No one does stealth the way IO Interactive does it. Their rebooted Hitman trilogy has a knack for creating intricate, living and breathing sandboxes built on complex webs of interacting systems. You explore each location and learn its layouts, you patiently stalk targets and people of interest to learn more about their patterns and schedules, you eavesdrop and blend into crowds to gain crucial new bits of information. At the end of all of it, you take out your targets in increasingly creative ways, and then casually slip out before anyone gets even an inkling that they had a professional assassin in their midst. Hitman games can simultaneously make you feel like an absolute badass and a complete goofball like no other game can.
Hitman 3 is, as you’d expect, built on those same strengths. Tonally, it’s much less goofy than its predecessors, instead opting for a grittier aesthetic that gels with its narrative much better, but the boundless level of player choice that encourages constant experimentation and the systemic stealth that gives way to memorable emergent gameplay moments are still here- and better than ever, in fact. Hitman 3 is very much an iterative sequel, just as Hitman 2 was. It builds on the strengths of its predecessors, and in doing so, it delivers the best, most refined version of the new style of social stealth that IO Interactive debuted in 2016.
"Hitman 3 builds on the strengths of its predecessors, and in doing so, it delivers the best, most refined version of the new style of social stealth that IO Interactive debuted in 2016."
As the conclusion of the World of Assassination trilogy, Hitman 3 also shoulders the responsibility of bringing its story to a satisfying close. Thanks to Agent 47’s incursion to the Maldives in Hitman 2, he now knows who his primary targets – the Partners of Providence – are, but the enigmatic Constant has managed to find a way to escape. Together with his handler Diana Burnwood and newfound allies in Lucas Grey and Olivia Hall, 47 has a clear goal in mind as Hitman 3 begins- to kill the Providence leadership, and completely dismantle the organization in permanent fashion.
Story has never been the primary strength of the new Hitman trilogy, but even though it has taken a bit of a backseat in previous instalments, it’s progressed slowly and steadily to build up to an interesting climax. Hitman 3 puts a much greater emphasis on narrative, and it does so quite well. It boasts stylishly directed cutscenes, snappy writing for all of its characters, and twists and turns that might not be the most unpredictable, but are still impactfully delivered. For series fans who’ve been keeping up with the larger narrative over the past couple of games, Hitman 3 is a satisfying conclusion, and IO Interactive exhibit the kind of storytelling chops here that make me excited about the prospect of their upcoming 007 title.
The real joy of Hitman, however, lies not in the story, but in the actual stealth, and Hitman 3 hits the ball out of the park here, to little surprise. With plenty of variety across the six locations in the game, some of which are easily the best levels IO Interactive have ever made, Hitman 3 is exactly as fun to play as you’d expect. In Dubai, Agent 47 infiltrates the world’s tallest skyscraper and hunts down targets through crowds in pristine indoor locations. In Berlin, you find yourself in a shady underground nightclub with a biker gang conducting illicit drug operations in the vicinity. In Chongqing, you explore the neon-drenched streets of a packed and dense city environment. Each location is intricately crafted, and packed to the brim full of stories, characters, and areas that make all of them come alive.
"Hitman 3 puts a much greater emphasis on narrative, and it does so quite well. It boasts stylishly directed cutscenes, snappy writing for all of its characters, and twists and turns that might not be the most unpredictable, but are still impactfully delivered."
What impressed me the most, however, was how much variety the locations of Hitman 3 exhibit not just on a visual level, but also in terms of your objectives. Your primary goal in every location is, of course, to take down certain targets, but Hitman 3 constantly has you going about these tasks in new and unique ways. In Berlin, Agent 47 is being hunted by a group of professional assassins, and the whole mission is a shadowy cat-and-mouse chase in which you have to identify and take down those hunting you before they get to you. The Dubai mission begins with Agent 47 HALO jumping onto the top of the world’s tallest skyscraper to begin his infiltration (though you can, of course, change your starting location in subsequent playthroughs).
Then there’s the Dartmoor level, which is probably the best Hitman location IO Interactive have ever made. Taking place in a large mansion (and the grounds surrounding it) in British moors, the Dartmoor level sees Agent 47 playing the role of a Sherlock Holmes-inspired private detective and solving a classic, hardboiled murder mystery. You explore the entire level, gather clues, question potential culprits, all the while learning more about the layout of the location and the schedules of the NPCs, and it all comes together brilliantly. What makes Dartmoor tick, however, is the fact that it’s inherently an excellently designed map. Even if you choose to ignore the murder mystery entirely and decide to do things your own way, you’re still going to have a blast exploring the location and learning what makes it tick.
Mendoza, Argentina is almost as good. It’s a much more traditional Hitman level than something like Dartmoor, taking you to a beautiful, lush vineyard that is rife with secrets to uncover, opportunities to exploit, and disguises to take on. I spent a ridiculous amount of time playing and replaying this location in particular, and in true Hitman fashion, even after having spent hours here, I’m still looking forward to playing through it at least a couple more times, because there’s still so much I haven’t done, still so much I haven’t experimented with.
"Each location is intricately crafted, and packed to the brim full of stories, characters, and areas that make all of them come alive."
If there’s one area where I’m somewhat disappointed with Hitman 3’s locations, it’s the Mission Stories (or Opportunities, as they were called in the first game)- in that there aren’t quite as many of them as there were in the previous two games. The Mission Stories that are here are all typically solid (for instance, the aforementioned whodunnit in Dartmoor), but there are far fewer of them to follow than I was expecting- Berlin, in fact, has no Mission Stories whatsoever. Of course, Mission Stories are not exactly necessary for enjoyment in Hitman games, but they do play an important role, especially when you’re playing through a location for the first time, in gently guiding you into unique and interesting scenarios, while also adding to the overall replay value. Don’t get me wrong, locations still have a ton of replay value here, thanks to their dense design and their Master Levels and Challenges, but I still would have liked to see more Mission Stories.
The final mission of the game, set in Romania, is also a very un-Hitman level. It’s completely linear, doesn’t have a lot of room for experimentation and emergent gameplay, and only has five Mastery Levels- a lot like Hawke’s Bay in Hitman 2 (but much more linearly designed). It’s more of an epilogue to cap off the story than anything else, but it’s the one I enjoyed the least from a gameplay perspective, and after having played it twice, I don’t think I’ll be playing through it again any time soon.
From a visuals perspective, Hitman 3 is a beautiful game. It’s not the most technically impressive game you’re ever going to play, but solid tech and gorgeous art combine to make each of its varied locations pop. Meanwhile, it consistently maintains silky smooth performance, which is impressive in a game with levels that are so vast and dense and have this level of interactivity. Most importantly, load times are also lightning fast (I played on an Xbox Series X). Hitman games actively encourage save scumming, so that’s definitely a huge boost.
"Hitman 3 is not the most technically impressive game you’re ever going to play, but solid tech and gorgeous art combine to make each of its varied locations pop."
Hitman 3 is an impressive accomplishment. Those who’ve played its two predecessors won’t be surprised in the slightest by how excellent this game is. The World of Assassination trilogy’s brand of emergent gameplay and social stealth in dense, masterfully designed maps has been taken to its zenith in its final instalment, to the extent that some of the locations here can easily be called the best locations this series has ever delivered. From a narrative perspective, this is as good as Hitman’s ever been- it’s not the most special or outstanding story you’ll see in a game, but it effectively brings the trilogy to a close in a satisfying manner. In a time when stealth games have become something of a rarity, Hitman 3 is a proud reminder of the joys of this genre as one of the best stealth games I’ve played in many years.
Excellent work, 47.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox Series X.
Iterative improvements and refinements make this the best realization of Hitman's social stealth gameplay; Locations are varied and consistently well-designed; Each location is densely packed with stories, characters, and mechanics that make them come alive; Immensely replayable; Dartmoor and Mendoza are among the best levels this series has ever had; A solid, engaging story told in confident fashion, bringing the trilogy to a satisfying close; Looks great, runs very well.
Fewer Mission Stories than expected; The Romania level is very linear and not very replayable.