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Hitman has been the premier series for those who enjoy slinking around, taking creative measures to complete objectives and slipping out unnoticed for two decades now. The stealth genre has largely waned over the last few years, and while there may be a wealth of stealth gameplay sections scattered throughout shooters or action titles, it's rare to see an entire game exploring the concepts.

That's part of what makes Hitman so precious. We only get a handful of missions to sink our teeth into as Agent 47 every now and then, so the ones we do have really need to count. Thankfully, with IO Interactive in the driver's seat (or in this case, perhaps, the bald head and suit) we always eat exceedingly well, so to speak.

Sure, Hitman is obviously all about assassination. It always has been. IO Interactive's modern Hitman trilogy elevated Agent 47 beyond the simple setups of previous installments like 2004’s Contracts or 2006’s Blood Money, offering elaborate setups that force players to think and examine their surroundings instead of going in guns blazing. The previous two entries in IO Interactive's World of Assassination trilogy (2016’s Hitman and 2018’s Hitman 2) were excellent on their own merits.

But it seems the studio was just preparing us for what the finale would eventually have in store for players who have been there all along. With Hitman 3, the art of the kill goes further than it ever has. It may be Agent 47’s swan song (for now), but that’s just all the more reason to have exceeded all expectations this time around. If you’re ready to embark on Agent 47’s final set of missions, you won’t be disappointed.

Hitman 3 is, in many ways, a travelogue more than a list of targets. Of course, the main objective as usual, without spoiling the narrative continuity, is to eliminate a series of marks assigned to Agent 47. The key is to do so without alerting others and remaining as inconspicuous as possible.

There's an extra layer of polish this time around, which is of course owed to IO Interactive's Glacier engine. Though some larger games over the last few months boasted immersion and detailed environments, the truth is they've got nothing on the extensive areas Agent 47 gets to traverse from the moment you fire up the game.

From the incessantly rainy Dartmoor and the gloomy set piece of Thornbridge Manor to the neon-soaked streets of Chongqing, Agent 47 is tasked with infiltrating some of the most opulent locales in the world. There’s the Burj Al-Ghazali, otherwise known as the Sceptre, the world's tallest building and the pride of Dubai. It stretches into the heavens, the sun glinting off its point as 47 HALO jumps onto the skyscraper to seek out his targets.

Each of the six locations are massive to the point that they feel like their own miniature open world to explore, with distinct flavors to the decor and the crowds that mingle there. There’s even a nightclub to infiltrate complete with some seriously sick beats — and a man who wants to sell you “allergy pills” in Berlin. Imagine Agent 47 vibing in a club. It’s a lot more intimidating than you might have guessed.

But you aren’t there to take in the scenery, tempting as it is. While you have plenty of time to get the lay of the land and plan when and where you’re going to go in for the kill, you’ve got to get down to business sometime. There are always plenty of weapons at your disposal, from your trusty silenced pistols to shotguns and everything in between. But despite having a variety of powerful arms at your disposal, you’ll usually end up using items you find throughout locations to either get a target’s attention or knock them out, from apples to a soda can.

It’s often more effective to knock any one you aren’t officially pursuing unconscious for a better score or to gain access where there aren’t any unwanted civilians. You can do this by sneaking up to others and hitting them over their head and taking their outfit to dress up in it or by what feels like a million other ways. The possibilities feel nearly endless.

There are so many ways to eliminate your targets that it's utterly boring to use a standard weapon when you could, say, sprinkle a little rat poison in their dinner, watch them run to the restroom as they evacuate the contents of their stomach with a vengeance and then drown them in the toilet. You could push an unfortunate family matriarch off of a balcony as she rests against the edge. No one would be any the wiser. You might even meet with your target, who offers you a counter-target: Assassinate an individual, take a photo for proof and bring it back to unlock a whole host of new options for kills.

You don’t have to settle on one approach, though. That’s the beauty of Hitman 3. You’re encouraged to come back and replay each area again and again to try things differently, even if everything goes according to plan. At the end of each mission story ranging from Dubai to Mendoza, you’re scored on completing a variety of objectives: Completion time; how many miniature missions you finished; non-target casualties; and a swath of other measures. You’ll receive a ranking that you can strive to best each time as well.

Completing the six story missions can take around seven to 10 hours on average, but there are a variety of reasons to return for more. In fact, there's an average of 60 to 80 challenges to complete when you finish out the main assassination storyline. You can casually breeze through or go back to fill out a grid of the several challenges available to you, which includes tasks like eliminating X target with X method or assassinating X target with X weapon.

There are also Discovery challenges, where you must discover all areas in the location, use a certain disguise (such as a dumpling chef or a helicopter pilot), unlock new shotguns, obtain particular items, or escape in a certain way during your story mission. Feats ask you to either make or observe targets performing a certain action, taking specific photos, completing mission stories, triggering evacuations, hacking a server room without triggering an alarm and so forth.

The Classics are a throwback to classic Hitman completion milestones, such as only killing targets, assassinating your targets with a sniper rifle, don't get spotted or compromised and if you're detected by cameras, erase or destroy the evidence. You get some fun Classic rewards for meeting these prerequisites, such as suits, weapons and even a rubber ducky with a dangerous secret.

Escalations are an even more challenging tier, so if you tire of completing typical objectives, you can opt to do something a little different. Escalations require you to assassinate specific targets and complete side objectives in decidedly more difficult situations. Of course, you might also have to keep track of how many guards there are, which disguises will be ineffective, and how many security cameras there may be in a certain area. As additional objectives are completed, the difficulty increases, so the better you are, the harder the Escalation contract will be. You'll have to be creative when it comes to taking out targets, too. There'll be no pushing enemies off of balconies or smothering them out in the open. You'll have to be much smarter than that.

There’s so much to do in the six new missions, it’ll make your head spin. But if you don’t want to stick to those, you can go explore Hitman areas past. In addition to all the challenges and extra objectives to complete, Hitman 3 acts as a hub for the entire World of Assassination trilogy. You can access older locations from the first Hitman in the trilogy and Hitman 2. It eliminates the need to switch back and forth between separate games, so if you missed the first two installments and want to spend time within those, you can do that here.

Installation methods vary depending on platform, but it's a mostly painless way to bring all of your Hitman games together in one place. Plus, you get the boon of improved visuals should you decide to go back and enjoy them from the beginning, something completing the third and final installment may very well inspire you to do. It may feel like the focus is always on who you’re eliminating next and the narrative surrounding their demise, but there’s a satisfying story surrounding Agent 47 and the ICA here as well that’s worth exploring.

From its dizzying amount of content to gorgeous environments to its challenging puzzles and inventive assassinations, Hitman 3 once again sets the bar extremely high for stealth action. There may be few contenders in the industry right now, but that’s probably a good thing. Agent 47 has perfected the art of the video game assassination, and his swan song with IO Interactive is just about as satisfying as we could have hoped. It’s obvious the developer hit its stride with 47 in tow, and this is a labor of love for fans. Whether this is your first mission or your 100th, you’ll settle into the black suit just fine.

This game was reviewed on PC.

 

Photos courtesy of IO Interactive

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