Previews

PVP Hitman style — Hands on with Hitman 2’s Ghost Mode

I’m at a race track surrounded by screaming fans. Race cars roar by as the clock starts to tick down; I have five minutes to find and eliminate my target. I look to my left and see an apparition. I may be Agent 47, the greatest hitman in the world, but so is he, and it’s now my task to not only kill quickly, quietly, and on time… but more efficiently than he does.

Welcome to Ghost Mode, the new PVP mode for Hitman 2. Instead of pitting players against each other with Agent 42 trying to kill other Agent 42’s, you’ll instead be competing to prove who is the best hitman, with each unnoticed kill earning you a point. It’s a game of first to five, and depending on the skills of both sides, this can be over quickly, or it can turn into one hell of a slog. I was fortunate enough to get to play a very early build–so early, in fact, that even those working on Hitman 2 weren’t entirely sure of the rules at the start.

The first thing to note is that the Miami map is huge. The raceway is filled with different characters and locations alike. From stands filled with fans and security to private, VIP lounges, parking garages to a science lab, there’s no shortage of places to go or disguises to don. You and your opponent both occupy the same map, but in different realities. You can see the ghostly outline of the other Agent 47, and can see his location on the map, but (outside of one thing, we’ll discuss that later) you cannot interact with him or his world at all. His actions do not impact your world, just as your actions do not impact his.

At the start of the match, you’ll both be assigned a target, the same target, and will have five minutes to find and eliminate that individual. Given how huge the map is, sometimes just figuring out how to get to get to that target can take most of that time. Learning the ins and outs of the raceway, how to use the parking lot to cut beneath the track, and which disguises will give you access to which areas are going to be vital to this mode. The Miami map, which you can see in the video above, will be the only Ghost Mode map available on November 15th, though other PVP enabled locations will be added after launch.

You score a point after you have eliminated the target and your kill goes unnoticed for 20 seconds. That last bit is important–you can see the confusion in the video after I kill my target, but am not awarded a point. At first we thought it was lag, but after much discussion, it was clarified that the point would only be awarded after that time period. If your opponent scores a point, you’ll have 30 seconds to eliminate your target; if you succeed within the time limit, you will also score a point and a new target will be assigned. If you aren’t able to make the kill, then a new target is assigned and you are simply down a point. If neither of you are able to eliminate the target within five minute period, then no points are awarded and a new target is simply assigned.

The setup is simple, but given the depth and breadth of the map, there are countless ways to go about it. Sometimes your target will be in a VIP area, requiring you to quickly secure a special disguise, or sometimes they will be in the middle of a highly populated area, meaning you have to figure out their movement patterns and identify potential blind spots. Setting up distractions so you can subdue bystanders and nab disguises, locating the crates containing weapons which are sparsely scattered across the map, and doing it all before your opponent makes his move is delightfully challenging.

Being able to see your opponent is one of the coolest elements of the game. At one point, my opponent and I were both walking behind the target, both ready to make our move, both waiting for the right moment. He jumped in earlier to subdue the target, but I waited for a more opportune moment. I watched as his ghost jumped on an invisible figure, then fall to the ground, dead from an apparent gunshot. Rotating my camera, I saw a police officer I hadn’t noticed before. Thanks for the heads up, now-dead opponent!

Making sure your kills go unnoticed is vital to this game, but NPC vision can a little frustrating and unpredictable at times, though I do think this will be ironed out a little more before release. With a map this big, so full of items, obstacles, and people, NPCs occasionally seem to simply materialize. They can seem all knowing at times, while at others, like at the very end of the video, they’re so absorbed in looking through a pair of binoculars, that they don’t notice the man dressed as a giant flamingo killing someone a few feet away. Did I mention the flamingo outfit?

There are so many different ways to disguise yourself in this game, and many of them have special animations and ways for you to blend in. Your idle animation is different when you’re in the flamingo outfit, and you can actually climb onto a special podium and do little performances. With the right outfit, you can also wave checkered flags over the race track, and those are just two examples I stumbled upon while fumbling around an unfamiliar map trying to out-assassinate my opponent. There’s good reason to keep moving and blending in, because if you stay idle too long you’ll attract attention. After I stopped recording, a woman apparently became suspicious of a grown man dressed as a flamingo standing on place and staring into the distance, refusing to move or speak. I can’t possibly understand why she’d feel that way. She alerted a cop who, eventually, after much shouting, gunned me down–and from behind, no less. Something to think about before going AFK.

Different disguises also have a big impact on what weapons you can carry around. Finding a pistol is rare and exciting in this mode, but does you little good if you’re dressed as a janitor. Roaming about sporting a firearm instead of a mop is a great way attract attention and find yourself hunted. That said, no one thinks twice about a security guard with a police baton or a man in a lab coat with a scalpel.

You don’t lose any points for being killed, you’ll simply respawn at a new location and jump right back into the hunt. Losing your life isn’t apparently enough of a punishment for being careless–you’ll still be hunted once you respawn, and you’ll need to change disguises quickly. This felt pretty harsh, though the developers did sound like they were reconsidering this mechanic. I suppose we’ll find out what they decided come November 15th!

As I said before, while you and the other Agent 47 are on the same map, you are on two different realities which don’t interact at all, with the exception of one item. I searched high and low for the elusive Ghost Coin, a new item specific to Ghost Mode. We were told about this item before jumping into the game, and I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to grab one for this video. The Ghost Coin behaves just like coins in the Hitman games, but this incredibly rare item will attract the attention of NPCs in your opponent’s world as well as your own. Given that your kills must go undiscovered, having the ability to bring witnesses to the scene of your opponent’s kill could undo a potentially game-ending point.

This build is still early, and some improvements are already in the works. The first one being that all the targets currently look the same. IOI confirmed that, upon launch, targets will have different looks. The second change will be match lengths. After seeing how long our group played without ever making it to five kills, they were discussing shorter and longer modes, options allowing you to select the number of kills you wanted to play to, as well as the ability to end the game by surrendering. These were just discussions, and we’ll have to see what the team decides to do come launch. It’s also worth noting that these games were all incredibly long because we were all playing a new mode on a completely new map; once the game is out and people are more familiar with the maps, what disguises grant access to where, how to get those disguises, and the best blind spots, games should speed up significantly.

I have to admit that I was surprised to find a PVP mode which doesn’t ask you to actively kill your opponent. Having to outwit, outmaneuver, and out-assassinate someone is a refreshing PVP challenge. I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to see this mode expanded upon, allowing you to play four-v-four games, having multiple targets at once, or even having the ability to break into teams, playing in two-v-two challenges. Ghost Mode already feels addicting, and I can’t wait to see what the final product will play like when Hitman 2 releases on November 15th.

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