“Hitman: Codename 47” came out in the year 2000, developed by IO Interactive, and quickly made a name for itself for its open-ended level design and creative ways to assassinate your targets. Following the success of their first game, IO started pumping out sequels and released “Hitman 2: Silent Assassin” in 2002, followed by “Hitman: Contracts” in 2004 and “Hitman: Blood Money” in 2006. Each game is better than the last, with improvements in both the visuals and the freeform nature of the game. “Hitman: Blood Money” was their magnum opus, their crown jewel, featuring vast, open levels and interesting targets to take down. It quickly became a fan favorite, and people were eager to see where the series went next. Unfortunately, those fans had to wait for a long time as IO took a break from the franchise to work on other projects.
That wait came to an end finally, six years later, in 2012, when they finally released “Hitman: Absolution.” To say that the hopes were high for this one would be an understatement, as long-time fans of the series were hungry for more, while new fans wanted to see how they evolved the series further. Unfortunately, yet again, the game met with a lukewarm reception at best from both fans and critics alike. Why? Because IO decided to strip away everything that made Hitman great and turned it into a linear, third-person cover shooter. Elements like stealth and disguises were still very much in play but changed to be worse. Gone was the free-form nature of levels, and the morale was down for the series all around. IO Interactive didn’t take this loss to heart, though, as they quickly got back to work and presented to us a reboot of the series in 2016, simply titled “Hitman.”
“Hitman” was a return to form for the series, featuring huge open levels and a completely freeform approach that let you decide how you wanted to deal with your targets. The freedom of choice was back. The game was released episodically, with each episode coming with a new map and tweaks to the gameplay. There are six episodes in total. It was met with universal praise and spawned a sequel in 2018, “Hitman 2.” “Hitman 2” was much the same in terms of raw gameplay, with new, bigger, and better maps, refined visuals, and further tweaks to gameplay that made it a smoother experience. It also came with two new game modes, namely Sniper Assassin and Ghost mode. Sniper Assassin was similar to the base game mode but came with its own maps and didn’t let you roam around them; instead, you were perched on a point with a sniper rifle and were tasked to take out your targets from a distance. Ghost mode, on the other hand, was Hitman’s entry into multiplayer, putting two players on the same map and tasking them to assassinate five targets in a race of sorts. Both of these modes were half-baked but fun additions. “Hitman 2” also came with two DLC maps, both of which were incredibly designed.
Finally, in 2021, IO Interactive released the finale to their world of assassination trilogy in the form of “Hitman 3,” and man, did they knock it out of the park. Each game in this new trilogy was building and shaping up to be better than ever, and “Hitman 3” stood triumphant above them all. IO put everything they learned in the last five years into this one, with incredible maps, refined visuals, the most open-ended gameplay the series has ever seen, and more to make this package one to remember. The best part? If you owned the previous two games, you could port those maps into this game and enjoy all of the improvements, making this game the definitive Hitman experience. Let’s dive deeper into “Hitman 3” and see what makes it so great.
You play as Agent 47, a bald-headed, genetically enhanced, emotionless assassin with a barcode tattooed on the back of his head. The game is in third-person and leaves you inside giant environments, letting you tackle the situation in whichever way you choose. You have a huge arsenal of weapons and tools at your disposal and the freedom to pick which ones you want to bring with you on the mission. The levels themselves are chock-full of tools and weapons that you can pick up and store in your inventory, which has no limit, by the way, and use them as the situation demands.
The maps are divided into zones, some of which you are allowed to walk freely in while others require a certain outfit to access, as if you get caught there without the appropriate disguise, there will be trouble. Disguises are a big gameplay feature in these games, as you can knock anybody out or kill them and take their clothes for yourselves. You want to head to an upstairs private area, but security guards are blocking your way, and you don’t have an invitation? No problem! Knock a security guard out, take his outfit, and walk past those guards blocking your way. You want to enter the kitchen to find a knife? Well, find a chef or someone who works in the kitchen, take their clothes, and go right in. Disguises give infiltration a whole new meaning and are a fun way to explore the grounds of these maps uninterrupted. Don’t get too comfortable, though, as there are people called Enforcers sprinkled around the map who can see right through your disguise. They can be identified by the giant circle floating above their heads, and it’s in your best interest to keep your distance from them.
Ideally, when it comes to completing a mission, you’d want to avoid killing anyone that’s not your target. You can be a complete psycho and murder everyone you see, but the real assassins go in, get rid of their targets only, and escape, leaving no trace behind. That’s called being a silent assassin and is the highest rating you can get at any level. Pulling off a silent assassin rating requires patience, understanding of the maps, clever use of your tools, and the ability to improvise. Play the game enough, and you’ll find new and interesting ways to take out your targets with no one ever noticing you were there. Speaking of killing your targets, there are a billion ways you can do that. Shoot them in the head? That’s easy. Poison their bottle of water or coffee? Yup. Drop a chandelier on them? Devious. Stalk them and garrote them using a fiber wire from behind? Very much so. Take them out from a distance or plant a bomb near them? That works too! The possibilities are truly endless. In that regard, “Hitman 3” truly is a murder sandbox that allows you to kill someone the way you want to. However, if you have a flair for the dramatic, then you can track and follow mission stories that tell you to step by step what you should be doing, and in the end, you get a scripted, cinematic kill as a reward. These are limited in numbers per mission, but the kills you get out of them, in the end, are as sweet as they are brutal.
That covers the basics of how the gameplay works in “Hitman 3.” Stealthing your way across the map and stalking your targets like a predator never gets old! But all of this would be for nothing if it weren’t for how well the maps are designed, so let’s take a look at them.
The maps in these games are truly the stars of the show. Each one is visually stunning, highly detailed, and big enough to get lost in. The three games of this trilogy come with a total of 21 maps that you are free to explore in “Hitman 3,” and indeed, this is the world of assassination. From a fashion show in Paris to a high-tech hospital in Hokkaido, from a race track in Miami to the slums of Mumbai, from a bank in New York City to a resort island in The Maldives, from the tallest building in Dubai to a vineyard in Argentina, “Hitman 3” takes you around the globe. Each one of these maps brings with it a new location and setting, all of which are beautifully and brilliantly crafted. The level of detail here is unparalleled. Secret passageways around cameras, multiple interconnected routes, areas filled with bustling crowds, NPCs having conversations that can give you clues if you eavesdrop on them, tall grass to hide in, hidden intel scattered across the areas, and so much more give these maps a feeling of place instead of just acting like a simulation. Sure, the AI always follows a set path, but the fun comes when you manipulate their paths and watch the chaos ensue. All of this works in tandem with the tools at your disposal and the mastery system. Each level comes with what’s known as “mastery” that you can work towards. You unlock mastery points by completing a set number of challenges in order to reach mastery level 20 on each map. With each level, you gain new starting points, new disguises, and new tools that you can use on your mission, helping to make your routes better and your kills cleaner.
Finally, if you want to showcase your mastery of these levels, you can try Elusive Targets. A mode that comes around once a month and asks you to kill a target on a set map. The catch here is that the target isn’t highlighted for you, so you have to find them on your own, and once you kill them? You are locked in, meaning no more retries. You truly have to walk in the shoes of Agent 47 in this mode and have a deep understanding of the ins and outs of the map in question to come out the victor. You get new and fancier suits for your trouble, and eluding the elusive target is the hardest, most tense, and most fun way to play.
With the number of maps available and the sandbox style, borderline immersive-sim level of gameplay that’s been crafted, you can spend hours upon hours on a single map, trying to find newer, faster, alternative, or even chaotic ways to execute your targets and trust me when I say this: it never gets old.
The Technical Stuff
“Hitman 3” is a gorgeous game through and through. It is by far one of the cleanest games I have ever seen in my life. Running at native 4K resolution with a rock-solid 60fps on Xbox Series X with next to no bugs or glitches hindering your experience. All other platforms share a similar look with varying resolutions and framerates, as the Glacier Engine powering this game is very well optimized and is a damn good tool for making this kind of game. IO Interactive worked their tails off for this game, and it shows in every frame when it comes to visuals, performance, and sound design. You can expect top-tier quality across the board. My only problem here will be the requirement to be always online, as you can’t make any progress toward your mastery when you play offline, and the servers can be kinda iffy. Other than that, everything is rock-solid all around.
There’s a lot “Hitman 3” offers when it comes to raw gameplay and replayability. But what makes this game worth playing in my eyes is its expertly crafted gorgeous levels. Gameplay that offers independence unlike any other game and a plethora of options and choices at your fingertips. There’s even a story that you can follow if you like, but let’s face it: Nobody plays Hitman for its story. “Hitman 3” is fun, silly, and a damn good experience through and through, and one that you should definitely check out for yourself.