Ever since IO Interactive's first release of Hitman: Codename 47 back in 2000, fans have been asking for a multiplayer mode. Fan pitches have included cooperative modes with multiple hitmen working together to take down a target, or versus modes where two players attempt to kill each other. Hitman has always been a single-player experience, but the rise of online play has only made the hunger for true multiplayer stronger.
IO Interactive answered part of this desire with Hitman 2's Sniper Assassin, a cooperative mode with up to three players attempting to take out targets from a long distance. It was made available earlier this year for those who pre-ordered Hitman 2. Sniper Assassin is similar to the mobile spin-off Hitman: Sniper, carrying forward the espionage puzzle ideals of Hitman from a more stationary perspective. It's great, but it's not really Hitman, forgoing the third-person exploration and disguises that make the series a fan-favorite.
The developer isn't stopping there though. For the first time ever, Hitman will have a proper multiplayer mode! At an event last week, IO Interactive gave a few folks a first look at the all-new Ghost Mode for Hitman 2.
Ghost Mode pits two players against one another, seeing who can reach and assassinate a series of targets faster. Each Agent 47 exists in their own reality and what you do only affects your local space, not the other player's world. However, you can still see them. The mode gains its name for the appearance of the other player: in proximity, they appear as a ghostly white version of Agent 47, complete with whatever disguise they're wearing. Out of sight, they have an ever-present icon, much like your target. (Official screenshots also show a ghost version of the target, something that wasn't present in the build I played. Instead, it looked like opponents were murdering thin air.)
Both players start in the same place and Hitman 2 spawns a target at a random location in the level. From there, it's pure Hitman: make your way to the target and kill them, using your knowledge of the level and available disguises. You gain a point if you kill a target without the body being detected, but walk away with nothing if you're found out, so you can't just shoot them dead in a crowd. There's a 10 second timer that counts down once you've assassinated your target, checking to make sure that no one finds the body. (One caveat: currently, being noticed by a security camera doesn't count against the 10 second timer, though it does call a guard to investigate.) Once you've passed the 10-second marker, your opponent has 20 seconds to also kill the same target to gain a point. If they miss that window, that target disappears and another is spawned. First to five confirmed kills wins.
Understanding the layout of each level is still key, but the inclusion of another player adds tension to the act of assassination. While playing Hitman alone is a slower, more methodical style of play, Ghost Mode gives you a living clock. You're always cognizant of your position, your target's position, and the position of the other player. You'll find yourself sprinting—well, "sprinting" is a bit much, as 47's highest speed is a leisurely jog—towards your target if you and your opponent are close. If the target and your enemy are on the opposite side of the map, you might find yourself holding back and hoping the next target spawns closer to you. Maybe you're focused on getting the right outfit and weapon to make the next few targets easy kills.
I played Ghost Mode in Miami, Florida, a level I don't know by heart yet. I made a beeline straight for my target, heading in through the front lobby of the expo space, while my opponent decided to go around the back. He made the wrong choice as I quickly found the first target in a back hallway and choked him out while the security guard's back was turned. Of course, rushing to beat my opponent also had me getting sloppy. This meant more visible crimes committed and more compromised outfits, which made it harder for me to get around the level. I also whiffed a kill because I got too greedy and killed the target where others could see me.
Of course, taking risks is also how you win sometimes. The winning kill of my demo match saw my opponent and I in the same area, wearing the same costume. We were both waiting for the target, who was relaxing against a wall out in the open. As soon as the target left the wall, I snuck up behind him and snapped his neck. It was far enough away that no one heard or saw it. My opponent decided to be more cautious though, so his version of the target kept walking out into a place where it was disadvantageous to assassinate him. 10 seconds, one point for me. Another 20 seconds, and the other player lost their chance to get a point. My win.
There are a few changes to the basic play of Hitman 2 in Ghost Mode. First, all of the weapons and objects normally lying around the level are gone. Instead, there are "ghost crates" randomly placed around the level (you can see them in bright green in Instinct mode). These crates contain up to three random weapons or items, and you can grab one item from each crate. The twist is the crates are shared between both realities, so whoever gets to it first gets their pick of the best stuff.
The other change also involves reaching across realities. You begin each match with the Ghost Coin. Like a normal Coin, this works as an audible distraction, with guards and other characters investigating where your coin landed. The Ghost Coin works the same, but for the opposing reality: you throw it and the AI in the enemy reality will investigate the noise. If you're in close proximity, the Ghost Coin allows you to call attention to your opponent, potentially stopping their assassination vector. IO Interactive global brand PR manager Sven Liebold told me that the studio is also looking into other items that can have "Ghost" versions, though the Coin is the only one at this point.
Ghost Mode will be available on the Miami level at launch, with IO Interactive expanding it to the other levels, including the Legacy maps from Season 1 of Hitman, later down the line.
I admit, the Hitman player-vs-player multiplayer I envisioned was something more like SpyParty, with two players in disguises trying to hide in an AI crowd. But that would require a different skill set from how Hitman teaches you to play in single-player. This is a much better option in that regard, especially between two players of the same skill level and knowledge of the environment. I'm looking forward to not only playing it with my friends, but also seeing high-level Hitman players duel it out.
Multiplayer is here, Hitman fans. After years of asking, we've made it to the promised land.