All good things must come to an end, and the end of a trilogy is no different. The best trilogies in entertainment are ones who create something great and keep to that high quality consistently through each part. Hitman 3, the final part of the World of Assassination trilogy, is one such case of this, keeping to the consistent highs of the series while also offering some great new locations and a deeper involvement of the story.
Following the events of the first two games, Agent 47 and his allies are going after the shadowy cabal Providence harder than ever. Despite being hunted down to extinction, Providence still has a few tricks (and assassin network ICA) up its sleeve, making the job not-so-simple. The two butt heads for the third and final time in this trilogy, so someone is going down for good.
To those who are familiar with this trilogy, I will end this review for you right here: it’s more Hitman. Outside of a few small additions, this is the same game you have played before but in new locations. As a big fan of the trilogy myself, I am happy with the fact that IO Interactive has kept true to what makes these games great throughout its five-year span. For those who don’t know, the Hitman reboot trilogy is a third-person stealth series which involves Agent 47 taking down targets in large open-ended maps using a variety of tools, weapons, and outfits to blend in with various crowds and get past certain restricted areas. The levels and mechanics offer a wide variety of ways to dispatch each target (with a fair amount of them unique to each level), and the high amount of challenges to complete means a high level of replayability. Underlining all of this is a level of humor and acceptance of its absurdities that is welcoming without going overboard with it. This is the core of the experience, and this is why I love this trilogy.
When talking about this series, a good first place to start are with the levels. Much like the previous two games, the levels of Hitman 3 are small, dense, unique in location and theme, open-ended, full of connecting paths and restricted areas, and full of opportunity. At this point in my experience with the series, location is important to me considering the similarities between levels, and Hitman 3 doesn’t disappoint. The Dubai level takes place at the top of a skyscraper and feels grandiose, while the Chongqing level feels seedy and high-tech with a dirty mask, and more. Where these levels differ, however, are in the ways a few of them change up the dynamic. The Dartmoor and Berlin missions are of note, with the former offering a murder mystery to solve and the latter involving ten ICA agents in disguise hunting you down. There is also a train level at the end that changes things up a bit, but it feels more like a stripped-down level than anything. Assassinating targets and being offered many possible options of handling each mission (including the train mission) is still offered in these levels, but having a change in dynamic is refreshing and fun to play out.
Seems like a fitting place for a murder mystery. The next murder in this household will certainly be interesting too.
While I think applying a different dynamic while keeping to its root is great, I actually found the changes in-and-of-itself only okay. The murder mystery at Dartmoor was something I was looking forward to, but there wasn’t a lot of mystery to it. If you pick up all of the clues, it just gives you the answer as well as the option to falsely accuse and rule suicide, and I was hoping for it to leave out the answer and allow me to figure it out myself. Also, there is no variation or change to it, and I think it would’ve been cool if the game set up a scenario where each important character was the murderer and each run would randomly choose a different scenario. Berlin offers ten targets to hunt down, and you only need to kill five to beat the level, but you only have to play the level once to reveal all of the targets for every run after. Like I said earlier, beneath these dynamic shifts is still a Hitman level full of opportunity and replayability, so it isn’t like these levels are ruined as a result, but I was still hoping for something more.
While the replayability of these specific parts aren’t so great, it’s still overall a lot better than most games. Just like before, there are plenty of challenges to sink your teeth into, and it’s easy to sink 10+ hours into a single level. One thing I noticed with the Hitman 3 levels, however, is an overall smaller amount of challenges and guided mission stories than other levels. Some of it is likely just cutting the fat, but mission stories, which are more involved and guided challenges, are a highlight for me, so not seeing as many of those bummed me out a bit. Despite the lack of quantity, however, I think there is a definite improvement in the quality of the challenges and mission stories. More challenges feel like they can be mission stories, some of the mission stories have branching options, and I even found a hidden mission story in Mendoza. The same can be said for Escalations, which are missions that add modifiers each time you complete it. There aren’t many here at launch, but the new ones are a lot cooler and more diverse than the ones I remember playing before, and based on the history of Escalations at the launch of Hitman 2, I’m sure there are many more to come. Even if all of the Hitman 3 content runs dry, the other two game’s worth of levels can be played within the same executable, and the package as a whole can easily last hundreds of hours.
So, outside of the new levels, what else is new? Not much. There are some new tools and weapons, but a lot of them are just a different skin over the same item. The big new mechanic to the game are shortcuts. These are either locked doors or ladders that once opened, will stay open forever similar to Dark Souls. The whole thing comes off as a gimmick though because if this feature didn’t exist, then I think there would just be a normal ladder or locked door in its place with no real change to anything. The other big new item is a camera, which is used to hack open windows and scan clues. Its best use, however, is for simply taking pictures. Just like the ladder, the camera comes off as gimmicky, but both are harmless to the experience, so I don’t really have any major complaints about either. This game doesn’t have as many stealth gameplay improvements as Hitman 2, but this series is so feature-rich and mechanics-heavy that I can’t really think of anything else they could add.
While there aren’t really any new mechanics, there is what feels like a greater interest in storytelling. The first game just felt like a setup of characters and factions, the second game felt like it was starting to connect the dots, but it’s here in the third game where every character, faction, and event feels truly connected. Characters and groups only briefing seen or spoken about make a greater appearance here and even show up in some of the levels. Locations like Berlin and the train level aren’t afraid to break from convention to suit the story. There are more unique story scenes within the levels, and cutscenes outside of levels are animated again. The intro cutscene and handler changes with the story, showing a greater impact of the story on the game. The story of Agent 47 and friends taking down Providence is interesting and dramatic, but similar to Yakuza, the game is also not afraid to be silly, which has been a series strength since the first reboot game. 47 is a deadpan character who sticks out like a sore thumb, but his unnatural talent for being good at any role he needs to be in allows him to blend in, throwing all logic out the window in a funny and satisfying way. He speaks in murderous double entendres can get the job done with exploding golf balls and banana peels. NPCs who originally see a man with a facial marking and an Australian accent now see 47 in the same outfit and don’t think twice about it. It’s a game that accepts and embraces its absurdities and gaps in logic, and it’s the mix of seriousness and silliness that makes this as well as the previous two games so great.
NPCs are not only talkative and lively, but some of their conversations give useful hints.
In just about every way imaginable, this game does the same things the previous two games did, and I am mostly glad about this. The series isn’t perfect though, and issues like online connectivity and technical shortcomings plague both the previous two games and Hitman 3. For starters, the trilogy is practically an online-only experience, and the requirement of a constant online connection to play a singleplayer game feels a bit backwards. You can play the game while offline, but features like challenges and high scores are locked out, so there isn’t a huge incentive to play this way. While playing Hitman 3, I had constant server hiccups that would pause my game and tell me I lost connection. The hiccups themselves weren’t an issue for me, but it was this constant reminder that this game only lives if its servers stay online that was so disheartening. Also, while I am glad IO Interactive included cross progression and free access to previous levels if you already owned them, the rollout of these transfers was (and still is as of writing this) messy. The online nature of this game felt like a reasonable countermeasure to piracy back when the first game came out, but it feels out-of-place now, and it hurts the overall experience as a result.
Similar to the online components aging like milk, some of the technical parts of this game are also showing its age. Texture clipping, reused animations, similar voice lines, NPCs acting out-of-line, and more make their way here. The Hitman trilogy is extremely mechanical in nature, and mixing that with the fact that Hitman 3 is in-large parts an add-on to a five year old game, and some of it can come off looking and feeling last-gen. For me personally, so long as the gameplay is great, then stuff like this is a bit forgivable, and I would much rather have this game be mechanics-heavy and clunky with its NPCs than stripped-down for the sake of cinematics, but its age is beginning to show and I could see this affecting newcomers to the series.
Hitman 3 is another one of those in the best way possible. Not only does it keep to its roots and deliver more of what I believe to be some of the most fun stealth gameplay in video games, but it builds upon the story and wraps up the trilogy in a really great way. The World of Assassination may be one of the best trilogies in video games, and this game made sure to end it on a high note. This game is already shaping up to be one of the best games of 2021, and I can’t wait to see what IO Interactive does in the future.
P.S. You can find a gallery of screenshots of the game here.