Hitbox Review: Hitman 3 – Blood in the Sandbox

Developer: IO Interactive

Release Date: Jan. 20, 2021

Platforms: PlayStation 5 [Played], PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC.

Price: $60

graphic by Michaeline Collins.

In the games industry, there’s not really a comparison to the Hitman franchise. Hitman 3, like the seven Hitman games before it, tasks the player with entering into a massive virtual space, identifying their target and then eliminating them, by any means necessary. 

Hitman 3 is the conclusion to the World of Assassination trilogy, following 2016’s Hitman and 2018’s Hitman 2. This was my first experience with the franchise, and unfortunately, the story really failed to make any impact at all. The plot of the trilogy deals with the main character, Agent 47, discovering and taking down a secret organization of the worlds elite called Providence, who are operating behind the scenes and controlling the world. The plot, told through cinematic cutscenes between each level, serves only as an excuse to move Agent 47 around the world to new mission locations.

Locations are the star of the show, with the six featured maps being massive and diverse. Dubai is a “Mission: Impossible” inspired stealth operation in the world’s tallest skyscraper, while Dartmoor creates a s murder-mystery vibe where Agent 47 disguises himself as a famed inspector and infiltrates a grand mansion to solve the mystery. Other maps include an underground nightclub in Berlin, the alleyways of Chongqing, China, a grand winery in Mendoza, Argentina and a train racing through the mountains of Romania. 

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Each map is designed to be played multiple times, with a progress bar for each map that tracks location mastery. Each target can be eliminated in countless ways, many of which are inventive and involved, such as triggering an evacuation in the Dubai skyscraper and sabotaging your target’s parachute. Locations are massive simulations where people follow schedules and move around interacting with one another. Once a player has mastered a level, they can take on escalations which add new challenges and conditions to taking down each target.

Disguises are an integral part of gameplay, allowing 47 to take the place of guards to access high security areas, or even to take the place of important people in each location. Finding a member of Providence waiting for his food in a noodle shop presents the opportunity to follow him into the bathroom, take his clothes, then take his place in a tour of a top secret Providence facility.

Learning maps and operating on the fly is daunting, and the game offers an easier way to get flashy eliminations in the form of mission stories. Each location has several mission stories which guide the player through scenarios, making it easier to get interesting conclusions to each area. Highlights include the aforementioned murder-mystery in Dartmoor, joining a research project in Chongqing and setting up a meeting between two targets in Dubai.

Dubai is the flashy opening location in Hitman 3. Photo credit to IO Interactive.

The Hitman franchise is unique, and has always been pretty niche. Each entry in the World of Assassination trilogy has drawn the series closer to the mainstream, and playing through Hitman 3 I could certainly see why. Learning and experiencing each of the tightly tuned virtual playgrounds is compelling, and mission stories allowed me to get satisfying conclusions while still learning each area. 

New players looking to get the whole World of Assassination trilogy can actually purchase the stories and locations from Hitman and Hitman 2 within Hitman 3, making the entire trilogy playable within the current entry. Right now this is pretty spendy, asking $30 for the first game, and a full $60 for the second, but I could see myself purchasing them when a sale comes around. Hitman 3 will be supplemented with post-launch challenges and new targets added to each of the existing maps, and I will be eager to jump back in and try more.

Despite a story that failed to grab me, and some frustration early on as I learned the unique rules and playstyle of Hitman, Hitman 3 was a great experience from a franchise that I’ve clearly been missing out on for years. IO Interactive very recently announced that their next project will be a licensed James Bond video game, and I’m eager to see how the gameplay and mechanics of Hitman translate to the more action focused IP.

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