Hitman 3 $59.99

Game title: Hitman 3

Game description: Agent 47 returns as a ruthless professional in Hitman 3. He is supported by his Agency handler, Diana Burnwood and his long-lost friend, Lucas Grey. Together, their mission is to hunt down the partners of Providence – an organisation that 47 and Grey promised to destroy. These are the most important contracts of Agent 47’s entire career and when the dust settles, the world he inhabits will never be the same again.

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A Donut's Hole in a Donut's Hole

IO Interactive is back with the latest in their globe-trotting Hitman franchise, finishing the trilogy started with their 2016 Hitman: World of Assassination. A lot has changed for IO in the past five years, but despite tumultuous times for the company – not to mention the rest of the world – Hitman has become a remarkably consistent game that has evolved with each new iteration.  

This latest game in the series wraps up the story of Agent 47, Diana Burnwood, and Providence (a secret cabal of people ruling the world). But you could be forgiven for not realizing that the story was taking place. It’s always been delivered in short vignettes between missions and served as more of a loose justification for why Agent 47 is jetting around the world to take out wealthy shitheads. This time around, traditional cutscenes are back, leaving behind the second game’s motion comic style. More than the previous games, they are trying to make players care about Agent 47 and Burnwood. But because the sequences are so short and usually lack connection to the locations you’re visiting, it’s hard to care about them.  

While the story is mostly the same thing we’ve been experiencing for the past few games, Hitman 3 does make some bold choices regarding level design and new gameplay options. Dubai is a relatively straight forward Hitman level in terms of your objectives, but it plays with verticality and complex interconnecting spaces more than other levels in the series. Persistent short cuts play a large part in that as well. These shortcuts are a new mechanic; whereby unlocking particular doors or ladders, you can create a shortcut that will be forever opened on subsequent playthroughs, gaining you faster access to hard-to-reach areas. Taking time to explore and learn a space is now even more rewarding, and your pathways through levels become more direct and intricate. 

The first level does, however, do away with a bit of the magic and hilarity the first two games explored. Agent 47 is a chameleon, fit to blend into any circumstance, as long as no one notices. The Paris level of Hitman (2016) encapsulates this perfectly with Helmut Kruger. Agent 47 is the man’s spitting image, and you can use that to your advantage. The second game had Agent 47 able to assume a celebrity tattoo artist’s identity, despite lacking the tattoos to inhabit the role fully. Agent 47’s ability to blend in among his clueless targets makes for great gags. But there’s nothing like that in the third game. You can find your way into multiple stories where you assume the identity of people who look nothing like Agent 47, but people pay no mind to the sudden change in appearance of the men they were speaking to, not 30 seconds ago. The men in question aren’t even bald! It’s not an issue that Agent 47 takes on these people’s identities, yet it feels like a step backward to not even attempt to waive it away.  

The second level is where we begin to see new and unexpected mechanics. If you choose to follow one of the Story Missions, you’ll find yourself in the role of a detective enlisted to solve the murder of your target’s brother. Typically, in Hitman’s story missions, the game will direct you to each step with a waypoint and instructions. Here, the game gives you free rein to explore and investigate while you look for clues. There are plenty of ancillary characters for you to interact with and learn about, which makes the mansion feel that much more like a real place. Of course, there are plenty of other more traditional ways to go about your assignment, but the twists and turns of the investigation make this a standout on a first play.

I’d like to avoid breaking down every single level in the game, but I would lastly like to touch on the Berlin level. It’s a creative mechanical twist on what we’ve come to expect from the series. Agent 47 is now the one being hunted, and you’ll need to be on your toes if you want to make it out alive. This level is like jazz. It’s about the assassinations you don’t make. There are hundreds of bodies packed into this underground club, and while the game has done crowds before, things have never felt this dense. The dense groups of ravers also manage to up the intensity and stress of the situation. Finding a way or opportunity to take on your mark is that much trickier here. 

At first blush, these new levels appear to have less content within them, as there are fewer story missions compared to stages in the previous games. Instead of removing that content from the game, finding intel scattered across the map now has greater emphasis. Intel isn’t new, but the renewed focus on it means you’ll want to pay a bit more attention as you’re exploring so you can find every opportunity on your subsequent playthroughs. While it may not be as curated, it encourages the player to be even more creative with their plots.

It’s just a shame that the PC release of the game was marred by the promised inclusion of Hitman 2 levels (for owners of the previous game), which was then reneged on, stating players would need to purchase the levels as DLC since the game is an Epic Store exclusive this year.  They once again changed their stance days before release, notifying PC players that they would be able to access Hitman 2 levels sometime in the future. Still not available yet, which is a shame as there are some incredible levels in Hitman 2. Then there’s the always-online requirement. You could play offline, but you would be giving up the ability to earn mastery points and make progress. These server woes tend only to be an issue in the first few weeks of the game being out, but getting frequent disconnection messages, which pause the game, is quite annoying.  

After 2020, It’s nice to have a game that takes you to exotic and luxurious locations, where you can take out the absolute worst kinds of people in the most absurd or sneaky ways. The biggest thing standing in the game’s way is its insistence on trying to make the characters people players should care about. There are a few missteps within the Mission Story narratives, but overall, the level design is top-notch this time around, and there are plenty of creative twists on the mechanics that it doesn’t merely feel like “more Hitman.” IOI has done incredible work at supporting the Hitman games in this trilogy, with things like Elusive Targets, escalations, alternate versions of maps, and DLC, so I have high hopes for the future of Hitman 3 as the last game in the trilogy. However, it remains to be seen what will come to the game in the future. As it stands, Hitman 3 is a fantastic addition to the two previous games in the series when bundled together, but it stumbles as a standalone release at launch.


 

Pros

  • New mechanics that make the formula feel fresh
  • Beautiful locations
  • IOI is committed to continued support with new content

Cons

  • Deluxe edition is needed to access any escalations at launch
  • Levels feel less replayable than previous games
  • Take-it-or-leave-it story

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