right. This is not my HITMAN (it's the main reason Hitman: Absolution was kinda bad), but Colorado is part of the game and therefore must be conquered, so I had to buckle down and power through.

The Method:

I spent several hours of wildly frustrating trial-and-error attempting to find a way to do my typical SA/SO/Sniper Assassin in one run thing, but eventually threw my hands up in aggravation at that idea. What finally broke me was getting spotted through a goddamn tractor. Seriously, I either got Superman x-ray-vision'd there, or this uber-guard spotted an inch of 47's shoe from under a tractor and discerned something untoward was afoot (pun intended). I relented and "cheated" a bit to look up methods, but here's the thing. IO Interactive is very responsive to the community, which is great...most of the time. However, for Master mode, they clearly look for and try to patch out "proven" methods to make everything even harder. I've only found a few versions of SA/SO/Sniper Assassin being done, and most were on a previous build of the game.

For example, the sneak done here at 5:58 now gets spotted unless you're on a full uncrouched sprint, which the guard he runs by would hear. Also, the "Magic of the Sahara" bullshit he does a few times from cover starting at about 8:00 to subdue guards looking his direction only works semi-consistently on the PC version via hammering on the keyboard in ways I can't on console, and don't really even want to because it feels like an exploit. Finding further frustrations there and still wanting to do it mostly on my “own”, I went ahead and decided to do a mildly informed SA/SO run and then a separate Sniper Assassin run. (I later looked up some videos after I was done, which largely used tricks that have been patched out or what I consider cheap tactics like using the tranq gun on NPCs so their body could be found or drawing the targets way off their path by having them half-spot the player. This is the only “legit” SA/SO/Sniper Assassin run I was able to find on a semi-recent build, and it’s an absurd mix of tight timing, distracting multiple NPCs simultaneously, hiding behind open doors, etc. that completely validates my choice to give up on this.)

For my SA/SO run, I angrily tossed aside my typical qualms and just dropped a haybale on Parvati. I then subdued the guards around Ezra Berg's shack and took Berg out in there. Then I ran around the back perimeter path and took out the two guards by the car and the third patrolling guard by the gate, because you DO NOT have time to crouch-sneak by that gate anymore. I hid their bodies behind the car and made my way into the house basement via some well-timed sneaking. I then took out the guard in the torture room, knowing both Rose and Graves path by the basement stairwell eventually. My frustrations from earlier led me to bring along the cheese-tactic electrocution phone just in case. I wasn’t actually interested in exploiting the ability to kill a target in plain sight with the phone, so after taking out one of Graves’ guards, I got her to go halfway down the stairs all by her lonesome to go find and pick up my electrocution phone, at which point I zapped her with it. I dragged and hid her body. Yay, only Sean Rose left to take out.

There were still a few potentially problematic guards and hackers around the stairwell who may hear my distractions intended for Rose or be close enough for him to send on the investigation instead. Rose's path around the map takes forever, so while waiting for him, removing potential issues seemed like a good idea. However, my handy phone from earlier created a glitch. It disappeared from the map when Graves got zapped with it, except every NPC could somehow still "see" it as if it were lying on the stairs and would become locked in this broken loop of trying to pick it up over and over. This was almost a run-spoiling bug because they wouldn't respond to any other distraction and were facing down the stairs to where they'd see me from the front. However, I had just enough of an angle to throw a wrench up from below them for the KO, and Rose eventually came down and got locked in the same loop. SA/SO done, despite the game kinda breaking.

SMG Chef is the illest NPC in the game.
SMG Chef is the illest NPC in the game.

On to Sniper Assassin. I assumed the game would stop breaking on a new run and that this would be a breeze, as I no longer needed to get SA and was now able to use disguises. Negative. When you fire a bullet from your silenced sniper rifle on Colorado on Master difficulty, every NPC instantly does some Batman detective shit to be able to know exactly where you fired from. This manifested hilariously when I made my way up to the water tower after clearing out all the guards around it so I could seemingly snipe away with none the wiser. I shot Graves in the greenhouse for an "Unnoticed Kill" with SA still intact afterwards, yet within about twenty seconds, the goddamn chef runs up with a rifle and starts unloading on me. Yes, the chef. After I stopped laughing, I had so many questions. He didn't even know Graves got shot, so how did he know where I fired from? How is he the most vigilant dude in this map of mercenaries to be the first one attacking me? Where did he get a motherfucking machine gun? This was all incredibly stupid and ludicrous, but also highly entertaining.

I then tested a few more attempts on varying targets with similar results of getting bum-rushed every time. What's even worse is that the guards don't ever give up searching if you stay up in the tower where they can't even see/shoot you. They just stand there aiming at the tower knowing somehow that you're there and have the patience to wait you out forever. Accepting that this map/challenge is truly broken, I returned to youtube runs hoping someone had some answers. MrFreeze2244 is an amazing resource for this stuff (shout out to his channel) but even his run on a prior build had gotten a patch response to it by IO. A spot in which you used to be able to get away with easily sniping Graves now has her path changed to where a fence prevents the shot. Now, you have a miniscule window (literally, you have to sprint to the spot and instantly snipe her on the move at range through a door window), which is tough enough to pull off that I ended up using my lone save here. The rest of it was a quick snipe of Parvati over a tractor and then using a similar method to my SA/SO, with it being slightly easier now that I had the ability to use a disguise. Still, Colorado is far and away the worst and most glitchy map, and I was thrilled to now be done with it.

Hokkaido

Ah, this map is such a relief following the travesty that is Colorado. It's just...pleasant. The generally zen aesthetics of the Japanese setting and the sharp, modern uber-hospital take the stress/annoyance inherent to parts of these Master SA/SO/Sniper Assassin runs down multiple notches, which was very welcome. Hokkaido is actually one of the harder maps overall (especially when you can't put on the requisite uniforms to access parts of it), but it's well-designed enough to where I was willing to attempt something above and beyond on it.

The Method:

From a strategy standpoint, I was struggling with coming up with a way to snipe Soders. After all, the guy is laying on a table in the middle of a highly visible operating room and there's seemingly little to no way to snipe him without his body being found. However, I recalled the ability to kill Soders by destroying the heart, and I wondered if sniping the heart would count. As I wanted to pull off my SA/SO/Sniper Assassin, it seemed worth a try, so I set off to do that. I used my loadout to bring along the Electronic Key because the suit only run otherwise literally walls off rooms and put my Sniper briefcase down in the Morgue, as this does not require sneaking the briefcase down there and instead allows for use of the pipe by the edge of the garden's scenic overlook. Happily, this also serves as a good access point into the area where the heart is being kept. There are two doctors and a guard in the morgue who are all easily distracted and knocked out there, clearing out the room and allowing access to the room with the incinerator. There are a pair of cameras to snipe there, but this allows for a shot through the heart (and I'm to blame). Soders down. I hid in a closet while the guards panicked for a bit, then strolled out once they’d stopped searching.

I had to figure out how to get my sniper rifle upstairs now, though, and strapping it to my back to climb up the rail wasn't an option. There is a staircase at the south end of the lower balcony, which allows for an easy exit, briefcase in hand, provided you deal with a camera. Taking out the guards and cameras on the lower balcony to allow for this wasn't too difficult, and for good measure, I also went ahead and took out the random gardener guy who paths down there, and I'm really glad I did, because he dropped a pack of cigarettes, which reminded me that this was a thing you could do with Yuki. I had to place the cigarettes in Yuki’s room for this. Using the electronic key hacker to access the room adjacent to hers allows for sneaking over there via the rail, which is really just a matter of timing it and eventually taking out two guards on a couch. Then I went back to the guest room and waited until she smokes alone on the balcony. A shot to the head from my balcony sends her flying over hers and no one sees a thing. I leave, and indeed get credit for SA/SO/Sniper Assassin. I thought sniping the heart was a fun twist and I was happy it counted, but it felt too easy, like I'd cheesed it. A reasonable person would defend this by observing that Master difficulty features multiple efforts to screw over the player, and that cheesing it is thus fair play.

However, I am clearly unreasonable, and because I was annoyed at not pulling off Master SA/SO/Sniper Assassin on Colorado and I wanted to end this insane journey with a bang, I decided to try a Hokkaido Master SA/SO/Sniper Assassin in which you snipe Soders himself, fully expecting to have to stealthily subdue everyone who could see into Soders' room. I used my earlier strategy, except after clearing out the morgue, I took out Yuki first to get that out of the way. I then headed back down through the morgue, but now used the stairwell on the right to approach the stem cell room. I took out the doctor in there and then let the surgeon half-notice me to come investigate the stem cell room, at which point he met the wrench as well. I dragged all the bodies down to the morgue, which seemed fitting (even if they were all only just knocked out because the insane rules I'd made for myself required SA here). I hadn't yet used my save, which feels like sitting on a million souls in a Souls game. Panicking that something random would happen and spoil all this effort, and having already dispatched Yuki, I saved here. I wasn't entirely sure this save would be "good enough" because I didn't know exactly how many people in the hospital I'd need to take out afterwards to freely snipe Soders, but now I had the ability to use this save for some trial-and-error nonsense to parse this out.

"I guess his head exploded. Mondays, amirite?"

I first tested to see how the room would react if I just sniped Soders in full view of everyone, and I was surprised with what I found. I can't help but think the devs actually took into consideration how ridiculous it would be to try and take out most of the hospital on one save on Master difficulty, because the hospital's reaction when I sniped Soders was as if it were an accident on the operating table. Typically, sniping a target leads to a "Body Found" and spoiled SA if anyone sees the sniped body, but IOI clearly altered the logic here. This was mildly unsatisfying, but I figure if the devs themselves decided to throw a bone to crazy people like me who put in the effort to snipe Soders himself, I can live with that. I also found it fairly hilarious how all the medical staff just apathetically stood around him for a bit and then went about their business. Apparently their liability insurance policy is excellent and they answer to no medical board, which actually adds up in this game world considering the chief surgeon is pill-popping on Gregory House levels. Anyway, that whole "murder" business disrupting their day very briefly before calmly resuming their routines was the perfect kind of dumb for me to close out my time with HITMAN 2016. I had played marionette with these puppet NPCs in the game’s sandboxes to the point of truly defeating it even beyond the Master difficulty setting's insane demands of the player, and even IOI seemingly relented and tipped their cap.

This was a very challenging and fun pursuit for me. I've said it before, but the sheer content and depth in this game is unmatched. Even for people like me who have played far too much of this game, IOI found cool ways to make things tougher and challenge the player's ability to adapt to NPC behavioral changes and some wrenches they threw in the machine. Colorado is the only one that I didn't figure out on my own or pull off SA/SO/Sniper Assassin in the same run, and I don't feel bad about it because that map is fucking broken and because pulling off the Soders snipe offset that for me. Virtually everything else felt mostly "fair" in its difficulty and/or was amusing as playful trolls of the player. Even some of what I'd consider to be bullshit like a hyperattentive chef who's instantly capable of ascertaining a sniper's location and provides a somehow-armed response at least made me laugh. This game is still great, no matter if you're playing it on Easy, Professional, or Master difficulty, and no matter if you like to be stealthy or to go loud. It is a must-play, and GB's playthroughs, while great, barely scratch the surface of what HITMAN has to offer. I had a great time with this silly endeavor, and if you made it this far, thanks for reading. I'll probably do this Master SA/SO/Sniper Assassin nonsense with HITMAN 2 on my own regardless, but if y'all want to hear more of this let me know, and I'll make a "2 Master 2 HITMAN" thread.

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This is a damn impressive feat, congratulations. How long did it take you to do all these, either in-game time or day count on the calendar?

I'd definitely be interested in a 2 Master 2 HITMAN thread. I've been feeling like playing some HITMAN again recently, this might be the final push I need.

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This is a really cool idea for a thread or blog series and a fun read. Well done.

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#4  Edited By notnert427

@sparky_buzzsaw said:

This is a really cool idea for a thread or blog series and a fun read. Well done.

Thanks, duder! I felt like I needed to chronicle this crazy endeavor, and I'm glad to see people enjoying it.

@patoday said:

This is a damn impressive feat, congratulations. How long did it take you to do all these, either in-game time or day count on the calendar?

I'd definitely be interested in a 2 Master 2 HITMAN thread. I've been feeling like playing some HITMAN again recently, this might be the final push I need.

Thanks! Hours-wise, I have to be in the thousands at this point, but that's been divided between HITMAN 2 and HITMAN 2016 content, and a good deal of the HITMAN 2016 content I've actually had to do twice since the progress from the first game doesn't carry over into the Legacy Pack version of HITMAN 2016 contained within HITMAN 2. As far as just the Master level challenges go, that's probably taken me about 40 hours or so between figuring out strategies and executing them.

I haven't gotten to 100% completion on every HITMAN 2016 level in the Legacy Pack yet, for the record. I'm Level 20 on all, and have done every Paris and Sapienza challenge, escalation, etc. I'm close to 100% on Hokkaido and Bangkok, but still have a bit left to do on Marrakesh and Colorado (ugh) and some of the Patient Zero stuff. I'm probably going to knock out all of that before tackling Master difficulty in HITMAN 2, of which I've got several levels already almost fully at 100%.

The level challenges can actually be done pretty quickly/easily at once on Normal, though. There are a few that are demanding, but clearing out an area and/or a target's guards and then popping a save allows for easily completing multiple challenges at once via reloads, especially when not needing to go for SA or SO. It's nice that the game recognizes a challenge as completed once it's done, so you can just keep loading after each completion and it will recognize them all at the end.

I figure I'll have HITMAN 2016 completely done within about two weeks or so by playing roughly an hour an evening during the weekdays. Not having to go for SA/SO/Sniper Assassin and having the save-scum luxury will be a nice palate cleanser for a bit before I tackle Master on HITMAN 2. Also, you should totally play more HITMAN. Both games are amazing!

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Not yet done reading but can’t you snipe the virus from outside the lab easily? Like you can shoot the vial waaaay from afar?

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Not yet done reading but can’t you snipe the virus from outside the lab easily? Like you can shoot the vial waaaay from afar?

Yep, but I was unaware of this. It would have saved me a ton of time messing around in the grotto.

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Not yet done reading but can’t you snipe the virus from outside the lab easily? Like you can shoot the vial waaaay from afar?

I had no idea about this and now I need to practice it. Huh.

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BTW OP this was a great read. You're a madman (also a shame about MrFreeze seemingly getting burned out on Hitman). I think you realize the next step is to do Hitman 2's targets. If you need more inspiration, please enjoy BedBananas in Hokkaido.

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@dudeglove said:

Not yet done reading but can’t you snipe the virus from outside the lab easily? Like you can shoot the vial waaaay from afar?

I had no idea about this and now I need to practice it. Huh.

Maybe the reason why people don't consider it is the virus does appear as a target when you use Hitman vision (albeit very small) and while I've not tried out Master mode, I'm pretty sure it disables the detective vision highlights of targets through walls. Granted it's been a while since I've done Sapienza so the virus snipe might've been patched to at least set off an alarm.

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notnert427

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#9  Edited By notnert427

@dudeglove said:

BTW OP this was a great read. You're a madman (also a shame about MrFreeze seemingly getting burned out on Hitman). I think you realize the next step is to do Hitman 2's targets. If you need more inspiration, please enjoy BedBananas in Hokkaido.

@sparky_buzzsaw said:
@dudeglove said:

Not yet done reading but can’t you snipe the virus from outside the lab easily? Like you can shoot the vial waaaay from afar?

I had no idea about this and now I need to practice it. Huh.

Maybe the reason why people don't consider it is the virus does appear as a target when you use Hitman vision (albeit very small) and while I've not tried out Master mode, I'm pretty sure it disables the detective vision highlights of targets through walls. Granted it's been a while since I've done Sapienza so the virus snipe might've been patched to at least set off an alarm.

Master difficulty does still highlight the targets. I had actually tried shooting the virus from close range with the silenced pistol from the back side of the grotto by the plane, but the ground-level portion of the glass is bulletproof and you don't have an angle at it from anywhere down there (I didn't test out the Jaeger Tuatara, which is the sniper rifle that can shoot through some stuff). However, from the ledge that's the furthest point from the virus room, you can shoot down into it with a sniper rifle. It's still not an easy shot if you're going for SA, because it's tough not to also hit the scientist in the radiation suit behind it. Still, it can be done.

There's also a stalactite than can be shot and dropped on the virus from that right side by the plane, apparently. That's a real pro move. The stalactite in question isn't highlighted in detective vision, so I never even thought of that as a possibility. It's amazing how many little things like this that they put in in the game. I sometimes assume constraints that aren't even there, so I'm going to make a point of trying more dumb stuff just to see if it works.

Also, that video linked above was excellent. That guy gets why this game is great. The absurdity of 47's world and all the possible shenanigans in it provides endless entertainment. I powered through a bunch of Marrakesh challenges last night and tackled pretty much everything possible in the embassy. It mostly went very smoothly, with the exception of the challenge that has you kill Strandberg with an explosion during the interview. I dressed up in my cameraman garb, popped a save as the crew was about to enter Strandberg's interview room, and assumed it would be easy from there.

I went and grabbed a fire extinguisher and set it under Strandberg's chair, figuring I could shoot that. Well, I forgot that that those merely incapacitate now. I didn't have an explosive on me, so I reloaded and grabbed two more fire extinguishers in the area for a bigger boom. Still just a KO. I then recalled the mines stored in the tunnel and wondered if I had time to go grab them before the interview opportunity fails. This required a hilarious sequence in which I had to sprint off in the middle of the interview introductions and down into the tunnel.

Now, I hadn't cleared out the parking garage or tunnel at all, which meant that I had to just full-on go loud and take out anyone in my way. It was a comical series of throwing screwdrivers, wrenches, and everything else I had in my inventory at people in my path as I sprinted at them. I found this particularly amusing because it's the polar opposite of how I typically play. I grabbed the mine, pulled a 180, and sprinted back up to stuff it in the camera, then barely made it in time to not fail the interview opportunity. "Sorry, bathroom emergency."

Kaboom.

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@notnert427: I recall seeing Sapienza speedruns for Hitman 1 exploiting the virus-stalactite drop thing. There is/was a point in the garage of the mansion where if you shoot the ground with one of the sniper rifles at the right angle, the shot will clip(?) through and trigger the stalactite, meaning you never need to enter the lab at all.

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@notnert427: I recall seeing Sapienza speedruns for Hitman 1 exploiting the virus-stalactite drop thing. There is/was a point in the garage of the mansion where if you shoot the ground with one of the sniper rifles at the right angle, the shot will clip(?) through and trigger the stalactite, meaning you never need to enter the lab at all.

Wow, that's crazy. I've never been into the speedrun thing, though. It seems a bit antithetical to the spirit of this game. Anyway, Marrakesh is basically done. I have one or two of the fortune teller challenges left (the ones that require specially-made contracts). I did the hard one that is killing both Strandberg and Zaydan with the saber while dressed as the fortune teller, but I just cleared out the tunnel and then forced them into it for some stabby stabby.

I do have an internal struggle where I make things unnecessarily harder on myself by still going for SA even when it really doesn't matter. I also can't stop myself from making some dumb fun for myself amidst crossing things off the challenges list. I got the idea to depart Marrakesh in grand fashion. The Let's Dance challenge is pretty amusing in and of itself. Basically, you make all the mercs in the school bust into a dance party, including Zaydan. I decided to make my kill within this moment for maximum silliness.

Given that Marrakesh has remote mines scattered everywhere on the map, I went ahead and made a mine pile in the spot where Zaydan goes to dance. I wanted a very large boom, but the other soldiers unfortunately kept finding the mines and taking them away. I settled for a smaller mid-dance boom, which was still rather fun. It ultimately wouldn't have made much of a difference if there had been more mines, as Zaydan bounces off the overhanging mesh anyway. I achieved the correct level of stupid here and feel satisfied.

I plan on taking care of the few remaining fortune teller challenges and the minimal House Built on Sand stuff within the next few days, and then it's on to closing out Bangkok.

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