Freelancer - Hardcore Mode Differences

Since I’ve been unable to find a resource that collects all of the differences between the two game modes, I felt this would be a good place to get data from everyone before gathering it into a proper document and/or improving the Hitman Wiki’s Freelancer page with the data.

As a first point of order, it’s stated that Hardcore ups the difficulty to “Master” mode - but this doesn’t seem to be strictly true since the actual differences feel more like the Professional mode I remember from H1(2016). So, with that in mind, The purpose of this thread is to collect specific and concrete details - e.g. I don’t care to say “territories are alerted” because this isn’t a specific or concrete detail. Rather, the specific aspects of it being alerted need to be documented.

To an extent, this will inevitably serve partly as documentation of the specifics of Master mode. In any case though, I’ll update the bullet points as replies come in.

  • Prestige Objective is mandatory and must be completed to avoid failing the level.
  • Failing any map ends the campaign run, costing all your cash and freelancer tools.
  • Beating any showdown pays out a higher tier of weapon, randomly selected from all possible tiers.
  • Couriers & Stash crates are not marked on your map.
  • Showdown suspect count is now 9, 9, 12, 12 and lookout count is 9, 12, 15, 18.
  • Takedown target count is in the range of 2-4 targets for every map in a campaign.
  • More assassins/lookouts on each showdown. Every suspect will have an assassin.
  • Wearing a civilian disguise prevents targets/suspects enforcing you as it does in non-hardcore alerted mode.
  • The marker indicating presence & actions over the head of suspects is removed.
  • Proximity alerts for Assassins/Lookouts are no longer given.
  • NPCs will hear you running, including while sneaking and react to it like a distraction while in a trespassing/hostile area.
  • NPCs have longer viewcones and will detect you faster - including when you perform a suspicious action.
  • NPCs that see you moving within the cover of bushes will investigate it. Normally they only investigate if you ran.
  • NPCs in a suspicious state will be likely to decide you are responsible and enter combat. <TODO: document this precisely>
  • Killing an NPC in a manner that causes blood-letting or by drowning will prevent you taking their disguise.
  • Maps will have additional cameras, items removed, doors locked and/or additional enforcers. H1 maps have the most disadvantageous changes. See the post by @lukefsje below for specifics.
  • The amount of damage you can survive is lower. <TODO: how much lower?>

Last summer I recorded the number of assassins/lookouts on non-Hardcore Alerted mode:

  • 1st Showdown: 4 Suspects, 3 Lookouts, 3 Assassins
  • 2nd Showdown: 6 Suspects, 5 Lookouts, 4 Assassins
  • 3rd Showdown: 6 Suspects, 5 Lookouts, 5 Assassins
  • 4th Showdown: 9 Suspects, 9 Lookouts, 6 Assassins

And @Lindolfo did the numbers for Hardcore:

  • 1st Showdown: 9 suspects, 9 lookouts, 9 assassins
  • 2nd Showdown: 9 suspects, 12 lookouts, 9 assassins
  • 3rd Showdown: 12 suspects, 15 lookouts, 12 assassins
  • 4th Showdown: 12 suspects, 18 lookouts, 12 assassins

Additionally, the numbers of potential targets on the non-showdown missions are different.
In normal mode, the first syndicate missions always have 1-2 targets, the second syndicate has 1-3 targets, the third syndicate has 2-4 targets, and the fourth syndicate has 3-4 targets. It’s totally random, but the number of targets will always be in the range (like you could have all 6 missions in the fourth syndicate have 3 targets).
In Hardcore mode, all four syndicates have 2-4 targets, making the first two harder but the fourth one a bit easier.

For the weapons, on Normal mode beating the first syndicate gives a Common, the second a Rare, the third an Epic, and the fourth a Legendary. It’s possible to get a lower rarity item from a higher Syndicate, but only when all of the proper level weapons are obtained. For example, once all the Legendary items are collected you will get an Epic item for beating the fourth Syndicate.
On Hardcore, it seems that each syndicate can reward an item from any rarity. For instance, I have gotten a Rare, an Epic, and a Legendary item from the first syndicate reward crate on Hardcore.

By the way, NPCs react if they see you moving in the bushes even on normal mode, that’s not exclusive to Hardcore. Also, I think the NPCs hear footsteps only if you are trespassing.

Here’s the most notable changes to the 2016 maps on Master/Hardcore (that I remember, by no means all of them):

  • Paris - Cameras around the outside of the palace, more guards patrolling in Attic, more guards patrolling North garden area by the barge, no Master key, emetic poison in basement is now carried by one of the chefs, Speedboat Key’s now carried by Novikov’s bodyguard, Fireworks Remote now carried by tech crew who stands near its usual place
  • Sapienza - More cameras around the mansion and lab areas, more guards patrolling in the lab, guards on balcony outside observatory and one on mansion roof, no Lab Technician disguise on body in church morgue, no Lab keycard on table in observatory. Note: These are differences between Professional and Master, however there has been an error since Freelancer launched where both normal and Alerted versions of Sapienza use the Master mode layout. Right now there’s no difference between the two Freelancer versions (outside of targets being enforcers), but there will if they ever fix this.
  • Marrakesh - Extra guard on the side of the school, extra guard on Lamp Store roof start, more guards patrolling inside Consulate, more guards patrolling in underground parking lot, more cameras around the Consulate
  • Bangkok - Cameras in hotel lobby, cameras in security room pointed at camera server, guards by basement exit, speedboat exit has guards and is a Trespassing area in your suit (on Master you need the extra Speedboat key in Room 208, but I don’t think you need to pick it up in Freelancer)
  • Colorado - No Militia Elite disguise bag in trailer next to shooting range, extra guard on the water tower roof, extra cameras all over the farm grounds
  • Hokkaido - the two guards by the cable car are now facing toward the platform instead of toward the scenery, one guard by cable car is an enforcer to all disguises, extra guards all over the place (on path to mountain exit, around morgue area, in morgue security room, in other security room, patrolling around Nails’ stash room, patrolling back area of sauna, in Amos Dexter’s room, in kitchen, and in bathroom at the top of the ramp).

On a non-alerted non-hardcore territory, I find that they will react, but they will then just brush it off. In Hardcore, they’ll go investigate.

You are correct that NPCs being distracted by footsteps only occurs if you are trespassing.


NPC investigating rustling in bushes should happen in regular freelancer. I’ve intentionally done it to silenty isolate the scuba trainer for the exit plenty of times.


On non hardcore they investigate if you run while on the bushes, if you walk they react as you said.

Kinda strange that nobody pointed out the biggest difference yet: regular Freelancer is fun while HC is not :x


Most accurate statement made about HC that I’ve seen yet.


I can’t deny that this got a solid laugh out of me.

Freelancer is fun but I’ve reached a point where it’s just a bit too easy. There’s certainly a level of frustration that Hardcore induces and I find myself wishing for an intermediate game mode where the HC aspects that add to realism (ruining disguises, no UI hints for suspects) are active, but the unrealistic ones (overly souped-up NPCs and its ilk) are not.

The Risk<->Reward<->Frustration ratio of Hardcore is broken. I only play it as a 50/50 split between outright masochism and a desire for an additional challenge - until it inevitably pisses me off and I go back to the regular mode.


TBH if HC was just “all levels are alerted and use Master mechanics” without the mandatory prestige objective and wallet disintegration on failure I’d happily play it over regular Freelancer.


haha this is too true

Not to mention, the way everything can turn to violence and gunfire on a dime in hardcore feels all too familiar (cough) the Wrath Termination

I want to add that XP Bonuses exist for Hardcore resulting in a shorter level grind for people seeking mastery levels.


This is a good point and something I only recently noticed when taking a closer look at my detailed score after completing a hardcore mission.

Not to mention the fact that guards tend to have telepathic powers on alerted territories (and thus HC) and they can know your exact location even though they’re several floors below you and shouldn’t be able to hear any gunfight going on. There has been several ocassions were I eliminate at least 60% of the guard population on a map because they keep coming to my camping place.

If you hate yourself enough to play on alerted Colorado, you can start a gunfight in the house and then camp on the room where there’s two guys playing videogames. You’ll pretty much kill the entire map in just one confrontation.


I actually do mention several of these on TVTropes, though yes, not all of them.

also, man, these changes do NOT make me wanna play it.

Also no Hallucinogenic Drugs, so no vroom vroom vroom, ding ding ding easter egg.

This is pretty much the problem I have with Hardcore mode too. Nothing about it makes me wanna play it, it just feels unnecessarily complicated and hard for the sakes of it.

Hardcore does not mean “make every aspect of a players’ life miserable”, it means “tweak the gameplay to be harder, but still fair”. Because currently, that’s the sense I’m getting from people on here.

The Wrath Teremination was designed with avoiding combat though. Your comment would be no different than doing a kill-everyone run on, say, Sapienza. TRT is actually unique in that you take out guards via traps, not go in guns-blazing, because you will lose.

I think the snarky “Cough X Cough” is completely misplaced here.

I would rather have some fun on the grind, even if it’s easier, than a constant and perpetual fear of losing my progress because I made a minor mistake.

Alright, a better way of stating things is that Hitman‘s combat is flawed, at best. This aspect of the game is highlighted when (accidentally) entering combat in the Wrath Termination and when things go sideways in Hardcore Mode in Freelancer. It can suddenly feel very stacked and unfair.

Even if the Wrath Termination is designed to avoid guards and simply use traps to take them out, it’s exceptionally hard for the average player to do so.

Guess the point I was trying to make is that I hope combat gets improved upon in the next iteration of this series. The combat in Hardcore Mode often draws me away from it.


I don’t think I can even agree with that to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, this is not as in-depth as call of duty or battlefield, but the combat mechanics have no right to be as well made as they are. Every gun has reasonable recoil, the guards aren’t terribly hard to take out, nor do they feel unfair to fight against, and I generally don’t feel overwhelmed, so long as I keep moving.

Playing TWT or a Kill-everyone run feels like an arena shooter, surprisingly.

Stage 1 is generally pretty good at introducing the mechanics of the escalation, so I really don’t think that’s true.

I actually did find stage 2 of TWT to be significantly harder compared to stage 3 (stage 2 has guards with shotguns which cause more damage and are harder to avoid, stage 3 has guards with SMG’s and AR’s, which are less damaging toward you and easier to handle). And I struggle to see how avoiding guards and settings traps is “exceptionally hard” when it is fairly easy and intuitive to learn how to do it honestly. The traps are very in-your-face, and there’s even PiP windows to show new areas to get guns or tools. I’m actually surprised by how I don’t feel cheated when I die on that escalation, as If I hadn’t solved the puzzle.

See the first quote. The combat mechanics are generally pretty damn good for a stealth-based sandbox game. I can agree with you on that the potential for getting into fights in Hardcore mode absolutely makes me not want to play it. But that seems to me more like IO applying a lot of fake difficulty on a mode that punishes failure too harshly, not because Combat feels bad.

I generally like combat in Hitman.

I think too many guards get too agro too quickly in Hardcore.

I think traps in Wrath are clearly laid out but that in practice the player will take out 1-3 guards via traps and the rest via chucking screwdrivers and other sharp objects at heads, from cover.

I also had more difficulty with Wrath lvl 2 than lvl 3. And I haven’t replayed the Sin since beating it.


I concur with everything you’ve said here.

Also, good to know that the more I explain myself, the less likes I get.


From what I remember the only traps I used in Wrath Termination were all the various radios and other distraction to stall the enemies. All the gas tanks and such went unused.


The gas tanks can be made to leak gas and there is an electric outlet attached to wires nearby that can be switched on to make them explode as the spark it emits comes into contact with the gas; they are not unused.

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