Hitman 3 Review – End Of An Era
At last, it’s the end of the line. Hitman 3 is the last entry of this reboot trilogy, dubbed the World Of Assassination.
Developers IO Interactive went on a journey the past five years. What started as a bold (but ultimately unpopular) episodic release led to the developers becoming independent, and they’ve grown so much from the rough launch of Hitman 1 (2016).
With Hitman 3, IO has produced their best sandbox assassination game yet. It’s less ambitious. But the refined gameplay and the new levels shows a level of confidence from this team never seen before. And they’re ending this trilogy with a bang.
Hitman 3, just like Hitman 2 and Hitman 1, looks amazing on launch. IO’s proprietary Glacier Engine is optimised well on PC and runs great on a higher-end gaming laptop (Intel Core i7 9th-gen, Nvidia RTX 2060, 16GB RAM). Only one level, Mendoza, is where frame-rates can dip a bit.
But what makes the new locales you’ll be visiting in Hitman 3 is the art direction. These levels are designed to look beautiful, with detailed background off near the skybox and intricate knick-knacks that looks decent enough when inspected up close.
Hitman 3 may not be using ray-tracing tech just yet, instead opting for Screen Space Reflections (SSR) to pull off similar effects for reflections. But they look just as great. Not because of the effect itself which can be a bit too jagged on lower settings- but by where they utilise them.
God ray shines through the Dubai skyscraper windows from the back of the main stage. Light shafts illuminate a cosy English manor. Rain effects (with puddles and water drips on clothing) drown the neon lights of Chongqing.
Hitman 3 is very pretty. And I suspect on consoles (even on last-gen PS4/Xbox One) it still can be a looker.
Audio And Voice-Acting
Audio cues for gameplay in Hitman 3 are on-point as you’d expect. The shimmering suspicion noise is supremely effective in telling you you should back off or run. Though the new UI colour for that- a very striking yellow- is a nice improvement too.
I can’t say much on the new soundtrack, which don’t stand out as much this time around. To the point that I can still clearly pinpoint the Hitman 2 theme still being used but nothing new from Hitman 3 jumps out.
Similarly, the voice acting of NPCs can sometimes be out of place. But thanks to the locales they picked this time, most of the NPCs do sound like local folks speaking English.
You can hear Chinese accents in Chonqing and simple Spanish interjected in speeches in Mendoza, for example. Some American and British accents on NPCs be passed off as foreign workers.
But there are some unrepresented accents. I don’t think I heard any German-accented English in Berlin.
Like Hitman 2, clearly they tried what they can with the voice acting for Hitman 3, but it missed some spots. I appreciate the many new lines NPCs have complimenting Agent 47’s killer looks, just like past games.
The voice acting of the main characters, however, are stellar. The handlers are voiced well. And Agent 47’s sparse but sharp delivery of killer one-liners (pun intended) is subtly brilliant in delivery. And there are parts where Agent 47 is more of a sharply-dressed spy rather than a cold-blooded murderer. A hint of things to come, perhaps.
As the name implies, Hitman 3 is a game about being a man who hit things, preferably in lethal force. As Agent 47, your task is to infiltrate the area, find your target, kill them, and escape. And also do additional objectives should the mission requires it.
Each level is a sandbox that begins and loop exactly each time, unless a wrench- that’s you- was thrown into the clockwork. A time loop game, in a way.
Hitman is a game about finding the loopholes in security to bypass them, scouting for opportunities and intel, manipulate the systems these AI are operating in to bend in your favour and then execute the kill.
More Story Than Before
What you see in Hitman 3 is a conclusion of a story arc. And this time it’s more prominent than ever. If you’ve missed the past two games, there’s a story recap video.
Unlike Hitman 2, Hitman 3 have fully animated pre-rendered cut-scenes again.
But the storytelling isn’t just in the cinematics this time. For each first time you play the six new levels of Hitman 3, there’s a specific entry sequence that has you do a bit of walking before getting into the level proper. It’s a nice way to give players a glimpse of what’s to come. The playground preview before you get into the level proper.
Some levels begin with no mission briefing either. Which makes the first time entering these levels even more intriguing.
Don’t worry, you can skip the walking bits with a more standard starting location after the first time.
The Same Great Gameplay, Refined
Hitman 3 does little in changing the core gameplay, which is fine, because it’s already solid as it is. Agent 47 can carry weapons and items, as well as disguise himself using outfits from dead/unconscious men.
Certain area in each level are restricted access. If entered, you’ll be marked as trespassing (and guards will escort you out the first time you’re got caught). You can also wear a disguise to get in and to access restricted areas normally.
Having a disguise isn’t a fool-proof solution, however. Some enemies- the Enforcers, designated with a white dot on top of their heads- can see through Agent 47’s rather obvious disguise. So you’ll still need to skirt around or hide from them.
The fun in Hitman is scouting the area, see where you can (and can’t) go, see what your targets are up to, and make a plan- or improvise one if it goes south. Hitman 3 continues to deliver that brilliantly with the six new levels. Or rather, 5+1 levels- the finale is a smaller level with less replayability.
The main five levels exudes the best of Hitman games of the past. You can feel these new levels benefitted from the learnings of not only the past two games in the trilogy, but also older titles as well.
There are missions that will feel familiar to Hitman veterans like the two targets (one roaming, the other hidden away). Or a mission with an extra non-kill objective (which thankfully, has more ways to complete it this time).
But there are some surprises too. Without saying too much, it’s a mission where the tables are turned. But you will still get the upper hand anyway. Berlin is great fun.
Less Is More
However, if you expected vast, sprawling urban maps like the ones seen in Hitman 1 and 2, you’d be left disappointed. Hitman 3 locations are much more intimate and focused, which means fewer detours but every nook and cranny is filled with detail and opportunities.
For example, Chonqing may have a well-detailed background to sell you the illusion of dense cityscape, but the actual map is only a couple of blocks wide. Instead, it’s a tall map, multiple floors top and bottom to navigate and criss-cross on your way to the targets. Not a complaint- as the level still feels good to explore- but do set your expectations accordingly.
The number of story missions- guided paths that you can follow to get close to your targets- are also much slimmer than past games. And that’s okay too, as the story missions are much more elaborate and ambitious.
The one you have in Dubai has you disguise yourself as another assassin, and have you go take out another non-mission target. Another story mission in Dartmoor turns Hitman into L.A. Noire, an investigation game where you search for clues and solve a mystery.
The main concern is how much room can the devs work with these tighter maps when it comes to post-launch content. The previous two games added new missions on the same map but with new targets in different areas. Doing so in Hitman 3 maps might be tougher as a result.
But for players that is here only for the first runs, the change is for the better. Maps are less bloated, and refined to fit for the main mission it’s designed for.
Little New Gameplay Additions
Hitman 3 adds a few little new features, but nothing that diverts from the core gameplay loop. One is the camera, which 47 carries around everywhere (including levels of past Hitman games) and doesn’t take an item slot. The camera can hack terminals (used in two maps) and also scan documents for intel (used for the whole investigation mission story and intel gathering). It’s a little addition with limited use, at least in this game.
Similarly, the “Persistent Shortcuts” are just optional discoveries, but it’s a great incentive to not only explore more of the maps, but also replay it. The shortcuts really make subsequent playthroughs less of a slog. Purists can simply ignore using the ladders and doors that can be opened on only one side should they wish.
Hitman 3 contains 6 new locations plus the tutorial missions from past games. My first run in all the 6 locations took me close to 9 hours to finish. Though I’ve played through the entirety of Hitman 2 and most of Hitman 1. So a newcomer may take longer as they learn the ropes.
As you would expect, Hitman 3 is short. Because it’s not meant to be a one-and-done game. The value of the World Of Assassination trilogy of Hitman games is playing it again, doing the objectives differently.
The missions in these sandbox levels are open-ended enough to let you kill however you like. Ghosting through the level without using a disguise is possible (and encouraged by the game). Massacring everyone on the map, including civilians, is also possible (and encouraged by the number of people watching streamers attempting this).
You can prolong your stay in a level, exploring every option before executing your plans stealthily for an hour and have fun. Or just say screw it, pull out the gun and complete the job in mere seconds, as popularised in speedruns.
On PS4, you can play the whole game (and Hitman 1 and 2) entirely in PSVR. If you have one of those, Hitman 3 sounds like an amazing game in virtual reality.
Three* Games In One
If you own Hitman 1 (2016) and Hitman 2 on the same platform of Hitman 3, you can import those levels and play it again in Hitman 3, free. Or buy them all as DLC at a reduced price.
In total, you can play 6 locations from Hitman 1, 6 in Hitman 2, another 2 from the Hitman 2 DLC (part of the Hitman 2 Gold Access Pack) and 6 from Hitman 3. A total of 20 locations playable in Hitman 3, as it is right now at launch.
There are less gameplay improvement seen when playing past Hitman levels in Hitman 3 compared to playing Hitman 1 levels in Hitman 2. The new gameplay mechanics are very level-specific and not system-wide improvements. But all the levels do look nicer in Hitman 3- think of it as a remaster of sorts.
There are no multiplayer modes in Hitman 3. And the multiplayer modes in Hitman 2 has since been put offline.
Depending on how you play your video games, Hitman 3 can either be perfect for you or a deal-breaker. Judging as a traditional full-priced game, it can be perceived as lacking in content. But if you’re getting the Hitman 1 and 2 levels in Hitman 3 as well, that’s three games worth of content on offer.
The biggest flaws of Hitman 3 are the flaws it grandfathered from being part of this rebooted Hitman trilogy. The game still requires an online connection to the servers (despite being a single-player only game).
And guess what- early in the first week of launch the servers are not working as intended.
Even worse, connection to servers can easily discontinue if you stop making button inputs. There’s way too many times where the “disconnected from server” prompt appears during cutscenes. Interacting with the prompt skips the cutscene I wanted to actually watch this time. It’s ridiculous.
With IO abandoning any multiplayer functionality, maybe their next single-player game shouldn’t even need a constant server connection. Offline mode isn’t enough.
Duplicate Gear Unlocks
The other flaw I find is in the progression. A lot of the gear unlocks are essentially duplicate items. For example, you have multiple versions of the same standard silenced pistol, or a lockpick, but with different skins. Which isn’t an exciting unlock because it’s not like you’re going to see the visual differences that much.
And since the more gameplay-changing gears like a sniper rifle are tied near the end of the per-level progression levels, you’ll need to keep redoing the same level but ticking different boxes just to have more options in future playthroughs. Which can get repetitive.
Again, it’s something Hitman 3 inherited from the past titles’ structure. There’s an alternate timeline somewhere where players can still buy levels ala carte.
These problems didn’t bother me as much back at Hitman 2. But by Hitman 3 it feels like these quirky leftovers from their original vision have become more of an obvious flaw. Good thing this is the final game of this trilogy.
The UI, while responsive and slick, can sometimes be baffling to navigate with a controller. I’ve made wrong button presses too many times, being booted to an unfamiliar part of the menu.
Even worse, I made the same mistake in back in Hitman 2- I forgot where to press to actually start a mission. Also, you can navigate inside sub-menus from the main menu. But if you wrongly press the bumpers instead of the triggers, you’ll be booted out of the deep sub-menus you were in.
You can’t navigate the menus intuitively with the controller- you’ll need to learn and get the muscle memory for it. Which, for a UI, is bad in my point of view.
Navigating it with mouse shouldn’t be an issue, however.
The Joy Of Executing (Plans And People)
With all that being said, I immensely enjoyed my time with Hitman 3.
It’s more Hitman. And I like Hitman. There’s not enough games where it’s both a stealth game and a puzzler.
It can be gruesome at time, like you can shove people into a grinder. And it can also be silly. You can knock the lights out of someone with… a smack of a banana.
But it always rewards the curious. Every little hidden path I discovered tingles me with joy. Every little experiment I did just to see how the AI will react (and then quick-loading again) gives me life.
I can care less with the default aim settings being not so good on controllers. Because I find joy doing the hits without resorting to guns. Figuring out the timing and location to set up a trap, like throwing a propane flask into a lit fireplace, is immensely satisfying.
And specifically for Hitman 3, the levels this time around tickles the nostalgia bone for me. A lot of the elements and themes are reminiscent of past Hitmans, and they’re all done excellently. And it’s saying a lot that I actually like that one level that reminds me heavily of Hitman Absolution in its level design.
Berlin has to be my favourite of the levels. The twist is what I wanted from a Hitman game for some time. I’m glad it came true.
Hitman 3 is IO Interactive at their best. Smart level design paired with refined gameplay mechanics makes it an amazing final entry to the World Of Assassination trilogy.
It has some of the weirdest flaws and shortcomings for a single-player video game.
But that’s because you don’t see games like Hitman a lot. It’s truly in its own league- a sandbox assassination sim designed to be replayable. This time with a stronger story hook and the best levels ever created for the trilogy. Or even the whole series.
Hitman 3 should make you very excited for IO’s next project, a James Bond game.
Reviewed On PC. Review Copy purchased by the reviewer