Hitman 3 - Freelancer Mode

IO Interactive has been busy working on Hitman 3‘s new game mode for quite some time now. This mode was subtly teased way back in November of 2021, though we didn’t realize it at the time. At the end of IO’s Year 2 presentation, they showed several shots of Agent 47’s Safehouse, without explaining what it was. As it turns out, that’s the base of operations for Freelancer Mode.

A full year later, I got into the mode’s closed beta test period, and I spent pretty much the entire Daylight Savings weekend with Freelancer Mode. Yeah, I really put that extra hour to good use!

Hitman 3 - 33 hours

After playing this new mode for more than 30 hours, I have to say, IO is not cutting corners here — this feels like a fully fleshed-out game on its own, one I see myself sinking a lot of time into when it launches for real in January of 2023.

If you want a detailed description of how this game works, your best resource is IO’s “How to Play” trailer. Seriously, I don’t think I could lay it out better than this trailer already did:

Freelancer is being described as a roguelike game mode, but that’s not completely accurate. This is actually an extraction-style game mode, meaning the gear you acquire on missions is yours to keep (limited to items with a “rarity” rating), while any gear you lose out on a mission is gone forever (well, it’s gone until you manage to find it again, I should say.) If you want to know more about unlocks, I’ve created a full guide to unlocking everything in the Freelancer Mode beta.

There are some roguelike elements in play here, though, like permanent failure (I can’t really say permadeath, because you don’t actually die — you can just bork a run real bad and have to start your whole campaign again from the beginning, which the game refers to as being “wounded”). There’s also a good deal of randomness, as your targets will be chosen at random, your bonus objectives are chosen at random, and the items you’ll find in chests in the mission are random. This means you’re constantly forced to think on the fly and adapt to the way each run is progressing.

Hitman 3 - Freelancer Mode

What I was able to play wasn’t the full experience; it was limited to 25 levels of progression (as opposed to the 100 of the final release), and only nine maps were playable (as opposed to the 19 promised for launch). Here’s a list of those nine maps:

  • Berlin
  • Dartmoor
  • Hokkaido
  • Miami
  • Mendoza
  • Mumbai
  • Paris
  • Sapienza
  • Whittleton Creek

If you’re super familiar with these maps already, you’re going to notice some subtle changes. The biggest ones are that items are a lot rarer in the world now (there’s no butcher’s knife in the ICA apartment in Sapienza, for example), and there are a lot more enforcers (which makes disguises less powerful, though still very viable).

Hitman 3 - Freelancer Mode

On the other hand, there are a few items that you can pick up in your Safehouse and bring into the world with you. In the medical room where you end up after failure, you’ll find a stethoscope (which can be used like a fiber wire) and a scalpel, for example, and you can bring these on missions if you remember to grab them before you catch your flight.

I can’t even begin to explain how freaking addictive this game mode is. This is a near-endlessly replayable experience that plays up to all of Hitman’s strengths, while also adding some new elements that are extremely well-implemented.

For example, similar to how there’s a Mastery Level for each of the game’s maps normally, there’s a Mastery Level for the Safehouse, which is where you’ll hang out in between missions. Not only is this Safehouse map way cooler than I expected, it also sort of unfolds as you play the game.

In the beginning, you only have access to a small section of the Safehouse, but as you level up, you unlock more and more of it. And once you’re allowed to go upstairs — and then outside to wander around in the woods surrounding the house — you realize just how enormous this map actually is. And it’s packed with super-cool features. For example, once I unlocked the outdoors, I would occasionally boot up the game to find Agent 47 idly fishing off the dock. There’s also a full day-and-night cycle on the Safehouse map.

Hitman 3 - Freelancer Mode

When you first unlock a new room, it will have this “work in progress” look to it, with not all of the floor tiles in place and most of the room’s items tucked away in boxes. But as you unlock more and more cosmetic options, you’ll replace those boxes with furnishings to make the place feel like home.

Further, the Challenges you complete now correspond with actual in-game trinkets, which are stored on various trophy cases around the Safehouse. This gives you some extra incentive to actually grind out some of those Challenges, because otherwise those trophy cases look super empty.

Hitman 3 - Freelancer Trophy Case

I normally play Hitman 3 on PS5, but the beta was only available on Steam, so I got to put my laptop to the test. For the record, I have the HP Pavilion 17t Gaming Laptop, though with some custom upgrades, such as more RAM and a slightly better processor. It’s a pretty solid medium-range gaming machine, though I try to avoid running high-end games with the settings maxed out (I can play Red Dead Online on Ultra settings, though).

And the game ran pretty well on my PC, for the most part. There are a few places where it chugged a bit — in the grassy section in Mendoza, for instance — and I never got the consistent 60fps that I get on my PS5, but it was definitely playable. But I have to say, I look forward to having Freelancer Mode available on my PS5 to really take advantage of that buttery-smooth hard-locked 60fps.

Hitman 3 - Freelancer Mode

I’m not going to lie: I’m completely in love with Hitman 3‘s Freelancer Mode, and it’s going to be really hard to wait for its full release in January. I know I’m going to have to start over from scratch, but honestly, I don’t even care. I’m more than happy to re-immerse myself in this extremely addictive experience. No joke, I can see myself spending another 100 hours with this game mode alone, obsessively unlocking all the trophies and knickknacks and whatnot.

And best of all, IO Interactive claims that they’ve held back some content from the experience so players have some surprises to look forward to when Freelancer Mode drops for real on January 26, 2023. I can’t freaking wait.

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