Hitman 3 Review
Hitman 3 is an absolute delight. The third game in IO Interactive’s World of Assassination trilogy follows the culmination of Agent 47’s vendetta against Providence, whatever that might turn out to be in your playthrough. Whilst we have the continuing narrative told by way of cinematics betwixt and between levels, the meat of the game is in said levels. Six varied and wholly creative missions that bring to the fore the player and what they choose to do, be that follow the guided missions proposed by the developer by way of NPCs, or go their own way in devising multiple unusual and hilarious kills. It’s a series of sandboxes, then, wherein you can achieve your objectives in almost any way you like, but set within fabulous large maps full of verticality as well as breadth. Each brings a different challenge with it to ensure nothing ever tastes stale. Hitman 3 perfects the sandbox assassination game as well as the guided missions culminating in a kill. All told, IO Interactive has perhaps aced a genre they already owned.
Agent 47 is the titular Hitman of the game, a bald-headed and barcoded man who is an assassination machine. He’s guided by his handler, Diana Burnwood and aided by Lucas Grey and Olivia, survivors of the second game in the series (where the series in question is this particular rebooted trilogy). It’s unimportant to know who everyone is right now; the narrative is clear and simple for anyone who hasn’t played the previous games, or has forgotten what happened. Taking on each of six missions sequentially, at least to begin with – each level is designed with immense replayability in mind – the setup is always the same. You obtain a briefing detailing who (to kill), what, where, when and why. Then you plan your mission – where you will start, what gear you’ll have on you and so forth (typically limited on the first go but opened up after unlocking various goodies each time you play). Finally, you choose your difficulty setting and go.
I suspect everyone would have a different order of preference when listing the levels in order from best to least good (none can be described fairly as the worst). What’s unimpeachable is that objectively all of them are tremendous. In the first level you visit a new building in Dubai which is, of course, now taller than the Burj Khalifa. This brings verticality into play straight away and all manner of daredevil kills should you be so inclined. The second is an Agatha Christie novel writ large and you can play it so if you’d like – I did and I can honestly say there is no single level of a game in recent times which I would declare better, and looking through the entire library confirmed that this sits in the top five for sure in my opinion. Level three is like going to an electronica club; four a Blade Runner-esque neon city with all the tropes touched upon in delightful ways; five is a blissful retreat that will make you smile multiple times over, and the final level is befitting of the game and story behind it. Each and every one I took my time over, completed the objectives the way I wanted and made it my story – not just 47’s. Not once did I unlock or complete more than 20% of the level, demonstrating what is still there to be enjoyed after a single playthrough.
What is left after finishing a level is wide and varied. It will be a combination of things from challenges (normally fun little tasks like killing people using specific items or similar) to different mission stories, the guided playthroughs from IO Interactive. Mission stories are brilliant. As you explore a level you might find some NPCs chatting away and suddenly you’ll see a prompt that a mission story is unveiling itself. This can then be followed, guiding you on what to do – not how – such that you are in a great position to kill an assassination target. One such example found me taking the place of an inspector who was due to meet with one of my targets; another had me going on a tour alongside one in the hope I’d find some quiet areas to perhaps do something a little cheeky.
The snippets of conversation you hear from various NPCs talking are an example of how well developed and full of life the world is. Each level has many NPCs dotted around the place. Many of them are obviously people who you want to avoid as they will likely hunt and kill you given they’re protecting those you’re after, but others range from random couples talking about noodle bars to Instagram influencers getting far too close to a cliff edge for the perfect shot. The point though, is that each conversation you hear has relevance - it might provide context to the situation, more intel to help you develop strategies and tactics or perhaps it provides direct clues into how to make inroads towards success in a given environment. The environments themselves are fantastically well put together, each having a navigational complexity that’s difficult to penetrate but totally fulfilling once you get it, and lots of ways in and out of a given area. In some cases there are also secret rooms and passages, providing that extra soupçon of delight.
Technically the whole thing runs brilliantly well, too. Built in IO Interactive’s proprietary Glacier engine, I found only one issue in many hours of play, and that was only the lack of washing machine rendering in a laundry, so hardly game-breaking stuff. The tech this time has evolved from what was there for the previous Hitman game and therefore it’s no surprise perhaps that it works, but given recent launches it’s refreshing that it does, regardless. On the PS5 with its SSD, the loading times are lightning-fast compared to anything we saw in the last generation, very much including Hitman 1 and 2 on the PS4. This is gratefully received as when you do something silly and get caught (read: killed) you need to jump back in via a manual or autosave and the more times this happened in the past the more frustrating it became. Not now. The game looks and sounds lovely too, without ever wowing, but lots of cool things are on display despite this, such as reflective surfaces and ray tracing providing fun with light sources. If you own the first and/or second game, they too can be played through Hitman 3 and enjoy some tech upgrades themselves.
All told then, Hitman 3 is a triumph. IO Interactive has delivered a perfect ten here were it not for the fact that it’s more of a tightening up of what came in Hitman 2, with new and brilliant levels contained within the concluding story. It is though, just brilliant. Engaging, fun, varied, challenging, replayable and utterly compelling. You owe it to yourself to play this game, enjoy this game and do so over, and over, again.
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