The original score and voice acting is as impressive as ever. It’s definitely a part of the scenery, so good that you don’t notice it, but when you take it away, it ruins the vibe of the game.
On next-gen consoles, Hitman 3 is a stunning-looking game. Not only with the 4K-ness, the 60 frames and HDR, but every environment looks painstakingly handcrafted. Beautiful.
It plays exactly the same as Hitman 1 and 2, but you know what they say, right? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and boy is it not broken!
More narratively-driven with longer mid-mission stories, but fewer of them. On top of that, some great new ideas – like persistent shortcuts – but it feels a little disheartening not having the usual array of choice.
The list is okay, with a very predictable format. But it does encourage multiple playthroughs to get everything, although Mastery level 20 on every level is still a grind, perhaps even more so this time with fewer mission stories.
January 19, 2021
Since 2016, Danish developer IO Interactive has absolutely smashed it out of the park with its Hitman franchise – not just in terms of creating a top-quality base product, but (more importantly) with its post-launch support and its ingenuity. It’s been hard to fault IO. The problem was not only going to be whether the studio could keep up the pace and high bar of quality, but whether it could also shake things up and keep Agent 47's third outing as compelling as the other two. Hitman 3 is essentially that – it's a touch more experimental, in some senses of the word, and like most experiments, not everything sticks.
Agent 47 contemplates a balloon before murdering someone.
Like its predecessors, Hitman 3 is less about story and the plight of Agent 47, and more about the sandboxes, the set-pieces, and the careful, meticulous preparation that comes with trying to pull off the perfect hit. That said, I will say I did actually enjoy the story in this one, whereas in Hitman and Hitman 2, the narrative was largely throwaway – I’d probably put that down to the episodic nature of the original game, though, and the staccato nature of it. Like its predecessors, when the careful planning works, it’s absolutely glorious. Wandering away from an 'accidental' kill without a care in the world; there’s nothing like it in video games. A lot of that is down to the maps themselves, and, in that regard, Hitman 3 is no different.
While Hitman (2016) had six maps; Hitman 2 had five and a half (Hawke’s Bay definitely isn’t a full map); you could argue that Hitman 3 only has five – the sixth and final location isn’t a Hitman map – it’s more like a Call of Duty mission, or perhaps a more apt comparison would be to say it's like a smaller transitional mission from Hitman Absolution. The five locations you are presented with in Hitman 3 are absolutely superb, however, each for very, very different reasons. Dubai, for instance, is, in essence, Hitman 3’s Paris. It’s large, lavish and filled with all the trappings you'd associate with the glamorous high life.
Dubai, though, in one of its in-game opportunities, offers a glimpse at the game ahead, with stories within stories. While in Dubai you’ll be performing a hit on another unfortunate target, within a hit for an even less fortunate target, in Dartmoor you’ll be dragged into an epic Knives Out-style mansion-based murder mystery. In fact, all of the missions have another thread comprising various in-game events, missions, and specific stories to follow, as if that was the optimum route through a level. I can’t help but say this is perhaps the most linear Hitman game ever – in that there is definitely a better route through each level which provides more entertainment. Imagine playing Dartmoor, for instance, without doing the murder mystery – you’d be mad!
As you get deeper into the game, you see this more experimental approach really hit full flow, with Berlin changing the game completely. I won’t go into specifics, so as not to spoil it, but after Dartmoor, each level has a specific hook, something to make it different from other Hitman games and the game's preceding levels. For the most part, the new approaches work. Berlin, perhaps the most unconventional Hitman mission ever, is actually quite brilliant; while Chongqing, tries something a little more interesting in its setup, but fails to make as big an impact as the mission before it. That said, the closing sequences of Chongqing are extremely memorable. And then we have Mendoza in Argentina, which is perhaps the most traditional Hitman mission, but with a few twists on the tried-and-tested formula littered throughout. As such, it's largely excellent – squishing someone into the wine in the middle of a vineyard tour is something I’ll never forget. And yes, I’m being intentionally vague here!
Have a nice fall!
The final mission, which takes place in the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, well, that’s certainly an experiment, and as far as results go, it’s a complete flop. Perhaps one of the worst Hitman missions ever, which is such a downer for the World of Assassination trilogy to go out on. Shame. The maps themselves, though, regardless of the stories and the opportunities within them are absolutely fantastic and look incredible on the new-gen consoles – with glorious 4K, 60fps, HDR support.
In creating much deeper stories and opting to focus more on this narrative angle than the usual variety of cool and hilarious ways you can kill your target, Hitman 3 has lost something. It's lost its replayability, it's lost that lure of playing to discover the unknown, because this time, you can see each level's handcrafted content in just a couple of playthroughs. For example, if you compare Dubai to Paris, Dubai has only three opportunities – handcrafted stories for the player to follow – while Paris had eight mission stories. Miami in Hitman 2 had seven. Hitman's Sapienza had 174 challenges, Miami had 133… Dubai has 82, which is the most for any of the six levels (as was Sapienza for Hitman and Miami for Hitman 2).
My point is, there are now fewer weird and wonderful ways to kill your target. Yes, they still exist, like shocking your target using the lights in an art exhibition, and so on, but there are fewer opportunities like this. So, what Hitman makes up for in being a more linear story-driven affair, it loses in replayability and originality. If you want to ignore all of that and snipe your target from the arse-end of nowhere, or throw a screwdriver into their temple, you can still do all of that, as always, so fear not. In short: the narrative portion of Hitman 3 is more in-depth, but there are definitely fewer of them. They even opted to cut the 1v1 Ghost mode from Hitman 2, which we thought was utterly delightful. Complete madness!
Hitman 3 is probably the buggiest entry in the series I’ve played, as well. We’re not talking Cyberpunk buggy – far from it – but IO has set such a high bar with its recent output being ultra-polished, you can't help but notice everything. Whether it’s some assets not loading in, a water bottle being stuck to someone’s hand or even a target on a certain map walking through walls and anything else that got in their way until they were about 2km off the map, rendering them impossible to kill. Mercifully, these bugs are few and far between, but the fact that I noticed them at all speaks volumes, based on what we expect from IO and Hitman.
47's still handy with a sniper rifle.
It’s hard to really criticise Hitman 3, given that IO Interactive is trying something new here, but it’s definitely missing that je ne sais quoi from the previous two instalments. Maybe that’s a result of the optimum routes for some levels, maybe it’s the dwindling number of choices one has. Heck, maybe that kind of games development is efficient enough – I mean, only 0.76% of people have reached Santa Fortuna Mastery level 20 in Hitman 2 and only 1.14% of people have completed all the mission stories in the same game's Another Life level (stats from Xbox Live), so what’s the point in creating all of that content?
What I do know is that while Hitman 3 is a great game, one that is cast in the same mould as the previous iterations and just as memorable, it’s definitely the weaker game of the three. Maybe that’s because in the original two games, the choice to do whatever I wanted was more valuable than the choice itself, or the amount of choice on offer actually made my final decision regarding how to snap my target’s neck feel more special. Anyway, Hitman 3 remains a very, very good video game, albeit not as good as the other Hitman games that preceded it.