Monday, February 6, 2023

Hitman 3 Review – A Killing Conclusion

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Agent 47 has been a death arbiter for decades now, using his finely honed skills in various dirty cases across the globe. With Hitman 3, his World of Assassination trilogy comes to an inevitably bloody end. Over the course of these three games, IO Interactive has boldly set out to create a seamless and cohesive Hitman experience, from tutorial mission to conclusion. After playing through this great finale, I’m relieved that the studio has blocked the landing. Each Final Arc mission is a statement, demonstrating a mastery of level design and a dark, playful desire to subvert the expectations set out five years ago. Hitman 3 isn’t a great place to start your Hitman adventure, but it’s a satisfying way to say goodbye.

Hitman has always been about dropping players off in unfamiliar places, giving them a target, and then letting them run wild. The most recent games have taken this design philosophy to new heights. At its best, Hitman delivers an experience like no other, delivering intricately crafted storylines and giving players the tools they need to tackle missions in different ways. The first time I explored Hitman 3’s explosive opening mission to Dubai, I methodically explored as many Scepter skyscrapers as possible before killing my targets. Hours later, I was able to drive efficiently without dragging, killing both without anyone even knowing I was ever there. It’s like visiting a supermarket; Sometimes you want to compare, and other times you just want to take some milk and walk out of the store.

Hitman 3 introduces new elements, including a camera gadget, but the most notable are its persistent shortcuts. By unlocking specific doors or accessing ladders, these new available paths will be opened to you in subsequent races. They’re a great addition to the series’ unlockable starting locations, ultimately giving you the ability to bypass sections of a level and head to whatever interests you – or whoever – the most. I loved meeting a party animal outside of the Berlin nightclub area and taking a tour of the map, but I was relieved when I found a side door that let me walk past him and safety. Some shortcuts are in more risky places, so you have to weigh that extra danger, but I appreciated having access to more options.

IO Interactive has been creating these types of missions for years now, and this experience shows it. Almost every mission introduces something that turns what longtime gamers have come to expect. The end goal of killing your targets is still part of the deal, but Hitman 3 proves there’s still plenty of room for more variety. One mission offers a long (optional) murder mystery to solve, putting you in the unusual role of a private investigator and interrogator. In another, you start with no knowledge of who your targets are. By working without information, you need to observe and methodically listen to conversations before taking action. If you are impatient, you can just go wild and hope for the best. Five of the six levels offer a multitude of possibilities for improvisation; I spent almost two hours infiltrating a high-tech company in China and was captivated by just about every moment. The final mission is more linear than the others, but it is no less satisfying.

Hitman 3 is a worthy conclusion to the trilogy, but if you weren’t impressed with previous entries, you’re unlikely to change your mind. Its improvements, as welcome as they are to longtime fans, are incremental upgrades rather than bigger leaps than you might be used to seeing in more traditional sequels. I enjoy its slow pace and love the tension that comes from going unnoticed in front of the guards. I love looking at each level as its own weird puzzle, and something about pushing the simulation to see what’s and what’s not really clicks with me. However, if you think the previous two versions have a poor shooter or find them too difficult, those elements haven’t changed. You can technically jump into Hitman 3 without playing the previous games, but that doesn’t do you a favor. Much of the emotional and narrative weight of the game depends on your experience with the trilogy.

Hitman 3 concludes a chapter in Hitman’s greatest story, but it doesn’t feel like an end. There’s an abundance of content and side activities on offer, and the trilogy as a whole is bound to be a long-term destination for would-be assassins. IO Interactive’s final act in the trilogy anticipates and rewards player experimentation, features meticulous level design, and features moments of macabre catharsis that make me chuckle out loud. My enthusiasm for it all is as indelible as the barcode tattooed on the back of Agent 47’s head.

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