I love the Elusive Targets in Hitman. There have been five Elusive Contracts since the game's launch, and after failing the fourth one, I decided to do extensive reconnaissance work and pre-planning for the fifth target. This time, I would be ready for anything. Here are the results. Elusive Targets are IO's attempt to make the Hitman experience as tense and as stakes-driven as possible. Here's the premise: You're ordered to kill a target in a pre-existing map, and there is a countdown timer that limits the frame in which this contract must be completed. You only had 72 hours, for example, to eliminate the latest Elusive Target, a Gunrunner in Marrakesh, Morocco. The kill window opened at 10:00PM AEST on Friday, July 1, and it closed last night, 10:00PM AEST on Monday, July 4.
The parameters for trial and error are very unforgiving. If you die at any point during the mission, you don't get another chance to complete it. You can restart the mission as many times as you'd like within the 72-hour time frame, so long as you don't die. If you kill the target, however, you're committed. You lose the option to restart, and you have to escape. And if you die during the escape, that's the end of that. Mission failed, and no second chances.
One more catch. The Elusive Target is not highlighted on the map. Usually, if you use your Instinct, the target will show up on your screen in red, which makes stalking him or her a whole lot easier. The red target, as you can see below, is visible through walls and across a considerable amount of distance.
In Elusive Target mode, however, there is no coloured marker, which means that the target seamlessly blends in with the hundreds of other NPCs. So first, you have to find the guy. Only then can you eliminate him as discretely as possible.
Up until the Elusive Target this past weekend, I attacked these missions with a "think on your feet and improvise spontaneously" approach. I was fairly familiar with Paris, Sapienza and Marrakesh (the three locations released thus far), and I didn't feel like I needed to be proactive. But then, the fourth Elusive Target humbled me.
I was contracted to kill a music artist, "The Sensation", at a garden party in Paris, and my failure to fulfil the contract was entirely my fault. I didn't pack a sniper rifle. The kill was sloppy and impatient; I ducked behind some bushes to shoot him, and a partygoer, who turned her head just as I was pulling the trigger, alerted the guards to my presence. But even then, I could have gotten away with it. But instead, the security guards cornered me against an exit gate to the garden. Had I unlocked it beforehand, I would have been scot-free. Instead, I watched helplessly as four different machine guns mowed me down.
Up until then, I was undefeated in Elusive Targets mode. I stabbed The Forger in Paris. I blew up The Congressman in Sapienza. I shot The Prince in Sapienza. It takes five successful Elusive Target missions to unlock a special Absolution suit, complete with leather gloves; had I successfully killed The Sensation, I would only be one mission away from unlocking it. But now, I was delayed and defeated. And for days afterwards, the game took pains to rub my failure in my face. Every time I booted up the main menu, I had to look at this.
So this time, when I saw on Twitter that a new Elusive Target would go live on Friday, July 1, I was taking no chances. I was going to have a Plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C. I was going to have every exit covered. I was going to find the best disguise. I was going to plan the best escape route. I was going to kill this bastard, and I was going to get away with it, come hell or high water.
My pre-planning began on Wednesday, June 29, two days before the Gunrunner was scheduled to arrive in Marrakesh. I booted up the Marrakesh level, and I began scouting different locations and working through various scenarios. There wasn't much to go on. Where, exactly, would the Gunrunner be, and when would he be most vulnerable? The only clue I had was the following image, which IO had tweeted out a couple of days prior.
Based solely on the background of the picture, the Gunrunner would be in the underground parking lot of the consulate, a closed space with a swarm of heavily armed soldiers. Not good. Also, the Officer in the red hat was different from the guy who was normally in the parking lot. So, there would extra armed guards in addition to the ones I already knew about. A head-on attack was out of the question, but just to make sure, I ran a test; I hid behind a parked car, and sniped a soldier just to see what the reaction would be from the other soldiers. And just as I suspected, they all headed directly for me.
Disguises were another problem. Even if you dressed as an Elite Soldier, over half of the other Elite Soldiers in the parking lot would still see through your disguise. I did some trial and error, and the only way you could walk around the parking lot undetected was to wear an Officer uniform. But the Officer uniform was extremely rare, and it would be too risky to try and knock out the Officer in the parking lot. So, the easiest way to obtain an Officer costume was to infiltrate the school-turned-military compound across town. There was an Officer on the second floor, and you could lure him into a dead end, choke him out and take his clothes.
There were two other problems I needed to account for. First, what was my escape plan? There was a car in the parking lot that I could use, but the keys for that car were lying on a table on the first floor of the consulate. So, I would have to wear the Officer costume, retrieve the consulate keycard to unlock the door to the first floor and then retrieve the car keys before finally killing the Gunrunner.
Second, what was the best way to kill him? I decided that remote explosives were my best bet. I didn't want to be anywhere near the target when he died. I wouldn't get a Silent Assassin achievement by blowing him up, but that was a secondary concern to getting the job done.
On Friday night, two days after I began planning, the Elusive Target went live. I attempted it the next morning, and I succeeded on my first try. I began in the school/military compound, where I isolated an Officer, choked him out and took his clothes, just as I had planned.
I then took the secret passageway that connects the school to the consulate. In the middle of the tunnel, lying on a table, were three remote explosives. I took all three of them, and once in the parking lot, I rigged the entrance to the tunnel with them.
I then crossed over to the other side of the parking lot, and took the consulate keycard off the table. The Gunrunner was there, as I had suspected, with his security detail. None of them suspected a thing.
I swiped through the automated door, climbed to the first floor and retrieved the car keys. I then headed back down the stairs to the parking lot, and on my way down, I pulled the fire alarm.
The Gunrunner panicked. He headed towards the tunnel for safety, and as soon as he reached the mouth, I pressed the remote trigger and blew him to kingdom come; three of his soldiers died with him. I then hightailed it to the consulate car and made my escape, just as the remaining soldiers spotted me. Had I delayed, or had I tried to escape by some other, improvised means, I have no doubt that I would be dead.
Not a clean kill, by any stretch of the imagination. I should have snuck around better during my escape. I should have deleted the security footage when I went upstairs. But a win is a win is a win. I earned 8161 damn points, and it was worth every one of them.
Planning paid off. I've been playing this game for three months, and I have never felt so satisfied by a single kill. It felt earned, and from a roleplaying perspective, I felt like a cold, professional killer, who methodically devises the best means of accomplishing his task, sticks to his plan and succeeds to the letter.
And best of all, after I completed the Elusive Target, the Absolution suit still unlocked! It was supposed to unlock after five successful Elusive Targets, but maybe the game was so impressed with me that it unlocked after four Elusive Targets? Either that, or it was a bug. Yeah, probably a bug.
Snazzy looking, isn't it? I'm certainly not complaining.