It feels strange being surprised about this, but one of our most anticipated games of the year is here, and on time. IO Interactive is headlining January with the final instalment into the World of Assassination trilogy of Hitman games, with the blockbuster Hitman 3. I've spent a considerable amount of time exploring what this title offers, and let's just say without foreshadowing too much, this one, alike Agent 47's shots, hits the mark.
Looking at the storyline and without getting into spoiler territory, where does Hitman 3 take us in Agent 47's journey? Unlike previous Hitman games by IO Interactive, Hitman 3 pits Agent 47 against the very agency he used to work for. In this storyline, Providence are the baddies, and it's your duty, alongside a few trusted pals, to bring the organisation to its knees. Needless to say, when you're hunting the people who ran the contract killing agency you worked for, the hits you carry out will have to be more precise and skilled than ever before, as they will do everything in their power to stop you in your tracks. And of course, it won't all be without casualties - on both sides of this shadow war.
A few weeks ago, when I wrote a preview on this game, I stated that "Hitman 3 offers the most refined Hitman experience to date," and that still remains true. If you are expecting a completely new Hitman game, this won't be it, but in return IO Interactive has used the information gathered from two previous full games to create the most tailored Hitman title ever - and from minute one and until the curtain closes, Hitman 3 delivers exactly that.
The iconic stealth or covert gameplay we are used to feels better than ever here. Whether you are sneaking around somewhere you're not supposed to, or assuming the character of someone else, everyone you can be and everywhere you can go is engaging. That even extends to the combat. Obviously in a Hitman game the idea is to never be in combat, but the assassination mechanics at your finger tips in Hitman 3 are about as broad as they have ever been. I've squished people in grape presses, blown up targets with exploding golf balls, even buried someone in their own grave - that's about as respectful as it gets. The point is, the world of Hitman 3 really is your oyster.
Talking about the world, whether you head to Berlin, Dartmoor, Dubai, Chongqing, Mendoza, or back home to the Carpathian Mountains - each location brings a new environment for you to play around in. Some are more diverse and broad than others, but not a single level feels similar in its appearance or design, which makes completing the storyline constantly packed with mystery and excitement. After spending a while playing around in each area, Mendoza with its sprawling grapevine fields remains my favourite. The differing locations within this level provides so many unique opportunities to complete your contracts, and the expansive size of the level means there is always something new to discover.
In general, discovery is a huge part about what makes Hitman 3 great. As I stated in my preview, you can take the easy route with your hits, i.e. by walking in and just shooting the target at the earliest convenience. But, this game excels when you assume a role. Take Dartmoor, for example. One of the most intriguing storylines Hitman 3 offers comes when you disguise yourself as a private detective to solve a murder case. In this position, you are given pretty much unhindered freedom across the map, and diving into the role opens up this deep Knives Out-esque mystery that will make you forget you're actually playing a Hitman game.
The great part is that each location comes with a plethora of storylines to discover and complete, and each will require you to return to the level time and time again to see it through to its full extent. Essentially, even though the objective of a level remains the same each time, the way you choose to complete it adds such a deep array of replayability. Whether that is increasing the difficulty, smuggling in a piece of gear to try something new out, spawning somewhere else, or by challenging yourself to beat your own time record - there is always something keeping you engaged.
Replayability to this degree, however, does mean that Hitman 3's storyline isn't exactly lengthy. The six levels - each with a cinematic in between - probably make for around five to six hours of gameplay for one playthrough. The idea is to go back into each sandbox to explore new options, but just don't expect to come to this game for a 10+ hour campaign.
With this being said, Hitman 3 does bring both Hitman 1 and Hitman 2 together in an easy to access package, for one meaty Hitman experience, or the full World of Assassination trilogy offering. You can access all things Hitman in this game, which really would make for tens of hours of Hitman to chew through in one complete bundle, and since Hitman 3 is available on pretty much every platform (Nintendo Switch via the cloud at launch), you can look to explore Agent 47's full story however you like.
One thing to note is that I did experience a few performance issues within this game. None of which are particularly alarming, but I did routinely encounter freezing - although this never resulted in crashing, and my game always resumed playing after around 20 seconds of being frozen.
We know that Hitman 3 marks the end of the World of Assassination trilogy, and that IO Interactive has a 007 project in the works, meaning Agent 47 might be taking a backseat from now on. However, Hitman 3 leaves the future of this series in a very open fashion, and I'd like to think there is a very real chance that more Hitman might be on the cards some time down the line. Considering how IO Interactive has explored and built out this franchise to be better than ever before, I sincerely do hope that the future involves more Agent 47, as it would be a shame to see this incredible series put to rest: Especially as Hitman 3 is one of - if not the best - Hitman game we've ever been fortunate enough to experience.