Hitman 3 on Xbox Series X
Ever since IO Interactive broke away from Square Enix and gained “complete control over the Hitman IP,” as its CEO, Hakan Abrak, put it, the team has insisted that Hitman 3 would feature “the most important contracts of his (Agent 47’s) entire career” as the conclusion to the trilogy.
Not only does Agent 47 have more ways to take people out than ever before in Hitman 3, but the locations are more impressive, even if not all of them rank among the series’ best.
For the most part, and somewhat expectedly, Hitman 3’s structure remains largely the same — sticking to what has worked well previously. You’re plonked into a level with a fiber wire, some coins, a dashing disguise, and few details on who you’re there to kill, and you can do whatever you like. Between each of the six missions, there are then cinematic story cutscenes that set the tone for subsequent missions.
The sandboxes are generally pretty similar in size and design to those in previous games. There are restricted areas you need to change your outfit to sneak into, for example, as well as the typical window ledges to shimmy along, and often large crowds to blend into.
The locations themselves are Hitman 3’s truly new features, and IO has produced some of their best work yet. The opener, which has been shown off a lot in preview, is a spectacular and state of the art highrise in Dubai that’s pretty standard layout wise but highlights Hitman 3’s stunning art design.
The Berlin nightclub is huge but limited by your objective and its tight hallways. You don’t know who you’re killing until you find them, so have to work hard to make the kills interesting, especially in a packed club with few places to hide. It’s the least enjoyable of the lot due to being focused on targets without a personality that you can exploit.
Chongqing, China is a neon drenched, and literally drenched, map that varies more than any other. From deserted streets to packed laboratories, you’ll have change tact throughout to stay alive and complete the objectives. It’s one you really have to learn, so don’t be afraid to reload a save and try again.
The Italian vineyard level is also beautiful and offers more ways to kill than pretty much any other, which makes it one ripe for replaying. As for Agent 47’s finale, I don’t want to ruin it, but all I’ll say is that it leaves me even more excited for IO’s James Bond game than I already was.
Then there’s the highlight of the lot and the one that IO have been hyping up the most: Dartmoor. A country estate in rainy England wouldn’t generally be thought of as a particularly extravagant setting, but it’s more than that.
It’s a homage to Knives Out, unashamedly. You’re there to take out the head of a family whose members have all gathered together for a funeral the next day, although that’s only the start. The target has hired a private investigator to discover who killed another member of the family who looks to have killed themselves the night before. Think Benoit Blanc without the signature twang.
You can then get yourself involved in a full-on murder mystery if you want. It’s a genuinely brilliant spin on the standard Hitman formula that makes the most of the setting. It’s easy to lose hours to messing with the family and learning every hidden secret and corridor — an absolute masterclass in level design.
For the most part, though, Hitman 3 gives you more freedom than the first two games, for better or worse. While working out how to kill a target is satisfying, being led through Mission Stories that end in spectacular deaths often helps you get the best out of a mission.
While silently shooting the target in the head from a balcony and running off is fine, taking on the persona of a vineyard manager, giving your target a tour of the estate, and pushing them into the grape crusher is even better. It’s the Mission Stories that showcase what’s possible in Hitman 3, so I wish there were more options. Most locations feature no more than three options across all targets and a couple have none to follow at all.
If you choose to ignore the options you do have, it’s, therefore, best to approach each level slowly. Taking your time to consider what’ll get the best from the level will make the overall experience much more satisfying.
The only recurring issue that I found immersion-breaking is how the world around Agent 47 reacts to death. After you successfully assassinate a target and the body is in plain sight, there’s usually only panic for a minute or two before everyone goes back to acting as if nothing had happened.
Of course, if everything became impossible after killing one target, attempting to get to the other wouldn’t be as enjoyable, but there’s something jarring about being greeted politely by someone moments after their boss or mother has just been killed in front of them.
Hitman 3 also shines when replaying missions. Jumping into a location you’re already familiar with to try out the different assassination opportunities and complete challenges makes you appreciate them even more. Realizing that there are two entirely different ways to complete an objective shines a light on just how deep IO’s game is.
Following certain stories and killing targets in a particular order will hide possibilities from you. Without replaying each and every one of the missions at least a couple of times, you’re not going to see anywhere near everything that’s possible. With the slate of challenges and Mastery levels that unlock further opportunities to tweak your approach, there’s a reason to replay the levels beyond simply seeing everything, too, provided the online functionality that’s required to track them is more stable than it has been pre-launch.
Also, while you’re able to skip the story segments between missions, they’re worth sticking with more than ever before. It’s significantly more compelling than in the first two games due to an upping of the cutscene quality and how the narrative is weaved into the levels to a larger degree.
You’ll need a little knowledge of what has happened previously to understand the lot, but Hitman 3 stands alone as an interesting and exciting spy thriller, and it’s a fitting conclusion to the character’s most recent story.
That’s the case for Hitman 3 as a whole, really. Without straying far from the successful sandbox formula, it’s an excellent final part of IO’s trilogy. While the increased freedom and level variety won’t be for everyone, Hitman 3 boasts some of the best locations and stories the series has ever seen, and there’s so much to uncover in each and every one of them.
- Stunningly beautiful locations.
- More freedom than ever before.
- Dartmoor’s murder mystery might be the series’ best level.
- Endlessly replayable.
- Improved storytelling.
- Lack of Mission Story opportunities make coolest kills difficult to execute.
- Varying structure of some missions might not be for everyone.
- NPCs often don’t react realistically to death.
Jan. 20, 2021
PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Switch, Stadia
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