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Hitman (2016) kicked off the World of Assassination trilogy and proved to be an amazing game, one of the best in the franchise. Developer IO Interactive experienced some significant troubles behind-the-scenes but still managed to push out an impressive sequel. It’s more of the same with some refinements but still a great game. I expected the same from Hitman III, more of the same great gameplay but with new missions and now that I’ve finally played it, I feel confident saying that’s basically what it is. Developed and published by IO Interactive, Hitman III was released for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Stadia, and Switch (via cloud gaming) in January, 2021. For this review, I played the PC version.
On their quest to destroy Providence, the shadow organization that basically governs the world behind-the-scenes, Agent 47, Diana Burnwood, and Lucas Grey continue to hunt down and eliminate their high ranking members. Meanwhile, the International Contract Agency (ICA) is hunting down the trio and Providence tries to convert Diana, hoping she betrays 47. The plot does explore more of 47’s past and even Diana’s past and also touches on their unique relationship. I won’t spoil too much but I do think Hitman III is a decent conclusion. I can’t say anything really surprised me, though. Hitman III does convey a slightly darker tone and atmosphere than its predecessors while still retaining the series cinematic quality landing somewhere in the spy thriller territory. And I’m happy to say the cut scenes are more in line with the quality of those from Hitman (2016) than Hitman 2.
As for the gameplay, if you’ve played the previous two games, there’s not going to be many surprises here. It feels like a continuation. In fact, I would say Hitman III feels more like more of the same than Hitman 2 did. It’s the same gameplay, same mechanics, same interface, and even the same looking menus as Hitman 2. And if you own the DLC, technically the same missions. All of the missions from the previous two games can be played here. Hitman III is the entire World of Assassination trilogy in one package and if you’ve played Hitman 2, you are given the option to carry over your progression and unlocks.
I only have two big complaints with Hitman III. One; much like Hitman 2, it doesn’t really experiment with the formula all that much. And two; this is another entry that you’ll get more out of if you remain connected online and I would get disconnected from the servers frequently enough to be annoying. I want to say at least once every hour or so and, luckily, I was usually reconnected in seconds. But I did not have this problem with the previous two games.
Hitman III is another puzzle game disguised as a stealth game and continues the trend of fun and accessible sandbox gameplay. Mission Stories return and are great for players that are stuck or prefer some kind of guided experience. They are optional but some are related to the greater narrative so they are worth completing if you’re at all interested in the story. Other than that, you are free to reach and kill your targets however you see fit and the game provides numerous ways of elimination. You can shoot, snipe, strangle, stab, and stage accidents among other more creative ways. You can take an all-guns-blazing approach or try to solve the puzzles of reaching your targets unnoticed which is arguably the more fun, challenging, and satisfying approach.
Most maps are large sandboxes with plenty of areas to discover, items to find, and things to interact with. You can even unlock shortcuts which can be helpful on subsequent playthroughs and 47 can use a camera to take pictures for intel and hack and unlock things. The maps can be overwhelming and daunting especially if you’re new to the series but the Mission Stories are there to help you most of the time. The missions are designed to be replayed and the progression and mastery level system from the previous games return. You are awarded with experience for certain actions and the mastery level is like a measurement of completion for a specific location. Increasing your mastery level will reward you with new gear, starting locations, and stashes. Needless to say, the game gives you a lot of reasons to explore and try different things.
While most things about Hitman III aren’t new, the game does give players plenty of reasons to keep coming back and if you own the DLC, it has the most content in the trilogy. In addition to all the missions, the Contracts mode, Sniper Assassin, Escalation Contracts, and Elusive Targets all return. Hitman III does introduce an Arcade mode, also known as Elusive Target Arcade. In this mode, you must eliminate a series of elusive targets one after another. They basically function like Escalation Contracts. The catch is that if you fail, you’re locked out for twelve hours. As of this review, a themed DLC collection called Seven Deadly Sins was released. These are Escalation Contracts with unique objectives and conditions and reward you with items and cosmetics related to the Seven Deadly Sins. I actually really enjoyed these and found The Wrath Termination contract to be one of the more interesting ones because it’s a departure from the typical Hitman gameplay. You have to defend a position rather than infiltrate. You can kill enemies by any means necessary, set up traps, and specific targets will drop useful items. It made me think of Home Alone and the end of Skyfall.
As for the story missions, they definitely feel like a series of missions that would appear towards the end of a game which does make sense considering how this trilogy started. I don’t think most of the missions in Hitman III exceed some of the best ones from the previous two entries but I do think two missions here really stand out as awesome. One is set at a Manor in Dartmoor England and one of its Mission Stories puts 47 in the role of a private investigator, turning the mission into a murder mystery. I just thought that was really cool. Plus, the actual map is fun to explore. The other is set in China and it’s your typical Hitman gameplay in a wonderfully designed environment.
The other new missions are certainly good and I think only one is truly weak when compared to the others. It’s the last mission and I think it’s weak because it’s extremely linear. However, one of the cool things about it is that you can kill everyone you come across without worrying about any kind of penalty. One of the more interesting missions in the game is Apex Predator. For story reasons it has no Mission Stories and your objective is to find and eliminate certain targets. This mission is a good example of one that feels like it would be placed towards the end of a game. It’s challenging simply because it’s not as accessible as the others.
One thing I don’t like is that some Mission Stories seem to force you into hostile situations. I don’t like it because traditionally, that doesn’t happen. Mission Stories typically get you close to a target or objective and the rest is up to you. In Hitman III, some of them made me feel like I was forced to shoot or be aggressive and that can suck if you’re trying for that Silent Assassin rating. I firmly believe one Mission Story in particular fucked my rating because it basically guided me to using a gun and as a result, I killed two non-targets. It might be possible to complete the Mission Story another way but you may have to bring the right gear or find and use right tools but I had no idea what was going to happen on my first run through it. It’s not really a big deal since the missions are designed to be replayed but it did throw me off when it happened.
Hitman III will take you to numerous locations around the world including Dubai, England, Berlin, China, Argentina, and Romania. Most maps are large and intricate with multiple levels, doors, paths, areas, and people and guards walking and standing around and interacting. There are numerous Challenges to complete and Intel to find in each location and the Mission Stories only show you some of what’s possible. The game lets you pull off some really creative and satisfying kills. You can blow your targets up, electrocute them, poison their food or drink, and one mission lets you crush a target with a grape press.
Just like the previous two games, visually, Hitman III is beautiful with well detailed environments. The presentation is colorful, many backgrounds are gorgeous, and each location looks and feels distinct. The character models look good, light and visual effects look great, and the game does support ray tracing. The audio work is in line with the previous entries meaning it’s excellent. Everything from weapons fire to explosions to the soundtrack sounds great. The music helps drive that cinematic feel and elevate drama and tension. On the technical side, in addition to the server disconnects, the game did crash on me once and I noticed some dips in the frame rate here and there.
I really enjoyed my time with Hitman III but there’s not much I can say about it that I haven’t said about its predecessors. I love it for the same reasons. However, I do think some of the new missions here don’t exceed or are just not on the same level as those from the previous games. Don’t get me wrong, the maps, themselves, are all well designed and are of great quality but I didn’t care for some of the situations the Mission Stories put you in and the linear final mission, while still fun, doesn’t offer the same kind of satisfaction as the bigger sandbox maps. It’s more about the quality of the set of missions as a whole than anything else. When Hitman III is doing it’s typical Hitman thing, it’s a phenomenal experience and that’s most of the time. But ultimately, I think Hitman 2 has the best set of missions in the whole trilogy. Luckily, you can play through all of those and the missions from Hitman (2016) in Hitman III. That said, I think Hitman III is the best game in the trilogy just for that fact alone. It’s everything in one package. Furthermore, all the game modes ensure there’s plenty of content to keep you coming back for a long, long time.
In the end, I think Hitman III is the best game in the entire franchise and I would absolutely recommend it and I would definitely recommend getting the DLC. That said, there’s basically no need to play through the previous two games since you can experience it all here. I would say this is the best way to experience the World of Assassination trilogy. Definitely check it out.