Playing Hitman 3 feels like being thrown into a random improv scene. You’re constantly switching parts, objectives, and wardrobe, making sure never to break character before you eliminate your target. Every stage is a performance, and they’re all incredibly distinct and fun. You play as world-class executioner, Agent 47, and due to his occupation there’s a thick cloud of intensity and death that follows him around every corner. Each contract sends you to varied and visually striking locations all over the globe, setting up flexible environment-specific boundaries while simultaneously encouraging you to push against them (or even throw it all out and do it your way). Both the plot and general premise of IO Interactive’s Hitman 3 are straight-faced and sober, yet it somehow manages to be one of the funniest games I’ve played in a minute due to clever prop comedy and witty, well-written NPCs. After spending a bunch of time playing around in its charming and compact world, Hitman 3 has proven to be a well-constructed assassination sandbox full of tension, fashion, and possibility.
One of my favorite parts about Hitman 3 is walking around each mission’s elaborate set pieces and chatting it up with the NPCs. At first I started approaching them because sometimes they reveal context about the current plot point or inconspicuous ways to take down your target, but they also have less vital (yet equally important) discussions about their relationship issues or their favorite season of a TV show. Sometimes they even compliment your very obviously stolen outfit. Those little conversations and passing comments from NPCs naturally fuel Hitman 3’s world, in a way that makes it feel alive and functioning, with or without the player. I found myself getting lost in those moments, going out of my way to seek out all of the hot gossip before I even thought about locating whatever corrupt billionaire target I was tasked with taking down.
Hitman 3’s playground of stealth can be intimidating, but it gives you the tools and space you need to get your bearings and really find yourself as a hired gun. Killing people is never the fun part during a mission. The real joy comes from the rush of short-term planning: hopping from opportunity to opportunity and somehow managing to get close enough to your target through a series of wacky misadventures. A lot of time is spent stalking your prey, altering the stage so you have a chance to catch them with their guard down. If I’ve learned anything from my playthrough of the Metal Gear Solid series, it’s that non-lethal runs are the best runs. Why hurt someone that has nothing to do with your mission? My go-to kit includes coins, a lockpick, and my clown suit (I don’t know why or how, but the clown suit is the perfect camouflage and has not failed me once). It added some extra time to my runs, but if I ever slipped up and got a pedestrian killed by accident I would restart. I am determined to never get any NPC blood on my hands… Not after last time.
Just like Agent 47’s many disguises, Hitman 3 also dresses up in genre, swapping the tone with ease and carrying the player into an assortment of isolated worlds that have a strong sense of style. When I loaded up the Dartmoor mission I was teleported into a ridiculous murder mystery drama reminscent of Knives Out. There was a murder framed as a suicide that took place on the day of someone’s fake funeral (yeah, it’s kind of a rollercoaster). My only way to reliably get close to my target, Alexa Carlisle, was to solve the case. So, naturally, I traded in my clown suit for a private investigator trench coat and hat, and spent way too long interrogating the potential suspects and figuring out the unattractive, nonsensical lifestyles of the white bourgeoisie. No spoilers, but it’s amazing that the game has the ability to submerge the player into this absurd situation, let them explore the level to their contentment, and then moves away and does something absolutely different, yet unquestionably Hitman for the next part of the campaign. It does this with its other mission stories as well, jumping from a manhunt inside of Berlin’s Club Hölle to the faded neon and sci-fi malpractice happening in Chongqing to scaling a skyscraper in Burj Al-Ghazali like it’s a miniature Mission Impossible movie. This all makes Hitman 3 a great game to pick up, do some cool takedowns in nice environments, and then put down.
It also doesn’t demand too much of the player’s time. It takes around six to nine hours to complete the main storyline, which is the perfect length for an experience like this. It’s also packed with bonus game modes where you can let loose and enter levels from alternate locations, or focus on heightened, long-distance sniper assassinations, or even prove your career skills by taking on a player-assigned contract with certain dress/weapon restrictions. Hitman 3 doesn’t need 1000 hours of main content to keep the player coming back; it fosters that replayability by having seven really great, thoughtful, and memorable hours that you can approach from countless angles. Also, there’s a boatload of free downloadable content dropping throughout February for this game, which is a great excuse to boot up those picturesque level designs again after you’ve completed everything.
When I played Hitman (2016) I got so stressed trying to blend in on a yacht that I uninstalled the game. I thought Hitman 3 was going to be just as anxiety-inducing and exclusively about nailing the accuracies of an assassination lifestyle, but I was wrong. It is so much more than that, and really not that stressful once you get the hang of it. When I completed the game I was reflecting on all the different costumes and bursted out laughing about how silly my Hitman 3 journey was. I felt the care that went into making this game, from the suspenseful overarching narrative to the breathtaking visuals and malleable gameplay. Agent 47 is surprisingly personable, cracking jokes that wink at the fact that you’re a hitman in disguise in high stakes situations. He also has a passion for cosplay that’s embroidered into the way he operates, using fashion as stealth, blending into any room like a chameleon. When I embodied Agent 47, travelling from spectacular location to spectacular location to complete each dastardly deed on my checklist, I truly was Mr. Worldwide.
Hitman 3 was developed and published by IO Interactive. Our review is based on the PC version. It is also available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Switch, and Stadia.
Funké Joseph is a non-binary black writer and artist. Check out their goofs @funkefly.