The Hitman collection has at all times been outlined by its openness, permitting gamers to imagine the position of the peerless murderer referred to as Agent 47 and take out targets nonetheless they please. But 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 at the very least as a lot as Hitman’s play-it-your-way spirit.
IO has stated 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 often alerts that it needs you to make a specific choice, and reinforces it with a cutscene afterward that follows straight from the selection in query.
Of course, the push and pull between interactivity and authored narrative performs on the essence of 47’s job itself: He is a laboratory-engineered contract killer, designed to be the right employed gun, at all times finishing up another person’s orders slightly than appearing of his personal volition.
Indeed, IO’s whole trilogy touches on concepts of energy, management, and self-determination. The group identified within the video games’ fiction as Providence is a world 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 lots are incapable of choosing the proper path themselves. But what occurs when a number of the blunt instruments via which Providence wields its extraordinary energy — 47 and his long-lost pal Lucas Grey, a fellow educated murderer — achieve an understanding of their humanity, and search to train free will?
This is heady stuff for a online game franchise that alternates between operatic drama and goofy hijinks, and it has principally remained within the background till now. Hitman 3 performs it up, making for an excellent conclusion to the trilogy. The recreation is outstanding not only for its masterful degree design and its penchant for turning acquainted components of the collection on their heads, however for a way skillfully it brings to bear the accrued 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 evaluate of a Hitman recreation speaking about its story, nicely, 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 recreation. 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 Grey, 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 Constant. This determine works for the Providence Partners, the three leaders of the key society, who all come from old-money households. At the beginning of Hitman 3, 47’s staff intends to extract data from the Constant so the group can take out the Partners and destroy Providence. But 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. Trust is a tenuous, dangerous idea, and allegiances are liable to alter at a second’s discover. Do the members of Providence have the luxurious 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. Moreover, the story is the driving pressure behind the best way you really play Hitman 3.
Of the six missions in Hitman 3 — set in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Dartmoor, U.Ok.; Berlin; Chongqing, China; Mendoza, Argentina; and Romania’s Carpathian Mountains — solely two start in conventional Hitman style, with 47 merely displaying up at a location, able to get to work. The different missions grabbed me and didn’t let go by means of unconventional introductions, like a vertigo-inducing infiltration of the world’s tallest constructing and an unsettling nighttime exploration of a abandoned fuel station. I additionally delighted in being challenged to suppose on my toes extra, as 47 typically 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 spotted simply how a lot I had grown accustomed over the previous two video games to Diana’s energetic, 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 stunned 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 world, gained intel, and found out who my targets have been, my aims advanced. This mission comes at a degree within the marketing campaign the place it seems like 47 has been pitted towards the world; it’s a terrific synthesis of story and gameplay.
Argentina’s “The Farewell” isn’t the ultimate mission of Hitman 3, but it surely seems like a fruits of every thing 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 at risk.
Mendoza comprises what’s now, I feel, my favourite assassination in the whole Hitman franchise. All I’ll say is that it includes winemaking equipment and a few … help.
The mission additionally makes maybe the very best use of some mechanics which can be new to Hitman 3: safety keypads, time limitations, and 47’s digicam/scanner. All of these components 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 achieved by utilizing the scanner to hack the tunnels’ entry doorways.) It all made me really feel like a badass tremendous spy.
That’s to not say the opposite areas lack gorgeous vistas or unimaginable 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. Yet it nonetheless makes room for a few Hitman 3’s persistent shortcuts — doorways (and, in some locations, ladders) that have to 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 like Hitman 2, with new targets to take down in six new areas, and a few further toys and ways with which 47 can accomplish his objectives. But I very a lot appreciated the twists and wrinkles that IO threw into the Hitman method this time round, a lot 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 large recreation design questions is the type of factor you are able to do if you return to being an impartial 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 20 years. I’m amazed that IO pulled off that delicate balancing act in Agent 47’s most interesting journey so far.
Hitman 3 shall be launched Jan. 20 on Google Stadia, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. The recreation was reviewed on PC utilizing a pre-release Epic Games Store obtain code supplied by IO Interactive. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media could earn commissions for merchandise bought by way of affiliate hyperlinks. You can discover further details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here.