Hitman 3 is the grand finale of the World of Assassination trilogy, started back in 2016 with a rebooted Hitman. As such, the game will feel incredibly familiar to players of the previous two games, but there’s more than enough mayhem laced with dark humor to keep those players occupied. The first AAA release of 2021, many will be pleased to hear the year has gotten off to a great start because IO Interactive’s latest title is our favorite hitman at his very best.
Agent 47 has committed lots of crimes in his lifetime. Trespassing, criminal damage, theft, assault (often with a deadly weapon), and murders aplenty. The last thing I then expected to be doing in a Hitman game is solving a murder, but that’s just one of many new and sometimes surprising story beats in the game. The story offers players as much as they want to get out of it. There’s the basic narrative to every mission—find your targets, eliminate them as you see fit, and escape, preferably without being seen—but most of the comedy and curveballs come from the side missions within the destinations. Known as Mission Stories, they add extra narrative to every level.
Hitman 3 Review – Making a Grand Entrance
Parachuting towards the tallest building in Dubai is Agent 47’s choice of grand entrance. Rising out of the clouds, the first view of the Burj Al-Ghazali gives an idea of the sheer scale and beauty of what’s to come. The large building feels bright, spacious, and more than a little intimidating. It’s full of extremely wealthy potential witnesses to match its opulent interior. It’s a complete contrast to the historic and sombre Thornbridge Manor estate on Dartmoor, but no less impressive. Wealth in Dartmoor takes on the form of country pursuits and traditional artwork. It’s here where the aforementioned murder mystery proves to be a unique way of completing the mission objectives.
Those levels are followed by a massive rave taking place in a sprawling Berlin nightclub/warehouse with a choice of targets to eliminate. Rain-soaked Chongqing provides tight streets lit by colorful neon, a deceptive introduction to the spotless and clinical location of one of the two targets. The sunny Mendoza vineyard is massive, a fitting site for a state-of-the-art wine company complete with traditional villa. Finally, there’s the freezing cold Carpathian Mountains. Without spoiling anything, it’s a location unlike any level ever played before.
The main story is short; a mission will take roughly an hour from start to finish, so around 6-7 hours in total for all locations. New players can add on another hour or so for the tutorial, but as this is the same tutorial from the previous two titles, returning players will likely ignore it completely. This isn’t the point of Hitman, though. There are multiple, often hilarious ways to kill the targets, plenty of secrets and mountains of objects to discover during a thorough exploration of a level, and fun challenges to complete. The true length of the game comes from replaying and mastering each level, and that isn’t such a quick task.
One of the important parts of each level is picking the perfect moment to take down the still gullible and predictable AI. They’ll fail to recognize Agent 47 even if they’ve just been talking to him while he’s wearing a completely different disguise, or his voice is completely different to the person he’s impersonating. I’ve watched them have scripted conversations with people I’ve left unconscious and undiscovered in flower beds just 30 minutes prior. While some would pick fault with this, it’s important to the fluidity of the level. Nobody wants to fail a mission because Bob the cleaner unexpectedly decided he needed the toilet and walked in on an otherwise perfectly-executed drowning. Hitman 3 is still more of a puzzle game of working out when best to strike than it is an action game.
Hitman 3 Review – After the Story is Done
All previous locations from the previous two titles can be imported into Hitman 3. The entire story of the competing shadow organizations can be experienced with the benefits of the game’s new Glacier Engine, and it makes those levels shine better than they ever have done. The cutscenes haven’t fared as well, as they haven’t received a new-gen makeover, and it’s only here the difference between the two console generations is more obvious. Those who can’t import the levels do get a very brief introduction on the events of the last two titles, but nothing beats playing the games for yourself.
Once those levels are mastered, Contracts introduce an infinite amount of replayability to the game. Players can create their own missions where any NPC can become a target. They often challenge you to think outside the box, requiring specific outfits or specific kill methods. The other game mode is Sniper Assassin, although this is only available for those who import levels from Hitman 2; there are no new levels for this mode in Hitman 3. For dedicated assassins, there are potentially hundreds of hours of entertainment here.
For returning players, this all sounds achingly familiar so far, so what is actually new apart from the different locations? Well, the six new locations have shortcuts, doors or ladders that can be unlocked and remain permanently open for repeat playthroughs. They remove some of the more tedious preparation work during a playthrough. There are new weapons and items, including a rather nifty snowglobe of the Burj Al-Ghazali that can always be thrown at someone’s head.
The other new feature is a camera Agent 47 carries through every mission. Its main purpose is to gather intel and analyze objects of interest, but it also makes for a pseudo-photo mode. The camera has photo filters, levels of zoom, and a depth of field slider, but players can’t pause the action to take the perfect shot. Once a photo is taken, the action is then paused, but the photo can’t be saved in-game. For that you’ll need the PS5’s own image sharing tools, something I had to do to make sure I kept the most epic family photo I’ve ever taken.
Hitman 3 Review – The PS5 has Benefits
Load times are far quicker thanks to the PS5 SSD, and the DualSense controller features are used effectively. Haptic feedback is provided in several situations, like when the controller rumbles alongside the trains passing overhead in Chongqing. Each weapon also has its own feedback pattern that varies according to its sound profile. The adaptive triggers are vital for sharpshooters. Players need to gently squeeze R2 to activate sniper mode for a few precious seconds. Once the shot is lined up, pulling the trigger all the way will fire the gun.
Graphically the game looks stunning. As mentioned earlier, the cutscenes from the earlier games show just how far the Glacier Engine has come. Rain and snow effects are nothing new to Hitman games but they look beautiful. Droplets run down Agent 47’s raincoat, pooling together as their paths meet. The light from security radios is reflected off cover. This doesn’t mean everything runs entirely smoothly, though. Some NPCs clipped through the floor, lip syncing doesn’t always match up, and Chongqing’s launderette had new-fangled washing machines where the entire row of outer cases failed to load on multiple occasions.
The very minor issues don’t detract from the fact that Hitman 3 is Agent 47’s best outing in the trilogy. The game is a glorious romp through six beautiful maps, leaving a trail of bodies in your wake. The many varied ways to deal with targets means replayability is a joy and exploration is fun. The game’s core may not have changed over the last few years, but that’s why it works so well. Agent 47 might be taking a break for now, but IO Interactive is on a roll and only time will tell if their next project is as good.
Hitman 3 review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on a PS5. For more information, please read our Review Policy.