IO Interactive set about modernizing and updating the Hitman series in 2016. The result was a great game that made a few mistakes. But the franchise has been on an upwards trajectory ever since. Subsequent DLC releases and a sequel ensured that the stealth series was here to stay.
Hitman 3 is the final act of this trilogy and obviously has a lot to live up to. The question is whether the new game is able to keep the same riveting gameplay without becoming stale. For the most part, the third installment is a monumental success.
When Hitman 2 ended, Agent 47 was left having to figure out exactly what The Constant and the Providence were. The sequel follows up with the protagonist hunting them down, putting an end to their schemes once and for all. In previous titles, the story has felt like an add-on. More of a way to set the scene for the action rather than the main attraction. That is definitely still true with Hitman 3.
However, it now seems like IO Interactive has put more emphasis on the narrative this time around. The overarching plot takes more of a center stage. There are more cutscenes and things certainly tie together better than ever before. There are also lots of interesting little stories in the individual levels. Characters will discuss plans and strange events, while some levels have very intriguing plots of their own. Hitman 3 is still not going to win any awards for its story, but it is far better than what fans will expect.
However, in order to come up with a satisfying conclusion to the story, some sacrifices had to be made. The final level of the game is entirely linear. It feels out of place with the open nature of the rest of the series. IO Interactive’s Hitman reboot is not suited to this type of closed-off gameplay. Yet, it might be the only way that the developer could think of to finish the plot with a neat conclusion.
Giving players the possibility to do exactly what they wanted would likely make it impossible to end effectively. The narrative comes together in a conclusion that works well and ties up loose ends. It’s just a shame it comes at the cost of the open-world gameplay players are used to.
In terms of gameplay, Hitman 3 does very little new. The developers clearly know that they have a product that works and don’t want to screw it up. In that sense, this latest game is very much an evolution rather than a revolution. The gameplay is almost exactly what fans would expect. This allows players to quickly jump back in without having to worry about learning new mechanics and features.
That isn’t to say that there are not one or two additions. The most notable is the camera, which can be used to scan objects or hack systems. It’s a nice little optional feature that adds even more possibilities for players. Hitman 3 also has permanent shortcuts — secret areas and locations that are unlocked for future runs.
The focus of the game, though, is undoubtedly the level design. For this rebooted Hitman series to work well, it needs great settings to explore. The entire appeal of the franchise comes from being able to take out targets in a wide array of ways. Fortunately, Hitman 3 lives up to this exceptionally well. There’s a feeling that the levels in this new game have been made grander and more elaborate. Whether it’s the sprawling skyscraper in Dubai or the British countryside manor, the levels all beg to be explored.
Each level has even been expanded with things like Mission Stories. These are like miniature levels that require players to do certain things. Achieving them all in one run is practically impossible, forcing users to go back through them multiple times. Hitman 3 also gives players the chance to really stretch their imaginations. The interesting ramping up of the over-the-top assassinations really works well and never feels too outlandish or silly. Yet, it’s the slightly cartoon or slapstick nature of the game that makes it so enjoyable to play.
Hitman 3 looks absolutely stunning when played on the Xbox Series X. There’s a marked improvement over the previous entries. Although, it’s unclear whether this is due to the upgraded hardware or just natural evolution in the visuals.
Whatever the case, Hitman 3 is one of the best-looking stealth titles that anyone is likely to have played. The levels, which are all incredibly diverse in terms of appearance and setting, look fantastic. A few scenes, such as the Dubai skyscraper will likely take fan’s breaths away on the first view.
Add in some well-crafted cutscenes, a great musical score to accompany the music, and the best voice acting in the series to date, and this is a superb looking and sounding experience.
Hitman 3 is arguably the best entry in the Hitman series to date. While it doesn’t do anything that spectacularly different from its predecessors, it has refined the gameplay to perfection. The levels are all well-designed and each feels alive and filled with interesting and complex characters.
As a final farewell to Agent 47, at least for the foreseeable future, it is both effective and memorable. With the ability to also play through levels from Hitman 1 and 2, this is essentially the ultimate package for any fans of the franchise and a must-buy.