Hitman 3 review: One for the road

Agent 47 returns to complete the World of Assassination trilogy in Hitman 3.

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When IO Interactive rebooted the Hitman series in 2016 they kicked off what could be considered a golden age for the franchise. After the linear approach to Hitman: Absolution in 2012, the 2016 iteration featured open levels that rewarded players for creative approaches to eliminating targets. Each level was packed with interesting NPCs and side stories, and the developer continuously pumped fresh content into the experience to ensure players were never bored. This continued all the way through 2020 and the complete life cycle of 2018’s Hitman 2.

With Hitman 3, IO Interactive is looking to close out the World of Assassination trilogy that began in 2016 and wrap up the story of Agent 47, Diana, Lucas Grey, and their fight against Providence, a powerful organization playing puppet master with the rest of the world. The same open design has returned, but there is a heavier focus on storytelling than the previous two games. This, along with the inclusion of the camera, permanent shortcuts, and new weapons and gadgets, keeps the experience fresh without losing sight of what the series has become.

Agent of change

Hitman 3 kicks off with Agent 47 visiting Dubai and the world’s tallest building to eliminate two targets associated with Providence. Right away, the game starts to showcase the new features, gently guiding the player to make use of the camera, as well as having Agent 47 interact with a keypad. Both features are new to the World of Assassination trilogy, as are permanent shortcuts. These are instances where Agent 47 can open a door or drop a ladder that he can access in future runs to get where he needs to go faster or create more unique assassination opportunities. In the case of Dubai, I was able to drop two ladders that allowed me to get a four-minute Silent Assassin, Suit Only run when replaying the level. The high of studying my target's routines and working out the timing paid off after I made use of the new ICA Remote Micro Taser, dropping it in a pool of water and setting it off when my target walked through.

I was able to do the same thing with permanent shortcuts in Hitman 3’s second location, Dartmoor. Dartmoor is a top-three destination for me across the entire trilogy and comes complete with its own murder mystery that had me so captivated I pushed killing my target to the back burner. I could have killed her a dozen times and didn’t bother. I had more important matters at hand. In fact, by the time I was ready to off the nasty old lady that Diana put in my crosshairs, her bodyguards were all sawing logs in bins around the level and she was wandering about completely unguarded. I’m shocked she didn’t die of old age based on how long it took me to finish the job.

The Hitman 3 base game comes with six main missions with cinematics sprinkled between them to tell the story IO Interactive has cooked up. This is no different from the previous two games, but players can expect to be a bit restricted on their first runs, as loadouts are frequently disabled to allow the story to properly unfold. The good news is, this is only an issue on a first playthrough, as loadout slots, unique starting points, and smuggling opportunities are all back and available after a first completion.

The progression system is largely unchanged but has been tweaked a little. Completing challenges within a level will award points towards a destination’s mastery. Each mastery level achieved will provide some type of unlock, be it a smuggle point, unique starting location, or weapons and gadgets. Missing from Hitman 3 is a one-sheet that shows players everything they haven’t unlocked and how to obtain it, but the classic challenges are more streamlined than previous games and should make unlocking some cool gear a little more straightforward. The post-mission screen will also give players a playstyle rating, which is a unique title the game assigns based on the actions taken in the previous mission.

Reunion tour

Once I’d worked my way through each mission to complete the Hitman 3 story — a task that players can expect to take less than 10 hours — I returned to each location to finish mission stories, challenges, and mastery levels of each destination for the weapon and gear unlocks. This is where the game opens up and really begins to shine, which is true about Hitman (2016) and Hitman 2 as well. Nothing beats playing through each of the opportunities and spending time mastering each level to create new ways to kill each target, or finding a disguise that let’s Agent 47 walk around like he owns the place. However, I preferred doing this in the two previous games, as there are levels — plural — in Hitman 3 where Agent 47 must retrieve something in addition to killing his targets, and another mission that is somewhat linear. There’s a mentality in me as a player that once I eliminate my targets it’s time to GTFO, and that isn’t always possible here. It’s not unlike Sapienza from Hitman (2016) in that some of the creativity of killing targets is lost when you must detour to a different part of the map to pick up a piece of paper.

While I enjoyed every level of Hitman 3 on my initial playthrough and some on subsequent runs, my review copy of Hitman 3 included Hitman (2016) and Hitman 2. I found myself wanting to go back and play those levels as much as I did the new ones, and I think Hitman 3 could miss its mark with players who don’t own the previous two titles. Part of what has made the franchise such a win for me over the last four years is being able to use all my unlocks on any level across two games. Anyone who buys only Hitman 3 will have six destinations and far less gizmos and gadgets to call on, and I think the overall experience could end up lacking for those that don’t own the full package.

Looking good, Agent

Visually, Hitman 3 and all its destinations look amazing. My copy was for PC and I was able to crank every graphical setting and maintain more than 100 frames per second with a 2560x1440 (2K) resolution. I was able to take advantage of the gorgeous graphics thanks to the PC version having NVIDIA Ansel support, allowing players to take in-game HUD-less screen shots without a built-in photo mode. Hitman 3 also features several graphical enhancements, including ray tracing and improved lighting, which was especially easy to spot under the neon lights of the Chongqing destination.

Complementing incredible visuals is the stellar sound design, whether it’s an NPC conversation or environmental sounds. The acting for both Diana and Agent 47 is masterfully done, as it is with many of the targets and NPCs throughout the experience. The best part of the sound, though, is often the music that captures the mood of a certain level, or the humorous dialog between two NPCs. Players will have hours of fun just listening in on random conversations throughout each of the levels, and there is always a feeling that each location is alive with everything that can be heard at any given time. Stand in the middle of the crowd in Dubai and just listen to how cool it all sounds.

Head towards an exit

While I enjoyed the conclusion to the World of Assassination trilogy’s narrative, the best that Hitman 3 has to offer is when it sets players loose in its levels to be creative and explore. Nothing beats the process of plotting out a potential route, working out the various pieces by saving and loading repeatedly, then finally putting it all together in that perfect run. That’s still there in Hitman 3 as it was previously, but each time a mission asked me to retrieve something it felt like a chore after my first run. Still, it offers players a huge amount of content if they don’t expect to experience it all on a single run. It’s a game that’s meant to be played repeatedly, and it benefits from the addition of the camera and the permanent shortcuts. It’s great on its own, but combined with Hitman (2016) and Hitman 2 it helps make up the masterpiece that is the World of Assassination trilogy.


This review is based on a PC review copy provided by the publisher. Hitman 3 comes out on January 20, 2021 on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Google Stadia.

Managing Editor

Bill, who is also known as Rumpo, is a lifelong gamer and Toronto Maple Leafs fan. He is known for his guide writing and, unsettlingly enough, enjoys grinding out in-depth collectible articles. Tweet him @RumpoPlays if you have a question or comment about one of his guides.

Review for
Hitman 3
9
Pros
  • Exciting conclusion to the World of Assassination trilogy
  • Dartmoor is a top-tier destination
  • A murder mystery is the star of the show
  • Permanent shortcuts add unique opportunities
  • Graphical enhancements, including ray tracing
  • New weapons and gadgets to get creative with
  • Replay value is through the roof
  • No crashes or major bugs in nearly 30 hours on PC
  • Sound design and voice acting is stellar
Cons
  • Unique conditions restrict creative freedom on a few levels
  • Hitman (2016) and Hitman 2 are crucial for the best experience
  • Needs a one-sheet with all unlocks and potential unlocks
From The Chatty
  • reply
    January 19, 2021 5:00 AM

    Bill Lavoy posted a new article, Hitman 3 review: One for the road

    • reply
      January 19, 2021 5:29 AM

      Good review, Wonder what hardware he was using to get 100fps at 1440p?

      Anyways, I went head and bought it on Epic after epic promised to find a way to bring Hitman 2 levels to Hitman 3. Speculation is WB Games is the legal roadblock. Back to the game, the story has never been the draw for me in Hitman games. It was fine, very serviceable but I don't care for 47s back story enough to get involved. I would be fine never knowing 47s back story. Keeping it a mystery. However since its going to be the last Hitman game for a long while, guess they had to finish that up.

      • reply
        January 19, 2021 5:46 AM

        i7-9700 CPU @ 3.6GHz, 2080 Ti, 32 GB RAM. Those are the big ones I assume you're looking for. Oh, and I have it installed on an SSD dedicated to only PC games.

        The cool thing about the story is that you can take 20 minutes and just play the cinematic bits from all three games right within the game. But, the draw here is the open levels and all the different ways to approach them. You will love Dartmoor.

        • reply
          January 19, 2021 7:24 AM

          Can you save anywhere at any time?

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            January 19, 2021 8:09 AM

            If you are playing on Master, you get one save per mission. If you are playing on Professional (default) or Casual, you get as many as you want. They encourage you to use them to work out routes, etc.

            • reply
              January 19, 2021 8:20 AM

              Thank you!

              • reply
                January 19, 2021 8:23 AM

                I'm working on lots of guide content for this game which will live mostly on our YT channel. I always encourage folks to play it once blind, but there's lots of help to come up with some fresh ideas.

                • reply
                  January 19, 2021 8:26 AM

                  Sweet, I'll definitly keep a lookout for all that

                  I've never played a Hitman game

    • reply
      January 19, 2021 7:18 AM

      Hmmm, if I hate Stealth, should I still not bother with this game?

      • reply
        January 19, 2021 7:23 AM

        I think of them more like a puzzle game than a stealth game honestly. Not saying you don't sneak, but that's just part of it. Other times you're just dressed up in a bird suit walking right in front of people before you brain somebody with a brick or something. There's lots of ways to play it.

        • reply
          January 19, 2021 7:24 AM

          Ok thanks! I'll keep my eye on it then for a sale

          • reply
            January 19, 2021 7:33 AM

            You can probably get Hitman 1 or 2 for dirt cheap if you want a taste.

            • reply
              January 19, 2021 7:58 AM

              Or if you've been getting the free Epic Store games I think it was one of them.

              • reply
                January 19, 2021 8:04 AM

                Yeah, the first game was free at some point.

                • reply
                  January 19, 2021 8:18 AM

                  Worth noting though that progress from 1 doesn't carry forward. Progress from 2 does and you can play all the content of 1 in 2 and 3.

          • reply
            January 19, 2021 8:19 AM

            You can get the first level free for Hitman 2 on Steam. It’s not a great introduction map though, it just throws you into the mechanics, but it’s a very simple map compared to all the others in terms of complications and crowds.

      • reply
        January 19, 2021 7:34 AM

        You don't have to go fully stealth

      • reply
        January 19, 2021 8:00 AM

        it's very easy if you go guns blazing. find an auto gun, find a chokepoint and just start shooting. clear out all the baddies then clear out the target. but that's boring.

      • reply
        January 19, 2021 8:10 AM

        Honestly, there are some players that are so good they don't really spend a lot of time in stealth. This game is great for trick kills and speed runs. But when you start out and are figuring things out, there will be moments of stealth and waiting around for sure.

      • reply
        January 19, 2021 9:48 AM

        The game is less about sneaking than it is finding an outfit that allows you to walk casually through restricted areas.

        • reply
          January 19, 2021 11:31 AM

          "Oh, uh, just trying to find the bathroom officer! No problem here!"

        • reply
          January 19, 2021 11:32 AM

          I only played the original, which IIRC meant sneaking to take out someone who's wearing the right outfit, so you can then find another person with a different outfit, and so forth.

      • reply
        January 19, 2021 11:32 AM

        I'm not the biggest fan of stealth in games but Hitman is just a real fun time...

      • reply
        January 19, 2021 11:41 AM

        Splinter Cell Blacklist is what you seek

      • reply
        January 19, 2021 12:02 PM

        Probably not. Folks are saying it’s not about “stealth” but it’s very much a game of patient observation, watching and waiting guard patterns, etc. So while the actual execution is more of a puzzle game and isn’t just hide behind a wall, shoot a guy with a silencer, rinse/repeat, if the thing you don’t like about stealth games is the general pacing and needing to retry whenever you break stealth and die you’ll probably be frustrated.

        That said, the games are great and as suggested elsewhere the recent games are also great and could be a cheaper way to give it a try.

    • reply
      January 19, 2021 9:36 AM

      I want to start playing the all on the series x. Does anybody know or have the pricing on how much the hitman 1 and 2 game passes will be? My google-fu has failed me. Were you able to see the pricing during your review playtime Bill?

      • reply
        January 19, 2021 11:48 AM

        If you buy the game on EGS right now I think you get all three games because of the snafu of bringing them over. You've got like 10 days.

    • reply
      January 19, 2021 9:46 AM

      Nice review. How did you feel about the upgraded engine for 1 and 2 content?

      • reply
        January 19, 2021 11:53 AM

        I noticed specifically the climbing animation was better and the lighting was better across the board.

    • G D mercury mega
      reply
      January 19, 2021 9:53 AM

      You should see about having someone review the PSVR version.

      https://twitter.com/CardySimon/status/1347189035316473856

    • reply
      January 19, 2021 11:19 AM

      Don't forget to link your accounts at https://www.ioi.dk/ioi-account/

      First you need to create an IOI account. Then log out. Then link it to your steam account by logging in with that. Log out again. Log back in with your epic account, then log back into your IOI account. 0_o

      • reply
        January 19, 2021 11:24 AM

        Also is it normal not to get an activation key less than 12 hours till relase?

      • reply
        January 19, 2021 2:30 PM

        I thought the account linking thing wasn't even up yet? The page they put out said it would be up soon but wasn't ready.

        • reply
          January 19, 2021 2:32 PM

          Unless it's specific to something else, I linked my Steam and Epic account to my just created IOI account like I thought they meant ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          • reply
            January 19, 2021 3:04 PM

            Ah yeah, probably a good idea. I'm guessing you need to do that and then use that site whenever it's there to actually trigger the transfer. I'll do that tonight.

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