I've started a Hitman 2 leaderboard war I cannot win

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In 2016, I (politely) made PC Gamer's Phil Savage review the episodic Hitman game a total of seven times back when we were working on the magazine together. That's one review for each episode, then one more for the complete package. Reviewing the same game seven times took some kind of inevitable, strange toll on Phil, and we've joked about it frequently in the meantime. 

In 2018, that's finally come back to bite me in the ass. I made him become a Hitman master, and now he is destroying me. 

We've started competing on the Hitman 2's leaderboards, you see. I started this last week by making the mistake of goading on Twitter about finishing the game's first level, the sort-of tutorial, Hawke's Bay in New Zealand. If you've not played Hitman 2 yet, it's a fancy mansion in the middle of a beach that's completely deserted, until halfway through the mission, when all the enemy NPCs, including your target, arrive at once. I did it in about 17 minutes on silent assassin, which is far from an amazing time, but was enough to get me to the top of my friends' leaderboard:

This tweet ignited a competition between myself, Phil, and Rock Paper Shotgun's Matthew Castle. By yesterday evening, this had happened: 

Phil had trimmed 14 minutes off my time. I have no sodding clue how he did that. While Phil is a Hitman expert, I'm much less experienced. I've played every game in the series and a lot of other stealth games, but this is the first time I've comprehensively tried to learn the levels inside and out.  

One of the best features of Hitman 2 is the ability to play whichever levels you own from episodic Hitman inside the game—it means every location is in the same place with leaderboards enabled, and while it unfortunately doesn't carry leaderboard data over from the 2016 game, it has added more ways for me to goad Phil into competing with me. 

I got the first game's Sapienza map down to below 20 minutes, for example, which is not bad considering the two targets are hard to get together, and there's an objective that involves sneaking into an underground base after. Again, I'm not calling myself an expert by any means, but I beat Phil's time, which is all that matters to me. 

A day later, Phil did Sapienza in 16 minutes. I then managed 13 minutes, but made a mess of killing Caruso, one of the two targets, in my haste. I think I know how to beat his time, now. But I'll be deeply upset if I fail. 

In the Showstopper level in Paris, too, I got my time to under ten minutes, which I thought was pretty solid. Then Phil did it in three. I'm paying the price for not knowing the levels as well as he does, even though I must've played each for about eight hours total now. What the hell does he know that I don't?

I've made a monster.

Leaderboards aren't new to Hitman, but the advantage of Io abandoning the episodic model is that everyone is playing all of the game's new levels (and some of the old ones) at the same time, which makes this sort of competition a bit easier to maintain. My plan now is to spend the rest of 2018 trying to knock Phil off the top of the rest of Hitman 2's leaderboards, but it's already going quite badly. 

Much like the dickish targets in Hitman who frequently die ironic deaths, I'm now being ironically punished for making a man review a game seven times. 

Before the end of the year, I'll update on how the competition is going, and get Phil to tell his side of the story.