Month after month, IO Interactive continues to deliver on their promise of new and exciting content for their latest entry in the beloved Hitman franchise. Aptly named Freedom Fighters, another fantastic IO Interactive property the UK-based studio should seriously consider revamping, Agent 47 is flown away from across the globe to Colorado USA where he’s charged with taking down four targets that are believed to be connected to the contract killings of the past four episodes. This isn’t coming from an anonymous private contract, but rather the ICA (International Contract Agency) itself as the plot continues to thicken on the individual who shadows Agent 47. With this being the penultimate episode, one would expect a big turning point for the series, especially considering the last few installments have been hit or miss, and to a certain degree, it doesn’t disappoint. While Hitman was considered a reboot by many, Freedom Fighters helps shed some light on the timeline of where the game sits, and with direct references between Silent Assassin and Blood Money, it seems everything is properly interwoven into a rather intriguing, albeit vague story.
The past Hitman episodes have been very good at giving you excuses why you should take out specific targets. They’re all generally the lowest of low human beings who prey off the weak in some way, be it with information, money or horrific acts, but the fifth episode actually made me question why I was killing someone: Penelope Graves. Maybe it’s just a moral issue, but after reading her biography, I almost felt bad having to leave her body in the slurry pit. Sure, she’s a part of this dangerous militia group, but she’s a new recruit, and that’s only because the system she was so proud of failed her when she found evidence of mass corruption in the UN and her previous employer, Interpol, refused to do anything about it. On top of that, she was born a genius, so having to pull the trigger almost felt wrong, but alas, a job is a job. The rest of the targets are head honcho terrorist Sean Rose, psychopath interrogator Ezra Berg, and veteran assassin Maya Parvati. All of them are awful people in the Hitman universe, and IO Interactive gives you every reason why they shouldn’t live past the conclusion of Freedom Fighters.
The most impressive part about Freedom Fighters is the location. No, it’s not an exotic sectioned off area like Sapienza or Bangkok – in fact the environment in Colorado isn’t really breathing with much life – it’s that this is immediately a hostile location. There’s no time for poking and prodding every area to see what you can get away with; right from the get go, if you’re seen, this militia group of come at you with all their force. There’s just something exciting about there being no safe zones, and Freedom Fighters does this perfectly as getting into costume is mandatory for sneaking around a camp filled to the brim with violent murderers. There’s even a huge difference in the sections of the map, with a rundown house that actually looks well lived in thanks to the hackers and all of their technological gear, a training ground barn, a small barracks, a rather disgusting pit, and much more. While Colorado’s aesthetic is drab compared to the rest of the episodes, it certainly makes up for it in diverse environmental layout.
Unfortunately, it’s not all great. Probably the only disappointing aspect of the fifth episode is the few opportunities that are given. There’s definitely a decent number of challenges to complete, roughly three or so general ways in assassinating each individual, but the unique opportunities are far fewer. Sean Rose gets the brunt of things as there are three story-related deaths that can occur, when the others are handed only one a piece. Maya can have a training accident, Ezra can be holed up in his shed for Agent 47 to get the jump on him, and Penelope can take some time to think things over while conveniently leaning over the deadly looking slurry pit. Penelope also has the largest pathing outside of Sean, so there’s no excuse for her to only have one unique death, while Erza and Maya are more constrained within a general vicinity. Regardless, there’s still some enjoyable, and rather comical, ways to see each target go. There’s something about having a short, gameplay-interrupted scene where Sean blows up from an email that’s just so appealing. There’s still quite a few entertaining assassinations to be found, but there could have been more opportunities given the increased number of targets over the previous episodes.
There’s no denying that Hitman has had a rocky couple of episodes as of late. While they had their moments, they lacked the impact something like Sapienza and Italy supplied. Colorado is a little better as provides a rather entertaining playground for Agent 47 to explore while having to rely on the shadows, but there’s still a lot that can be improved. There’s double the number of targets that need to be taken out, along with a post-kill objective, but the number of unique opportunities has been reduced per individual. The camp provides a strong amount of variety for its size, although it’s easily the drabbest and most uninteresting location from an artistic standpoint. The story is also advanced more than before, even more so catering towards longtime fans, but remains intentionally vague to the point of frustration. As a penultimate episode to the first season, Freedom Fighters makes an effective statement, even though there are flaws in its execution.