When IO Interactive released Hitman in episodic form back in 2016, many people, including myself, did not quite understand what they wanted to achieve with the popular series. They decided to sacrifice a deep narrative experience in favour of gameplay where the world is your playground to almost do as you wish. The idea was to release regular content which included new contracts, new targets, as well as new maps and creative assassination options.
The execution didn’t go quite as planned, as the episodes took too long to release, which caused more casual players to lose interest. Since then, IOI released Hitman in more complete packages, the latest being Hitman 3.
It’s the same game
If you’ve played any of the previous two Hitman games in the current trilogy, then you will know exactly what to expect here. Hitman 3 is essentially the exact same game as the first one that released five years ago, just with a fresher coat of paint and new locations and targets. The story has become progressively more streamlined as the series progressed, and it certainly is the case with this outing, but it still is not really the focus of the game. The games are so similar in fact, that if you own the previous games in the series on the platform you’re playing it on, then both Hitman 1 and 2 become part of the overall package. This gives you a ton of content that includes about 20 odd missions, all on different maps and locations, and potentially countless hours of entertainment. If you are new to the series, you still have the option of buying the older games as part of bundles or DLC, and the price is very reasonable.
Both Hitman 1 and 2 benefit from a visual upgrade in Hitman 3, as well as some of the quality-of-life improvements that IOI has made over the years. This also has an impact on the overall Hitman 3 experience, as the Glacier Engine is showing its age in some respects, but still holds up beautifully in others. The character models for instance look slightly dated, and the game has these separate cutscenes, though very well executed, aren’t perfect and have that old-school CGI feel to it, but seeing something like this in 2021 feels a bit odd.
With all that said and done, Hitman 3 really is a bloody good game. You are given complete freedom from the start of the Dubai mission and the game kind of expects you to know what to do. The game is so similar to its predecessors in fact, that it even uses the same tutorial from Hitman 1 if you need to brush up on things a bit. Everything from the mission structure, the controls to the gameplay mechanics will feel very familiar to returning players, and that is a good thing.
If you’re new to the series, the game takes place in the shadowy underworld of power and politics, and you play as Agent 47, the ultimate contract killer and in essence, a blank slate. Agent 47 uses everything at his disposal to infiltrate some of the most heavily fortified locations to reach his targets, including distractions, disguises, and manipulation. The amount of freedom available to you is really impressive, and I cannot think of an instance where I wanted to do something and couldn’t do it.
The game does have a bit of a linear path that you can follow that guides you through Story Missions in the different locations, and though it’s not mandatory, it does gives you a good rundown of the different maps and options available. Missions don’t take very long, and you’ll probably be able to run through each in about an hour so, giving the main “campaign” about six hours or so. But as we know, it’s all about replayability, and doing it differently the next time around. Hitman 3 does add some great variation to the gameplay though, as you can end up solving a Cluedo like murder-mystery in a mansion, and one mission had Agent 47 take out some other agents to prove a point. The final mission is also just so cool, which I will not spoil for anyone. The idea is to master each level and see just how creative an assassin you can become and that is where the real value in the Hitman series lies. Couple that with the two previous games and you have a lot of gameplay in one neat little package.
The game also looks stunning. While I did mention the character models are a bit dated, it doesn’t detract from just how damn good the game’s environments and levels look, and with a sheer number of people on screen, it really doesn’t matter that they’re a bit stiff, as they blend in and operate so smoothly with the world around them, that it makes the place feel alive. Each level feels unique also, with different NPCs doing different things and the world being as populated or not depending on the circumstances.
End of a trilogy, but hopefully not the last
I will be the first to admit that I probably didn’t give Hitman the love it deserved back in 2016. I did not quite understand IO Interactive’s vision, and I wasn’t a fan of the episodic nature of it. In hindsight, it all makes sense considering they wanted to have this constant flow of data with Hitman being more of Game-as-a-Service than anything else. The execution was not flawless though, and they managed to streamline it more over the next two installments of the series. That said, the grey hairs I accumulated since then definitely gave me a bit of wisdom, and I embraced the creativity of Hitman 3 to its fullest and became a fan. I look forward to jumping back in and seeing what new creative and often hilarious ways I can find to take down my targets as the ever stoic and dry-humoured Agent 47.