With the release of Hitman 3, Agent 47’s journey ends. The last instalment of the World of Assassination trilogy is the first to come to PlayStation 5, along with the upgraded versions of Hitman 1 and 2. And boy, has Agent 47 come a long way.
If you haven’t played Hitman before (and I suggest you do, before launching into Hitman 3), the game centres around assassin for hire and fun guy about town, Agent 47, and his handler, Diana Burnwood. Gameplay wise, it’s all about stealth, changing into increasingly outrageous costumes, and sabotaging the environment to cause, uh, accidental deaths. This hasn’t changed in Hitman 3.
Hitman 3 story
The game begins with Agent 47 and Lucas Grey infiltrating an enormous Dubai skyscraper from the air. This opening, with the sudden revelation of the great tower in the clouds, and our two anti-heroes narrowly dodging a helicopter mid-air is enough to excite any gamer. The first level is deceptive – while setting up players with a familiar experience, the following levels twist the entire method and gameplay into new storytelling territories.
Take the second level, set in Dartmoor at a manor house complete with a Knives Out style murder mystery. It’s an exceptionally entertaining level to play, and beautifully rendered with opulent wood textures, stuffed animals, and the occasional unicorn horn. Who knew 47 was such a good detective? The black humour from this series is hilariously present, and yet each level so unlike what has come before it, in the best of ways.
While Hitman is not a long game to play through the storyline, as with all Hitman games, the maps open up with repeated replays. You’re encouraged to replay all the mission stories to expand your knowledge, and methods, modes, and implements of assassination.
There’s a beauty in the refined concision of Hitman 3. No line is wasted in the level design; every piece of overheard dialogue leads to new and unexpected assassination methods. And there’s a hell of a lot of heavy lifting done in interstitial animations. In only a few minutes, Hitman tells a story that some 100-hour games fail to deliver.
These cut sequences and story missions contain plenty of surprising twists and turns to keep players on their toes, although the impact might be lost on those coming to the series for the first time. Hitman 3 is a game that rewards fans – from exploding golf balls to Florida man to the secret ending – the more you know about Hitman, the more you’ll appreciate these nods to previous games.
One of Hitman’s great strengths has always been environmental storytelling, and it reaches the pinnacle in the Apex Predator Berlin and End of an Era Chongqing levels, comparable to the much-lauded Sapienza and Whittleton Creek levels in previous games. They are challenging, even for long time Hitman players, with a twist on the usual two takedowns and escape. (I’m not going to tell you what that twist is – you’ll have to find out for yourself.)
Both these levels highlight the stunning rendering and lighting effects on the PlayStation 5. Glorious lighting effects abound in all the levels, but they’re taken to the next level in the underground nightclub of Berlin, and the rainy streets of Chongqing. These two levels step into Game of the Year territory – complex, intricate, with some of my favourite assassination challenges. Plus, a hat tip to John Wick. What’s not to like?
Does it escalate enough?
What’s lacking a little in this game is not the story itself, but the escalation in difficulty in the final two maps. Level five, set in a vineyard, is far easier than the levels that came before it. And while hurtling towards the grand face off with Agent 47’s arch-nemesis, the Constant, the ultimate level in the Carpathians feels more like a linear tutorial, not the epic, complex final map I was hoping for. Of course, it’s referential to Agent 47’s origins, and also his own growth over the series (as much as a cold-blooded assassin man can develop feelings).
One of the significant aspects of this type of environmental storytelling is how it acknowledges complexity of Agent 47’s previous assassinations. Through overhead conversations, we hear the impact of his work, and that some of his actions haven’t had as good outcomes as we’d hoped for. Likewise, cut sequences recognise the severe emotional impact these actions have on 47, although it would have been good to delve more into the impact on Diana as well.
IOI are now working on a 007 project, and it feels like the natural progression and expansion from these worlds of assassination. After all, they’re pretty experienced at developing Bond-esque villains for Agent 47 to take out – whether with a katana or banana. The legacy of classic stealth and co-op game N64 Goldeneye, which has significantly influenced Hitman, has come full circle.
Should you buy Hitman 3?
Should you buy Hitman 3? Yes and more. Understandably, Hitman isn’t for everyone – stealth games can frustrate hack and slash players. But there are levels in this game that push the limits of gaming to new heights. And that’s worth the price of admission.
Plus, if you buy Hitman 3, you can port across your previous Hitman 2 achievements and implements. Did someone say rubber duck?