There’s always been a little bit of debate about what can be classified as art. Sure, an old painting is probably art…but is a film? That was in dispute back in the day. Are video games? We seem to have decided that they are. What about murder? Can a killing count as art? That’s the question that the Hitman series seeks to answer. You can guess the conclusion that these games come to, particularly in the elegant, impressive World of Assassination trilogy that we’ve been playing since 2016. The latest and final entry in the trilogy, Hitman 3, is here, so let’s take a look at just how artistic murder can be.
Hitman 3 is, well, Hitman. Without getting too far into the plot – which, at this point, would almost certainly serve as a massive spoiler – you play as the chrome-domed assassin Agent 47 and enter exotic and dangerous locales, hoping to covertly dispatch your targets and get out alive. Before each stage you’re able to choose outfits, gadgets and gizmos to help you during your mission, and as you successfully complete assassinations you’ll gain experience that will unlock more goodies.
Hitman’s really all about the human aspect of stealth – you’ll use a combination of social engineering and hiding in plain sight to get where you need to be. It’s a significant swerve from something like Dishonored where being seen at all is held to be a bad move, though Hitman will also notice and reward this kind of ghostly technique.
While Hitman 3’s gameplay doesn’t stray far from previous World of Assassination games, it definitely excels in terms of level design and interesting things to do. You’ll visit a castle in England, explore a seedy data storage house in China and hit up a party in Berlin. Each level has some plot-focused assassination plans that you can follow to succeed with relative ease; these tend to be the most elaborate and hilarious options. Special mention goes to the mission set in Dartmoor in the UK, which has an absolutely amazing plot-focused plan where you dress up as…well, let’s just say it’s an elementary assassination.
Of course, taking out your targets once isn’t much of an accomplishment. Anybody can kill a guy once. I’m sure we all have, really. No, the big deal about Hitman has always been its replayability and Hitman 3’s got that in spade. You can choose from numerous approaches when it comes to getting the job done, assuming you even want to follow a plot-focused method, since it’s also entirely possible to ad-lib and make things work. Combat is present and not awful, which is actually kind of cute given how often engaging things head-on is a poor decision. The fact that you can Rambo through a level and still survive is a nod to the care paid to how different players might approach the game.
Get into the back as a server, ambush a poor maintenance person and take their outfit, use that as an excuse to get into the penthouse and find your target…that kind of thing. The ever-present tension involved in being somewhere you shouldn’t and doing something you shouldn’t makes Hitman 3 quite the rush, particularly given the complexity of its stages. Unsurprisingly, the available missions tend to be a tiny bit tougher right from the outset, so you’ll want to brush up on your skills if necessary.
Hitman’s also been known as a franchise that excels from a presentation point of view and this entry’s no exception. If you’ve got a decent PC, Hitman 3 is happy to take advantage of it, rendering massive crowds, beautiful venues and gruesome assassinations. It’s a fantastic experience all in all, especially given the sheer number of NPCs that can be present in a given scene. The almost surreal nature of some of the environments you’ll explore and kill in serve to reinforce that idea of killing-as-art. It’s almost a shame to mess them up with blood. Oh well.
Perhaps the best part of Hitman 3 is its state as a sort of “hub” for all the Hitman titles in the World of Assassination trilogy. You’re able to access all the stages and content from Hitman and Hitman 2 right from the same menu, including accessing your previous data if it exists. It serves to show the love that’s gone into this series writ large; you may have your own feelings about its particular flavor of stealth gameplay, but it’s impossible to deny these developers love the franchise. It’s the kind of love that’s infectious, like, say, a horrible bio-engineered virus locked in a lab beneath Sapienza. The point is that Hitman 3 is worth a look for new and returning assassins alike.