Much like the missions Agent 47 regularly undertakes, Hitman 3 is, in many ways, the most refined execution of IO Interactive’s stealth sandbox formula yet. The kill opportunities have never been more plentiful, the locations you execute them in no more engaging, yet even this can’t distract from the underlying sense of “been there, done that” present in this final chapter into the so-called World of Assassination trilogy. Taking down targets as creatively as possible is still a thrilling and often tense affair, providing you know when suiting up that this is very much an iteration of what’s come before (like a new season of a TV show) rather than a bold new direction for the series.
Picking up directly from where the previous game left off, Hitman 3 finds Agent 47, alongside his former colleague Lucas Grey and long-time handler Diana Burnwood, seeking revenge against a shady organisation known only as Providence. It’s a setup that sounds surprisingly nuanced in theory, but in actual fact the narrative here is quite bare bones and will leave first-time players incredibly confused. Thankfully, the plot is all just an excuse to jet Agent 47 off around the globe and offer some light context for the events that occur within the six new featured sandboxes.
These dazzling locations are, of course, what you come to a Hitman game for, and are ideal for letting loose with a fiber wire. Ranging from a traditional manor estate nestled in the British countryside to a luxurious seven-star Dubai hotel, all six (more like five and an epilogue) maps present their own thriving hubs of interaction and connectivity – with you being the perfect source of disruption. At first, the thought of infiltrating so many mechanisms working in tandem can seem daunting, but the mission stories system makes its grand return to help offset any risk of becoming overwhelmed.
Each mission story guides you to prompts laced throughout each level, which, when pursued, give you just a small taste of the kind of opportunities available to you. For example, one instance in an underground scientific facility in China lets you adopt the identity of a potential investor waiting on a tour – all in aid of gaining access to a computer core containing incriminating evidence. Similarly, the highly publicized Dartmoor mission allows Agent 47 to slip into the guise of a private detective, questioning each member of the Carlisle family about a mysterious murder while subtly plotting their own. From here, it’s just a matter of being patient and waiting for the perfect moment to strike.
You’ll quickly gain an intimate knowledge of each level’s layout, major players, and deadly tools just waiting to be utilized. Learning through experimentation will allow you become a better, more effective killer, and while each mission can realistically be beaten in a matter of minutes, only by exploring every nook and cranny do you stand a chance of completing every embedded discoverable feat – challenging yourself further in the objective-based Escalations mode. Needless to say, replaying locations is highly encouraged and where the true meat of the game lies.
Release Date: Jan. 20, 2021
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch, Stadia
Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: IO Interactive
Hitman 3 is at its best when you’re mining it for clever scenarios, where your willingness to experiment with different outfits, entrance points, and makeshift weapons results in the oh-so satisfying death of the target. The core Hitman experience here remains largely the same, as mentioned, but Agent 47 has been kitted out with a few new tools this time around to make his efforts a bit slicker. The most meaningful is the inclusion of permanent shortcuts which, much like the addition of crowd blending in Hitman 2, grants you more options in terms of how you can approach levels.
No longer after performing a successful kill are you limited to just the exit routes IO Interactive has provided to you. Instead, your exploration of the various hubs is often rewarded with these permanent shortcuts, which can only be opened from one side initially before staying unlocked for future playthroughs in that area. It’s a subtle change, sure, yet you never know when extra access to a particular door, access point, or ladder will come in handy when trying to make a quick getaway after a job gone wrong.
Another small change is Agent 47’s camera, which he has equipped with him by default and can be used to remotely access locked areas or scope out views from a long distance. It’s not quite as game changing as, say, when Hitman forced you to consider whether targets could see Agent 47’s reflection in mirrors, but it’s a welcome innovation nevertheless that lets you further fulfill the spy fantasy. It’s just a shame that IO didn’t want to push the camera’s ability further. Imagine the chaos you could cause by hacking any available electronic items Watch Dogs-style when wanting to distract enemies.
As far as the value proposition goes, Hitman 3 axes the previous game’s 1v1 Ghost multiplayer but doubles down on the challenge-based rating system that invites you to improve your mastery level and climb the online leaderboards. The game also maintains the ability for players to import missions from prior entries. Fan-favorite locations like Sapienza, Miami, and others benefit from the improved visual fidelity now available on next-gen consoles, though the act of doing so gets very messy. For instance, owning the first season on PlayStation strangely doesn’t see those levels instantly transfer and requires you to purchase the Access Pass. That’s not the case for Hitman 2. Then on PC, meanwhile, the game’s Epic exclusivity is already causing teething issues.
Hitman 3 doesn’t do too much to improve on its predecessors or the Hitman formula in general, choosing to instead emphasize the features and elements that always made the series great, while showing them off through some of the best and most intricately constructed maps the series has seen so far. It’ll surely take you tens of hours to fulfil every scenario, don every disguise, and pull off every creative kill, but a muddled story and only very minor improvements indicate that Agent 47 is just about ready to hang up his tie for a little while.