Now that Hitman 3 has blessed our game libraries with an overwhelmingly positive reception—"IO's most creative and surprising assassination sim yet" Andy said in his review—I thought it was about time I give the globe-trotting murder sandbox a go.
After booting up Hitman 2 and trying out the first couple of levels, turns out I'm not the slick assassin I imagined. My greatest techniques so far involve hiding in laundry baskets from scary goons and fumbling through my arsenal of vindictive weaponry only to take out the wrong thing.
I took to YouTube to see how the professionals did it, and soon fell down a rabbithole of Hitman 2 speedrunning videos with 'blink and you'll miss it' assassinations. When I control Agent 47, he's lucky to take out even one target without me panicking and making him hide in a bathroom for half the mission.
These speedrunners take the idea of the silent assassin to the next level. The pin-point precision in every run is downright scary as runners set up traps and take out their targets so quickly it's difficult to keep up.
Quickly placing rubber duck explosives, silently poking targets with lethal syringes, and shooting targets from unbelievable distances—these runners have some slick moves. I knew I would enjoy watching these videos when I saw speedrunner Elajjaz complete The Finish Line mission in Hitman 2 by leaning over a roof edge and shooting the target, who is a racer driving at 300 mph, through the windscreen from 100 feet away with a pistol (you can watch in the video linked below at 4:41).
Over on speedrun.com, the Hitman speedrunning community has a bunch of different categories. Every level from each game has its own individual leaderboard but I get my kicks from watching speedrunners run the full game's main missions in one go.
The current run in first place for Hitman 2's first season is held by speedrunner Yannini who finished the game in 5 minutes 54 seconds, and the string of missions from season two is held by Lowress with a time of 8 minutes 53 seconds. For comparison, Hitman 2's missions can take anywhere from five to 30 minutes, with the main story taking 'average' players around ten hours to complete (according to howlongtobeat.com).
The rules for this category: runs must be completed on 'Professional' difficulty and use the in-game clock to record the times. Missions need to be completed in the campaign order they appear in the game and, for this particular category, get the Silent Assassin rating at the end of each level.
After watching various videos, I've noticed that 90% of runs are just traversing IO's sprawling maps. A lot of the skill involved is being in exactly the right place at the right time, and executing your assassinations accurately and fast. Getting to the perfect spot, which must take hundreds of runs to find, takes the most time, then the target is eliminated in seconds and 47 hightails it to the exit.
Hitman developer IO Interactive announced that it's making a James Bond game which is very exciting, but with no release date, footage or screenshots we've no idea what it's going to be like. Luckily, Andy has written about how Hitman 3 is a taste of the upcoming Bond game and why IO and Bond are a match made in heaven.
I've focused on the SA (silent assassin) category so far but the SASO speedrunning category (silent assassin, suits only) is a little different. This category forbids the use of disguises, which is bonkers as a disguise makes your time as an undercover assassin a lot easier. The key here is not to get spotted at all, and players who speedrun in this category are straight-up phantoms, gliding through levels undetected with ghostly ease.
Many of the techniques to kill the targets are the same, but the route to get to them is entirely different. In this category, Lowress holds the fastest time for Season two with 8 minutes 53 seconds and for Season one Fortheseven is currently at the top with 8 minutes 42 seconds in a very snazzy clown suit (which counts as a suit and is permitted under these rules).
What amazes me about these runs is that players have to use wild maneuvers to sneak through every level undetected, cleverly distracting NPCs and finding the fastest routes. One iconic moment from Fortheseven's run comes when he simply slinks past two distracted guards in full clown garb whilst their heads are turned, which is both bold and ridiculous. If you want to see this in action, it's in the video below at 05:34.
Watching these runs has spurred me on to be a more daring assassin (minus the clown suit) and I'm eagerly looking forward to the speedruns that pop up when runners get their hands on Hitman 3. It's a shame Agent 47's homing briefcase won't make an appearance in the new game, but I'm definitely looking forward to the murder mystery mission where our favourite assassin tries his hand at being a detective.