Agent 47 is set to return next month, and this time he's getting really competitive.
Earlier this week we were able to report our latest impressions of Hitman 2. Most importantly, we killed our first targets in the Colombia mission, Santa Fortuna, which IO Interactive allowed outsiders to test for the first time. What we didn't reveal, however, was Ghost Mode, which is an entirely new game mode for the franchise. This is an all-new 1v1 multiplayer mode in which you and a mate (or a complete stranger) can finally determine who is the greatest assassin. Can Agent 47 play with other clones, or does he only work alone, as he's proclaimed before? These are our first impressions of Ghost Mode.
After having spent a little under two hours with Hitman 2's single-player missions (which you can read more about in our hands-on preview) the assembled press, including us, were sent upstairs to the top floor of IO's HQ, where a bunch of consoles were ready for battle. We expected a massive defeat since we had only used keyboard and mouse so far, and now we had to get used to an Xbox controller. This wasn't an unreasonable expectation since our first action of the match was to walk straight up to an innocent racing fan and hit the X button, launching a fist right into his face. Not exactly a typical Hitman strategy.
Ghost Mode is, simply put, a "best out of five" version of Hitman. Each player has their own world to play in, with exactly the same rules, and new targets are generated as the game progresses - typically a VIP with a bodyguard, who walks around specific areas of the map. The targets for each player will be in the same area, just as NPCs have the same routes. Shared crates containing randomly generated weapons, tools, and disguises can also be found, and when one player kills a target, no-one must see the murder take place, nor can they see the body for the first 10 seconds, which means that the murder has to go unnoticed. A player earns one point for an unnoticed kill, while you earn none if you get spotted. After a kill, the other player has 20 seconds to kill the same target to earn a point. When the timer reaches zero or the player earns a point, a new target arrives soon after. Killing civilians also removes points from your score, resulting in a true multiplayer stealth experience, which is a relief.
Perhaps this sounds like Ghost Mode is merely "pseudo multiplayer", but there's still a certain amount of interaction between the two players. Generally the two worlds cannot affect each other, but a "ghost coin" is the exception, as these can distract targets and NPCs for both players, and consequently ruin the other player's plans (sadly, because we already had plenty to do, we didn't have time to experiment with them). While this is the only real way to affect the other player's game, you can always see the "ghost" of the other player, as well as a blue pointer which shows their location. In the same way a red pointer reveals the location of your own target (but not the location of your enemy's target). This results in some quite entertaining situations where you try to guess what the enemy's doing, but because you cannot see their NPCs, it's often unclear who they're choking and what is going on in their world.
The most fascinating part of Ghost Mode is that it solves a recurring problem for Hitman, that being how it often leads to perfectionism that can undermine the experience. Not even a suicide can give you a fresh start here, as if you die, you're typically hunted, and you'll still be hunted when you restart. Ghost Mode is about quick thinking, not meticulous planning, since the game is pushing you to find the best way to the target faster than your opponent. If this results in a ruined disguise, you have to hide and find a new one, instead of reloading.
Ghost Mode, then, is not about getting the perfect Silent Assassin playthrough, but instead about quickly adapting and using the situation to your advantage; you have to take chances and understand that you might fail. Our first kill was a target who leaned on a railing in a public place, for example. With a bit of luck, we managed to push him over the railing without anyone noticing in the first 10 seconds. Soon after we were wanted, though we think it was because we weren't allowed on the premises, and thus we had to find another disguise. Eventually we succeeded in luring our targets with running taps and coins, and with a lot of choking and broken necks, we surpassed our enemy for a 5-3 victory and a surprising comeback.
Our brief first game of Ghost Mode was incredibly hectic, adrenaline-fueled, and focused. Players are forced to navigate the areas as well as possible, utilise the limited resources they have, and forget the perfectionism of typical Hitman, which is a liberating and different approach to the gameplay of this series. Our match of roughly 20-30 minutes could have played out in an almost endless number of ways, and this definitely motivates you to have another go at it. What if we had a different loadout, or if other objects had been available? Depending on the opportunities that present themselves you might have a chance of making a comeback, which is definitely a positive thing.
This also seems to be the thought that IOI had when developing it. Ghost Mode is more than a tacked-on Team Deathmatch, and it seems to be a well-developed extension of Hitman's concept which also shows the opportunities present in the levels. Almost every corner of the Miami level can be used to commit an (almost) perfect assassination, and that is impressive. On the other hand, it's uncertain if the very context- and luck-based situations you encounter are fit for esports or ranked play. Ghost Mode is perfect for casual fun with murder-happy friends though, and a fantastic element to add to a game which has until now been a classic solo experience.
Ghost Mode does look like it's going to be a success, and Hitman 2 can with this addition have a remarkably longer life-span than its predecessor, which is impressive since the last Hitman already offered a huge amount of replay value. You should be even more excited if you find the usual try-and-try-again experience a little tedious but still want to immerse yourself in digital assassinations of the best kind. We at Gamereactor are definitely looking forward to trying Ghost Mode in the other locations when Agent 47 returns to PC, PS4, and Xbox One on November 13.