My relationship with the Hitman series is an odd one. I’ve always maintained an utmost respect for what they’re going for, but at the same time, I’m glad that no one has ever seen me play these games.
Folks will often argue that “there’s no correct way” to play them, and I appreciate the kind message, truly! Yet I cannot help to feel guilty whenever I cheese my way out of situations. It makes sense for emergent actions to be a common occurrence, these games are playgrounds after all, but I often feel overwhelmed trying to stick to a rather quiet approach. I remember storming into missions with an assault rifle in Hitman: Blood Money and taking targets as quickly as possible, only for the game to make me feel guilty with bold letters on a newspaper reflecting my actions.
Despite being so impatient, I’ve found myself returning to almost each new entry. I can’t resist Hitman‘s unique appeal, after all. Being a chameleon is always satisfying — I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of impersonating somebody else and talking to my target as I wait for the perfect moment to strike. My time with Hitman 2 was immensely gratifying, too, which I played for review purposes back when it launched. But as soon as I got to the end, I felt like I had missed the opportunity to really engage with it. The last mission was daunting in scope and so rich in detail, and yet I went for a rather quick and simple solution to complete the objective and hit the final credits.
Seeing people hunting down Elusive Targets gave me FOMO despite having the game right in front of me, one reinstallation away. But I never thought I was good enough, so I didn’t bother. And despite my fondness of the series, I wasn’t even considering pitching around the series when the release of Hitman 3 drawn closer. I assumed folks way smarter and skilled with the series than I were already on the case anyway. And while I admit that the Dartmoor mission alluding to the brilliant Knives Out peeked my interest, it wasn’t until I saw Mendoza announced as one of the locations that I realized how wrong I was.
And I’m glad I took the plunge, because Hitman 3 has been helping me to engage with the overall experience on a different manner. Stories were a big part of Hitman 2 and definitely serve as guidance, but I feel like they’re much more compelling this time around, leading to storylines that might otherwise be lost. At the same time, they’re not that restrictive. They invite you to experiment with the game’s most compelling elements with a safety net on your back.
It’s been a thrill. I’ve led targets to a fake meeting in a closed room, solved a murder case by gathering clues and taking statements from suspects, threw someone inside a grape crusher. But I’ve also been enjoying the in between moments, exploring the levels and getting a serotonin kick whenever I pick up an item that’s part of a challenge and obtain some experience in return. The newly added camera elevates this further, as there’s snapshot opportunities marked in the map. They all provide an intel blurb about the targets or the location itself, and it’s a great way to know more about your surroundings aside from just looking for the red silhouette on the vicinity.
And I’m glad these tools exist, because the locations are all filled with detail. Navigating them has been so enjoyable, whether it is by looking for the best way to sneak past a guard or just staying behind a corner listening to NPC chatter, and the sights are all memorable. I’ve spent the last week rewatching my footage of the mission in Mendoza for reference and I’m still surprised with the result. Meanwhile the Berlin level made me miss concerts and bars a lot, as the music pounded in my headphones and I tried to picture the stickiness of the floor with each step from 47.
But there’s an outer element that helps to tie all of this together. Hitman 3 represents finesse, the ultimate showcase of a vision from the studio that started over a decade ago. Everything is polished. The meticulous craft behind each object and landscape is tangible. All three games can be connected into one, transferring your progress and all the deadly and goofy tools of destruction and disguise you’ve unlocked for 47 thus far. It’s IO Interactive at the top of their own game, and they showcase it at each and every turn.
I honestly didn’t care much for the story itself, but it quickly becomes secondary when you complete a level for the first time, letting you skip cutscenes in your next visits. It’s all about experimentation, returning to missions only to try a different route, or engage in a new story. I don’t think I see myself trying to perfect my techniques or going for a 100% completion in each mission. But for the first time I feel encouraged to at least stick with the game for longer.
Reconciling with Hitman 3 has been interesting, and it’s already proving to be fruitful. It makes for a strong farewell, and I know I’ll be returning to it often, slowly pushing away the fear of learning, even if I have to fail along the way. I’m still unsure if I’m gonna be playing IO Interactive’s take on 007. I’ve never been a big fan, really. But after my experience here, I can at least give it the benefit of the doubt.