IO Interactive has a winning formula with the Hitman reboot trilogy. They know it, we know it — they’re just here to stick the landing with Hitman 3. While the final game does play things a little safe, each of its quality levels tempted me repeatedly with new possibilities.
From the impossible heights of Dubai’s skyscraper to the Knives Out-esque Dartmoor manor, the locales here are, aesthetically speaking, the best the series has to offer. I was constantly floored by how well Hitman 3 looked and performed, all while running what must be about a billion scripts in the background — if a chef makes spaghetti on the other side of the map and the player isn’t there to see it, does it come out al dente?
Part of the genius of Hitman as a franchise is its clockwork nature. While most games rely on randomization (just look at the explosion of roguelikes to come out in the last five years), Hitman relishes its static nature. Everything follows the same script in each level, and the only variable is you.
Much like Mad Max’s character serves mostly to deliver the audience worldbuilding and stories, Agent 47 does much the same with the game’s myriad locations. The world moves around you, reacting intelligently (or, predictably unintelligently) to your actions, allowing you to pull the threads and line up perfect kills.
On that note, I think the most divisive part of the Hitman trilogy must be the burden on the player to make their own fun. Unlike Grand Theft Auto or Dishonored, Hitman 3 doesn’t deliver thrills at set intervals, instead asking for input and planning to make the sparks fly. You could have the worst time of your life simply following quest markers, or just shooting targets in the face before exiting each level, and I’m sure a fair share of players have been turned off by what ultimately boils down to this ultimate freedom. You get back what you put in, and to me at least, that’s what makes these games so memorable.
As I played, I noticed a few things (as a series newbie) that never failed to impress. For example, non-combat NPCs alert guards to weapons they find on the ground rather than picking them up themselves; the confiscated goods are then transported to designated locations and can be picked up later. I’m sure if I were good at this game all these little systems must lead to some dramatic and Rat-Trap tier kills. Instead, I usually waited around in a broom closet or something and threw a diet soda can at my target’s head when they were alone.
Well, that last part isn’t entirely true. While a novice, I always felt compelled to do the last level just a little bit better.
I think the most surprising thing about Hitman 3, to me, was my intrinsic motivation to keep playing it. I had trouble progressing not because I was getting stuck on a tricky level, but because I had a hard time moving on from the one I’d been playing for hours straight. Of course, there’s extrinsic motivation too — this is a videogame after all. I mean, I gotta try that new starting point. Oh, a new gadget, what could I make happen with that? I can’t stop playing now, think of the possibilities!
After getting a Silent Assassin ranking on each level, I felt a true mastery of the game’s systems, at least by my standards. Then came time to jump into Contracts, community-made challenges a la Mario Maker with no save points. This is where I was humbled, and how I know I have a lot to learn about the way of the Hitman.
I do have to note that some unfortunate bugs stifled my progress. After setting up a complicated kill, a bug prevented me from going through with it at the last possible moment. Graphical glitches are rare, but not unnoticeable. Then there are the bizarre audio bugs, which lead to music cut-outs and some underwhelming sound effects. Not to mention the serious online troubles that as of publishing this review still causes my game to hitch as it attempts to reconnect to IOI’s servers. The “always online” philosophy feels at odds with the pure single-player shenanigans of Hitman 3, so I hope these issues are ironed out quickly.
As a sequel, Hitman 3 is anything but ambitious. Rather, it grants the series a polish rivaled only by Agent 47’s supernaturally perfect cranium. New engine tweaks, gadgets, and weapons are made available between all three games, meaning if you (like me) have yet to take the plunge, having the whole trilogy under the same hood makes for a buffet of mayhem.
This review is based on the PlayStation 5 version of the game. A code was provided by IO Interactive.