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A trail of blood wrapped around the world like a deadly crimson band, a mountain of bodies, and a crumbling secret society have all led to a final showdown between the best that a global conspiracy can throw at a problem and a single assassin hellbent on finishing the job. Across the last few years and two games, developer IO Interactive has built a world of assassination that is both fascinating to inhabit and destroy with a single action, watching the entire experience fall down like organised dominos in a grand game of subterfuge.

Hitman 3 doesn’t stray too far from its formula, as it still gives fans exactly what they’ve become accustomed to: Several gorgeously-detailed sandboxes, plenty of opportunity to commit first-degree murder, and hilarious methods to make it all look like a horrible accident if you’re patient enough to explore these beautifully detailed levels.

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It’s very much par for the corpse when Hitman 3 begins, kicking off Agent 47’s latest getaway with a tour of an ostentatious Dubai skyscraper that happens to be inhabited by two very nasty fellows who need to be dealt with using any number of lethal methods at your disposal. From sabotaging a skydiving session to waiting for the right moment for a target to turn his back to you while he stands over a perilously dangerous spot, it’s very much business as usual.

And then things start to change.

Mechanically, Hitman 3 offers a sparse selection of new tricks up the sleeve of Agent 47. Aside from a camera that makes hacking certain elements within a level a new part of the formula, permenant level shortcuts, and new graphical upgrades that play with light and reflections even more than Hitman 2 did, the core package very quickly jogs your muscle memory.

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Targets can still be taken down with a combination of cunning, stealth, and an eye for opportunity, leading to situations where 47 can dispose of them in morbidly hilarious ways. That familiarity is comforting, but once you start the second stage of Dartmoor, Hitman 3 starts to break its own rules that it spent the two previous games setting up.

Inside of the regular Hitman bubble, a level like Dartmoor is a revelation. A reverse murder mystery where you not only have to stop an assassination from taking place but ensure that you’re the one who successfully pulls it off, the level builds on Hitman’s world in a manner that feels like an unexpected but exciting swerve into amateur sleuthing that ends with a family revelation pulled straight from the best Agatha Christie novels.

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And that’s without mentioning the absolutely sumptuous level design, interactive elements, and a pair of mission stories that allow you to dispose of your target before the entire narrative starts doubling down on the sense of finality present within Hitman 3. While the first game in the series used its episodic structure to build a story that slowly burnt towards a shocking conclusion, Hitman 2 added even more fuel to the fire as the war against Providence heated up.

Each level has more than just its fair share of marks that 47 is working his way towards, as they exist on multiple levels and contain intricate behavior patterns for the people who inhabit them. These delicate clockwork mechanisms are ripe for tinkering with, and finding a particular way to mess up the formula within them still has surprising results.

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Narratively, Hitman 3 is about tying up all those loose ends. Allegiances change, the status quo crumbles, and through all of the intrigue the only true constant (the philosophy not the head of Providence) is that Agent 47 is still the deadliest bipedal organism to ever wear a fancy suit. The Berlin level is a prime example of this, as 47’s burnt bridges come back to haunt him when he has to weave his way through an underground rave party that is full of drugs, good vibes, and several trained agents looking to put him down for good.

Those moments when Hitman 3 does break free of its own restraints though? The end result is a game that is far more cinematic than the two previous encounters while still celebrating everything it is that IO Interactive has created over several years. There are instances when the camera zooms out and allows you to savor the sheer opulence of a level, bask in the banter of characters who reveal crucial information, and exist in a world that barely notices you.

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All of this is present in a series of levels that run headfirst towards an inescapable finale, but they’re created in a manner where revisiting them will be a joy in the weeks and months to come. Delicately crafted worlds and targets, working to create a singular vision for stealth sandbox gameplay that is unmatched in the industry today.

Last Updated: January 18, 2021

Hitman 3
Hitman 3 is full of surprises beneath its familiar systems. It manages to break out of its own sandbox without disrupting its formula too much, ending on a subtle note that brings the world of assassination saga to a satisfying end.  
8.5
Hitman 3 was reviewed on Xbox Series X

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