Freelancer: Hardcore mode is unplayably difficult in the wrong places

Hardcore mode is difficult in the wrong places

I just unlocked hardcore mode, and it appears to be difficult in the wrong places. The first half of this post is about hardcore mode issues, and the second part “predictability and difficulty” is about freelancer itself.

Here is what it says when you activate hardcore mode:

“Hardcore mode is only for the most ambitious freelancers out there. Territories will be on the highest alert at all times, and prestige objectives will be mandatory to both pick and complete. Failing any mission will also fail the campaign, and you lose all of your merces and freelancer tools. Beware that switching between hardcore and normal mode will reset your freelancer tools, All the risks also bear the fruit of greater rewards.”

Let’s go through all of this by feature:

(Note: you lose freelancer tools when switching, however you keep all your guns)

Yellow state for all territories.

What this does ingame is that it makes all targets (in both territory takedown and syndicate takedown missions) enforcers, which means they can see through I think most or all of your disguises. And there appear to be more cameras and extra enforcer npcs.

This does not sound bad on the surface. I am used to playing all hitman games I had (since the first one in 2000) on the hardest difficulty. And in the trilogy having extra enforcers is normal.

However as I said at the beginning of the post, the difficulty is in the wrong places.

  • For example, if in syndicate takedown missions, the targets you have to get close to, to check if they match the description, will see your disguises, then you as a player have to bush camp to observe them.

  • Why is that extra difficulty in the wrong place? Because it makes the gameplay more deterministic, or predictable, because the gameplay opportunities are narrowed down.

And this is I think a big issue with freelancer, that difficulty and predictability are (perhaps accidently) treated as a combined thing. Which leads to some bad issues in hardcore mode. More about this a bit further down.

Forced prestige objectives

As an experienced hitman player (this is my favorite game franchise ever), I want the gameplay to be engaging. For me that means it has to be so hard my mind has to think and plan on how to win the mission.

Now if the gameplay is made harder by increasing predictability (making it more deterministic), the game is harder, however my mind is not very engaged.

An example for this is this screenshot. On my very first hardcore mission, I was shown 3 possible prestige objects, which are now mandatory to pick and complete.

2023-01-28 20_44_01-2023-01-28 19_01_38-Greenshot.png ‎- Fotos

I never pick prestige objectives on normal mode unless it is something related to being a classic hitman (silent assassin and similar objectives). Now in hardcore I have to pick one. And the choices, they suck:

  • Forced to use a sniper rifle,

  • or use an explosive

  • or timed objectives.

Imagine how that increases the predictability of the mission:

  • Imagine having to play Paris with this set of objectives and you have to take out one of the sound guys on the second floor (next to the fireworks control).

  • Snipe, throw explosive or speed-run.

  • And for most players this will end up in “olympic duck tossing” as most elusive targets are taken out.

  • Throw duck, run away, detonate.

Oh and the sniper objective requires at least a rare sniper rifle. I only have a sieger300 which is a common sniper rifle. That means I have to run to the weapons dealer on the map and buy one.

Losing any mission fails the campaign and removes the tools and all money.

This is bad for 2 reasons.

First, it removes the gameplay choice of retreating from a mission to save your character’s life. Losing items you did not bring to the mission is not realistic.

Can you see the issue? Hardcore boxes gameplay in so much it increases the difficulty only by raw increase of predictability.

Difficulty and Predictability

And there is a wider issue with predictability that affects the whole game mode outside of hardcore mode. The issue is that the entire gamemode is structured into 14 territory takedown missions and 4 syndicate takedown missions.

  • Territory missions are boring predictable chores with almost no dynamic gameplay where there is no thinking required.

  • Syndicate missions are amazing playable spy movies that keep your mind engaged.

An example:

Imagine playing a syndicate mission. All the variables you have to consider, the sneaking, setting up an attack, then exiting.

Now imagine the emotional low after that, having to grind 3-5 normal missions to get to the next one. You load in, open the map, see the targets. And you know exactly what you have to do the next 3-7 minutes. You just have to spool down a set of highly pre-determined situations and sneaking to get to the target and get away.

Also note, your playtime for all territory missions will likely be similar. For me it is always almost 3 minutes or 6 minutes.

A specific example on Miami:

On a syndicate mission it is a firework of highly unpredictable gameplay that keeps your mind engaged for 20-30 minutes and I would say you probably do not feel bored during most of it.

On a territory mission:

  • Everything is predictable.

  • If I would invent a mission for you where the target was one of the scientists in the Kronstadt owner’s office, then, as an experienced player, you would be able to spool down the required things you have to do in your mind within seconds.

  • You would likely start near the dolphin,

  • then run into the garage,

  • knock out the kronstadt girl next to the elevator shaft,

  • climb up through the shaft to the second floor.

  • Then sneak out of the maintenance area behind the couch,

  • climb through the window,

  • up the drain pipe,

  • then sneak into the copier room and you are almost at the office.

And I think you would not even have to start the game to imagine how it would play.

I would like to put this into an analogy.

On syndicate missions:

  • The player swims like a fish through dynamic and unpredictable gameplay.

  • First the player takes the role of a spy, getting close to targets to identify targets.

  • Then after the target is sufficiently identified, strikeopportunities self-arrange at certain times as targets move through the map, and which are then exploited by the player based on his skill and equipment.

On normal missions:

  • The player is an all-knowing terminator that can choose to do anything he wants because he has almost perfect prederministic knowledge of the map of all that can happen.

Can you see the problem?

4 amazing spy novels you can play (syndicate missions) packed in between 14 boring chore missions (territory missions). If you like, pay attention to how you feel after a syndicate mission and the rush you feel after winning or losing it and then how the wall of boredom hits because of you have to grind 3-5 chore missions to get to the next one.


With all this explained, I would like to suggest changes:

Non-hardcore mode specific:

  1. Give players an option to play all 18 missions as syndicate takedown missions. I think that players will prefer that after a few tries and the devs can see that in the metrics.

  2. Or add unpredictable gameplay to normal missions. By making them scaled down versions in difficulty of the syndicate missions.

hardcore mode specific:

  1. All of the above, however also REMOVE the forced prestige objectives. I would like to play hitman has a highly difficult and unpredictable game, without the fortnite-y cool and “fun” challenges bolted on. For me the core experience in Hitman games was to sneak into a place, and complete the map without anyone seeing me. Always silent assassin, or improvising if it goes bad.

  2. Do not make all missions prewarned.

  3. Allow soft-fails, so players do not lose a campaign when failing a mission. Instead make the next mission harder so that 47’s probability of death is higher. For example each failed mission would make the AI shoot better and hit harder, so that after 2-3 failed missions, one shot from a gun would kill. That would lead to players having to be really good at retreating from a firefight.

Separate predictability from difficulty
(this is the core of my argument)

The devs should find other ways to increase difficulty and avoid increasing the predictability. Perhaps by making the guards shoot more accurately, or kill faster, or removing auto heal, so players are not terminators that can clean out a map by camping in a dead end and healing between reloads.

Because predictability is the worst enemy of this gamemode. I only play this gamemode for the syndicate missions and I can barely endure playing the filler missions in-between.

For new players

I feel that some players who are new to freelancer or Hitman as a game may not agree with the territory missions being boring chores. However I feel that this argument will make more sense the more you play the game. Just observe how you feel right after a syndicate mission.

And to convince you my argument, here is a post I wrote on reddit in November when I had access to the closed technical test:

(it is a much shorter read and has many pictures)

All freelancer missions should feel like that.


Just to quote something I wrote in another thread:

"For hardcore mode I would prefer to have difficulty from things in the map itself. The current prestige objectives are just not fun.

Some prestige modifier suggestions:

  • Armed pedestrians
  • Mines that alert guards (like in Berlin tower)
  • Snipers on the map
  • Guards always alerted and run around map
  • Armoured targets (like the icon)
  • Patient Zero virus
  • Targets explode if killed (Fun if you are trying for SA)
  • Everyone is an enforcer

Atleast these they are kinnnd of possible. Timers are really unfun and just remind me of escalations I didn’t enjoy"


More evidence of hardcore being unplayably difficult:

This is the forced prestige choice FOR MARRAKESH with 3 targets. Shuriken and katana kills are sort of possible however you would have to do it in the open (as the targets were all 3 in the open in the crowds. And there is no possibility for stealth gameplay. And Silent Assassin is impossible, as you can not hide a body of a target in a crowd, unless all targets eat poison food, which narrows the gameplay down to being a food vendor and bringing a lot of poison.

basically hardcore forced objectives feels like an autogenerated escalation contract with realism removed. It forces the player to very narrow gameplay paths, and that I feel is the worst thing for freelancer. Predictability.

I think the ideas is very good, to make the map itself beefed up in various ways. However I would just reduce the weird objectives like “targets exploding” because that feels like a fortnite game or a very weird escalation contract.

1 Like

True, I was thinking it can’t be worse than having timers but I agree with you

I just lost a mission running around on marrakesh stabbing targets with a katana. Now campaign restarted and I have this selection of objectives:

This is for Paris. Having to one shot 2 targets with a gun, or a time trial, or silent assassin without any guns.

This is like a nightmarish escalation contract generator most players would only play for unlocks.

I think this is the core issue, the devs mixing the “cool” and out of the box challenges into the gamemode to increase difficulty. However I would consider myself a very “classic” oldschool hitman player. I want to aim for silent assassin because the game is built for that, and not for the objective. It is just what hitman was always about for me. Sneak into a place, try as hard as I can to complete the mission and if I fail blast my way to the exit. And the game should allow for that while keeping it difficult. I never liked speedruns or escalation contracts that force weird objectives.


I think you’re actually getting lucky draws. The enforced prestige objectives are the best part of the hardcore concept to me. I looove that you’re not forced into Silent Assassin, you can still play slapstick assassin. You just need to stock up on items before doing hardcore, otherwise you’re screwing yourself out of easy options. Plus, I think you only need to kill one target with the prestige objective, no? It’d make kill type objectives actually easier as you get more and more targets.

  • “Timed - Hide and Seek” is probably the easiest prestige of all. Going into a crate isn’t even suspicious behaviour.
  • Weapon type kills are also really easy, especially SMG, then rifles. Sniper is a piece of cake if a target is outdoors. If in need, you can use sniper rifles at point blank range and just run for it. It’s also sometimes not too hard to throw a melee weapon at a target and run away from the commotion, then come back for your rare weapon.
  • For the multiple kills, for explosion and accidents, it’s self explanatory. For guns, you can also try stacking unconscious people.
  • “Normal” timed is a bit easier than it seems, since the timer stops once all targets are dead. Is it a bug?

The Silent Assassins are probably the ones to avoid like the plague. All it takes is a split-second mistake and it’s impossible to achieve, I’m curious, do you insta-fail the whole hardcore campaign the second you do something that completely invalidates Silent Assassin?

The ones related to Syndicate meetings and tells and such also seem really easy to screw up with a tiny mistake.

1 Like

This is an idea that IO should really listen to. Making some Prestige objectives not just actions the players have to do, but just difficulty modifiers for the mission is fantastic and would work much better with hardcore mode (which is already fairly difficult due to the alerted/master mode changes). It’s also a mechanic that is used in many other roguelikes Freelancer is imitating to great success. Great idea.


Having played through the first set of missions in hardcore, I do agree that it’s kinda flawed.

Here are my bullet points, some of which cross over.

  • I don’t mind losing all money and weapons upon mission loss, but the problem is that the negatives outweigh the positives. Money and XP gains from hardcore are negligible and offer no real positive other than bragging rights.

  • I like the forced prestige objectives, but I feel like they should be generated with a bit more care for hardcore. Sometimes your options just aren’t viable. I even had a destroy safe prestige objective appear on a map without a safe!

  • High alert on all territories sucks due to, as mentioned above, the need to get in close. Having lookouts as enforcers is fine as it encourages you to either take them out or distract them… But the targets? Nah.

  • Increased difficulty should be implemented better. Linking to the previous one, I feel like other changes could be made to make it more hardcore. Having NPCs notice blood, or making you die quicker from gunshots, for example. These would be far more interesting than everyone and their mothers being enforcers.

  • And linking back to the first point again to finish off, rewards for hardcore make it just not worth it. Random items are supposedly better, but not noticeably. XP and Money is better, but not noticeably. It just doesn’t feel worth the hassle, and they made hardcore a huge hassle.

Hopefully they do some tweaks to hardcore mode to make it worthwhile. At the moment I’ll only do it once I’m done with everything else.

I think the game should not forces these challenges. It should be as sandboxy as possible, while increasing difficulty in realistic ways.

Challenges could still exist for extra rewards (so a player who plays hitman conservatively can choose to ignore them).

The sandbox (and unpredictability) is the most important thing for this game.


However you are forced into other objectives. The game should not force specific ways to play. The only force should be how difficult it would be.

I do not want a luck of the draw between forced challenges. All of that decreases the sandbox gameplay and turns the game into an escalation contract generator. The game should always preserve the sandbox, so that specific ways to play would have their difficulty dictated by realism.

This is a fundamental flaw of the whole challenge concept. Mixing “cool” escalation challenges into the base gameplay by forcing it. I want to play hitman conservatively. The nameless guy in a suit sneaking into a location to take out a target. And I want the game to leave it up to me to decide what I want to do.


I failed my first ever Hardcore Mission because I didn’t complete the prestiege objective.

I took my time, thought I did well to follow all the mission perameters and made it to an exit while maintaining silent assassin, and boom “Mission Failed”. All because I didnt “open a safe with an explosive” because the level i loaded into didnt have a safe on it.

I always select the level I want to do before selecting the prestiege objective so why on earth would it give me one that was impossible to do.

The options for presiege objectives also suck. My choices were “Epic Sniper Kill” - I dont have an epic level Sniper nor the mercers to buy one so thats out, Use explosive to open a safe, although my explosives were taken from me when I started Hardcore, I felt I could find a way to do that, and Timed, which I do not have a shot in hell at being able to do, I take my sweet time playing hitman, most levels take me like 20+ minutes to beat and I like it that way. I am not a speed runner I dont want to play that way, and 90 seconds to find your target across the map kill them, do all the sub objectives, and get out, just isnt enough time for me. So I was left with the only option for me, of blowing up the safe. I Load up berlin, check my map, and what do i see. No safe. So since there was no safe I did all available objectives and left the mission, to which I was greated with a “Failure”.


If you are going to have prestiege objectives be mandatory for Hardcore, why not make them something possible. Like 1 slot ALWAYS be some kind of Silent Assassin rank, which is doable by literally everyone who plays regardless of what they may or may not have unlocked. Or have some kind of “Hack the Laptop” type objective that can be generated into all levels.

It irritated me to no end to fail the mission for what felt like a reason completely out of my control, I literally immediately turned Hardcore mode back off and was hit with another pang of “they didnt give me my non hardcore tools back”. While I understand why they want to yoink your stuff from you for Hardcore, I think its an awful Idea. Hardcore is just supposed to be so hard that you would be likely to lose all the good stuff youd bring with you, or it should be something like a new profile where you have your unlocks for softcore and your unlocks for hardcore. But the way it currently is implemented is like the worst of both.

While I am ranting, I would like to bring up a couple other gripes I have with Freelancer as a whole. I feel it does a piss poor job of explaining things to you. Now before anyone says it, YES, I should read everything carefully. But you introduced Hardcore after I had already completed 18 missions. I feel like I know what I am doing, so introducing new information that I was able to (and did) spam through was kinda a bad idea imo. It should be clear from the get go what Hardcore is, what the objectives were. That prestiege missions were a requirement. I literally had no Idea it was mandatory while I played the mission until I had already failed.

Secondly, I wish there was some kind of reset button. While I have not yet finished collecting all the things, I know there will come a time when I will step away from Freelancer for a hot minute, and when I come back Ill want to start over. So far I see nothing I can do, no menu option or anything that will get rid of EVERYTHING I collected and set my mercers back to 0, giving me a blank slate to work with again.


I’ve learned that you have to take a look at the prestige objectives, make a note of which ones require an in-map item (like a safe) and THEN look at the available maps. You have to hope that you don’t get stuck with a set of objectives on your last map that can’t be done too.

Also, it seems like a player really needs to have gained a sufficient arsenal of each type of weapon before starting Hardcore mode so you have at least one legendary version of each type. You can always use a legendary version, even if the objective is to use an Epic one.

Impossible objectives has been a sore spot for quite a while around here.


You skipped the instructions, didn’t check the objectives, didn’t switch maps when you did read them, didn’t attempt the one that was universally possible, and ultimately didn’t lose any progress because it’s the first level. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and remember your reading glasses next time.


while all true I think there should be more variety. I literally just did one where 2 of my prestiege objectives were 2 different kinds of collateral kills, and 2 of the 3 available missions were all “only kill targets” and the third location was the one I would prefer to save for fighting the leader. Had to close the campaign and pick a completely different campaign to get new prestiege objectives. I just kinda wish the prestiege objectives were … better. Or an ability to refresh them when you are given crap options.

Also I would not classify any of the “Timed” prestiege options as “universally possible” One look at any of the leaderboards on any of the levels will tell you that a ton of people take time when playing. What is universal is finding a laptop to hack on the level, since it requires no skill nor any specific gear. Putting a safe on a level (like the vodka safes they used in the old escalation days) because even without any gear you can find a crowbar, the key, or some kind of propane/fire extinguisher to blow it open with on the level. So that is Universal. Even a playstyle one where its SA or SO or SASO or any of the other mission ratings results are all pretty much universal. But having players who no matter how hard they try can’t make it across the map do the objectives kill the target and escape in 90s is not universal. That is pro level play. Not for the majority.

I wouldn’t care about the timed stuff as much if restarting was easier. Instead of just going into the menu and restarting like any other mission, I have to close out the game entirely, load it back up, navigate the menus to freelancer, load into freelancer, select the mission again, start the mission and wait for the mission to load to restart. That time investment makes simple restarts for timed runs rather annoying to deal with IMO.

1 Like

Honestly those look very doable to me. Though I notice you don’t appear to have many weapons on your wall. I would highly recommend stocking up on enough weapons and tools before ever going into hardcore mode. That way you’d have shurikens and katanas, or siekers in order to be able to fairly easily get even the most out in the open targets to a safe place. There is also usually plenty of propane in Marrakesh which can be fairly easily used to take the most awkward of targets out.

Only prestige objective is mandatory, so couldn’t you just accept a loss of some Merces and do the collateral anyway on a map with only kill targets objective if you wanted to save the other one for showdown so much?

I could but kinda my whole point is the bad selection of prestiege objectives and since they are mandatory they kinda need to be better. I shouldn’t have to pick a prestiege objective I dont want to do over an optional objective I do want to do just because the list of prestiege options were awful. I should be able to do all objectives, that was one of the biggest complaints during the technical test was getting “you have 1 target to kill” and getting 3 different “kill target using X” making it so you could ever only do one.

While there is still some contradictory optional objectives, you should be able to complete every given objective every time if you wanted to.

I haven’t tried Hardcore mode because I want to fill my wall of weapons first. I have a question. I heard that Prestige Objective is mandatory, is that right? It means fail the Prestige Objective = fail the mission = since all locations is alerted, it also can mean fail the whole campaign?

Also what about mission objective? Is it mandatory too? For example the Prestige Objective is “Silent Assassin -No Firearm”, “Silent Assassin Suit Only”, & "Timed something "(which is likely to failed) but the mission objective is something like kill guard using something. In this case, of course I need to prioritise Prestige Objective right? Is it OK to abandon the mission objective itself?

My bad, @Monwil have answered it above

I’ll keep my post simple in regards to hardcore cause I have opinions.

Prestige Objectives.

I’ll say it now while I’ll always endorse a harder challenge to anybody interested. Making Prestige Challenges essential to complete isn’t ideal. There are circumstances where you get a shit draw and that can ruin a run as is.

How Do We Fix This

If IOI doesn’t wanna change their design philosophy when it comes to making Prestige Objectives mandatory then at-least allow the player to re-roll their Prestige Objective at the cost of Merces

  • Re-roll #1: Free
  • Re-roll #2: 2000 Merces
  • Re-roll #3: 4000 Merces
  • Re-roll #4: 8000 Merces
    continues to double beyond this

This works as a risk vs reward situation. The risk is the prices doubling eating into Merces at a rapid pace someone has and the reward is a potential run saving prestige objective.

I won’t delve into Syndicate Members and disguises, but in an ideal world for Hardcore. Keep territories alerted with more guards, cameras, etc. and for Showdowns make it so at-least two assassins follows a Leader/Syndicate Member and add more lookouts. Disguise are a core mechanic and making them essentially redundant cause almost everyone and their mom can see right though them isn’t really fun.