Arguably this year’s first AAA multiplatform title, Hitman 3 was just released for current/last gen consoles and PCs – a lineup that even includes the Nintendo Switch with a streaming-fueled edition. We tested it on a PlayStation 4, a version that comes with the added bonus of being compatible with PlayStation VR.
Hitman and Agent 47 barely need an introduction – it’s been around for over 20 years at this point, started out on PCs and has graced nearly every console since the PS2. The series was rebooted a few years ago, and Hitman 3 marks the end of the “world of assassination” trilogy, picking up where Hitman 2 left off as you target the last few operatives of the shady organization you previously uncovered.
The gameplay formula is still quite similar to the last two games, in an adventure where the locations themselves are possibly the biggest NPCs of all. Offering a multitude of ways in which you can achieve your targets, they encourage multiple replays, creativity and seeking out different levels of challenge within them. Sure, there’s an overarching plot there somewhere, but Hitman works best when you don’t take a linear approach to it all and just have fun with all the tools it lays out for you. Some avenues are laid out in the briefing before each mission, but you’re free to experiment and carve out your own path as well. This can include disguises to sneak past guards, taking out said guards, or using an item or costume you gained access to later in the game.
To further enhance all this diversity, you can also import stages from the last two games into this one, making for a massive amount of content. Everything’s playable in VR as well (as long as you’re on PSVR), but if – like us – you played the first two on a different platform you’ll have to purchase the other games a second time or wait for a different upgrade option.
There are only six stages in the base game this time, but with all the replay potential that’s not a big issue. Five of them play out like we described above – with a multitude of approaches, but (unsurprisingly) the last level is a bit more linear in nature, converging on the trilogy’s narrative outcome.
But while Hitman 3 provides a familiar sandbox experience for would-be assassins, it also has a few new tricks up its sleeve. Agent 47 has access to new gadgets like a camera, letting him work more like a spy this time – the same being true for some of the new hacking abilities that come with it. It’s a bit Splinter Cell/Watch Dogs-like, but it’s not a big enough component to change the identity of the game here.
One area of improvement is the level design, which now features permanent shortcuts that you can unlock. This might seem trivial at first if you take them at face value, but unlock enough and you get entirely new avenues of play available to you in each level. And speaking of levels – there’s a wonderfully diverse selection in Hitman 2. The first one is Dubai, which uses its highrise buildings for a great sense of verticality. The second mission feels much smaller in scope even if the level itself isn’t smaller, as it puts you in and around an old English estate where people are engaged with a recent and rather suspicious suicide. Hitman meets “Knives Out”, if you will.
Later stages include an EDM party in Berlin, a trip to Chongqing in China and stops in Argentina and Romania. There’s a ton of diversity in between stages, and once you’re within them you have a myriad of options to explore as well – with the exception perhaps of the final level. It’s great stuff, though it’s also hard to shake the feeling that it’s not groundbreakingly new compared to the last game.
You’ll notice slightly improved visuals in Hitman 3, especially in levels that make use of reflective surfaces and/or artificial light sources. Character animations are starting to feel a tad dated though, mostly because we’ve seen games like The Last of Us 2 and Red Dead Redemption 2 since Hitman first re-emerged. That’s not to say that this isn’t a good looking game though – it’s one of the best in recent months for the PS4, and unless you’re looking for 4K visuals it’s a good example of why the PS4 will likely stay relevant for a good while longer.
Because we didn’t use the PS4 for Hitman and Hitman 2, we couldn’t use the function to import our progress into the game or play through previous levels, but we did get to explore the game in VR. While PSVR is far from the most powerful headset on the market, Hitman 3 looks and runs great on the platform, even if some of the details are dialed back to make sure it still performs at an acceptable framerate. If you play the regular version first you’ll notice a smaller drawing distance and a lack of those gorgeous reflective surfaces we mentioned earlier, but when you get up and close everything looks great and the levels feel alive with color and vibrant NPCs – especially in indoor locations. It’s not as immersive as other VR games because of the limitations of the Move controllers (you’ll work with the DualShock instead), but it’s something that’s easy to accept in one of the best PSVR experiences we’ve seen so far and certainly the best in recent history.
Despite a lack of innovation, this one is essential for Hitman fans, especially those with a VR headset.