The 2016 Hitman reboot reinvented the Hitman formula with its open-ended sandbox level design and emergent gameplay. Hitman 2, streamlined the experience and laid the foundation for a blockbuster story. Now, a few years later, we have the third entry into the series with Hitman 3, and it seems IO Interactive has run with the old adage: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Aside from a couple of minor new mechanics and features, there’s not a lot new with Hitman 3 when compared to its predecessors, but if you’ve already got something that provides a well-rounded, ever-changing, and uniquely exciting gameplay experience, why mess with it?
The barcoded assassin Agent 47 sets off once again on a globetrotting subterfuge-filled adventure on a mission to take out Providence’s founders — a shadowy cabal who secretly pull the strings in global politics and world finance. Much like previous Hitman games, each exotic location Agent 47 finds himself in takes centre stage. Hitman 3 has just six levels, which is a small step down from Hitman 2’s total of eight (including levels in the expansion pass), but any more and the story would have been stretched too thin. However, each one has been expertly crafted and lends itself to creating unique and sometimes hilarious moments that will stick with you long after you’ve completed the game. Sapienza and Paris from Hitman and Miami and Isle of Sgàil from Hitman 2, are memorable for their fantastic level design and for being visual spectacles. The same can be said for nearly every location in Hitman 3. This time around, levels feel more expansive, and they’re packed to the brim with NPCs, interesting things to discover, and plenty of devious tools with which to execute both cunning plans and hapless marks.
At the beginning of the game, you’re presented with two choices: dive right into the action with a mission set in Dubai, or familiarise yourself with the mechanics by playing the same ICA Facility and The Final Test training missions that feature in both Hitman and Hitman 2. These two prologue missions are great for newcomers to the series, but maybe different training missions would have proved more entertaining for Hitman veterans. Luckily, they can be skipped, but, alas, there are achievements tied to both levels, so most of you reading this review will have to murder Kalvin Ritter and eject Jasper Knight out of that pilot’s seat for the umpteenth time. Once you’re past those and into the opulent Burj Al-Ghazali, you’re immediately presented with a vast number of NPCs milling around a highly detailed and extravagant atrium comprised of marble floors, gold staircases, restricted VIP areas, and a playground filled with murderous opportunities. Visually, it’s stunning. In fact, each level looks gorgeous — IO Interactive has clearly not let its standards slip in the visual department with Hitman 3. Locations are all wonderfully detailed in 4K, and throughout my time with the game, I didn’t notice a single frame drop from that 60fps sweet spot. Couple this with an improved lighting system and better animations for character models and the world of Hitman really comes alive.
If you’ve been itching for more Hitman 2, you’re in luck. Hitman 3 doesn’t deviate too much in terms of gameplay from what you’ll already be used to. At the start of each mission, you’re presented with the usual targets you’ll need to dispatch and maybe an objective or two. How you accomplish these is entirely up to you. Mission Stories are once again present and offer an interesting (albeit guided) way to get close enough for that shove off a balcony or a fatal accident involving a grape press. In Death in the Family, a mission set in a mansion located in rural Devon, there’s a Mission Story where you can disguise yourself as a private investigator who's been hired by the target to help solve a murder mystery that took place in the stately home the previous night. There are times when you can easily bump off the target, but I found myself so wrapped up in trying to unravel what had happened that I became more determined in finding out the conclusion to the strange goings-on rather than killing my mark. It was all very Cluedo/Agatha Christie, and playing as Detective 47 was a surprisingly welcome break from the usual sneaking around and assassination. One mission that does stray from the norm (I won’t say too much for fear of spoilers) turns out to be a very linear experience and quite cathartic. It allows for all-out action instead of the usual stealth-orientated gameplay you’ll be used to.
Although Hitman 3’s overall tone is serious, you’re never too far away from something utterly ridiculous. Instead of following a Mission Story, you can always go off-piste and craft the mayhem yourself, whether that’s leaving a banana peel on the floor for a guard to comically slip and knock themselves out on or by swapping out a standard golf ball for an exploding one — the possibilities are almost endless. That’s not all. Missions from Hitman and Hitman 2 can be played in Hitman 3, with its updated engine, complete with improved visuals, and a shared progression system. If you unlock something in Hitman 3, it can be used in previous games. Hitman 2 players can also carry over their items and Mastery progress into Hitman 3 (at the time of writing, the website to transfer progress wasn’t active, so I couldn’t test this out). Of course, fans of the series who have already viewed the Hitman 3 achievement list will have seen the DLC achievements for both Hitman and Hitman 2, so yes, you will need to play through these again for that 100% completion. Replayability is what the Hitman series is all about, and this game is no exception. There are countless ways to approach a mission, numerous different outfits to disguise yourself with, and bundles of lethal weaponry to unlock. All missions bar the final one have 20 levels of Mastery to obtain and scores of challenges to complete to reach level 20. It’s safe to say, Hitman 3 definitely gives you your money’s worth.
The final game in the trilogy is probably the best in terms of storytelling. In the previous games, the plot was good, but the reasons why you had to kill your targets were forgettable and, at times, hard to follow. With Hitman 3, I found myself eager to find out more about each person marked for death before offing them. Maybe it was because these are the final bad guys in the trilogy’s saga to eliminate, but they seemed to have a bit more character. Either way, the blockbuster story throws in a few twists and turns and provides a fitting end to the trilogy that should satisfy Hitman fans.
While Hitman 3 doesn’t stray too far from that winning formula IOI created with 2016’s Hitman reboot, there are a couple of new features to keep things somewhat fresh. Levels now have permanent shortcuts that, once unlocked with a crowbar, significantly cut down playtimes on new runs — a handy tool to have when you’re trying to reach that top Mastery rank or unlock some new gear. What isn’t so handy is the new camera. Agent 47 now starts a mission with a handheld digital camera that can unlock specific access panels or used to gather intel. You’ll need it to unlock certain Challenges for more XP that goes towards a level’s overall Mastery score and an achievement, but other than those instances, it’s largely redundant. There’s also a new ranking system that gives you a spiffy title based on your actions conducted throughout a level, which is quite fun to mess around with.
Looking at the Hitman 3 achievement list, you'll see a somewhat familiar sight if you went for achievements in both previous Hitman games. There are the usual achievements for reaching specific Mastery Levels in each mission and completing Mission Stories, but there are, of course, a few creative ones for assassinating targets, and some humorous achievements that will take some brainpower to pop. It took me a while to work out that unlocking the Keep Your Eyes Peeled achievement requires you to grab a banana from earlier in the level and strategically place it so that one of the targets who's escaping, slips and knocks himself out. It's always good to see a bit of humour in achievement lists. The only downside to this list is that you may have to complete some achievements from Hitman and Hitman 2 again to get the full completion. Three DLC packs from the previous two games require you to beat the same old levels and reach Mastery Level 20 in them too. IOI says that Hitman 2 progress will carry over, but at the time of writing the website to transfer progress wasn't live, so I can't confirm if achievements will automatically unlock.
SummaryAll in all, IO Interactive has stuck with what it knows best with Hitman 3: gorgeously crafted open playgrounds for the player to wreak slick and murderous havoc in. There’s not much new here if you’re a fan of the series, but IOI didn’t really need to introduce any new mechanics to what was already a fantastic stealth experience. Agent 47’s final outing of the trilogy is his best thanks to updated and improved visuals, a fitting end to the story, and more superb sandbox level design. Sure, it could have done with maybe a different couple of tutorial missions to keep things interesting for the Hitman vets and the achievement hunting community, but other than that, there’s not much else to fault with the game. Hitman 3 is a must-play for all gamers.
EthicsSean spent around 22 hours making assassination targets slip on bananas and crushing them in grape presses. In that time he unlocked 22 out of 47 achievements from Hitman 3's base achievement list. The game was played on an Xbox Series X with the publisher providing a copy to review.
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