Hitman 3’s an odd one, though if you’ve been along for the ride thus far you’ll know to expect as much. Just as Hitman 2 wasn’t really a sequel in the traditional video game sense, so too Hitman 3 isn’t so much an excuse to fold in big new features and bold new ideas as it is simply a third season of new murderous playpens to participate in, and what amounts to a conclusion to the World of Assassination story which IO Interactive began with 2016’s reboot. It feels like something of a victory lap, though there aren’t many contemporary series more worthy of their moment of glory than Hitman.
What you’re getting here is a series of fresh theatre sets through which to guide Agent 47, and after a half dozen hours with a handful of levels I’m thinking these might well be the best batch yet. Dubai, which Ian Higton explores in all its murderous detail in the video below, is a visual tour de force – the gilded halls of its hypertech skyscrapers are the kind of thing that has me salivating for the raytracing update that’s coming post-launch – and its glitz and glamour whets the appetite for IO Interactive’s future take on the world of James Bond. There’s even a new gadget to play with that might well have come from Q’s lab, a high-tech camera that opens up whole new possibilities.
Dartmoor, meanwhile, has more of a Knives Out vibe – or, more classically speaking, something of Agatha Christie in the delightfully contorted murder mystery that plays out within its polished walnut interiors. It’s a masterclass in the kind of storytelling that Hitman has excelled at across its history, and has refined once again with this most recent trilogy; there are stories unfurling amongst those in the servants quarters, and stories unfurling between the family they serve, allowing you to pick your way through it and bringing threads crashing playfully together. It offers the same sort of thrill as some of Punchdrunk’s finest productions.
Which makes the PlayStation VR functionality that’s coming to Hitman 3 – and, by extension, coming to every level that’s featured in this Hitman trilogy. It’s not something I’ve been able to try myself just yet, but I was able to talk to executive producer Forest Swartout Large about the feature. “We actually kicked off the project with VR,” she says. “The project was seeded with a passion for VR from the beginning. Of course, we haven’t done a VR game ourselves, and there’s so many systems to support. We didn’t quite know what we were getting ourselves into.”
It’s an incredible amount of work for what’s a small, vocal and often under-served audience, and going from the extended look we had recently at the mode it looks like an entirely new experience. It’s a PlayStation-exclusive, for now, and there are some idiosyncrasies to it all – Move controllers aren’t supported, and if you want to play via backwards compatibility on a PlayStation 5 you’ll still have to use a PS4 DualShock as your input method. There will be some benefits to those playing on PlayStation 5, though, such as loading time improvements.
The PlayStation 5 version will also feature DualSense support. “We had designers who were arguing for fighting for some custom implementation, like mission specific or environment specific interactions and implementation,” says Large. “Where we landed is a bit of both. And it’s super cool – you know, both the adaptive triggers and new haptics are pretty darn exciting.”
It should be one hell of a full stop for this iteration of Hitman, and an impressive sign-off from IO Interactive before they partake on their James Bond adventure. Not that the studio’s saying goodbye of course – I’m sure they know better than to never say never again. “When we come back to Hitman, you know, we want to be able to bring a fresh take,” says Large, “and to have the creative freedom to do what we feel is right for us.” There’ll also be post-launch support, though unlike previous games this won’t be new areas and rather a repurposing of those being offered up in Hitman 3.
It’s a known quantity, then, but that’s no real bad thing, and across all three entries I think it’s pretty much mission-accomplished for this iteration of Hitman. So farewell for now, 47. It’s been a blast.