In 2016, IO Interactive rebooted one of the most iconic franchises in the gaming industry as an episodic experience. Hitman (2016) received mixed reactions from the gaming community. While some felt it was a departure from what made the original series great a decade back, the general consensus was that it brought a fresh perspective to the stealth genre. Its success led to the development and eventual release of its sequel two years later, which many considered a slight improvement over the first one. Fast forward to 2021, IO Interactive brought the series to a definitive end with Hitman 3, which I believe to be the best of the lot.
Story: The Past and the Present
Hitman 3 picks up right where its predecessor left off. Agent 47 and his allies – handler Diana Burnwood and childhood friend Lucas Grey – have captured the Constant and are making plans to take down the Partners – the three leaders of Providence. However, this is no simple task, even for the world’s deadliest assassin, as his past begins to intertwine with the present.
The most remarkable improvement over the previous games lies in the area of the narrative. The first two games had a more or less simple story, often leaving a feeling of disconnection between levels. On the other hand, Hitman 3 attempts to create a bond between the player and the narrative. For the first time in the series, you actually care about what’s happening to the characters. The game shows us a side of Agent 47 that we are not used to seeing, that perhaps he too – despite his cold-blooded demeanor – has some faint traces of emotion in him. As the game continues we get to explore this in greater detail across the six episodes.
Gameplay: As Simple or Challenging as You Want It to Be
Hitman 3 plays out almost the exact same way as the previous entries in the series. But this never feels repetitive – quite simply because it works.
Variety Is the Spice of Death
As Agent 47, you must eliminate one or more targets in each location. You can accomplish this in several different ways. Of course, you always have the option of going in guns blazing and killing everyone in sight. But that is not how a master assassin operates. A more subtle way to eliminate your targets is to look around for Mission Opportunities – the hallmark of the Hitman series. These pre-defined pathways enable you to carry out the kill discreetly. Often, these opportunities require you to wear a disguise to blend in according to the circumstances at hand. For instance, in one mission, I disguised myself as a Lead Detective and acquired intel on my target. Eventually, I was able to isolate and eliminate her without arousing suspicion.
As Agent 47, you will have an arsenal of items you can choose from before the start of the mission. I found myself selecting the ICA Silenced Handgun as my primary weapon. If I needed to take someone out quietly and effectively, this would get the job done with a satisfying pling. Along with this, I would always choose a lockpick as this came in handy whenever I came across a locked door. This would open new areas of the map for me, giving me a chance to collect additional intel and discover new ways to take out my targets. Some methods include throwing them off the ledge, electrocuting them to death, or poisoning their edibles. In short, you decide when and how to take them down. This freedom to approach the game however you want is exactly what makes the Hitman series so great.
Being genetically engineered to have peak instinctual abilities, Agent 47 can predict the movements of NPCs and targets alike to great precision. The game showcases this by granting the player the ability to see through walls, marking non-targets in white and targets in red. This enables you to track your prey and see where they are off next to plan your mission accordingly. You can also engage in melee kills by using your bare hands or the famous Fibre Wire to stealthily choke the person to death.
Not-So-Intelligent Artificial Intelligence
One issue that IO Interactive has failed to address is the overly naïve AI. Whenever I used a disguise to enter a particular area, I wondered how the security team could not recognize Agent 47, who – despite his immaculate disguise – looks nothing like the person they had a conversation with two minutes ago. It is almost as if you turn into a completely different person when you change your outfit. This kept drifting me away from an otherwise realistic experience as a master assassin. While I understand that a naïve AI was necessary to make this game work, surely the developers could have toned it down a little to make the experience as realistic as possible.
As they say, variety is the spice of death. For every mission, there are certain challenges that, if you manage to complete, unlock rewards such as new weapons, starting locations, and outfits. These challenges offer you a limitless number of ways to achieve the assassination. Thus Hitman 3 has tons of replay value.
Graphics and Sound: Immersion Guaranteed
Hitman 3 is one of the best-looking games out there right now. The amount of detail present in each of the six locations clearly reflects the amount of work put in by the developers. From the gold-plated grandeur of the Burj al-Ghazali to the rain-drenched beauty of Chongqing, China – which I think is the most aesthetically pleasing location of the entire trilogy – IO interactive has made great use of the graphical tools at its disposal. However, the one area where the game is lacking is the character models. There are far too many familiar faces in Hitman 3. Several NPCs share the same blank, expressionless faces making you ponder why the developers didn’t add more faces to the game instead of just reusing the same ones over and over again. That said, everything else, such as buildings, trees, furniture, floor, and fields, look brilliant.
Sound is one of the most important factors in determining the success of any game. Fortunately, IO Interactive gets it right in Hitman 3. Agent 47’s footsteps across different structures such as marble, grass, stairs ,and such each create a different sound effect accordingly. While this may seem like a small detail, it is the little things that add up to create the big picture. Headshots with a silenced pistol make a satisfying sound as they render your target dead, while unfortunate guards will plead you to spare them as you choke them to death. Continuing the tradition, Agent 47’s voice is as emotionless as ever, something that suits his cold demeanor.
Hitman 3 was reviewed on the PS4.