Hitman 3 is an accomplished conclusion to IO Interactive’s stealth trilogy, even if it fails to reach the ambition set out by its narrative, often losing focus on what made it so special in the first place. Look past such flaws and you’ll find the murderous shenanigans intact, continuing to offer a superbly engaging experience that encourages you to play levels again and again in search of the perfect recipe for assassination.
- Maintains and improves upon an already brilliant gameplay formula
- A satisfying conclusion to the trilogy’s narrative
- Provides Agent 47 with a new set of fantastic levels to explore
- Tone remains a great mixture of slapstick comedy and spy thriller
- Some missions can feel overly linear and unsatisfying
- Review Price: £49.99
- Developer: IO Interactive
- Release Date: January 20, 2021
- Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC
- Genre: Stealth
Hitman 3 is the final chapter in IO Interactive’s stealth trilogy, aiming to conclude the “World of Assassination” trilogy in spectacular style.
Since its first entry back in 2016, IO Interactive’s latest iteration of Hitman has focused on freeform experimentation. You were given a sprawling sandbox to explore, and provided with an endless number of ways to eliminate your targets. So long as they stopped breathing and you escaped the level alive, the mission was a success.
Such a sense of freedom is liberating, but Hitman 3 often forgets the importance of this in favour of an underwhelming narrative. At times, the third instalment does away with satisfying gameplay for a plot that’s certainly engaging, but it makes too many sacrifices in regards to map design, gameplay mechanics and the overall momentum of each level. It’s far from a deal-breaker, but as a result Hitman 3 often pales in comparison to the games that came before it.
Despite these shortcomings, I still had an absolute blast with Hitman 3. It’s an enthralling stealth adventure that offers an unparalleled amount of variety. The tone is a splendid mix of overly serious spy melodrama and laughable slapstick that explodes into an orchestra of comedic brilliance the moment a mission goes wrong. Even after countless playthroughs, the majority of its locations are still packed with secrets worth uncovering, and I welcomed each new discovery with open arms.
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Things get personal for Agent 47 as the trilogy concludes
Hitman 3 aims to conclude the World of Assasination trilogy, with Agent 47 and Diana Burnwood seeking to take down an ancient organisation known as Providence once and for all. All three games have built up to this showdown, although to me the lore has often felt like stylish set dressing to the elaborate playgrounds our bald assassin is free to wreak havoc upon, rather than something to treat as gospel.
However, IO Interactive does an admirable job of drawing you in from the opening moments as you skydive onto Dubai’s Burj Al-Ghazali, otherwise known as the fictional world’s tallest building. There’s something quite poetic about taking down society’s highest power from such a literal peak, especially if you fancy hurling them off the top and onto the ground below.
Wonderful animated sequences educate 47 on the history of each target and the reason they must be killed, although actual cutscenes involving characters are stilted by comparison thanks to dull direction and lifeless animations. Hitman 3 often feels like it’s trying to conclude a storyline that’s long faded into the background, so making it the sole focus of so many missions takes away from what made previous entries so delightfully engaging.
I was invested and wanted to see Agent 47’s personal vendetta bear fruit as his tale became far less about the business etiquette of wiping out Providence, and more about his own history and how a potential life away from assassination was selfishly ripped away from him. But such themes aren’t explored enough to resonate, and are at odds with a sense of pacing that encourages replaying each location again and again before moving onto the next.
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Gameplay in Hitman 3 remains the benchmark that other stealth games should strive for
Outside of its underwhelming narrative, Hitman 3 is a slice of stealth brilliance. Its core gameplay loop hasn’t changed much at all in recent years. Instead, IO Interactive has simply refined an approach that already borders on perfection. Agent 47 is given his objective and dropped into a giant map with a few simple tips to guide him. You can choose to follow mission stories, which are defined ways of eliminating each target, or opt for a dynamic approach.
I decided to tackle each mission story before taking things into my own hands, largely because the most extraordinary moments in Hitman 3 are hidden behind linear objectives that not only look fantastic, but serve the unfolding narrative in a positive way. Once my first playthrough was complete, I jumped back into each mission to cause trouble as I pleased. The locations themselves are frequently stunning, setting a new benchmark for the franchise in terms of sheer technical ambition.
The Burj Al-Ghazali is a bustling mixture of bars, museums and luxury penthouses that all bleed into one through a sequence of staircases and corridors. It’s akin to an elaborate maze that you can navigate with a series of shortcuts and disguises, the latter being a new mechanic that rewards you for searching out new pathways beyond the usual route.
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Dartmoor Manor is a labyrinthine estate in the English countryside, where Agent 47 is tasked with solving a murder mystery by the very target he aims to murder. This mission story is arguably the game’s finest moment, tasking you with interviewing residents and sneaking into rooms unnoticed to gather evidence. A camera can now be used to scan objects in the environment for additional intel, providing reasons to explore areas that would otherwise go untouched.
While the latter two maps are Hitman at their very best, others fail to reach the same hallmark of quality. One mission has Agent 47 infiltrating an illegal underground rave in Berlin to dispatch a series of operatives, although you must seek them out by exploring the location and listening to procedural dialogue and other subtle clues. This concept is inventive, yet isn’t executed in a way that feels fun to play.
I found myself roaming the rave aimlessly in search of new disguises, hoping I’d stumble upon my targets through blind luck instead of applying any form of real strategy. The mission is framed as a matter of urgency, so it’s understandable to an extent, but having some visual hints or intel on which to rely would have made solving such a puzzle far more rewarding.
Repeat playthroughs of such scenarios remedy initial frustrations, but I can’t deny that the flow of the ongoing narrative I was encouraged to invest in was fractured as a result. Later levels suffer from similar issues, abandoning the sandbox nature that makes Hitman shine in favour of more linear efforts that serve the narrative while sacrificing experimentation in favour of only a few ways to move forward.
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IO Interactive’s ambitious vision finally comes full circle
Small annoyances aside, moment-to-moment gameplay remains excellent, possessing an aura of unpredictability that makes each session completely different. Levels are structured in such a manner that nobody will play Hitman 3 in the same way, making it the perfect game for exchanging stories and competing with friends using Escalation Contracts and other online features.
It remains one of the funniest games out there, partly due to the pure absurdity of it all. Agent 47 is a world renown assassin, but can slap on a fancy uniform and guards won’t bat an eyelid. It’s so gleefully unbelievable, yet matches the narrative’s serious tone perfectly. I still find myself pulled towards the fire axe, or any other object that can be violently lobbed into the faces of enemies in a way that is both brutal and hilarious.
Players who own the previous two games can incorporate every level from the trilogy into a single menu, meaning you can access dozens of massive levels with the touch of a button. They all look fantastic on PS5, loading in a matter of seconds as a result of the new and improved hardware. As someone who has followed Hitman since its episodic days, it’s amazing to see IO Interactive’s vision finally come full circle with this third entry.
Those expecting a fundamental shift from previous games of Hitman 3 will leave disappointed; in many ways, it feels like a thorough expansion pack as opposed to a fully-fledged sequel, and I feel such a trajectory was deliberate. Instead of breaking new ground, everything that made the previous games special has been refined, evolving into this ultimate iteration that features so many quality-of-life improvements that it almost feels overwhelming.
Hitman 3 Review – Verdict
Hitman 3 is an accomplished conclusion to IO Interactive’s stealth trilogy, even if it fails to reach the ambition set out by its narrative, often losing focus on what made it so special in the first place.
Look past such flaws and you’ll find the murderous shenanigans intact, continuing to offer a superbly engaging experience that encourages you to play levels again and again in search of the perfect recipe for assassination.
If this is the last we see of Agent 47 for a long time, I’m chuffed to see him go out on such a triumphant high. Now all three games are tied into one ecosystem, there‘s no better time to jump into the World of Assassination.