America - Front
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By Paul Broussard 27th Jan 2021 | 2,466 views
Hitman 3 is the very sensibly titled eleventh canonical installment in the Hitman series, and picks up after the events of 2018’s Hitman 2. Players are placed once again in the well-polished dress shoes of Agent 47 as he seeks to assassinate more targets for reasons that the story is in no particular hurry to make clear. The narrative takes Agent 47 across the world, as he eliminates a myriad of targets who the game can barely even muster the effort to try and make us hate. But will you feel just as much apathy towards Hitman 3 as a game as you will towards its story?
Like prior titles, gameplay is divided into levels, each with a sprawling mission area and one or more targets somewhere inside the area. For the most part, Hitman 3 adopts a mind-set similar to Hitman: Blood Money, with very open ended levels that let the player choose their own approach, in contrast with the more linear design of games such as Absolution. As far as Hitman 3 is concerned, it doesn’t matter how the target gets taken care of. As long as they’re dead, you’ve completed your mission, and it’s irrelevant whether you were a ghost in the wind or you shot up the place and alerted every guard in a ten mile radius (although the grade screen may have some remarks for your report card).
Series veterans will probably notice that this all sounds similar to Hitman and Hitman 2 (that’s the ninth and tenth entries in the Hitman saga, and not the first and second Hitman games with similar names), and that’s because it is. Hitman 3 doesn’t do a lot to innovate. In some respects, that isn’t a bad thing; Hitman is still one of the best series in the stealth genre. Mechanics, animations, and level design are all top notch, and simply meeting the same level of quality can be seen as a victory.
Another area in which this game emulates the quality of its predecessors is in the creativity afforded to the player. Hitman 3, like its recent brethren, goes well out of its way to ensure that players have a multitude of fun and entertaining ways to pull off assassinations. Sure, you could just shoot the target with a silenced pistol and then hide the body, but that almost seems like a waste when you can kill someone by disguising yourself as a chef and poisoning their tea, or knock the target unconscious and feed them to their pet hippo.
A significant element that makes this so interesting is that all of this decision making has to be done on the fly. Agent 47 somehow forgets to bring even so much as a gun with him on missions, and so everything has to be procured on site. Disguises, floorplans, weapons, etc. all have to be taken from the environment. Combining this with the variety of ways to eliminate targets encourages players to constantly improvise, coming up with unique solutions on the fly to deal with an unfamiliar set of circumstances.
And it’s this ever-present sense of having to be adaptable that is Hitman 3’s greatest strength. The Hitman series is one that’s always shown a great deal of faith in its players; placing them outside of a large area and trusting them to find their own way to take out a free roaming target inside of it is something most developers would balk at. It’s a very organic form of design and it allows for an exceptional amount of freedom in decision making. Maybe you’ll decide to listen in on some idle chatter and discover a way to get the target isolated from their guards, maybe you won’t. It’s up to you.
Unfortunately, Hitman 3 brings both the good and the bad from its predecessors along for the ride as well. AI is perhaps still the series’ biggest issue, with all the usual problems of big name stealth titles. Enemies forget that players are there very quickly once they disappear from sight, they’re weirdly willing to accept and move on from discovered dead bodies, and if the whole stealth thing stops working out and you decide it’s time for a career change from sneaky assassin to Rambo, they’re more than happy to endlessly run into gunfire at the same chokepoint.
Perhaps critiquing enemy AI in this way is unfair to some degree; it would, after all, probably not be much fun if the AI acted realistically and never forgot about the player after an alarm was raised. That said, there has to be room for balance; players should have the opportunity to bounce back from a mistake, but the threat of an in-game penalty for getting spotted should be weighty enough to actively encourage careful strategic planning. Hitman 3 is a little too reliant on an entirely intrinsic motivator - its grading system - to encourage players to play... well, like a hitman.
While the highest difficulty, Master, does attempt to accommodate this by making combat a much riskier proposition and limiting your ability to save mid-mission, it doesn’t do too much to change how forgetful enemies are. In fact, it could be argued that it actually winds up having the opposite of the intended effect, encouraging players to take the safer option and exploit the AI rather than try more creative planning lest they have to redo substantial chunks of the mission.
Aesthetically, not much has changed from the prior two titles. The graphics look roughly comparable; certainly not top of the line visuals but passable enough. Environments are something of a mixed bag, with a few gorgeous environments (especially the first chapter), as well as a share of less than spectacular areas. Music is an area that’s always been something of a let-down; I’ve always thought Hitman would benefit from a more energetic score, particularly when detected, but that hasn’t caught on.
One final element worth noting is the game's length; this is a relatively short title on a single playthrough, with my initial run clocking in at about nine hours. That said, the aforementioned variety in how players can approach levels does add some substantial replay value. Some players might find the proposition of paying $60 a bit steep for a nine, maybe ten hour game, especially if the prospect of replaying the same levels to find various approaches isn't particularly appealing. However, if you do enjoy the challenge of finding and perfecting a series of unique assassination methods through multiple attempts, this likely won't be an issue.
Ultimately, Hitman 3 can best be summarized as more of the same. By and large the same successes and failings from the past two titles, with little attempt to improve on prior mistakes, but also not botching anything new. If you finished Hitman 2 and thought that you just wanted more of the same, or if you haven’t played a Hitman game at all but want to experience a quality AAA stealth title, Hitman 3 is a solid choice. If you’re looking for anything remotely resembling a spark of creativity, though, that’s unfortunately long since been killed off. And then probably fed to an eccentric millionaire’s pet hippo.