Hitman 3 Review
The episodic Hitman series started off on rocky grounds, releasing its missions one at a time over prolonged periods, but learning from their mistakes, developers IO Interactive released the next two Hitman installments as complete games. Once heat settled down around the episodic approach and both Hitman 1 and 2 were readily available, fans found deep and complex hunting grounds in which they could unleash their murderous potential. With Hitman 3 releasing on both last generation and new generation consoles, can it live up to the potential of other 'Next Gen' titles and can it live up to the epic standards of previous entries? Check out our thoughts in the review below.
Hitman is a game that prides itself on being methodical, brutal, and stealthy. Previous entries have used subtle hints, within the environment, to help push players to find unique and efficient ways to dispatch its diverse cast of 'targets'. It's safe to say that Hitman 3 takes this concept and pushes it that little bit further than the previous 2 games of this trilogy, making for a brand new Hitman experience. To give an example of this, Hitman 3 gave me one of my all-time favorite Hitman levels. The mission in question takes Agent 47 into Berlin, where he is being actively hunted by 'other hitmen'. You don't know who your targets are, what they look like, or where they are. So, unlike other missions where your target is highlighted, you have to wander around spying on people, trying to establish whether or not, they are your target. It's a really fun take on the standard formula of these games, which amplifies the tension of doing 'things' in the right sequence, without being seen.
Hitman 3 allows players to experience it, exactly how they see fit. You can go in, 'guns blazing', you can do a pure stealth run or you can even use the in-world items (such as an explosive golf ball) to come up with the deadliest attack against your victim, as you see fit. Freedom is what Hitman 3 bases its worlds around, and it challenges players to embrace that freedom and play with its beautifully crafted sandboxes, which are filled to the brim with life and traffic. One of my only gripes about the Hitman series, (which is prevalent in Hitman 3) is that it uses a scoring system, which scores aggressive approaches badly and rewards those stealthy players. Whilst this makes sense for the premise of the game, it would be good if IO could bring in a mode in which challenges players to take that more aggressive play-style. Although, on the more positive side, Hitman 3's controls are extremely well crafted, and work well no matter what approach you take.
One of the other features I really enjoy about Hitman 3, is the fact that when you identify 'secrets' within its sandbox, it opens up more opportunities for you to explore other options on how to tackles its missions. These opportunities come in the form of unique starting disguises, hidden weapons, new weapons to start with, and unique starting points. This makes revisiting its worlds fun rewarding and enticing to players who explore every corner of each mission. There is an 'online' mode called 'Contracts' which allows you to go into a game, kill a target of your choice, and challenge players to do the same thing as you, but in a more effective and deadly way. The point of this mode is to rack up the most points and top the leader board for your own, or other players' contracts.
Hitman 3 has some amazing reflections within the game, and at first glance, I thought that it was using Ray Tracing. Although, upon research, I found out that Hitman 3 in fact uses Screen Space Reflections, which is a different (more dated) technique to render reflections in a game. The thing is, by using this reflection technique, the game is able to run incredibly smooth, have a high resolution, and run at a solid 60FPS throughout. This is due to the sheer power draw that Ray Tracing has on any given hardware. In fact, if you asked me, based on what I saw in Hitman 3 and the amount of power needed to actually use Ray Tracing well, it seems that Ray Tracing might not be the option for this in the future.
Aside from that Hitman 3 just looks pretty all round. Rain is well represented, making surfaces shimmer and look wet. Dirty surfaces look worn and rusty, whilst light bounces around the environment lighting it in a way that you would expect in the real world. Hitman 3 easily has some of the best graphics for the start of the generation, and what's most impressive is that on last generation hardware, it doesn't look too much different. For those who have played the previous titles, the graphics have all been touched up from the previous entries, adding more ambient lighting and realistic shadowing.
My only frustration with this new title is that the developers tweaked Agent 47's character model, making him appear much younger. It's not a big problem as most of the time, you are looking at his head, but for those moments when you do see his face in detail, you will think to yourself - "Something doesn't look right". 47 is meant to be a veteran Hitman. He's been doing this a long time and has been through a lot. It's strange that he hasn't aged much and also doesn't look tired of it all.
The audio in Hitman 3 has been revisited and touched up, and what's most impressive is that this counts for the original game missions as well. Grand Halls now echo, and are filled with chatter amongst the people within, guns boom and echo around long corridors and the sound of a wrench crushing someone's skull, makes you quench in pain for the person you've just eradicated from existence. During my playtime with the game, I tested the sound across a standard 2.1 soundbar, a 5.1 surround soundbar, and the 3D tempest audio on the PlayStation 5 headset. On all three experiences, the game actually offered a really decent amount of immersion and accuracy. The 2.1 experience simply offered high-quality sound effects that match the environment in which I was in, whilst the 5.1 and 3D audio offered a whole new level of audio moving around Agent 47 as I passed through halls. It genuinely felt like you could hear people talking all around you and offered a deeper level of immersion into the game.
Although the sound quality was high in Hitman 3, I would say that it left a lot to be desired for in voice acting. Like previous games, Agent 47 is way too stiff. I appreciate that he is a robot-like character who is set out to do one thing, but there would be a time where I saw a character speaking to another one with a British accent. I would then take that person out, steal their clothes and I would return to the NPC they were just speaking to with an American accent. THEY WOULDNT EVEN BAT AN EYELID?! It's probably the one thing that broke the immersion for me, and it is quite obvious when it happens too.
The Hitman series isn't known for its excellent storytelling, although it does have a story to tell, which links up to the other titles. However, the problem with this new trilogy is that this story is not easy to follow and is delivered too many mediums. Players are required to read full dossiers on their target which is something that I am not a huge fan of. Although in the earlier titles, this was only ever used to give context to your opponent, as opposed to telling the story. So when it comes to 3, it feels a little bit too late to be fixing this issue and telling us the story to a much deeper level via cutscenes. It makes you wonder why the other games hadn't taken this approach too. Although, on the merit of Hitman 3 as its very own title it does a much better job than Hitman 1 and 2. But that's where the buck stops. Hitman Absolution, Hitman Blood Money, Hitman Silent Assassin, and even Hitman Contracts all tell a much stronger story and are from much older generations of gaming. Which leaves a little bit of a sour taste in your mouth.
What I will say though is that Hitman 3 is a step in the right direction for the new series overall. The introduction of entry segments of levels, allow the developers to inject a little more context into the overall mission and reason for you being in the location you are. I spent less time with this title, reconfirming who people were, reading up information on the screen, and allowed me to appreciate the story a lot more. I do wish however that there was a little more interaction with Agent 47 and the crew surrounding him, in which he is able to talk to these people about the topics surrounding them.