Hitman 3 Preview | ‘Potentially the strongest and most thorough Hitman to date’

IO’s commitment to Hitman has been remarkable, especially over the past five or so years. The Danish studio did well by the series it birthed before 2016, but began to fully evolve into something greater with the episodic soft reboot. Hitman 3 is the culmination of that learning process and might end up being the best entry to date.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a radical change from the last two installments. Hitman 3 is incredibly faithful to them and is recognizably Hitman. Agent 47 drops into a location and must craft a way to kill his targets and players likely won’t change their tune with this trilogy ender either way.

Knives out

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However, reductively boiling it down like that misses all the enhancements and level of craft packed into each location. Agent 47 now has access to a camera and instead of taking twisted selfies with the corpses of his targets for the Insta, he can instead hack certain objects and collect evidence. It seems small but it opens up new possibilities in a way that is consistent with the series. For example, one side objective for an early assassination tasked 47 with taking a picture of another target first as proof of his allegiance.

The second mission plays as though it was specifically designed to show off the camera as 47 channels his inner Detective Benoit Blanc. Compiling clues through the camera and playing along with a murder mystery is a thoughtful twist on the formula as it takes the thorough environmental traversal of regular Hitman and finds a new use for it. Of course, it is entirely optional and sneaking around the target only to push her out of a window is still perfectly effective. And whether or not players will choose to use it, the camera is a tool with many uses and hopefully the game finds new ways to incorporate it in its later stages and fully realize its potential.

The persistent shortcuts are yet another new feature that sound small in theory but have bigger ramifications during gameplay. Agent 47 will encounter certain gates that can only be unlocked from one side, such as a ladder with a cage at the top, but will stay unlocked across all playthroughs. These seem to be designed for players who want to play each mission multiple times and take shortcuts to shave off time. Needing to have a tool handy to open these is slightly inconvenient yet a relatively small price to pay because of how they naturally work with Hitman’s inherent replayability.

Six million ways to die

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These missions are inherently replayable because of their staggering depth. The not-Burj Khalifa tower high in the sky in Dubai and the lavish manor in England were both distinct from one another from a layout and atmosphere perspective, but both had similar amounts of attention to detail. No matter the setting or tone, there’s a consistent level of awe that comes when first dropping in as choice paralysis sets in as the numerous paths are laid in front of the player.

Many possibilities, which are better left discovered organically, revolve around different disguises, but the setup is what allows them to stay fresh, especially given how well the game continues to strike the balance between comedy and seriousness. Changing the context is key and setting up goofy scenarios that reward player curiosity continues to be one of Hitman’s best qualities in staving off stagnation. Players don’t have to follow assassination opportunities — stalking and choking still works just fine — but they are often rewarded with unique and more involved kills. And even though the series has had many ways to murder its targets, IO still hasn’t run out of ideas with these more curated (but still open!) scenarios.

Much of Hitman 3’s promise can almost directly be attributed to the successes of the previous two titles. That makes sense as they are all part of the same “World of Assassination” that has made this trilogy more akin to one long game. And even though that has a chance to make Hitman 3 less surprising, it also gives it a solid baseline to work from. By building off that solid blueprint and showcasing IO’s confidence with the series, Hitman 3 is positioned to be the best of three and, in turn, potentially the strongest and most thorough Hitman to date.