IOI has been on quite a journey since the release of Hitman in 2016. The soft reboot was initially hobbled into an episodic release by then-owners Square Enix and just before the release of Hitman 2 in 2018 Square announced that they would be shutting IOI down. Thankfully, IOI management came up with a management buyout deal that enabled them to shop the game to WB to publish. However, with the profits from that game and a handy EGS PC exclusive deal, IOI has now self-published the final instalment in the World of Assassination trilogy.
In this conclusion to Agent 47’s story, he travels from Dubai to western Europe, China and finally Eastern Europe as he works with his handler Diana and his childhood friend to take down the international shadow organisation Providence and its cabal of puppet masters. While the previous two games had a story, it was treated as more of a way to give the player a moment’s respite between missions and honestly was not a driving force in progression. This time, however, the story is far more interesting than previously. Maybe this is because this game was designed from the start to be released as a whole and not episodically, but whatever the reason it is welcome. Luckily, you will not be lost as the game has a summary that you can watch to catch you up on the prior two games.
Unlike many, I liked the episodic release schedule of the game as that encouraged a player to replay each level several times to meet all the challenges and unlock all the outfits as well as the myriad of ways in which you can murderise your targets. It also gave speedrunners and those chasing positions on the leader boards time to perfect their playthroughs without worrying about been left behind as their audiences move on to the next level. With a full release most players will push through each level and once they finish the game may do a second playthrough, but with games releasing almost weekly many players will not experience the full game which would do themselves a disservice.
The story, while more cohesive, is still secondary to the tick-tock mechanics of the levels. At its heart Hitman is a puzzle game. This is not a game, at least on the first playthrough, where you should rush into situations. Patience is rewarded as you learn NPC routines and discover different routes to your targets. And while doing that you will discover the level-specific Mission Stories that open a guided assassination route. Purists have and will sneer at these, but they are a great way for newcomers to the series to complete the level and given that they open some interesting and creative resolutions to the ultimate puzzle that are worth the effort.
For those that would prefer to challenge themselves you can attempt an all suit playthrough whereby you ignore all opportunities to wear a disguise. This means that you have to take your time and memorise NPC patterns in order to remain hidden. You can then further challenge yourself and ignore the Mission Stories, relying on your wits and skill to achieve your goal. If you need to you can play this as an FPS, but Agent 47 is actually quite fragile, and the guards can be very aggressive so you will die many times playing like this. You will also miss out on the fun of this game playing that way. However, if you do find yourself in a firefight you can shoot your way out, just know that the controls are not designed for FPS to play with aiming with a mouse without aim assist being a bit slow and imprecise.
If you do stealth the way through the game, you will be provided with a wide array of tools as well as sentimental items that you will find useful. The most useful are the coins to help distract guards as well as the garotte that allows you in one move to kill and hide a body. As you move through a level it is advisable to pick up any and all items as you never know when you will need them and the ability to throw them at a fleeing witness or guard that surprises you is invaluable. Just don’t carry guns if you don’t need to.
Each of the six new locations are as carefully and skilfully crafted as any from the previous two games. You start in Dubai in what is the world’s highest building. After a suitably pulse-pounding and awe-inspiring entrance to the location, you are dropped into a suitably simple level that is designed as a tutorial area that gets you into the story faster than the previous games tutorial missions. It is a well-crafted level, but it is small so you will not be spending too much time replaying it to unlock and complete all the challenges. Each of the levels shows a degree of care and attention to detail that you do not always see in-game dev. Each level builds to a suitably epic conclusion in Romania’s Carpathian Mountains, but sadly you do not get to assassinate Dracula.
IO Interactive cleverly did deals with Epic for PC exclusivity as Epic guarantees a minimum income, If you are a PC player you just cannot buy the game on Steam, but this is likely a timed deal for a year. This does, however, impact your ability to import Hitman 2 progress and locations into this game at no additional cost as Hitman 2 is not available via EGS. A fix is coming sometime towards the end of February, but it is a frustrating omission. If you bought the game on EGS within the first month or via pre-order you will get the Hitman 1 pass for free. If you must buy the passes it is a bit pricey so I would suggest waiting for a sale.
On console, you have the choice of buying for last-gen consoles and thankfully both companies support free next-gen upgrades so if you still have not purchased a PS5 or Xbox Series S/X you can buy the PS4 or Xbox One version and the game will automatically upgrade to the next-gen version.
Hitman 3 is an excellent conclusion to the World of Assassination with an insane amount of replay value especially if you have access to all the locations in the trilogy. You should get even more value out of the game when IO Interactive release this game’s Elusive Targets once-off timed assassinations that will test your mettle.
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