Hitman III is not only the best in the ‘World of Assassination’ trilogy, but it also features some of the most inspired and well-crafted level design in the entire series, whilst also offering an engaging story unlike all of its predecessors. If this is the final entry in the franchise for a while, as IO Interactive move on to another man with a licence to kill, 007, then they have certainly gone out on a high. With tons of replay value, you could be busy for a while too.
Done in a Day
Like the previous two entries in this Hitman ‘reboot’ trilogy, there are only six missions to complete (excluding DLC). To many, that probably sounds incredibly short. And, in theory, it could be. Each mission takes place in its own entirely unique location. Each with targets to locate and assassinate alongside objectives that need to be completed. Recently, someone managed to complete a level in under ten seconds. I first completed that same level in around 3 hours.
See, the beauty of Hitman games is in the exploration. Taking your time to explore every room, study your target’s routine, establish the perfect route, find NPCs with helpful disguises to take, source helpful items. Spending hours soaking up this information might well lead to your own ability to finish a level in ten seconds. This is truly where the satisfaction of the Hitman series lies. Its replayability is second to none. Whilst I finished every mission in a day, I am far from done.
Navigate the Labyrinth
Hitman III’s level design is simply phenomenal. There were some excellent locations in the first two (Paris, Sapienza, Hokkaido) but each certainly had its duds, too. Hitman III doesn’t have a single dud. All six locations are labyrinths to explore, understand, and master. They are some of the best that the series has ever produced. ‘Curtains Down’ from Blood Money is one of my favourite single levels to play in any video game – tasking you with taking down two targets in a Paris Opera House. The outrageous amount of options, including having the target shot on stage by switching out a prop gun with a real one, is exactly what Hitman fans crave.
Nearly every level in Hitman III feels as good as that level did. It’s praise I was close to dishing out with some levels from the recent entries, but they didn’t quite capture that same emotion. One level sees Agent 47 tasked with finding and eliminating 5 targets in a Berlin nightclub. It’s many floors, areas and dark corners filled to the brim with opportunity. Disguise yourself as a bartender and serve poisoned juice to a target. Rig a huge lighting tree installation to electrocute targets at the climax of a song, brought on yourself whilst acting as DJ. Shoot a target with their own sniper rifle. I have spent an entire day playing one level over and over again, enjoying discovering and carrying out the countless assassination opportunities.
Challenges provide players with specific goals to complete, making finding these opportunities even more advantageous. Some are ‘redacted’, with only a picture to try and figure out what must be done, and the satisfaction in carrying out each and every challenge is substantial. The options feel more endless than ever before. Without spoiling anything, the ‘Dartmoor’ level provides 47 with the opportunity to play detective – a clear take on Rian Johnson’s 2019 masterpiece Knives Out.
Playing a Benoit Blanc character as you interview suspects, search for clues and decide whom to accuse is an experience I haven’t had in gaming since LA Noire. Whilst, of course, not as in-depth as that, it still manages to create a genuinely compelling mystery and entertaining results with every accusation you can possibly make. It made me pine for more levels like this, and even games where you can play detective. And yet, outside of this entertaining mystery, you can still find plenty of alternative methods to assassinate your target. Hitman III truly seems to offer more choice than ever before, or at least the most interesting options.
The first two Hitman games were hardly a graphical showcase, but the gameplay is so spectacular that it wasn’t a major concern. The latest generation of consoles substantially changes this. Upon first opening Hitman III, the differences were immediately clear. Sharper textures, improved lighting (with ray-tracing on the way, too), reflections, weather, physics. It is no exaggeration to suggest that this feels like a remaster thanks to how surprisingly significant these improvements are. It dramatically improves immersion, with even crowd NPCs who have no role to play looking so much better that they feel that much more real and notable.
Whilst you’ll often see repeated character models (I’ve even seen the same two models ‘talking to each other’) this is essentially background filler and by no means distracting. Next-Gen Hitman is just that much more impressive. On the PS5 too, the Dualsense’s adaptive triggers imitate pulling the trigger of a gun by tightening and forcing you to pull harder to fire. At first, I’ll admit this annoyed me and felt like something was wrong. But at some point, it just ‘clicked’. Being able to lightly press on the trigger whilst lining the shot up, before pulling harder to fire became joyous and that much more immersive. Does playing with this setting off, or on another console, affect your enjoyment of the game? Of course not. But it’s an enjoyable gimmick.
Ultimately, Hitman III is an entertaining experience regardless of the console you are playing on. However, it is truly a spectacular experience on next-gen.
An Unexpected Story
Hitman games aren’t known for their story. In fact, there hasn’t really been an ‘over-arching’ narrative for any game’s collection of missions. Hitman: Absolution infamously riled fans to the extreme by stripping away everything that made Hitman excel – forcing you to kill innocents and taking away true sandbox playgrounds in favour of telling a narrative. But that narrative was dull, uninspired and poorly conceived. Absolution is a little like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It’s probably better than I remember it, by my initial anger has never subsided and it will forever leave a bad taste in my mouth.
The previous two games in the trilogy did attempt to tell a story between missions and it served a nice enough purpose in providing motivation for 47 but the focus was still very much on providing these entertaining playgrounds to explore. Hitman III simply expands on this, ramping things up in a Bond-esque story that is legitimately interesting to follow and manages to make each mission’s targets a little more compelling as a result. It’s no ‘The Last of Us Part 2’, ‘God of War’ or ‘Red Dead Redemption’ and don’t expect to care much about any characters other than 47 and your handler, Diana, but it’s more of a narrative than we’ve ever seen in a Hitman game and it’s a perfect balance of story and freedom.
Hitman III is the best in the franchise since Blood Money. That might not mean much to non-fans. Take my word for it when I say that it’s high praise indeed. If exploring huge sandbox locations for unique and fun ways to assassinate targets (such as sabotaging a target’s parachute so they’ll fall to their death whilst trying to escape) sounds entertaining, then this is the game for you.