If you haven’t already delved into the incredibly deep Hitman series, then now is the perfect time to do so. Developer IO Interactive has recently rebranded Hitman 3 as Hitman World of Assassination, bringing the entire trilogy under one umbrella and removing the franchise’s confusing monetization by upgrading existing Hitman 3 owners to this new collection for free. While the rebrand is exciting enough news, Hitman fans have been sinking their teeth into an entirely different piece of content added in the World of Assassination update: the all-new Freelancer mode.
Don’t let the name fool you; Freelancer is much more than a side game mode for the Hitman trilogy. In fact, it’s so good that it very well could’ve been a standalone release. Freelancer is a roguelike game mode that incorporates every location from all three modern Hitman games and twists the standard stealth formula on its head. While standard Hitman missions encourage players to strive for accidental kills, avoid chaos, and leave no trace in pursuit of that sweet Silent Assassin rank, Freelancer forces them into uncomfortable scenarios where anything goes.
Every Freelancer run starts in the basement of 47’s safehouse. You can unlock more areas of the house and even customize it to your liking as your level up and complete contracts, but the basement is the main hub that houses your arsenal and freelancer tools. To kick things off, you’ll select a Syndicate that features a long list of targets and locales. Each Syndicate is themed around certain playstyles like melee, firearms, poison, or accidents, so you can choose whichever flavor of death you feel like at the moment.
You begin with absolutely no equipment outside of a basic handgun. Your handler, Diana, will give you a crate with three items between every contract, but you can only select one. You can also only bring a very restricted loadout with you on each mission (each weapon or tool has a point value associated with it), forcing you to plan. If you die during a mission, your equipment is lost. Anything you find during a mission can be brought back to your safehouse for future use. This system makes gear like suppressed weapons, sniper rifles, remote explosives, and anything of the sort incredibly valuable, but bringing them into a mission could mean losing them forever.
While you do eventually amass a sizable arsenal over the course of several contracts, the restrictions are never fully lifted. You’re always strategizing, even during a mission where you might find an arms dealer selling rare guns or an optional target that will drop bonus cash to spend on weapons if they’re eliminated. The game’s optional objectives are also the only way to earn any real money, so you’ll have to plan around those to succeed. They tend to force you out of your comfort zone though, requiring you to eliminate guards or blast a target away with a shotgun among other things.
Freelancer’s restrictions — and lack of punishment for going loud and making mistakes — really highlight the beauty of the World of Assassination trilogy. Most players wouldn’t even touch any of Hitman’s fun weaponry in the base game because they were shooting for high scores. Even though the game continually highlights oddities like the explosive rubber duck, there was never really any reason to use them. In Freelancer, that rubber duck might be the only way to wipe your target off the map.
Freelancer also forces you to think on your feet during missions, scavenging gear for future assassinations whenever possible. You may embark on a mission empty-handed to avoid risking your valuable sniper rifles or grenades because you know that the map you’re heading to has plenty of armed guards that can probably spare a gun. Some missions even have multiple suspects but only one real target, forcing you to get close and identify them based on clues that Diana gives you at the beginning of the mission.
Freelancer succeeds because it’s not afraid of letting you mess up. There’s no save scumming and there’s no Silent Assassin rank to shoot for. Get into those explosive firefights, smack someone with a frying pan, or drop a chandelier on an unsuspecting guard. Delve into the machinations of Hitman’s clockwork levels. Toss a wrench or two wherever you please. In Hitman Freelancer, you’ve got a square peg and a round hole. Make it work. Good luck, 47.
Hitman World of Assassination is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
- This article was updated on February 1st, 2023