Hitman 3 is how I imagine James Bond would be if the titular character simply didn’t give a crap about anything but the mission. Anyone or anything that stood in his way would be disposed of until the deed was done, and yet somehow he’d still find himself in the middle of some particularly weird situations. While I’m not sure what that would do to the James Bond franchise, it makes for one hell of a video game here with Hitman 3.
The latest intallment in the Hitman franchise caps off the “World of Assassination Trilogy” that began with 2016’s episodic, aptly titled Hitman. As such, the structure of each mission is very similar to those past games: watch a briefing cutscene, choose a loadout of weapons and items, and off you go. Stages are massive in scope, with multiple ways to approach and complete each job that change in real time.
It’s a veritable assassin’s playground, every playthrough of each mission being completely different, which is a testament to the quality of the game. While stealth is the name of the game for the most part, how I implement my stealthy methods is completely up to me. Do I want to disguise myself as security and bypass the checkpoints that way, or do I just want to subdue everyone I see and progress with a trail of bodies in my wake? Hitman 3 gives me the freedom to choose, and I love it.
Traversing these massive maps is good fun, but sometimes I get the feeling the world is just out to get me. There are moments where an enemy sees me from what feels like hundreds of yards away, triggering a pursuit sequence that I then have to get out of, while other times I could be standing right next to a guard and waving my hands in his face and he stands blankly facing forward. Enemy aim is also surprisingly good, which doesn’t couple well with Agent 47 not being the most robust character, but luckily gun targeting is sharp and accurate. I’ve scored more enemy headshots here than in most shooter games, so I offer a tip of the cap to the gameplay designers.
While there are only six missions (my playthrough took about 10 hours to get through them all) there are also hours of content to experiment with contained within, giving would-be assassins like me plenty to do. Take the second map, Dartmoor, where Agent 47 must take out a ruthless woman who sits atop a shady organization. On approach you learn about some mishap that’s happened within the manor, and with a certain disguise the game shifts from ruthless assassination to a Sherlock Holmes-esque whodunit murder mystery. I’m talking with suspects, gathering clues, and eventually choosing a killer. Io Interactive stuck Clue inside my Hitman, and while those two things shouldn’t really work together, good grief did I have a good time with that mission.
The missions are surprisingly thick, however the story runs a little thin. It’s a spy thriller as you’d expect, with beats coming straight out of a Mission Impossible or Bourne sort of tale. It mostly serves as background for all the fun I’m having in the densely packed maps, which is fine, but I sort of wanted a bit more. What underwhelms me about it is that the characters I’m targeting aren’t really all that interesting.
There’s an argument to be made that “of course the targets aren’t interesting, you’re a cold-blooded assassin, they’re not supposed to be interesting,” but I was hoping to want them dead for more reasons that just “the game tells me they have to die.” I don’t want to say the story is bad because it’s not, with the last missions being particularly great, but it’s not the kind of story that will stick with me for weeks after playing.
What impresses me most about this game, thanks to the thickness of the missions mentioned earlier, is the replayability of what should be a straightforward experience. It’s a linear and by-the-numbers story about taking our high value targets, and yet there are so many paths to take and methods to try that I want to relive these missions over and over again. As I play each mission I build a Mastery level, which opens up even more possibilities like smuggled tools or different starting places, including the ability to start a mission already in a disguise. I’m imagining the mission planning going something like this:
“What if this mission played out this way”?
“Well wait, I have an idea, what if we did this?”
There aren’t many games where nearly every instance of me saying “wait, can I do this” is met with a “you sure can!” Hitman 3 does that, and it turns what should be a short assassin experience into a massive and amazing undertaking.
Hitman 3 defies every expectation I had for it, from the size of its maps to the scope of its missions. I am truly free to approach these jobs however I wish, so long as the objectives are met, and that freedom is downright exhilarating. It’s not without its foibles, the inconsistency with its enemies being one that I ran into, but any issues are easily overcome by the quality of the overall experience. This may be 47’s last hurrah for a while, but dang if he doesn’t go out swinging.