The Hitman sequence has at all times been outlined by its openness, permitting gamers to imagine the position of the peerless murderer often known as Agent 47 and take out targets nevertheless they please. However there’s one thing fascinating and, for this franchise, novel about Hitman 3, the ultimate entry in IO Interactive’s World of Assassination trilogy: The story that the sport’s writers have crafted issues a minimum of as a lot as Hitman’s play-it-your-way spirit.
IO has mentioned that it considers sure assassinations to be the “canonical” endings for a few of this trilogy’s missions. That’s by no means been extra true than in Hitman 3, which sometimes indicators that it needs you to make a specific determination, and reinforces it with a cutscene afterward that follows immediately from the selection in query.
After all, the push and pull between interactivity and authored narrative performs on the essence of 47’s job itself: He’s a laboratory-engineered contract killer, designed to be the right employed gun, at all times finishing up another person’s orders reasonably than appearing of his personal volition.
Certainly, IO’s total trilogy touches on concepts of energy, management, and self-determination. The group recognized within the video games’ fiction as Windfall is a worldwide cabal of elites who form world occasions from behind the scenes; the group’s ethos is that it should information the course of historical past as a result of the plenty are incapable of choosing the proper path themselves. However what occurs when a number of the blunt instruments by which Windfall wields its extraordinary energy — 47 and his long-lost buddy Lucas Gray, a fellow skilled murderer — achieve an understanding of their humanity, and search to train free will?
That is heady stuff for a online game franchise that alternates between operatic drama and goofy hijinks, and it has largely remained within the background till now. Hitman 3 performs it up, making for an excellent conclusion to the trilogy. The sport is outstanding not only for its masterful degree design and its penchant for turning acquainted parts of the sequence on their heads, however for a way skillfully it brings to bear the gathered weight of its characters’ actions — and brings it crashing down on their heads with devastating penalties.
If it appears shocking to spend a lot time in a overview of a Hitman sport speaking about its story, properly, I’m proper there with you. It was so convoluted and barely understandable in 2016’s episodic Hitman that I couldn’t deliver myself to care. In Hitman 2, the writers spent extra time growing the characters, not merely tossing in ha-that’s-neat references and callbacks to the occasions of the previous sport. It’s robust to construct sympathy for a few cold-blooded killers, however IO managed to take action with key revelations about 47’s formative years, his childhood friendship with Gray, and his relationship along with his handler, Diana Burnwood.
Hitman 2 ended on a excessive observe, with Agent 47 and his cohorts managing to seize Arthur Edwards, aka the Fixed. This determine works for the Windfall Companions, the three leaders of the key society, who all come from old-money households. Firstly of Hitman 3, 47’s staff intends to extract data from the Fixed so the group can take out the Companions and destroy Windfall. However Edwards is a grasp manipulator, and he has a couple of tips left up his sleeve.
Hitman 3 weaves a globe-trotting story that includes many hallmarks of the spy style. Belief is a tenuous, dangerous idea, and allegiances are liable to vary at a second’s discover. Do the members of Windfall have the posh of trusting anybody? Diana has nurtured and guided 47’s progress as an murderer, however is she utilizing him for her personal ends?
It’s solely pure for IO to have foregrounded the story because it introduced the trilogy to its thrilling finish. Furthermore, the story is the driving power behind the best way you truly play Hitman 3.
Of the six missions in Hitman 3 — set in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Dartmoor, U.Okay.; Berlin; Chongqing, China; Mendoza, Argentina; and Romania’s Carpathian Mountains — solely two start in conventional Hitman trend, with 47 merely displaying up at a location, able to get to work. The opposite missions grabbed me and didn’t let go by the use of unconventional introductions, like a vertigo-inducing infiltration of the world’s tallest constructing and an unsettling nighttime exploration of a abandoned gasoline station. I additionally delighted in being challenged to suppose on my toes extra, as 47 usually needed to begin a mission with out his typical gear or hid weapon. And when a narrative flip altered the usual handler/murderer setup, I noticed simply how a lot I had grown accustomed over the previous two video games to Diana’s full of life, suggestive narration and to the crutch of an in depth briefing on the mission’s targets.
IO additionally delivers new ranges of free-form assassination in Hitman 3, spectacular even for a franchise famend for its sandbox environments. “Apex Predator,” which takes place round an underground dance membership in an industrial zone on the outskirts of Berlin, is a spotlight on this respect. It shocked me at each flip, dropping me off in an odd place with none briefing or weapons and forcing me to improvise. As I explored the realm, gained intel, and found out who my targets had been, my goals developed. This mission comes at a degree within the marketing campaign the place it appears like 47 has been pitted in opposition to the world; it’s a terrific synthesis of story and gameplay.
Argentina’s “The Farewell” isn’t the ultimate mission of Hitman 3, however it appears like a end result of all the things the franchise has been constructing towards — like IO needed to show all of the dials as much as 11. The Mendoza location itself is a sprawling playground: an opulent retirement gala set at a vineyard constructed right into a cliff, with vineyards stretching towards a lakeside city within the distance and a villa overlooking all of it. For the primary time, Diana herself is in play, and probably in peril.
Mendoza incorporates what’s now, I feel, my favourite assassination in the complete Hitman franchise. All I’ll say is that it includes winemaking equipment and a few … help.
The mission additionally makes maybe the perfect use of some mechanics which might be new to Hitman 3: safety keypads, time limitations, and 47’s digicam/scanner. All of these parts converge if you happen to select to aim the daring theft of a priceless bottle of wine: I needed to disable safety measures at a pc terminal, then run downstairs inside one minute — as an on-screen timer counted down the seconds earlier than the safety can be reactivated — and punch in a four-digit code to entry the chamber holding the bottle. (I had overheard the code after I broke into the venting corridors beneath the room, a feat I completed by utilizing the scanner to hack the tunnels’ entry doorways.) All of it made me really feel like a badass tremendous spy.
That’s to not say the opposite areas lack gorgeous vistas or unbelievable degree design, whether or not it’s a rain-soaked, neon-lit district of Chongqing, and the verticality of its densely packed buildings, or the secrets and techniques within the partitions of Dartmoor’s Thornbridge Manor. The lone exception is the epilogue in Romania, which is disappointing in how circumscribed the expertise is, enjoying out extra like a sure Bong Joon Ho movie than a typical Hitman degree. But it nonetheless makes room for a few Hitman 3’s persistent shortcuts — doorways (and, in some locations, ladders) that should be unlocked from one facet and can stay obtainable in future playthroughs as soon as unlocked. I can’t wait to revisit the sport and attempt to speedrun missions with the assistance of those pathways.
I don’t need to overstate the diploma to which Hitman 3 is a departure from its predecessors. The moment-to-moment gameplay stays centered on Agent 47 sneaking previous folks (or donning disguises to cover in plain view) so he can put himself in place to commit homicide. In some sense, it’s a sequel very very similar to Hitman 2, with new targets to take down in six new areas, and a few extra toys and ways with which 47 can accomplish his objectives. However I very a lot appreciated the twists and wrinkles that IO threw into the Hitman system this time round, lots of them steered by the story.
That’s a transparent signal that in concluding its beloved trilogy, IO felt it essential to exert a stronger diploma of narrative management and prioritize its personal story over the open-ended nature of Hitman. The studio put a heavier hand on the wheel, however the trade-off is totally price it.
Deciding the solutions to those huge sport design questions is the sort of factor you are able to do if you return to being an unbiased studio, and achieve the self-determination to inform the story you need to inform whereas staying true to the franchise you’ve been engaged on for greater than twenty years. I’m amazed that IO pulled off that delicate balancing act in Agent 47’s best journey so far.
Hitman 3 will likely be launched Jan. 20 on Google Stadia, Nintendo Swap, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Home windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Collection X. The sport was reviewed on PC utilizing a pre-release Epic Video games Retailer obtain code offered by IO Interactive. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media might earn commissions for merchandise bought by way of affiliate hyperlinks. Yow will discover extra details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here.