There’s a point in every individual’s life when they find themselves asking: who am I, and how did I get here? For Agent 47, I imagine one such moment spent crouched inside a wicker chest next to the unconscious body of a servant in a Dubai penthouse bathroom, at the very top of the tallest building in the world. 47 is a professional, of course, so he doesn’t tend to ask many questions at all.
This is the beauty of modern Hitman. It can be a demanding stealth game, a spy thriller, a slapstick comedy, or a puzzler. It can be all of these things inside ten minutes.
Hitman 3 trains its scope on one of those areas – the thriller – leaving the others less attended to. It hasn’t run out of ideas, but it does feel as if it uses up all the series’ remaining ones. As a result, in most of the ways that make this modern trilogy unique, Hitman 3 is the weakest entry.
Being the weakest in the most consistently creative stealth-puzzle hybrid series of the decade isn’t exactly a damning indictment, though. Hitman 3 is a fantastic time, regardless.
Hitman 3 sticks with well-traced blueprints. You’ll still navigate sprawling monuments to unbridled opulence and use 47’s particular skill set to stake out opportunities for creative impalement. Sometimes, it’s about jamming a wrench into clockwork AI patterns and seizing moments. Sometimes, it’s just about passing several real minutes in the shadows, waiting to pull off the perfect kill.
As always, the stages feel at once impressively convincing as living locales and knowingly, joyfully contrived to speed along your targets’ end.
New are gadgets and graphical tweaks. Never has 47’s glorious, barcoded dome shined so angelically than in Hitman 3, but the hyped-up new gadget, the camera, amounts to little more than an electronic lockpick. The new Soulslike shortcuts that simplify level routes once unlocked are a nice touch. Just as welcome are options to skip extended story objectives on repeated playthroughs.
That Hitman 3 retroactively adds visual touch-ups and gadgets to the first two games is grand, but better is how the tale it tells retroactively makes those prior stories far more interesting.
You’ll want to revisit the legacy missions; to soak up each conspiratorial hint as much as you soak up added god rays and screen space reflections. Bizarrely, Agent 47 himself seems to have overindulged in all those bananas and muffins he keeps finding, and now looks younger and a touch fleshier in the face.
If 47’s cheekbones are less defined, though, his character and purpose is certainly more so. David Bateson, playing the titular lead, is having a ball here – sometimes, quite literally – as are the rest of the cast.
If Hitman 2 was stolen by John Hopkins’ Lucas Grey, then Hitman 3 is a sweeping swansong for Jane Perry’s Diana. I dearly hope IO don’t look too far afield for their 007 project’s Bond and M, as they already have the perfect candidates.
It’s what this new attachment to the characters costs that’s the issue. Hitman and Hitman 2 felt like IO was fine with a big chunk of players not discovering huge sections of each stage.
Great games are made timeless through the confidence to hide their best moments – Hitman and its second season will, I believe, stand up as timeless games. Hitman 3 proves that the line between focus and tunnel vision is piano-wire thin, and for every set piece built, an avenue is demolished.
If the first two seasons were a traveller’s suitcase, stuffed with visas and costumes and murder weapons, then Hitman 3 is a briefcase. Sleeker, more refined, but less novel.
Maybe it’s the sunsetting that has me feeling a little melancholy about the whole thing, and Hitman 3 is – often deliberately – a melancholy game. It feels like it’s just decided it wants to tell a traditional story, and so squeezed 47’s most desperate and most triumphant moments into the final act.
The concluding level is short and linear, although this is thematically justified. The opening level too, while beautiful, feels like the introduction that a third season like this only needs when it markets itself as a brand new game.
Hitman 3 is still a confident, creative blast to play, boasting two of the series’ best levels and a handful of its best moments. If, for whatever reason, you’re new to this modern Hitman trilogy, please know it’s all I can do to not spend the majority of this page evangelising for it.
When I say that Hitman 3 does little to change the formula, and what changes it does make are somewhat bittersweet for a longtime fan, know that I feel that formula is one that consistently produces industry-best level design, espionage, and black comedy. These are exceptional games; this concluding outing of our hairless executor is just a hair less so.
The third stage subverts the established formula to great effect, resulting in one of the most visually spectacular and memorable locations of the trilogy.
A briefcase to Hitman and Hitman 2’s traveller’s suitcase. Sleeker, more refined, but less novel.
Genre: Stealth Action/Puzzle
Format: PC (tested) / PS5 / XBS S/X / PS4 / XBO / Switch / Stadia
Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: IO Interactive
Release: Out now