So the saying goes, good things come in threes. And in its final (for now) installment, developer IOs Hitman trilogy concludes with the excellent Hitman 3.
A more narrative-focussed experience, Hitman 3 delivers exactly what devotees of the meticulous stealth-focussed assassination genre could want.
Just as in the previous two games, you take on the role of bald-headed enigma Agent 47, as he works through a small number of incredibly well-crafted locations from around the world to take out a key enemy or enemies. It is a simple set-up, but, as ever, the complexity comes down to the detailed, interwoven worlds that the developers have put together. Each of the six levels are unique sandboxes, with hundreds of ways to tackle your mission. And despite the narrative playing a greater role in each level, the joy in Hitman comes from slowly learning the intricacies and interactions within each of them. If you’re here to run through each level once and be done with it, that option is still there for you. But know that playing through once is only ever a foretaste of what the game has to offer, and Hitman 3 will seem fairly short with only a single playthrough.
There are many ways to tackle each mission, and to help that online, one significant upgrade in this new entry is the concept of mission checkpoints. This means you can start somewhere within the mission area, potentially cutting out dead time or helping you target a specific way of taking out your target.
It makes it easier on future runs to get to some areas that would require a bit of an extra time investment and as someone who is generally time-poor I appreciated their inclusion, even if purists may not like their shortcut nature.
The Hitman reboot’s aesthetic was defined back with the first game in the trilogy, and it continues that here. Clean lines and a realistic aesthetic are now hallmarks of the franchise, and Hitman 3 doesn’t shake that up. It is fundamentally the same game engine producing similar results, though on Series S and X, and PS5 there is one substantial upgrade.
With these next-generation consoles, Hitman 3 now runs at 60 frames per second. This makes a big difference, and while the Hitman trilogy is not generally a run and gun, fast-paced shooter (unless you’ve done something, very, very wrong), the big upgrade in framerate and reduction in input lag is very welcome. Additional benefits are a big upgrade in resolution for the Xbox Series X, where I spent most of my time with the game and the inclusion (finally) of screen space reflections. It looks excellent on a 4K display, and even on the Series S it looks great too.
As in Hitman 2, if you have progress in either of the two previous games, you can access that in Hitman 3, as long as it is on the same platform. This commitment to bringing forward both entire games into one, neat package is remarkable, and makes Hitman 3 the definitive Hitman experience. It is a policy and technical achievement that other games should take note of – looking at you Jackbox Party Pack – and, through optimisation, Hitman 3 even takes up less disk space than before. I just wish more developers were committed to making better user experiences like this.
Now there is a wrinkle, in the Hitman 3 is an Epic Games Store exclusive on PC, but IO has worked with Epic to ensure progress is transferred and has provided a full FAQ if you find yourself in that situation.
Hitman 3 is, yes, more or less, more of the same as in Hitman 2. But that’s not a bad thing. Hitman 3 stays true to what made the rebooted series great, with its focus on replayability, player choice and emergent gameplay. It gives me great hope that the next title from IO, James Bond, will be similarly fantastic. If you liked either of the two previous entries, you will find plenty to love in this new entry. The locations are beautiful, well-designed and throw up unique and interesting gameplay challenges.
Hitman 3 is not a revolution, but instead has the feeling of a purposeful coming together of the learnings from years of experience in this world.
With the additional purchase of Hitman and Hitman 2 levels in the one package, I can’t consider this latest entry anything less than the ultimate collection of Hitman games ever produced.
Released: January 2021
Platform reviewed: Xbox Series X
Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix