The Hitman franchise has seen a resurgence since the 2016 soft reboot. Its episodic format didn’t win many fans, but the constant stream of quality content certainly did. A full sequel followed soon after, building on the previous game’s globe-trotting adventure style and dropped episodic for a full-fat assassination sim. With the advent of a new console generation and all the increased power that comes with it, Hitman 3 takes advantage of new gameplay possibilities while keeping the basics in check. Is the finale in the World of Assassination trilogy a hit or miss? Find out in our Hitman 3 review.
Story – Hits A Predictable Mark
It isn’t easy to talk about Hitman from a narrative perspective because there isn’t much of one. The trilogy has been weaving this conspirators tale of a secret organisation called Providence that controls the world from the shadows. Since reuniting with his childhood friend Lucas Grey, both assassins have been hunting the Illuminati-esque organisation’s heads. That hunt continues into Hitman 3, trailing down the few remaining leaders and finally eliminating the trilogy’s main villain, The Constant. It’s an altogether convoluted story, but it’s was just enough to keep me interested until the credits rolled. The story is told in two methods – fully animated cutscenes between levels and Mission Stories.
The overarching story is noticeably more serious and sombre than the previous two games. The world’s top assassin is both at his deadliest and most vulnerable in this third outing, which plays on the trope of the hunter becoming the hunted. One mission sees Agent 47 visit an underground rave in Berlin. He’s being hunted by ten ICA agents who’ve disguised themselves as party-goers. This welcome change of pace freshens up the action, playing on the tried and true trope of the hunter becoming the hunted. The mission reminds the player that although the dapper assassin may be an apex predator, he is only one wrong step from a bullet to the temple. His complicated past with Diana, his handler, is also probed in more detail, uncovering a close symbiotic relationship.
I did find it odd that the revelation at the end of the previous game seemed to play no bearing on the outcome of Diana’s relationship with 47. It’s still used as a plot device but doesn’t leave their personal or work relationship any different than before. With that said, I wasn’t disappointed with the climax. IO Interactive might be moving onto other things, but Hitman isn’t done by any means, and the ending is a testament to that.
The narrative is expanded upon in the guided assassinations you find in several of the levels called Mission Stories. These little plots will help you line-up a target for assassination by completing a series of tasks to facilitate the hit. Those hungry for more info on the game’s world and characters will want to finish these mission stories first before getting adventurous with the myriad of deadly opportunities that litter each level.
There isn’t a memorable story to be found here, and the targets you kill are Pantomime Villains at best. Like every entry in the franchise (bar Absolution), the best story is the one you create yourself. These six stunning locations are the ultimate sandbox for you to plan the perfect assassination or shoot everyone in the face. You don’t need to follow the story, and you’ll breeze through the narrative in a couple of hours. It’s the countless hours of replaying that gives the franchise its charm and staying power.
Despite the predictable ending to this five-year journey, through three games, Agent 47 still holds a place in my heart as one of gaming’s most recognisable mascots. I don’t know where the barcoded assassin goes next, but I can’t wait to find out.
Gameplay – If It Ain’t Broke…
Hitman isn’t an open-world game. It’s a highly complex sandbox built upon layers of AI movement and carefully placed, seemingly random events. It is a perfect playground of death, and that is where the real fun lies. The franchise has always prided itself on its impressive sandbox. Still, Hitman 3 is by far the most complex the developer has ever created. Each of the six levels contains some of the most enjoyable stealth gameplay I’ve played in a long time. Variety is vital, and each location offers the players something different to hone their assassination skills. Even after memorising the areas, you’ll still be enthralled by planning out your hit and watching the bloodstained dominoes fall one by one.
The six locations are – Dubai, Dartmoor, Berlin, Chongqing, Mendoza, and the Carpathian Mountains. These are by far the best locations of the trilogy and arguably the best of the franchise. Played on a PS5, you can see the benefits of IO Interactive’s meticulous attention to detail along with a game-changing constant 60fps – Hitman has never played so good. Dartmoor and Chongqing are perhaps the best examples of how complex the gameplay can get. The second mission takes you to a daunting mansion in the middle of Dartmoor. Surrounded by boggy marshland, with a decrepit chapel and graveyard, the mission hits all the right atmospheric notes. Likewise, Chongqing offers a load of verticality that can lead to some interesting challenges. Chongqing is also the most visually striking location in the entire game, in my opinion.
Gameplay remains focused on stealth, but you have the option to go loud when everything goes wrong. Still, this isn’t a shooter And, ideally, it shouldn’t be played as such. Very little has changed in terms of gameplay, meaning those who’ve played the recent games will be able to jump into this one with ease.
There are three noticeable changes, however. The controversial ICA electrocution phone that many considered over-powered has been removed. You’ll be constantly equip with a new camera that can hack and document important info that pertains to hit a goal. Apart from being required for a few unlockable challenges, I didn’t find the camera useful. Still, it has the potential for a photo mode in the future. Lastly, you seem to be able to scale structures quicker than in previous titles. Such a small change is a welcome improvement for those attempting Silent Assassin ratings.
I only have one major gripe with the way Hitman 3 plays, which is the requirement of a constant Internet connection. You can still play offline, but you’ll lose all access to the features that make playing the game worthwhile. Being able to see your progress rank up was integral to my enjoyment and the overall experience. Losing connection stops you from unlocking challenges and level ranking, where much of the reply value lies. I can only speak for my experience with servers, which has been temperamental at best, unplayable at worst.
I had a three day period where I was disconnected. By all accounts, I’m not the only person suffering from these issues. IO Interactive promises it is working on fixing disconnection issues, but they persist nonetheless. The same must be said for the laborious carry over progress system, which was poorly implemented and led to hours of frustration.
Graphics & Audio – Beautiful Atmospheric Soundscape
Hitman isn’t a series I associate with impressive graphics. It’s always looked good, but never a defining feature. Hitman 3 changes that track record because this is a fine-looking game! I played on PS5, which benefits from better graphics, improved lighting, among other quality of life improvements. Next-generation consoles and high-end PCs also get a constant, silky smooth 60fps. It’s fantastic to see this as a rule on new consoles, instead of the exception.
IO Interactive has promised additional graphical improvements, including Ray-Tracing. However, this has only been confirmed for Xbox S/X consoles so far. Chongqing will undoubtedly benefit more from Ray-Tracing than any other. Few element combinations work better than neon and rain; watching the raindrops drip onto Agent 47’s trench coat is visual ASMR at its best. The developer has set a new bar for the franchise in the Graphics department.
The main soundtrack is all about setting the right atmosphere. When wondering the rain-soaked streets of Chongqing, you’ll be accompanied by low humming noise, possibly to imitated the hum of neon lights. This moves into a haunting choir that reminded me of Hitman: Blood Money. As the action becomes more tense, like moving in enemy territory, a constant allegro will keep you on your toes. The overarching theme doesn’t stray too far from what we’ve seen in previous games, but subtle changes match the more serious tone.
It’s background sound where the game excels. Those recognisable sounds ground the player in a time and location. Footsteps in puddles, the rumble of distant trains. Listening to NPCs having inconsequential conversations that add texture to every level. I noticed infrequent clipping of dialogue, specifically on the Mendoza level. Others have claimed this is an issue on other missions, but I didn’t experience it elsewhere. These niggling issues are often fixed with a patch down the line. Overall, I enjoyed what IO Interactive had on offer here.
Hitman 3 was reviewed on PS5.