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Hitman’s new mode transforms it into one of the best roguelikes ever

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The Modern Hitman Trilogy – Or Rather, hitman world of assassination, as it’s now known—has always flirted with the roguelike genre. As the blank slate Agent 47, you go on clockwork missions in remote areas, exploiting targets’ routines and generally wreaking havoc as creatively as you can. On a run, you poison a target, chase them into the bathroom, and dump them in the toilet in the middle of a shower. On the next, after unlocking a new infiltration point and corresponding disguise, you swap a golf ball for your explosive twin, watch gleefully from the garden as your target then nines to his unexpected demise. Iron ploughing.

For more than 22 years, developer IO Interactive has honed its talents to extract the joy from replayability. With its newly released mode, which fully earns the roguelike moniker, it has almost achieved perfection.

As free DLC goes, Freelancer Mode is less “additional content” and more a “sweeping reimagining”. Whereas the base trilogy encourages repeating the same missions over and over – the better to execute the most simple and hilarious murders – Freelancer prohibits repetition. You plan a mission with what limited intelligence you have, improve on the field and move on to the next.

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This new gameplay loop revolves around taking down four syndicates in an increasingly long series of missions. The first Syndicate requires two missions to be completed before the Syndicate Leader can be lured. At that point, you come in last place, patiently watching the “tells” identify the leader and eliminate them. To complete a run, or “campaign”, you need to kill all four syndicate leaders without dying. In total, you are viewing 18 locations. (If this sounds complicated, don’t worry: iO created a prerecorded short tutorial video, which you can watch here.)

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Briefing screen, complete with optional objectives and locations for a syndicate in Hitman World of Assassination's freelancer mode

Image: IO Interactive

Of course, being this scumbag, you’re probably going to die— Very, When you’re destroyed, you start a new campaign from the beginning, shuffling targets, locations, and items, along with a multitude of modifiers and random events. You also lose any lock picks, sedatives or explosives you collected in your previous run. the only constant? your safe home

As the craze for video game “hub worlds” continues to grow, IO has designed a Fortress of Solitude to rival the best of them. Agent 47’s bunker-beneath-a-house is sleek, utilitarian, and surprisingly comfortable for the world’s greatest assassin. I’m missing home ex machina, By rising up through Freelancer Mode’s Mastery Ranks, you can unlock new rooms, earn more decorations, and fill in the gaps on the walls of weapons that every spy worth their salt seems to have. The safehouse, unlike your tools, missions, or goals, doesn’t reset between runs, and repairing it is almost as satisfying as taking out the house of Zagreus. Hades, But while that corner of the underworld is filled with friends and family members, inside hitmanIn Freelancer mode, Agent 47 is more lonely than usual.

A sense of separateness is paramount in Freelancer, not just in tone, but in deed. While Agent 47 was supported by the International Contract Agency on most of the trilogy’s missions, the reticent killer has since gone… well… independent. Hence the need to build safehouses and armories from scratch – but also need to filter through the intel yourself. Series mainstay Diana Burnwood is still here (and of course voiced by the phenomenal Jane Perry) to offer a guiding hand, praise successful missions, and brag about her fucks. But as for which of the four syndicates to choose on a given run – that’s up to you.

Agent 47 considers a sniper rifle kill in a crowded Berlin bathroom in Freelancer mode's Hitman World of Assassination

Image: IO Interactive

Therein lies the great premise of Freelancer Mode. Eight random syndicates (depicted as neat dossiers) each have random optional objectives that cater to certain playstyles. Complete these optional objectives, and you’ll earn a currency called “merces”, which you can spend at disguised suppliers scattered throughout each mission.

These optional objectives are as much a boon as they are a way for IO to get you out of your comfort zone. During my third mission, I opted to hunt down a human smuggler whose optional objectives mostly revolved around pure evasion. This is my favorite playstyle in the base trilogy, I had some problems eliminating low level syndicate members with my bare hands, hiding them in freezers and disappearing without a trace. By the time I got to the Isle of Sagil to eliminate the leader, I’d built up a useful assortment of lock picks, wrenches, and non-lethal poisons, and got the job done without much fuss.

Coincidentally, I added some guns to my arsenal wall, and decided to shake things up with my second syndicate: a group of arms dealers. These missions required pushing through alternate objectives as they go—killing three guards with a shotgun, destroying a target with a sniper rifle, and so forth. While these weren’t my usual ways, this syndicate took me to some of my favorite places (Whittleton Creek, New York, Berlin, and the Maldives).

Agent 47 crouches behind a low wall in Chongqing in Hitman World of Assassination's freelancer mode

Image: IO Interactive

how did this happen? Not cool, Bob! Because I went guns blazing in the first two locations, I intimidated the higher ups in the later locations. These missions gained “on alert” status, making it much more difficult to go unnoticed regardless of my disguise. I was born in a parking garage in New York, took a chokehold, and fell to the ground in a storm of lead.

There are an array of other modifiers and random events that can pop up in each campaign, but frankly, I don’t want to spoil them here. Half the fun of Freelancer mode is blowing through a syndicate or two, only to open your third dossier and realize how screwed your greed has gotten you. But you move on to the next one anyway, because improvising is half the fun — and half the comedy — of this excellent series.

hitmanFreelancer mode is something rare: an intoxicating mix of challenge and attitude. It plays on the vanity of longtime players, but guides newcomers with thematic objectives and a more clear overall structure. It may not allow for the micro-iteration that made the base trilogy tick. But it maintains a rapid pace from the start of each run to its bittersweet, comical end. After spending so many hours with this trilogy, searching each and every place for something, anything I missed it, I didn’t think it was possible for IO to surprise me anymore – but here we are.

hitman world of assassinationFreelancer mode of was released on January 26 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One and Xbox Series X. The DLC was reviewed on Xbox. Vox Media is an affiliated partnership. These do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. you can find Additional information about Play Gamez’s ethics policy here,

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