Killing Hitman's first elusive target

Andy: The first of Hitman’s elusive targets, an art forger called Sergei Larin, was revealed by IO Interactive on Friday. The hit took place in the Paris fashion show level, and we only had 48 hours to find and kill the unmarked target. If we messed it up, we wouldn’t get a second chance.

Samuel: And what did I do, Andy? I messed it up. Badly. How about you?

Andy: Same.

Samuel: I made the mistake of trying to do it at 23.30 on Friday night after a long day at work—you need to be alert for the elusive targets, really. On the first go I figured out the optimum route up to the second floor: stealing a security guard uniform from the rear garden, then sauntering up to the second floor, finding the catering service dude stood by himself in that big room next to the kitchen, knocking him out and taking his uniform.

From there, I shimmied along the railings outside until I reached what I thought was the right open window. I hopped over the balcony, and couldn’t really see the enemy’s line-of-sight—a guard shot me as soon as I got over the balcony and that was it. I was sad and furious. I went to bed. Game over. How about you?

Andy: It all started so well, and I didn’t have to hunt for Larin at all. I sneaked through the gardens and quietly killed male model Helmut Kruger, assuming his identity to give me free reign of the mansion. Then the moment I stepped through the side entrance across from the helicopter, the target was walking down the stairs with his bodyguards.

I tracked him for a while, then saw him break away from his minders to use his phone. It was in one of those big rooms filled with Napoleon stuff. The coast was clear. No one could see me. I grabbed him and snapped his neck. And a guard on the other side of the display case that was obscuring the murder heard his neck snap. I didn't know that could happen. A bunch of other guards rushed me and I was shot to pieces. Mission failed.

Phil: I guess I should jump in here and tell you how it's done. I should preface this by admitting that, because I reviewed both Hitman episodes, I've played it for over 40 hours. I know every nook and cranny of that mansion. I'd have been livid if I'd failed it.

I used the planning menu to tweak my starting position, loading into the basement wearing a waiter's uniform. Following my standard operating procedure of past runs, I disable the security camera and work my way to the second floor, acquiring the auction staff uniform. While exploring the second floor, I notice a room that's clearly being used by Larin.

Sherlock I am not: it's full of easels. A few moments later he arrives. I follow him up to the attic on the third floor. While up there, I see a chance to take down his bodyguard. It's the tensest moment of the run, requiring split second timing. I disable the guard but lose Larin. I go back to his room and wait. Five minutes later, he wanders in. I kill him with fiber wire, and steal his speed boat to escape. Silent assassin, top rating. Nice.

Chris: I hid in a cupboard for fifteen minutes and then murdered the guy with a letter opener. I’m the world’s deadliest killer.

Andy: When the mission failed screen came up, it suddenly dawned on me that I couldn’t take another shot at it. I’m so used to games giving me another chance that it didn’t fully sink into my brain that this was a one-shot thing. And then I wished I’d been a bit more patient and studied Larin’s movements more, or at least killed him more quietly. Well, I say you only get one chance…

Samuel: Ha. Haha. Hahaha! So, I might’ve cheated at this elusive target business. Defeated the first time, I signed into PC Gamer’s press account on Saturday morning—a magical set of keys to every game on Steam—skipped the intro, then had another go at the elusive target.

This time, I located Larin right away. I took the same approach as before, but didn’t bother shimmying around the mansion this time. Dressed as the help, I went into the room where he was painting. With the auction worker also in there, I waited a couple of minutes until he went into the next room, where there was no-one except Larin and his bodyguard.

I shut the door behind me, garrotted the guard, then garrotted Larin. I briskly walked out of the venue, and made it to the front gate to escape before anyone found the body. 

Yes, I know this technically counts as cheating—to replicate this you’d have to buy the game twice on two accounts, which is, of course, madness—yet I regret nothing. In fact, I feel the same sense of pride that I would’ve done had I finished the elusive target properly—I’m very happy with my decision to do this! It was worth it to see the expression of disdain on Chris’s face when someone brought it up this morning.

Chris: Now I have to hide in Sam’s cupboard for fifteen minutes, and kill Sam with a letter opener.

Andy: I’m appalled by this. Have you no honour? You have sullied the noble art of fictional assassination. You bring shame on this family. Of course, given the chance, I probably would have taken another stab at it.

I like the concept of the elusive targets in general, but I think they could have done more with it. I thought I would have to do some work to identify the target, but then they show you a picture of him in the intro—and he’s pretty hard to miss when you see him. It would have been loads better if you only had a few clues to the target’s identity and had to figure it out for yourself. Because then there would be the added risk of killing the wrong person.

Samuel: Hey, I never claimed to have honour. I didn’t get to where I am today because I played by the rules. I got here by very occasionally diverging from the rules when doing so offered little or no consequence to me or the people around me. And, because I have such a fabulous arse.

I agree that the elusive target idea ended up feeling fairly subdued, Andy—the finite nature of the mission aside, it’s essentially just one more NPC they dropped into the world as a contract. It was fun, like killing any target in Hitman, but more for the novelty than execution.

Chris: I don’t think it’s perfect yet, but I do think they’re on to something. There’s real tension, a real sense of achievement for getting it right (by hiding in a cupboard for fifteen minutes) and a real sense of failure for getting it wrong. Also a real sense of REAL SHAME for cheating. It’s the Spelunky Daily Challenge of murder. 

Phil: Exactly that. Hitman's episodic structure diminishes the stakes of each individual run. It doesn't have the cohesion of the full Blood Money campaign. But this is a nice substitute. It's as tense a slice of Hitmanning as I've played, and I look forward to more.

At the same time, I want to be surprised. Larin has his own voice lines, and the level has been changed in small aesthetic ways. I want to see future elusive targets push that custom aspect further. I did well because I knew the level. By making more dramatic changes, IO could create some memorably unexpected moments.

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