Hitman 3 is easily one of the most interesting and impressive games of the last several years, culminating a trilogy of titles each developed under completely different circumstances. But it’s also very clearly the THIRD game in this trilogy, designed mainly for those that have already adored the first two, which I know sounds obvious but you’d be surprised. Is Hitman 3 a great game for you to pick up, even if you’re new to the trilogy?
Let’s cut right to it, yes, it absolutely is…if you’re patient. First thing’s first, developer IO Interactiveprovided me with a PlayStation 5 copy of Hitman 3 for this review, and only Hitman 3 – I own a copy of Hitman 1 thanks to PlayStation Plus, and I liked that game so much when I reviewed it that I bought Hitman 2 immediately. The prequels are important here not just because obviously, Hitman 3’s story is the capstone in the trilogy’s half-decade of the story building, but also because Hitman 3 like 2 before it allows you to carry forward all of the levels from the previous games even from previous consoles, and even your Hitman 2 save progress.
That means that you can obtain almost 20 full sandbox levels, each with usually dozens upon dozens of completion criteria, bonus missions, their own experience progression, everything, all at no cost if you own all three games, or for a usually-cheap price if you haven’t bought them yet. Just to limit any possible gameplay spoilers as much as I can, I’m gonna be cycling footage from all three games within Hitman 3’s updated engine, so if something looks familiar, it might be. This massive amount of content might sound intimidating because it is.
Notwithstanding the trilogy’s story so far, which you can recap in 3 before starting – and let’s be honest, it doesn’t really matter much anyway, it’s not Shakespeare – Hitman 3 starts as if you should already know what you’re doing. Outside of the standard tutorial, Hitman 3is a game that expects you to be at least versed in Agent 47’s capabilities before you start, to the point that when I entered the first level, a tall, intimidating super skyscraper in Dubai, I struggled a bit to find a good path forward, and I’m somebody least decently experienced in the previous two games.
In Hitman’s so-called World of Assassinationtrilogy, Agent 47 is sent into a sandbox-style location, places like a French fashion show, a sprawling Chinese city covered in cameras, even a pleasant Vermont suburb secretly inhabited by a former Soviet spy. Agent 47’s tasked with eliminating one or more targets, sometimes stealing some intel, and escaping without making too much noise. Or, y’know, making as much noise as you want.
These sandboxes vary a bit in scale, but most of them allow you the freedom to infiltrate and assassinate just about however you’d like. You can poison somebody discreetly, dress up as a guard to get high-level access, just thwump a screwdriver into somebody’s eye or throw soda cans or save scum and aim to do the most ridiculous assassinations possible if you wanna be stupid, I…I-I usually like stupid in these games. Every player is going to have a totally different path through Hitman 3’s levels, based on how they think and approach the game’s problems, how they explore, and so while I might not have liked Dubai at first, you might love it.
And for a lot of you, in this case, it may depend on how patient you are. The Hitman games sometimes ask you to put a lot of setup into your assassinations, either waiting to get a target isolated so you do have to alert guards, or waiting to get a guard isolated so you can even get into a locked area without being seen as a trespasser – your first time through every level is probably going to take an hour at minimum, and in some cases, you’ll find yourself unsure of how to actually access specific areas. If you’re not really the type to take the time to plot and explore, these Hitman games may not grab you before you get bored.
And in Hitman 3’s case, that’s doubly true, because I’d argue this game has a much slower introduction thanks to the first two levels being more catered to the bigger Hitfans out there. The second level, a British manor home to murder mystery subplot, with secret bookcase switches to open hidden pathways, is arguably more fun after you’ve beaten the level once or twice and know where the rooms you’re supposed to be investigating actually are. BUT, if you can make it to the third level and beyond, you’ll experience what I’d say are three of the trilogy’s strongest levels back-to-back-to-back, with an excellent final level to cap the saga off to boot.
I loved exploring this exclusive German nightclub, playing a deadly game of cat and mouse with assassins that are hunting Agent 47 just she’s hunting them. It’s a great subversion of the trilogy’sformula, one of a few times Hitman 3 really plays with the expectations fans might have going in. The rainy, neon-lit Chongqing is so massive it may as well be two full levels, and is a contender for being my favorite level in the entire series. Hitman 3 is a slow burn game, even compared to the previous two entries, but its payoff is stellar.
The thing about Hitman though is that once you’ve played a level once or twice, and by playing more stealthily, you’ll earn experience towards mastering that level and unlock new gear such as a permanent lockpick, new outfits to start with, or locations to start from, weapons, and other tricks that make replaying each location more fun as you polish your kill skills. So while I may have been critical of Dubai on my very first playthrough, I quickly grew to love it as my equipment options expanded a bit, and once I really started sharing stories and ideas with a few of my buddies.
Despite being entirely single-player at this point, Hitman is a social experience, because each run is its own stupid tale that you get to tell somebody or share with the world. Like the time I dumped an assassin’s corpse in a bin the very same second a security guard walked into the room trying to hunt me down, only to see me disguised as another guard, pretending to hunt myself, or the time I used a single katana in Hitman 1’s hotel level, just tossing it like a lawn dart at hundreds of guards again and again and again until the game itself feared my power.
Seeing the way all of the game’s different systems and AI patterns come together when you execute a plan perfectly, or very imperfectly really, is what makes it all worth it. And once you feel especially comfortable, you can tackle the Master Difficulty, which cuts back on the in-level hints and limits you to one save per attempt. While playing the story once might only take you 6-7 hours, you can easily get 40 or more hours out of each Hitman game with all the secondary objectives and challenges, and Hitman 3 like 1 and 2 before it is home to a number of Escalation Missions, where you’re tasked with some Clue-like modifiers like “hit this woman with a shovel, then knock out an assassin before you kill him, and then shove this guard in a closet.”
Since 3’s so new, it doesn’t have nearly as many of these secondary challenges as I’d already had by getting 1 and 2’s DLC passes on sale over the years, but that’s to be expected. You can find more than your fair share of bonus content by going into the game’s online modes, including Contracts where you can create and play custom player-created objectives, the timed Elusive Target challenge missions, and more.
This brings me to the other sticking point that you may run into before purchasing – Hitman 3 is currently an online-required game, despite not having online multiplayer at all. You can play offline, but doing so loses you any experience you gain and challenges you complete in the levels, which is a bummer, to say the least considering the servers were a bit spotty during launch week. Usually, I could get back in right away, and it’d save my progress offline anyway for when I reconnected, so take that as you wish.
I’m hoping IO Interactive will bend on this eventually, but buyer beware for now. Odds are if you’ve already played Hitman1 or 2, you’re sold on 3 anyway and my video isn’t going to sway you, but if you’re maybe looking at Hitman 3 because you want a new PS5 or Series X game, or you wanna try that PSVR mode out, or whatever your reason may be, I implore you to try at least one of these games out, even if it’s not 3.
The intro level of Hitman 2 is available for free on console with full progression transferring over if you buy, and at least one of the first two has a free game trial on Steam. In other words, you don’t have to buy into finding out if you like Hitman’s style. And while I may disagree with the online-only structure of 3, I still have to commend IO Interactive for making these games cross-compatible all the way through, for free if you’ve owned the other games. This is despite 1 being released episodically and published by Square Enix, despite 2 being published by Warner Bros.
after IO Interactive bought the franchise out from Square, despite 3 being available on two additional consoles and the Epic Game Store, on an updated engine, and self-published by IO Interactive itself. The sheer scope of the Hitman trilogy’s compatibility is simply unheard of in any game ever before, the process to transfer was way easier than I expected it would be, and it was made by a studio so clearly passionate for the franchise that they took several consecutive risks with what was an unprofitable franchise just a few years ago in order to make it happen. And on top of all that, despite Hitman 3 including all of 1 and 2 in the base file and adding another whole game of content on top of that, Hitman 3 takes up a smaller amount of disk space than either of the first two games individually.