Back in November 2018, I reviewed Hitman 2, a brilliant sandbox murder simulation game which I quickly became obsessed with – playing it constantly to see how I can kill everyone in a new and creative way each time. The same thing happened when we were given Hitman 3 to review (sorry it took so long), I’ve replayed each level countless times, challenged myself with the unique escalations, and even bought myself every possible upgrade and expansion for the game so far. But, is the final game in the trilogy better than it’s predecessors or does it fall short? Read on to find out…
Hitman 3 was developed by the now independent IO Interactive, published by their ex-parent company, Square Enix. It launched back in January on every platform, including a cloud-based edition on the Nintendo Switch as we saw with Control: Ultimate Edition and Resident Evil VII in Japan. If you happen to have access to a PSVR headset, it’s also possible to play the entire trilogy in VR – something I’ve not yet done so I’ll only touch on it within this review. I’ve also not played the PS4 edition as I wanted the best possible experience – so I’ve played it numerous times on my PS5.
There’s been a number of updates since launch, as well as added content, so I’ll try and cover as much as I can. If you’re reading this in the future though, be sure to check out the website HERE as it’s possible more updates and new content will be added each month until the studio’s James Bond game launches.
Hitman 3 continues the story that has been told throughout the previous two games, presenting you with the next chapter of events seamlessly as you scale the Scepter in Dubai to take out two of Providence’s partners that were unveiled in the second game. I could go in more depth, but that’s about as much information you’re given before placed within your first assignment, with subsequent missions building on the information you obtain in the mission you’ve just completed. As such, delving deeper into the background and story could be considered spoilers, so I’ll just say that the overall narrative is interesting and it brings the trilogy to a decent end.
But, we’re not here to discuss the story, we’re here to talk about how silly, random, creative, and enjoyable the deaths are within this final outing! Spread over six very distinct and unique locations, you have an almost unlimited number of ways in which you can complete your mission and deal with both the evil bad guys and the innocent bystanders. If you wish to play stealthily, blend in and only take out those on your list, hiding their bodies appropriately. Alternatively, if you’re in a ‘Surprise Motherfu**er’ mood, simply find any lethal weapon and go postal on anything that moves. Personally, I tend to fall between the two extremes, alternating based on if I’m hidden or I’ve been spotted.
Hitman 3 brings some new mechanics, the ability to play the entire trilogy under one roof, and an improved engine, yet it has also removed some gameplay modes which we saw in Hitman 2. I never actually used the features which have been removed, but I’ll talk about them within this review just in case you’re not aware of their absence.
Death is only the beginning
Hitman 3 is by far the best sandbox death simulator out there, even better than its predecessors. Each location has lots of creatively scripted ways to kill both your targets and civilians, as well as a lot of chances to cause ‘accidents’ and silent kills which aren’t simply shooting or throwing things at your target. If you’re aiming to complete the game without being noticed, you can take down people via choking them (breaking their neck is optional), stabbing them with items, injecting them, throwing heavy objects (such as fish) at their face, and push them off a high ledge into an abyss without anyone noticing you. Then, simple swap clothes and move on to the next unlucky contestant in this game of “who dies next”…
However, if someone sees you perform an illegal activity, such as bashing someone on the head with a shovel or pushing them into a massive grinder, then they’ll react in a very unrealistic and unnatural way – they’ll run for help. That’s right, instead of simply pulling out their phone and recording a TikTok or Instagram video, they actually scream and alert the ‘police’ in that stage so they know who you are and what you did. At this point, you’ll have to make the moral decision of whether you’re going to hide then obtain a new disguise (fooling everyone despite the big barcode on your head), or simply kill everyone who saw you commit the crime before they rat you out.
The first option is the sensible thing to do, but the second is more fun – especially if you have a bunch of knives, axes, screwdrivers, or other sharp objects in your pants which you can gracefully throw at them as they run away!
The scripted deaths are often silly yet effective in silencing your targets, for good. In the Dubai mission, you can sneakily unscrew a rail and then watch as the guy you need to kill leans on it and falls a few hundred storeys to his death down below, leaving nobody to blame other than the murderous handrail. Another location has a mission story that involves you posing as a homeless guy so you can take part in a brain-wave experiment, fiddling with the mechanism prior so the other person ends up frying his brain – again, leaving your hands clean as you stroll out through the front door afterwards.
It’s all a lot of fun and ensures that every single playthrough feels new and fresh.
Where shall we go today?
Hitman 3 has six varied locations, each offering its own scripted deaths, unique characters, weather effects, and items you can use to perform your unholy duty. As mentioned above, the first location is in Dubai, atop a massive skyscraper as the creators celebrate the inauguration of it. The next location sees you come over to jolly England as you try to assassinate the final partner which was discovered in Hitman 2, an old woman who has faked her own death, thus causing all of her family to gather in this old ancestral house to mourn her.
This mission is one of my favourites in the entire trilogy. Although Alexa Carlisle faked her death, she’s called a private investigator due to another member of the family seemingly killing himself. As this is Hitman, you can don the P.I.’s clothes and become the detective, questioning staff, piecing together alibis, and finding evidence which you can then present to the lady of the house and come to a conclusion as to if it was murder or suicide and who was responsible. The gameplay in this mission is brilliant, instead of either mindlessly or strategically taking people out, you’re actually trying to solve the mystery behind why someone is dead.
However, that’s merely one possible outcome of that stage as there are many ways to ‘complete’ it, including electrocuting the whole family, burying her alive, and simply killing her with any object you pick up which is sharp enough to hurt.
Other locations include a seedy night club, a vineyard hosting an event, and the dark, wet streets of neon-filled China. Although I didn’t care much for China in my first playthrough, there’s so much going on which you can’t see in this dense and well-hidden megacity.
Each location is very different from the last, although some of them can seem a little small when compared to Hitman 2. But, the smaller ones tend to have more layers to them, with hidden floors below or above that are filled with killing devices. Also, as a new mechanic to the series, you can find and unlock shortcuts that stay open in future playthroughs, allowing you to move around more freely and obtain faster kills.
Challenges, stories and escalations.
If you’ve not played a modern Hitman game before, the challenges will instantly overwhelm you. The game is made to be played numerous times, memorising where items, people, and objectives are so that you can easily find them on subsequent playthroughs. Each stage has a set of challenges for you to complete, ranging from a bunch of standard objectives such as completing the entire mission in your suit and killing your target in each of the five generic ways, to map-specific deaths and objectives that literally can’t be done in one playthrough. Whatever you’ve unlocked will remain unlocked, so you’re encouraged to play the map over and over until you’ve done everything asked of you.
The stories are also unique elements for each location. As mentioned above, Dartmoor (England) has a story in which you become the detective and solve the crime, but you can also kill and become the photographer in order to electrocute everyone. Each map has a few of these, they are narratives that you can discover and follow, changing the way you play that mission without technically changing the outcome. I found these a great way for you to experiment with how you’re playing the game without having to think about what to change on your own – the game literally gives you a new scenario and persona, then lets you play it out and kill your target.
The escalations are different from the above. An escalation is a new mission and story set within the same location. For example, the Dartmoor location has an escalation in which you have to kill three of the family members, wearing any disguise, but it has to look like an accident. Other escalations limit what you can wear or what weapon has to kill certain targets – if you fail to meet these criteria then you lose. You also can’t save during these, meaning you have to be very cunning and strategic at times. I bought the Deluxe upgrade (the review copy was the standard edition) as this unlocks many more of these, with the final one arriving on March 30th.
There is seasonal, timed, and featured content within Hitman 3, as well as the return of a bonus mode – albeit with cut content. First of all, from March 30th until April 12th, the Berlin stage is having an Easter Egg hunt! The level is being redesigned with an Easter theme (this is the night club stage) and it looks like you’re limited to wearing a colourful Donnie Darko-esque costume. This timed special event will unlock the suit so you can use it on any stage. More details about this event will be released later this month.
Timed content comes in the form of Elusive Targets. Similar to the above, these are limited events that have new objectives and people to kill, but you can’t save the game. Also, you only get one shot at taking your new target down – if you fail, you can’t have a second chance unless the developers run the event again in the future. The next target is going live between March 19th and March 29th – I’m not going to lie, I seem to fail in every single one of these, I couldn’t even kill Sean Bean in Hitman 2!
Finally, featured content. Hitman 3 lets you create your own featured contracts, sharing your own objectives and restrictions with the world to see if they can complete your mission in the way you define. This is a cool feature in itself, allowing you to challenge others online. But, each month the developers seem to ask various people to create contracts that will be promoted as their featured and recommended contracts – this month it’s Eurogamer.
Removed and cut content
As mentioned above, two modes have been adjusted based on what we got in Hitman 2. First of all, Ghost mode is gone. Ghost Mode was the online multiplayer portion of the game, where you were placed on a map with a random target and you had to see who could kill them first. It was called ghost because you saw the ghost of the other player going about their business as you planned out what you were going to do. It’s a shame this mode is gone but I didn’t use it too often previously, the contracts are keeping me busy enough.
The second change is the Sniper Assassin mode. This was previously multiplayer, testing to see who the best sniper was as you zoomed in to a scene and carefully shot your targets down without allowing them to escape. In Hitman 3, the mode is fully playable but it’s single-player only. Again, for me, this isn’t an issue as I prefer to play my games solo.
The Hitman Trilogy
I previously stated that you can play all of the three Hitman games under the same roof – this is one of the best features within the game. If you own Hitman, Hitman 2, or the GOTY/Season Passes for those games, you can import the missions and story into Hitman 3, giving you access to the entire narrative, levels and bonus missions in the new engine (also fully enhanced for the PS5). The process is a little iffy though…
If you own the first game, you have to install it, update it, then ‘purchase’ the legacy pack from the games’ menu (if you haven’t done this previously for Hitman 2). That’ll make the Hitman GOTY DLC pack for Hitman 3 appear as being FREE to unlock. Hitman 2 should just unlock the Hitman 2 DLC for Hitman 3 if you bought it digitally, if you own it on disc then you have to install it, update it, then purchase the free unlock as you do for the first game. Once you’ve done this, you can delete the previous games as all levels will download and integrate into the third game.
Also, you can import progress from Hitman 2 into Hitman 3. You can’t import the first game, but if you played it in Hitman 2 then that progress will come with the import. To import you’ll need to load up Hitman 3 and click the import icon, you can only do this once so be sure you’ve finished with the second game before you proceed. If everything goes as planned, you’ll have all your XP, items, unlocks, and Mastery Level, and trophies will begin to auto-unlock.
Hitman 3 runs beautifully on the PS5, it runs at a locked 1800p and 60fps with no dips or performance issues in any locations. The visuals are clearly a step above those seen last generation, a massive step, with much better lighting, shadows, reflections and visual clarity. Sure, if you’re looking at the game side-by-side with the PS4 Pro version, you may not see too many differences, but the cleaner image and double framerate make this a much more enjoyable experience.
In terms of PS5 features, the game utilises the haptic feedback for a more precise rumble as well as the adaptive triggers when using a weapon. The triggers will give resistance if you’re throwing an item, mimicking applying force to your throw, and guns have recoil and a trigger effect. You can feel the force but it’s not offputting or restrictive, it adds to the immersion and enhances the gameplay.
Another aspect which the new console helps with are the loading times. It takes mere seconds to load up a new mission, whether loading from a save file, from scratch, or reloading due to failing your objectives.
Hitman 3 itself doesn’t have a photo mode, but Agent 47 does come with a digital camera as an item, allowing him to take photos of all the dead bodies he leaves behind, adding simple filters or zooming in. I would have loved for the game to actually have a real photo mode, letting us capture the moment our target loses their soul and transforms from a living being into a lifeless corpse, but it doesn’t have one. Maybe the developers will add one in the future? If they do, I hope it lets us change Agent 47’s facial expression as I want him to smile every time he kills someone.
Hitman 3 is the definitive way to play the modern Hitman games, simply import the previous two games and experience them all at a locked 60fps on the PS5. The six locations are all very different, offering many ways to progress and lots of creative methods of killing people – there’s never a dull moment in the world of Hitman. The developers are continually providing Elusive Targets, Timed Events and Escalations, as well as allowing people to make and distribute their own contracts to prolong gameplay – you’ll end up getting many, many hours of entertainment out of this game. Hitman 3 is the best death-based sandbox game I’ve ever played.
I will be taking a look at the PSVR version shortly, but from what I’ve heard, it’s yet another great way to experience the trilogy. Also, every purchase of Hitman 3 on PlayStation, be it PS4 or PS5, grants you both platforms’ versions – as PSVR is only active in the PS4 version.
- - Solid 60fps at 1800p
- - Six unique locations with many new creative ways to kill your targets
- - You can import the entire trilogy into this one game
- - The developers give us new content every month
- - You get both the PS4 and PS5 verisons, allowing you to play the entire trilogy in VR
- - I honestly can't think of anything...