A finale to die for?
It’s no secret that I absolutely adore the Hitman reboot and its stellar sequel. From gushing over Sapienza on its release, to killing a guy with a fish in Hitman 2, IO Interactive’s “World of Assassination Trilogy” has been begging for a final chapter worthy of its two prior outings, and with Hitman 3, they’ve mostly nailed it.
The first thing to notice with Hitman 3 is just how narrative drive it is. Given that this is the final chapter of a trilogy, it’s a little surprising, with the story primarily being set-dressing for the wonderful murder playgrounds in the previous two games. Thankfully, the narrative threads from Hitman 1 and 2 are allowed to run for the perfect length before being tied up in a bow, hidden in a locker and used to throw at someone’s head. After the “shadow client” from the first game and Providence coming to light in the middle chapter, 47 and Diana need to figure out a way of bringing the whole lot down. That’s pretty much as deep as I need to go, but as with the preceding titles, the real stars of the show are the sandboxes that IOI have provided you to sneak around and eliminate your targets.
The game kicks off in Dubai, with an opening that may well make you think you’re already playing the recently announced James Bond game from the same studio. Parachuting on to the top of the world’s tallest (fictional) building, Agent 47 is tasked with taking out two targets. The nostalgia for the Palais de Walewska comes flooding back as you infiltrate the party full of the wealthy elite, sliding into unguarded rooms and changing your outfit more than Katy Perry doing panto. Following a successful dispatch, you head to Dartmoor, which has a simply wonderful “murder mystery” subplot, conjuring up shades of “Knives Out” if you manage to get hold of the detective disguise. A trip to Berlin awaits 47 afterward, which is probably the standout level for me, followed by a rain-slicked jaunt around Chongqing in China, with the final “regular” mission taking place in a vineyard in Argentina (or, for you fans of McBain, “MENDOZAAAAAA!”). The absolute last mission plays out in a pretty interesting location, but it’s definitely not a “normal” Hitman level, but I’ll come to that in a bit.
In terms of gameplay, Hitman 3 is, truly, “more Hitman”. Given the solid foundations that IOI crafted with the first and second instalments of this reboot though, this is by no means a bad thing. In fact, the only real addition to the gameplay in this closing chapter is the camera, used to scan and hack doors, windows and vents, while finding a typically stealthy way of getting a photo mode into Hitman. New gimmick aside, however, Hitman 3 refines and perfects everything that’s come before. With Hitman 2 bringing in things like functional mirrors that NPC’s take note of, the mechanics of the series were functionally complete. This also allowed some interesting replays of the original game as it added another dimension to the likes of Paris, where you could no longer sneak up behind someone in a bathroom and steal their clothes. While Hitman 3 doesn’t introduce anywhere near that level of enhancement, it does allow you to bring all of your content (and progress) across from Hitman 2, which includes the original’s maps if you have those already. Seriously, with the entire trilogy’s content installed, this is suddenly one of the best value propositions in AAA gaming in terms of replayability right now.
I mentioned previously that there are essentially 5 “proper” Hitman maps in the game. The final mission is a linear level, with very little room for experimentation. It’s not the worst thing in the world, and it definitely has some very cool moments, but it’s by far the weakest mission in the game. However, the other levels that are included range from “very good” to “the best in the series”, in my opinion. Berlin has a very cool concept, with 11 (eleven!) different targets to pick from, with a success requirement of 5. Each target is revealed as you get closer to them, with no prior knowledge as to who they are. A sprawling map unfolds in front of your eyes, with an underground club, a motorcycle gang’s clubhouse and a construction site all packed into it, allowing for some splendid set-piece kills. The aforementioned murder mystery plot is the centrepiece in Dartmoor, but with a ton of security, cavernous hallways and secret passageways, the manor house is a true playground for 47 to experiment with, even though there’s only one target to snuff out. Chongqing has a Sapienza vibe to it, with a secret secondary location hidden underground, and a couple of targets to take out. Dubai feels like a typical “intro mission”, with plenty of straightforward disguise opportunities, and Mendoza is a map that I think I’m going to have a ton of fun with, as there are some hilarious set pieces in there to toy around with, as well as one incredible storyline conclusion which felt like IOI really showing their hand at how they’ll look after Bond.
Technically, I’m very impressed with Hitman 3, with it running at a locked 60fps for 99.9% of the time on PS5 (the only dips coming in Mendoza), and with a ton of new lighting effects. It won’t win any awards for the best looking games when compared to some of the titles we’ll doubtless see this year, but in terms of everything else, it’s fantastic. It plays really well, the frame rate is solid, and it knows where to push the tech. On PC, if you have a CPU with more than 8 cores, the volume of NPCs will be increased, thanks to Intel’s partnership with IOI for the game. On PS4, the game runs at a pretty consistent 30fps as well. There is also a VR mode, which at the time of writing I’ve not had a chance to check out all that much, but I can’t help feeling it would benefit from an addition to use the Move controllers instead of the Dual Shock 4.