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    Hitman 3

    Game » consists of 3 releases. Released Jan 20, 2021

    The third and final entry in IO Interactive's reboot of the Hitman series takes Agent 47 to all new locales including Dubai, England, Germany and China.

    Some early thoughts on Hitman's new "Freelancer" mode

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    AtheistPreacher

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    Edited By AtheistPreacher
    No Caption Provided

    The free new mode is out for Hitman 3 (now renamed to Hitman: World of Assassination), and I'd been looking forward to it since it was announced early last year as something that might help reinvigorate my interest in the game. I love Hitman, but at some point you've done everything there is to do.

    I've spent a few hours playing it today and have some thoughts.

    For the most part, I think the mode does work, and definitely does drive me forward in a way that the previous story missions didn't really do.

    I mean, the story mode is great, but with the mastery system, the game was pushing you to replay each mission over and over again in order to get all the different little in-mission achievements so that your mastery would go up. At the same time, most of your equipment unlocks in the old story started to become irrelevant pretty quickly, because there were a lot of copies, and a lot of items that just weren't that useful (e.g., assault rifles and shotguns in a game that doesn't really want you to go loud in the first place)... the useful unlocks you were earning were tied to the missions themselves, such as starting disguises or dead drop locations.

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    In Freelancer, with each mission you're both earning XP to level up your safehouse, and earning a currency ("merces") to buy equipment (merces can only be spent with vendors in-mission, as far as I can tell there is no way to buy stuff at your safehouse). Both currencies provide you a long-term goal and make you feel like you are actually building Agent 47's career, rather than being swept along by the story.

    As far as I can tell, the safehouse unlocks are all cosmetic. At the beginning most rooms are locked, but as you progress you get to enter a dressing room to check out your suits, go upstairs (you start in your basement), and even walk around outside (and go fishing!). At first most of the house is filled with cardboard boxes and the like, which as you level up can be replaced with actual furniture. That part is kind of neat... it's like doing these missions is helping Agent 47 to move in.

    An exterior view of Agent 47's safehouse. You can walk up that sloping roof, in case you're wondering.
    An exterior view of Agent 47's safehouse. You can walk up that sloping roof, in case you're wondering.

    There's also an elusive-target-like tension, because the stakes are high. Failing a mission will halve your current merces, and you'll also lose all your assassination tools. There's no re-trying in this mode, so it encourages more careful play than the base game, which could be save-scummed to oblivion. It's nice that skilled play and patience actually matter here; I suspect it will make me a better player.

    But I don't think it's a perfect mode. There are definitely things I'd like to see added or done differently.

    Picking a campaign will determine what kind of objectives the next 3-6 missions will have.
    Picking a campaign will determine what kind of objectives the next 3-6 missions will have.

    Probably my biggest beef has to do with the importance of the nominally optional "objectives." Each mission will have a number of different things you can do that will earn you extra merces; this can be somewhat controlled by which syndicate you decide to attack, as each one will pull from a different pool of objectives. One might be poison-themed, another sniper-themed, another one suit-only-themed. The thing is, though, that these objectives are worth massively more than you'll get for simply completing the mission. E.g., you'll have three objectives that each reward 1,000 merces... while the amount you get for completing the mission is only 200.

    "Prestige objectives" are also a thing. You get to pick one of three randomly offered ones per mission for a big payout... about as much as you'd earn by doing everything else put together. (EDIT: I have no idea why the above image isn't displaying correctly on the blog or forums. Clicking on it displays it just fine.)

    They've also made some decisions about equipment that tie back into some of my problems with the big focus on doing the objectives. In order to make the items you can buy from on-mission vendors more valuable, much of the equipment that you could previously acquire on-site has been removed from the stages, like poisons. Moreover, items like poisons are one-time use; if you assassinate someone with a lethal poison vial or a syringe, then that vial/syringe is gone and can't be used for the next mission. Well, all of this together creates situations where one of the mission objectives might be to kill a target with lethal poison... and yet you don't have any lethal poison and have no means to get any. Maybe the in-mission vendor will have it in their inventory, but very likely not.

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    Getting equipment you want can definitely be an issue. A specific problem I had at the beginning was that you start with no lockpick, which in the base game was a tool I was basically never without, and I felt seriously handicapped until it finally showed up in the vendor's inventory. And there simply seems like there's no way to target a particular piece of equipment you really want to have... including my beloved Krugermeier pistol.

    Finally, and somewhat bizarrely, Freelancer mode seems to have dispensed altogether with the dead drops and starting locations mechanics from the base game, when it seems like something they should instead be leaning into. In Freelancer, when you start a mission, you always start in your suit, and your starting location is random... and you can end up in some pretty strange places, considering. E.g., I played a mission on Dartmoor in which I started on the third-floor balcony... even though people who aren't mansion staff aren't allowed up on that floor at all. Instead of starting you in random locations, why not allow you to pick starting locations, or purchase them for merces? And why can't you build a closet of disguises to start with just like you can build an arsenal of weapons and tools?

    All of that said, and while I've focused a lot on the negatives, Freelancer mode is still an awfully nice addition to Hitman that feels like it fits the core conceit like a glove. I've always liked rogue-lites, and it's nice to feel that your hard work assassinating people has a more tangible benefit by rewarding you with better tools, better weapons, a swankier pad, and... money (is it just me, or is it weird that that there wasn't money in this game before now? What was Agent 47 killing people for previously, anyway?). It leaves you feeling that there's always more to be accomplished, while the punishment for failure keeps the whole thing tense.

    So, if you'd gotten bored with Hitman over the years, like I had (that first game was released in 2016, remember, and the formula hadn't really changed at all until now), then you might consider giving it another shot, seeing as it's a free update and all. I only hope that at some point they make a few adjustments in line with some of my complaints, though maybe some of my thinking on these issues will evolve as I keep playing. We shall see, on both counts.

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    stantongrouse

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    Thanks for taking the time for this, it's an excellent summary. I've put a few hours in, and have been enjoying it but feel the failure punishment and reward payout are a little imbalanced, especially in the early stages of a campaign. I think my own judgement was a little off as the setup for it is a little different to what I was reviewing from it, partly down to me avoiding coverage until it came out. But now I'm in it I certainly enjoying the funneling that makes me step away from my usual go to style of play.

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    AtheistPreacher

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    #2  Edited By AtheistPreacher

    @stantongrouse:Yeah, definitely some balancing needed all-around. It does feel a little too punishing at the moment.

    The "funneling" you speak of is a mixed bag. Making players mix up their style of play certainly seems to be the intent, but in practice I often end up just doing pointless or unintuitive things to fulfill objectives, particularly ones that might somewhat compete with one another. E.g., say you've got "No bodies found" or "Silent Assassin" as an objective, but also "Kill three guards with sniper rifles." Well, that can be done, but it's probably by coining a guard into an unwatched back alley, knocking him out, shooting him with your sniper rifle point-blank, stashing the body in a dumpster, then repeat two times. Not really what IOI was going for, I don't think.

    Then again, after playing Freelancer for five days now, I suppose I'm learning to take the merces objectives a little less seriously. It's not worth twisting yourself into knots to do some of them, because (1) you'll make more money just skipping the hard stuff and finishing quickly, and (2) you're probably just going to fail the mission trying. I got killed trying to kill three guards with an SMG when I otherwise could've gotten away scot free, and lost 40k merces for it. There's that collector's urge in me to fill in that wall as quickly as possible, but, eh, it'll happen eventually. You can only lose the weapons you take with you, and you earn a free one every time you take down a mini-syndicate.

    BTW, two interesting random things I've learned in the time since I posted this blog:

    (1) There is a slot for an "ICA Outstanding Service Coin" in your tool kit (middle case, bottom-left corner), but it appears that there isn't actually any way to get it right now. At one point my tool kit was otherwise completely full, but when I opened the box to get my free tool between missions, there kept being nothing in the box, and the vendor never seems to sell it. What you can get is the "Collector's Coin" for 5,000 merces, which actually shows up on the wall and apparently will persist between normal and hardcore mode.* But the normal coin? Not so much. Nor does it appear as a mastery unlock. Pretty sure that's actually a bug.

    (2) At Safehouse Mastery Level 32, you unlock the Shed. To my surprise and delight, this actually has a gameplay purpose. Inside the shed is a device that you can repair with a wrench (found inside the garage), that can then be used to manufacture a vial of lethal poison by feeding it one of the emetic mushrooms that can be found just outside the shed. Neat! I had complained that you could simply be out of lethal poison, but at least this helps somewhat mitigate that. The only problem is that sometimes for poison kills you simply need the syringe because your target never actually interacts with any food or drink.

    Finally, I did manage to die in a hilarious way (more frustrating than hilarious at the time, but getting more hilarious by the minute). I had a timed objective for the bank stage, and was trying to lure someone into the bathroom with a coin to get their disguise. In my rush, I accidentally threw a proximity explosive instead of the coin (they're both round!). It on was the fourth and final leg of missions, and it was alerted, so when my own explosive blew me up, I lost the entire campaign instantly. Ouch.

    *BTW, yeah, I am never going to be playing hardcore mode, that's way too much for me. This mode does not need to be more punitive.

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    noboners

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    Thanks for this write up. Honestly, the only thing keeping me from reinstalling is the massive file size. But with limited time to game nowadays, I have to ask, can you save and exit at all mid mission? Like, not to save scum but to just go do something else. I figure you can at least save when you're at the base between missions.

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    AtheistPreacher

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    #4  Edited By AtheistPreacher

    @noboners: I know what you mean, but just to be clear, you can't save "mid-mission," in the sense of saving and reloading when Agent 47 is out in the field. But you definitely don't have to do a whole campaign in one sitting, that would be sort of insane. The game auto-saves every time you return to the safehouse. There's no manual saving at all (or mid-mission restarts).

    Regarding install size, I'm actually a little surprised to hear you call it "massive" since I remember noticing for the PS5 release of Hitman 3 that they had done a lot with a newer type of data compression. Hitman 2 on PS4 was something like 120-150gb, while Hitman 3 weighs in at 75gb, despite having more content (not sure about PC install sizes). It's not a small install, but there are plenty of other games that are bigger.

    Unrelated update on my progress with Freelancer: I just failed out again because I got greedy. I was doing an alerted mission in Berlin and had already killed both targets, but was going for the safe and couriers. I got seen choking out a courier and ended up getting gunned down. You'd think I'd have learned by now not to try anything even remotely dicey in this new mode... time to start building my assassination tools case back up to full.

    Still having fun with it, though!

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    Thought I'd quickly update my progress again since I've reached a milestone. I'm Safehouse Mastery level 62 (out of 100), and have just finished collecting all weapons.

    Doing that really shifts your perspective about the relative value of the objectives, as well as the failure penalty. Merces are literally useless for me at the moment. I just finished a campaign and have about 90k, but the Supplier just doesn't sell anything anymore because I have it all already. And when I do next fail out, it won't actually matter much because the equipment lost on the failed mission will be the only stuff I need to buy back, and I'll have more than enough money to get it all right away. It will take a little more time to fill up the tools again, but meh.

    The thing that I sort of figured out was that, if you're wanting to fill out your wall of weapons, you're really best off just buying everything from the Supplier that you can all the time, provided you can carry it all (you can only hold two large, non-concealable weapons at once). Since the penalty for failure is losing half your money and all your tools, but none of the weapons except the ones you're carrying, you should try to have as little money as possible on you to lose, and stash all those weapons safely back at your pad.

    If you do that, failing out just isn't really that painful. Especially since the only equipment that feels truly crucial is the Sieker emetic dart gun (a tool), a lockpick (also a tool), and any silenced pistol (there's really not much difference between them). And since those first two things are tools, there's no good reason not to bring them with you since failure means you lose all tools anyway. Meanwhile, there's rarely reason to actually bring all those other shiny weapons you've got up on your wall on a mission, except when there's a prestige objective to kill a target with a weapon of a certain type or rarity.

    So, yeah. Failure may feel frustrating, but if you try to spend your money immediately and leave all but the most crucial equipment at your safehouse, you'll be fine. Just play carefully and don't be afraid to ignore objectives that are going to increase your chances of failing out, and you should make steady progress.

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