Charlie loves her video games as much as she loves dumb, charming JRPG protagonists: probably way too much. You can often catch her spending too much time being emotional over LGBT stories in games. She also thinks Yakuza 6 is the best one.
Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS5, Xbox Series X
January 20, 2021
Back in 2016 began the revival of the iconic Hitman series, starring our favourite bald and barcode branded assassin. It was a solid return to form, albeit hurt a bit by its episodic format. Since then, developer IO Interactive split from under Square Enix’s publishing wing and went on to release the sequel in 2018. Now, IO look to resolve their ‘World of Assassination’ trilogy with Hitman 3. Frankly, they do so in a big way. Agent 47 really gets to go out with a bang.
Marketing itself as the World of Assassination trilogy was an excellent move for Hitman. More than ever, the missions feel larger, taking you to many corners and capital cities of the globe. The latest release is no exception, and also offers some of the most out-there and creative levels.
The opening level sees Agent 47 in Dubai, parachuting onto the side of the world’s tallest building. Hack into the building by scanning a specific window with the new smart camera and you’re in. Soon you’ll step out into the busy parts of the hotel building. Waiters and occupants mow about around you. Pillars and countertops are made of gold. The clouds lay beneath you. Every so often a hot air balloon even flies by the giant windows the building offers. This level (and all the ones to follow) are gorgeous and well designed in their own right. Even when they’re at first daunting and seemingly labyrinthine in scope, you’ll come to learn the levels and you’ll appreciate all the ways they’re neatly tied together.
So many levels in Hitman 3 are hard to fathom in their brilliance. IO Interactive have spent years refining their craft and it’s paid off with this farewell in a big way. Locations are as vibrant as ever, with careful attention to detail. One of the later levels in the game saw me in Chonqing, China. I arrived off a train and started wandering through the tight-knit streets and alleyways on offer. When on the street, Agent 47 reflected hints of purple and red neon due to the heavy amount of bright metropolis signage all around him. My Dualsense controller softly rumbled, simulating the train rattling on the tracks I could hear a few blocks away.
Walk around and you’ll hear whisperings of an organisation using homeless people as test subjects for some very unethical tests. Enter a certain building and you’ll find two guards passively talking in a hall about their weekly Sudoku routine. In the very next room you can find someone contained in glass, undergoing these very tests and banging against the walls, wanting out. It’s an excellently designed level that explores horrible undergoings behind closed doors in the rich tech world. I love that for it. Sure, your end goal in Hitman 3 locations is always the ever-present threat of the targets, but wandering around and basking in the environment has its rewards too.
“Really, that’s one of the big charms of Hitman: entering an overpopulated level, finding and picking at holes in security and watching it all fall down like dominoes.”
When investigating an apartment I noticed by the bedside table laid an answering machine. I proceeded to listen to its messages. The first offered some interesting bits of lore for the level. The second gave me a crucial key code for a door nearby. Come to the third message and it’s clear IO were poking fun at me for lingering a little too long. A person with a wrong number left a really long order of Chinese food. It’s a hilarious moment but it also goes to show the development team know how detailed their craft is. They also know their fans are equally as observant and often reward (in this case also jest with) their players for it. Fan-bloody-tastic if you ask me.
So many NPCs and characters have their own routine and script that you’ll want to shake IO by the shoulders and scream ‘How!?’. Levels are so cleverly and densely populated with characters while still running smoothly that it’ll put Cyberpunk 2077 and Night City to shame. There’s a nightclub level that’s just got a dancefloor filled to the brim with people you can wade through to evade suspicion. How do you do it IO? How?! Otherwise, maybe you’ll cheekily catch a guard flirting with a maid in Dartmoor only for them to break apart when you near them. Passing one pair of guards has one talking about how they’re worried they’re in fact the bad guys (they are), with the other telling them to shut up, fearful their leader will hear them. Though being reliant on the entries prior, Hitman 3 is the ultimate sandbox game, filled with the little things to adore. Add the levels of the two entries prior and it is just that. 20+ levels of pure sandbox fun.
Alluded to earlier, levels in Hitman 3 can feel like a monolith to tackle. With potential witnesses at every turn, environments so vast and your targets often starting far, you’ll sometimes wonder to yourself just how it can be pulled off. It can. No one is untouchable. Really, that’s one of the big charms of Hitman: entering an overpopulated level, finding and picking at holes in security and watching it all fall down like dominoes. Largely, this is aided by the provided ‘Mission Stories’. These serve as opportunities revealed to you to either kill or get close to your target. They’re more few and far between this time. Two levels also don’t offer this guidance at all. This leaves for a lesser amount of hand-holding, but not so much so it’ll alienate newcomers.
A particularly exciting Mission Story is one in Dartmoor, England. Already, you’re situated in a ridiculously expensive manor owned by a wealthy family. You’re targeted with taking out the matriarch of the family. Arrive and infiltrate the home and you’ll discover a suicide of one of the family members has taken place. However, your target believes there is foul play. Investigate around and you’ll meet a private investigator that was hired by the family. Then, you can knock him out and disguise as them. From there you can go on your own little game of Clue, investigating the scene and interrogating each of the family members, finding means and motive. It’s a nice little distraction that can also divert itself back on course at the end when you meet up alone with your target to present your findings. Then, eliminate them when they’re not expecting it. Hitman 3 pulls off wild loose story threads like this in levels on the regular. How many other games can juggle that? Not many.
There’s a few big additions that come with Hitman 3. A new camera is at your disposal. This can do a number of things such as scan targets or points of interests, or remotely hack and unlock doors, windows and the likes. What this can also do is act as a quasi photo mode, capturing your environment around you in ways previously unavailable. Players can even dress 47 up in disguises and take cheeky selfies if they’re pointing the camera at reflective surfaces. The other entirely new feature is the ability to permanently unlock certain shortcuts for future runs, be it a kicked down ladder or door that can be only unlocked from one side. It doesn’t mix up the formula whatsoever but it does make for a handy stress free escape when things get heated.
Hours and hours can be lost in Hitman 3, truly. With different difficulties to work through along with creative goals in the form of challenge feats that see you obtaining intel or killing enemies in various ways, replayability is key. In true sandbox nature, this is a game that can be taken as seriously or ridiculously as you like. The ‘suit only, silent assassin,’ challenge is once more present, providing the immense challenge of attempting to kill only your targets in your default suit, with no witnesses. It’s as hard as ever. Great challenge can also be fun when jumping into the options and removing all HUD, including Mission Story guides and the mini-map. It’s an immersive as hell option, leaving it up to you and your quick thinking to work it all out with little in the way of aid. Good luck. Worst comes to worst you can just do a ridiculous run, changing from disguise to disguise and pacifying guards with bananas, wrenches, muffins and the like. Freedom is fun.
The one caveat I’ll give is that contracts and the PSVR functionality were not available to me at time of review. Though, they’re both due at launch. It’s an exciting concept and addition to the franchise, but one that cannot be commented on yet. Proof is still very much in the pudding.
Within five years, the World of Assassination trilogy of Hitman has come to a close. It’s had some uncertainty for its future at multiple points and rough bumps in the roads but it’s been worth it. The latest entry delivers a thrilling conclusion which is more story-focused than the first two. Hitman 3 features fully-fledged cutscenes that delve deep into a new history of Agent 47 and the world of espionage around him. It does away with the frustrating still image cutscenes of the sequel prior, and delivers fully animated moments with some of the franchise’s best performances yet.
I won’t delve deep into spoilers but twists and turns are absolutely thrilling and what IO Interactive have built upon and also concluded here bring me great joy. The deep world on offer is satisfyingly explored come the finale and it has me all the more faithful for their upcoming James Bond game. With Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy-esque conspiracy and spy unravellings to loss and betrayal, IO have covered the full gambit in this must-play closer.
This delightful little conclusion may very well just be my be-all and end-all game. So many hours can be spent marvelling in Hitman 3’s illustrious design. It certainly is a little reliant on the earlier games to help fulfil that complete, master package but that’s okay. In this trilogy are some of, if not the best stealth gameplay and level design you’ll get out of a video game. For that alone it’s worth any player, new or returning, investing their time and money.
Hitman 3 is a beautiful, wonderful and exceptionally well-made game that I’m so glad exists. IO Interactive have created something simply amazing that should be lauded for being right up there with the smartest design in the industry. Now, more than ever, their future is looking bright and exciting.
This is a video game I will now forever be obsessed with and it’s pretty damn close to a stealth masterpiece. Hours and hours will be lost to this game and it deserves every second and investment spent. It may be some time before we see Agent 47 return to his slaying of government fixers, terrorists and the likes. That’s okay. Our hero got the fitting end and the most well-realised game he desperately deserves. ‘Til next time, 47.