The conclusion of the trilogy that started quite some time ago, finally Hitman 3 has arrived. I remember way back in the mists of time, March 2016 to be precise, I was a fresh-faced newbie in the world of reviewing games, and the original Hitman reboot was one of the first big games I had been entrusted with by my then editor. It launched in episodes, which at the time seemed a bit strange, especially when the second game in the World of Assassination trilogy, the imaginatively named Hitman 2, didn’t follow the same scheme. Now IO Interactive have given us the third game, which promises to tie up the story arc begun in Hitman, and bring it all to a satisfactory close. Can they do it, or is it a contract too far? Lets shave our heads, slip on a sharp suit and find out.
First things first, and in an amazing piece of fan service, is the ability to play the first two games, in their entirety, in the new game engine for the third game. As long as you have purchased the games preceding it in the series, theoretically you can then replay the missions from either game directly within the third episode, choosing their campaigns from the main menu. I say theoretically, as despite having owned and played both games as digital downloads before, I managed to get half of the first level of Hitman 2 to work, before it then decided I didn’t have access. Indeed, the game tried to tell me I needed to pay £55 for the Gold edition of Hitman 2. Hopefully you will have better luck than me, as the promise of the original missions in glorious new visuals is a mouth watering one.
We’ll not dwell on this function, however, as Hitman 3 is also about looking forward, as well as backwards. And I have to start with a positive – Hitman 3 looks brilliant. With draw distances seemingly to the moon, everything is suitably shiny and awesome, yet it’s still the little touches that make the game live for me. For instance, in the China mission, it’s raining outside, and I found the sight of rain running down 47’s shiny head weirdly fascinating, as he clearly gets wetter the longer he stands around in the rain. The contrast between the locations is stark as well, with landscapes ranging from a skyscraper in the clouds, to Devon, of all places, from a German night club where you can almost taste the sweat, to a familiar training facility. No matter where you are in Hitman 3, everything looks great.
The way the people move, and in fact the overall detail to absolutely everything, is utterly captivating. The sound generally works quite well too, but I have to admit it was a bit of a disappointment to hear the NPCs, wherever you happened to be across the globe, always speak English. I understand this is probably to make the eavesdropping easier, however it just sounds a bit weird to have sneaked into a position to hear two staff in a Dubai skyscraper having a chat like extras from Coronation Street. Thankfully when all hell breaks loose – and it does in Hitman no matter how stealthy you wish to be – the guns and other killing devices all sound great. Special mention has to go to the meaty “thwack” as a flying hammer meets an unsuspecting cranium across the room!
Now, the story will be the main hook here, and honestly there’s very little I can say that won’t spoil it for someone. Suffice to say that there is no end of double and even triple crossings, neither friend nor foe are who you think they are, and the best you can hope for is for Agent 47 to come out of the game with the same amount of holes in his head that he had going in. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the narrative rolls along at a fantastic pace, and Hitman 3 has had me gripped, refusing to let go; it’s a rollercoaster of a ride.
Gameplay wise, and if you’ve played any previous Hitman title you’ll find this is very much business as usual. The words of a Megadeth album title “Killing is my business… and business is good!” certainly ring true here. For me, the beauty of the design of the Hitman games is the way that there is no one way to achieve any set objective; instead the game encourages you to explore, finding new opportunities and entertaining new ways of bringing death to your target. Why shoot someone in the head with a silenced pistol, when you could swap their golf ball for an exploding one?
There are also different stories to uncover in each level, which can make your progress much easier through the rest of the contract. In the “Death in the Family” level here – a level that is set in Devon, no less – this is taken as far as any story I’ve seen, seeing you take on the persona of a private detective, and then having to solve the death of a character. This one stage is so much fun, as you wander around, questioning people and looking for clues, before either framing someone or finding the real culprit, then reporting your findings. It took over an hour to complete this one mission as I was so determined to find every clue and do it properly; the termination of the contract was almost an anti-climax to the fun I’d had throughout. And this is just one of the stories to find, in just one of the levels, so there is a lot of replayability to be had.
So, Hitman 3 looks great, plays very well and is genuinely entertaining, but does it make any missteps? Well, the brutal answer is yes, but there’s nothing major that anyone should really get themselves in a twist about. I did manage to get stuck in a level more than once, with 47 seemingly glued to the inside of a tree, unable to get out, and the loss of 15 minutes progress is obviously very galling. My advice with this game is to save early and save often; if you are about to do something that you aren’t sure of the consequences of, or if you are about to attempt a convoluted assassination, save before you do as it just saves a lot of hassle.
In fact, the only other complaint is the same issue as has been there from day one of the Hitman trilogy, that of the NPC AI. You see, sometimes they can see through your disguise from 100 yards away, seemingly, or through a crowded German dance floor, for instance. But at others they are so dim-witted that if you hide in a cupboard, as long as they aren’t actually treading on your bunions when you go in, they cannot find you. The ultimate expression of this is when I shot a target, ran round a corner and squatted in a patch of flowers: the guards stood on the path, less than two feet away, and wondered aloud where I had gone. Still, other than these small concerns, the rest of the game is very good indeed, and with planning and preparation there can be a lot of fun had with playing cat and mouse with the guards.
It’s safe to say that I have really, really enjoyed my time with Hitman 3 on Xbox, so much so that just the one playthrough is far from enough. There are new weapons to get to grips with, new mechanics such as shortcuts that can be found and opened – that are then still in place for subsequent attempts at the levels – and with the usual challenges to take part in and unlock, with rewards for playing a certain way there’s no shortage of replayability. If you’ve played the other two games in the World of Assassination trilogy then you owe it to yourself to finish the narrative in Hitman 3. If not, well, the ability to play all the games in one location makes this an almost essential purchase. If you like sneaking around and playing dress up with guns, Hitman 3 is for you.