Hitman 3 Review

The Hitman games have had their ups and downs, but have maintained a fairly consistent flavor with each new entry. With 2016’s Hitman being a soft reboot of the franchise and 2018’s Hitman 2 slightly tweaking the formula, fans’ eyes have now turned to Hitman 3, one of the first major games of 2021 and a stunning example of top-tier level design mixed with superb stealth gameplay.

Fans shouldn’t head into Hitman 3 expecting radical gameplay changes, as the updates here are refinements to the last two games rather than major overhauls. There are some major new additions, particularly Agent 47’s new camera, but even that isn’t a dramatic shakeup. However, it’s clear that IO Interactive’s time in the Hitman franchise has been a learning experience, as the new levels and killing methods are the most interesting the trilogy has seen to date.

A big part of Hitman 3’s charm lies in its simplicity. Players are released into an open level with weapons and opportunities scattered everywhere, the only goal being to eliminate targets and occasionally recover data or destroy something. On a surface level, it seems like it can get boring quickly, and there are times where Hitman 3’s openness feels more like a curse than a blessing, but IO Interactive’s willingness to let players find solutions for themselves bore fruit. Few feelings are as satisfying as discovering a unique way to eliminate a target and pull off a plan without a hitch, and expert players will get that dopamine hit regularly.

Players can soak in all a level has to offer or book it straight to their target, but exploration is the most rewarding option by far. It’s entirely possible to work your way into a target, take them out with a silenced pistol and a flashy disguise, and then exit the level, but doing so is a waste of what IO Interactive has done . Hitman 3’s story threads in the mission will lead players down more interesting paths, and will usually reveal more information about who that target is and what their motivations are. More often than not, that makes killing more rewarding, but these methods aren’t forced on players.

Hitman 3’s missions are meant to be savored, not to be taken lightly. Rushing through the campaign will only take 6 or 7 hours for most people, but a large part of Hitman 3’s value comes from replaying each stage. There is a long list of challenges that players must solve, which can make assassinations feel different despite taking out the same targets. Beating a mission will improve the player’s mastery rank, a clever way of getting players to enjoy a “standard” playthrough of a level before giving them more options to tackle it. Increasing the mastery rank by one stage unlocks new weapons, items, starting locations, and several other modifiers for players to try out. Each unlock has the ability to shake up a mission, down to a piece of gear that drastically changes a level’s strategy.

Visually, Hitman 3 is one of the smartest games available on next-generation consoles. Almost every level comes out, and most of them are for different reasons. The most impressive is easily Chongqing, a cyberpunk-style Chinese city with rainy city streets and neon lights. Neon lights add vibrant colors to a dark setting and elegantly reflect puddles to create one of the most aesthetically pleasing levels of the past decade.

However, the impressive level of design doesn’t stop there. While Chongqing looks the tightest, Dartmoor is the most interesting. It tasks players with solving a murder mystery, similar to what one would expect from Clue or Knives Out. Diving further into the narrative around it would spoil some of the surprises, but it’s a clever twist on the Hitman formula. Expanded properly, it can be made as a standalone game.

The game also offers players the opportunity to create their own contracts, allowing them to tag their own targets to a destination for new challenges. They can be shared with the Hitman 3 community, though we only got to try it ourselves during our playthrough. The possibilities are truly endless here, and it’s easy to see how community contracts could extend the game’s life almost indefinitely.

Hitman 3 has a few issues, though nothing serious enough to ruin the experience. NPCs can be quite erratic when players need to follow them to a certain location, sometimes doubling back a short way before correcting course and going where they’re supposed to go. Additionally, targets will sometimes have scripted meetings with disguised players, but never break their routines to go to those meetings, leaving players to pursue alternate method to kill them. Neither issue occurred very often while tackling Hitman 3’s six destinations, but they were a nuisance when they did occur.

The only major problem with the game is the narrative. Hitman 3 is not a game to be played for the story, and players new to the trilogy will almost certainly get lost in secret organizations, names, and sudden jumps between locations. There are flashbacks to catch up with players who skipped – or forgot – the last games caught up, but the game’s levels are hardly integrated in any meaningful way. For many, that probably doesn’t matter, because the story isn’t the main draw here; in fact, it is far down the list. But those hoping for a well-woven story about high-profile targets may leave disappointed in what Hitman 3 has to offer.

However, all told, Hitman 3 is one of the best stealth games ever made. Those who enjoyed the last two games in the rebooted trilogy will find more to appreciate here, while newcomers to the franchise will get a highly replayable romp through expertly crafted levels. The disjointed narrative may annoy some, but those willing to overlook the story’s shortcomings get a near-perfect stealth game with exceptional replay value and amazing visual fidelity.

Hitman 3 was released on January 20, 2021, for PC, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. Today Technology was provided the Xbox Series X code for this review.

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