Hitman 3 Is a Beautifully Executed Finale

The final chapter of the trilogy is a master class in level design for Agent 47’s murderous escapades.

The latest and final Hitman entry is a globe-trotting adventure that swings from the highs of a Dubai skyscraper to the lows of an underground Berlin club. As Agent 47, you’ll bring death to evil oligarchs, cyber terrorists, and even aristocracy, before the redemptive arc closes out the trilogy. The question is: Can you get away with it?

What makes Hitman games so great is the level of freedom they offer in navigating each assassination. Stealth and style are prized, but the sandbox levels are packed with possibilities. Few games reward reconnaissance and meticulous planning like Hitman 3, though there’s room for opportunism too. 

It might sound like a somber affair, but moments of hilarity lurk in snatches of overheard conversations, bumbled attempts to sneak, and unlikely methods of murder. All of that, and the tremendous amount of replay value the game offers, make it a satisfying conclusion to the series.

Assassination Simulator

Each level in Hitman 3 challenges you to kill a specific target (often more than one) and sometimes includes additional objectives, such as retrieving a secret file. To navigate maps full of suspicious bystanders and heavily armed guards, you change into different outfits, pulling them from laundry baskets and lockers or from the unconscious bodies of people you’ve “subdued.”

Photograph: IO Interactive 

Be stealthy and swift. Avoid protracted firefights to survive. Killing non-targets is frowned upon and results in penalties to your score. There are bonuses for hiding bodies, discovering secrets, and avoiding suspicion. Naturally, an array of gear is at your disposal, from garrotes and silenced pistols to poisons and explosives. Innocuous items like frying pans, empty soda cans, and bananas can also be pressed into service, often with comedic results.

Fans of the series will be at home because Hitman 3 plays exactly like its predecessors. It adds a camera to your inventory so you can scan panels for access to shortcuts (or sometimes to block the view of your enemies), but the rest of the game mechanics are familiar.

You can rush through the whole game in a few hours, but the joy is in exploring the levels, stalking your prey, and waiting for the perfect opportunity to reveal itself. Your real superpower is the ability to relive each scenario, plot your target’s routine, and hone your approach. Nonplayable characters (NPCs) are more than set dressing too; they each have their own loop and react to your presence, so you’ll have to factor them into your plans.

Completing challenges is another way to liven up your play-throughs. Some require you to only use a particular weapon or escape route, while others ask you to assume different identities and quip your way into your target’s inner sanctum. The risk of capture is ever present as you steal, sneak into restricted areas, and desperately drag unconscious bodies to empty closets.

Every failure adds to the payoff when you time things perfectly and complete a slick assassination without raising alarms. Some of the best kills are apparent accidents that involve loosening lighting rigs, exposing wires, or falls from balconies.

But since failing is a big part of Hitman 3, which means you’ll restart or reload levels often, the game experience is best enjoyed on next-gen consoles like the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. I played on PS5, where the lightning-fast load times encouraged me to experiment a little more and not worry about bungling a hit, because it only takes seconds to try again.

World-Class Level Design

The real stars of the entire Hitman trilogy are the maps, and that rings true in the third title. From the tallest skyscraper in Dubai and Thornbridge Manor in Dartmoor to the gloomy ancestral home of the Carlisles, where you can play out your very own murder mystery, each map is breathtaking, detailed, and offers surprising depth. The rain-soaked, neon-lit streets of Chinese megacity Chongqing frame a technological nightmare that’s deliciously dark. A gathering of the rich in the rolling hills and vineyards of Mendoza in Argentina could hardly provide better contrast. 

Photograph: IO Interactive 

It’s tough to pick a favorite, but the underground rave in Berlin, run by a dangerous biker gang, gets my vote. The banging industrial techno is a great soundtrack, and small touches like being told to put a sticker over your phone camera when you enter the club make it feel authentic. You can eavesdrop on intoxicated folks, push your way through a crowded dance floor, get a breath of fresh air in the chill-out zone, and even don a DJ outfit to work the crowd into a frenzy.

Ostensibly, you are being hunted, with 10 International Contract Agency (ICA) agents scouring the club to find you. It doesn’t take long to turn the tables. You have to be vigilant and identify targets before they spot you, and there’s a myriad of ways to take each one out. They don’t have the same villainous backstories as some of your other deserving targets, but sheer numbers force you to mix planning with quick thinking. The mission is fittingly named Apex Predator, and that’s exactly how it makes you feel.

The fifth and final map is by far the least interesting. More of an epilogue than a full-blown level, the linear layout and no-holds-barred option of killing everyone feels decidedly at odds with the usual Hitman formula. It’s still fun, and trying to complete it without detection is a worthy puzzle that will confound even experienced assassins.

There’s a concerted effort to elevate the clichéd backstory and deliver a satisfying conclusion, and it mostly succeeds. The sparse plot unfolds in cut scenes between levels, but honestly, the story isn’t really the reason to play these games.

Exploring the DLC

If you’ve played the previous titles, Danish developer IO Interactive allows you to import your progress from Hitman 2. The complete trilogy is also playable within Hitman 3 for anyone who owns the previous games (or you can buy them for cheap if you’re new to the series). 

Photograph: IO Interactive 

Downloadable content (DLC) extends the game even further, and parts of it are free additions to the main game. The recent (free) Easter-themed Escalation Contract, which challenges you to follow a creepy white rabbit around the Berlin map armed with poisonous easter eggs, was especially fun, and there’s already a large library of player-created contracts to stretch your skills. 

Escalations Contracts reuse existing maps and offer three rounds of increasingly tough challenges with an escalating series of targets and objectives. The first is a simple execution, for example, but then you aren’t allowed to change your outfit in the second, and the final stage fails immediately if you’re spotted doing anything illegal. The save option is disabled to make things even trickier. 

But then there’s the premium (and pricey) DLC release called Seven Deadly Sins. It’s unintentionally fitting that the first pack of the seven is dubbed Greed. It’s $5, or you can order the entire collection for $30 (the rest launch every four to six weeks, respectively). Each sin promises “a visually distinct contract, a sin-themed unlockable suit, and at least one sin-themed item.” That translates to a new Escalation Contract, a suit, and a devil’s cane in this first pack. 

Greed strikes an effective fever-dream atmosphere, complete with a demonic voice-over and a gold-tinged filter, but this is still the Dubai skyscraper map again with all the same loops playing out. I particularly like the option to drop coins into a giant golden frog to get helpful items during the play-through, but there’s not much substance to the pack. It’s overpriced for what you get. 

Still, the base game is a fitting climax for this trilogy, bringing together everything that makes the series so fun. It’s refreshing to play a game that offers so many choices and rewards players who find clever solutions. It’s darkly comedic and endlessly inventive, but it’s the masterful level design that should put Hitman 3 firmly in your sights. 

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