The modern Hitman trilogy – or rather, Hitman Assassination Worldas it is now known – has always flirted with the roguelike genre. As Blank Slate Agent 47, you wreak havoc using the targets’ modus operandi and as creatively as you can. In one run, you poison a target, chase them to the bathroom, and choke on the toilet mid-vomit. The next time, unlocking a new infiltration point and matching mask, you swap the golf ball for its explosive twin, watching gleefully from the garden as your target hits a nine-iron to his untimely demise.
For over 22 years, developer IO Interactive has honed its talent for bringing joy out of repetition. With its newly released mode, a mode that has earned its roguelike moniker, it has achieved near-perfection.
As free DLC goes, Freelancer mode is less “extra content” and more “detailed re-imagining”. While the main trilogy encouraged repeating the same mission over and over again – the better to perform the most ingenious and hilarious kills – Freelancer forbids repetition. With your limited intelligence, you plan a mission, improvise in the field and move on to the next location.
This new game cycle revolves around taking down four syndicates over an increasingly long series of missions. The first syndicate requires completing two missions before engaging the syndicate leader. At this point, you fall to the last place, patiently look at the “sayers”, identify the leader and eliminate them. To complete the run or “campaign”, you must kill all four syndicate leaders without dying. In total, you are viewing 18 locations. (If it sounds complicated, don’t worry: IO made a short tutorial video beforehand, which you can watch. here.)
Of course, since it’s a rogue, you’ll probably die – Many. When you die, you start a new campaign from scratch, mixing up objectives, locations, and items with lots of modifiers and random events. You even lose any lock-on tools, tranquilizers, or explosives you collected in a previous run. Only permanent? Your safe house.
Like a video game obsession”center worlds” only continues to grow, IO has created a fortress of solitude to rival the best of them. Agent 47’s bunker under the house is sleek, utilitarian, and surprisingly comfortable for the world’s greatest assassin. I remembered the house inside me Ex Machina. By advancing through Freelancer mode’s Mastery Ranks, you can unlock new rooms, earn more decorations, and fill in the gaps in the weapon walls that every spy deserves their salt. The Safehouse doesn’t reset between runs, unlike your gear, missions, or objectives, and upgrading it is almost as satisfying. Demolish the house of Zagreus Hell. But even though that corner of the underworld is full of friends and family members HitmanFreelancer mode, Agent 47 is lonelier than ever.
A sense of isolation in Freelancer is important not only in terms of tone, but also in terms of function. While Agent 47 had the backing of the International Contract Agency for the vast majority of the trilogy’s missions, the silent assassin has since walked… well… free. Hence the need to build the safe house and arsenal from scratch – but also the need to verify the intel on your own. Series mainstay Diana Burnwood is still here (and still voiced by the phenomenal Jane Perry, of course) to offer a guiding hand, praise successful missions, and berate your bad deeds. But as far as choosing which of the four syndicates to chase on any given run – that’s up to you.
This is where the Freelancer mode shines. Eight randomized syndicates (represented as neat files) each have random selection objectives that cater to specific play styles. Complete these optional objectives and you’ll earn a currency called “merces” that you can spend at masked vendors scattered throughout each mission.
These optional goals are a boon as much as a way for IO to push you outside of your comfort zone. During my third campaign, I opted to hunt down a trafficker whose optional objectives mostly revolved around stealth. Since this was my preferred playstyle in the main trilogy, I had a few 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 Sgàil Island to wipe out the leader, I had quickly prepared a useful assortment of lockpicks, keys, and non-lethal poisons and was done.
I also accidentally added some guns to my gun wall and decided to shake things up with my second syndicate: a group of gun dealers. Additional objectives for these missions required, as they say, to be loud – kill three guards with a shotgun, eliminate a target with a sniper rifle, etc. Although these did not fit my usual methods, this syndicate would bring me to my favorite places (Whittleton Creek, New York, Berlin and the Maldives).
How did it go? Not great, Bob! Since I went in guns blazing in the first two places, I scared the higher ups in the later places. These missions gained an “On Alert” status, making it more difficult to sneak through them regardless of my disguise. I spawned in a garage in New York, tried to choke, and fell to the ground in a storm of lead.
There are a number of other modifiers and random events that can appear in each campaign, but frankly, I don’t want to spoil them here. Half the fun of Freelancer mode is getting through one or even two syndicates, only to open your third file and realize how much the mercs greed is hurting you. But you still end up next, because improvisation is half the fun of this great series, and half the comedy.
HitmanFreelancer mode is a rare thing: an intoxicating blend of challenge and intimacy. It plays on the arrogance of long-time players, but also guides newcomers with its thematic goals and clearer overall structure. It may not allow a micro-repeat that marks the main trilogy. But it maintains a brisk pace from the beginning of each run to the bittersweet, comical end. After spending so many hours with this trilogy, combing through it for something, everything I missed it, I didn’t think it was possible for IO to surprise me anymore – but here we are.
Hitman Assassination WorldFreelancer mode It was released on January 26 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. DLC reviewed on Xbox. Vox Media has joint partnerships. These do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn a commission for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find it More information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.