With two publisher changes and a shift away from its original episodic vision, the modern series of Hitman games has been on quite the roller coaster since 2016. However, strong stealth gameplay combined with an effortless style and oodles of replay potential have kept IO’s World of Assassination trilogy firmly on our radar, even as we transition between generations.
As you might have guessed, Hitman 3 is a culmination of the Danish studio’s years of hard work. Although instantly familiar to fans of the rebooted series, this closing act serves as the pinnacle of what IO Interactive have been able to achieve in that time. Their trademark approach to building elaborate levels entwines with some unexpectedly clever twists to give Agent 47 the send-off he deserves.
Hitman 3 follows an old custom in that, once again, there are six story missions and six locations, though IO have spiced things up a bit. Where previous levels in Hitman and Hitman 2 felt like stepping into a freshly made sandbox ready to be bloodied, the stages here have a more defined narrative thread stringing them together. Without giving too much away, Agent 47 has more to do in these six new locations than simply offing high value targets. One heavily publicised example is the Dartmoor level, where you can have Agent 47 step into the shoes of a detective and solve a murder instead of just committing one.
That’s not to say the way Hitman 3 is framed will be unfamiliar to returning players. There’s always that two-sided pang of excitement and bewilderment whenever loading into a level for the first time, soaking in whatever gorgeous vistas IO’s visual artists have cooked up. You can explore to your heart’s content, feeling your way around each lethal labyrinth, peeling back the layers of a very chubby onion, one that induces tears of joy whenever you execute the perfect assassination.
There are “mission stories” on hand once again, forming a story-driven handrail to guide you to your targets, usually isolating them and lining them up for a creative takedown. Sure, there’s some hand-holding through these, but they can lead to some murderously magnificent kills. Mission stories are also an ideal way of familiarising you with a map, letting the stabilisers fall away gently as you memorise the map layout, the placement of specific key items and the routines of NPCs.
That core gameplay of 2016’s Hitman reboot remains almost completely untouched here. Our cueball contract killer can use a mishmash of stealthy manoeuvres and techniques to navigate each location. However, there are a couple of additional mechanics which IO have concocted for this final instalment, including a camera phone used to capture evidence and remotely interact with objects. IO have populated each map with shortcuts as well: doors, hatches and ladders that then remain permanently open for subsequent playthroughs and allow you to quickly reach certain areas.
Replayability is core to the Hitman experience. Aside from feeding your curiosity there are Mastery ranks to be obtained as you continue to explore, unlocking new ways to prepare for an assignment, such as starting location, disguises, gadgets, and guns. Hitman 3 also brings back Escalations as well as player-made Contracts, offering plenty of reasons to dive back in, testing your skills with various mission parameters.
We can’t talk about a Hitman game without gushing over the stylish aesthetics. Each environment is its own delicately designed snowglobe in which dozens, if not hundreds of NPCs dance in time with a clockwork rhythm set against some truly stunning backdrops. With most of 47’s targets being detestable, ultra-rich puppeteers, their less than humble abodes are always a delight to explore – our first two stops in Hitman 3 are Dubai’s most exuberant skyscraper and an English countryside manor.
Having played the PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 versions side by side, there are some notable differences in terms of visual performance, though what Hitman players will care about most is the improved loading times. If you’re like me then you’re constantly creating manual saves to fall back on just in case a mission goes pear-shaped, and cutting down on that waiting time lifts some of the chores of exploration and failure.
Hitman 3 Guides & more from TheSixthAxis
- Hitman 3 Guide – best loadout options
- Hitman 3 Guide – 10 essential tips you need to know
- Hitman 3 Mastery unlocks guide
- Hitman 3 connection failed – can you play offline?
One PlayStation-specific feature definitely worth mentioning is the ability to play the entire Hitman trilogy in virtual reality with PlayStation VR. We’ll have more detailed impressions in the near future, but from what we’ve played, it handles the shift to first person in VR pretty well. Despite shunning the PlayStation Move in favour of the DualShock 4, it manages to feel immersive while translating all those key Hitman gameplay beats. If you have PSVR then you’ll want to sample the tutorial at the very least, even if it’s just to use 47’s fibre wire a single time.