Good Coda of An Excellent Trilogy
(Played on PC through Epic in English with an Xbox One controller)
The third and final installments of trilogies are quite uneven in my experience during the last decade of video game. 2011 alone has Gears of War 3 and Uncharted 3, the supposed finality of both undone by their arguably better sequels on new hardware. 2012 sees the flaws of Mass Effect 3 blown out of proportion by its user base. Then, there are 2013’s Dead Space 3, 2015’s Batman Arkham Knight and 2018’s Shadow of the Tomb Raider. All double down on wrong aspects of their respective predecessors. All practically “kill”, rather than end the trilogies.
Those “history lessons” taught to me keep my hope low for Hitman 3. 2018’s Hitman 2 is my favorite of that year partially because I didn’t get too hyped up before playing it. By my going in relatively cold, Hitman 3 opened 2021 for me on a similar high note. With a fine balance between the free foaming and scripted portions of the game, IO Interactive made Agent 47’s last mission, for the foreseeable future, a suitable sendoff of an already great trilogy.
Story is the biggest improvement over the first 2 installments, at least in terms of tightness. Hitman 3 tells a standard, somewhat predictable but nonetheless enjoyable action story. It’s gripping and character focus enough for me to play through it until literally 4 in the morning when credits roll. The looser story of Hitman 1 and 2 made them games I played through one mission before bedtime per day . Granted, this is not a newcomer friendly story. To enjoy it fully, one probably needs to start with 2016’s Hitman, which is playable within Hitman 3 for a fee.
With IO announcing their next project being a James Bond game, Hitman’s playable protagonist Agent 47 once again gets compared to the world famous British spy. But if it’s up to me to pick a big screen super spy to compare 47 with, my choice would be Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in most of the Mission Impossible movies.
Men who got the job done? Sure, if the the story says so. Experts of disguise? Of course. Mask is a thing in Mission Impossible. I can’t get my head around Suit-only run in Hitman games because of the robust disguise system. Resourceful killers canonically with little blood on their hand? Well, Hunt didn’t kill anyone in Ghost Protocol, my favorite Mission Impossible movie, while bodies pile up in Mission Possible 2 and 3, both low on my list. There is a “Non-target Killed” penalty in Hitman games discouraging bloodshed beyond the marks.
Hitman 3 is mechanically an action adventure game. The “action” being Agent 47’s relative nimble movement through the environment. This is something allowing all the stealth manoeuvre in the game. The “adventure” being different tools to interact with different things, like Wrench and Screwdriver to operate on different machines.
Firearms are effective tool of assassination here, but using the environment to your advantage is more fun. Patience is a virtue also. Get the target alone near a hiding place to kill them and hide the body with no one noticing is the best way to play while getting into firefights is boring compare to the clock and dagger way.
Mission Story is the scripted bit. Those offer step-by-step procedures for Agent 47 to take up disguises, manipulate NPCs and tweak the clockwork routine of the locations. They are training wheel and if you want complete the target only killed and no witness Silent Assassin challenge, those are usually good way to go. In the penultimate mission of Hitman 3 though, the Mission Story I followed didn’t help with Silent Assassin challenge. The target would show up with 2 body guards and I didn’t get to do the whole thing without witness or non-target killed.
One particular unique Mission Story appear in the second mission. It’s a murder mystery, while 47 has to disguise as a detective gathering testimonies and evidence. It’s fairly procedure, as even when the player can identify the perpetrator, the “smoking gun” still needs to be found.
The training wheel came off at the middle point of Hitman 3 in which 47 is in a muti-layered nightclub trying to identify and kill 5 out of about 2 dozen killers sent after him. There is no person in a chair back up in the mission and no Mission Story to follow. I have to carefully switch from disguise to disguise, sneaking through different restricted areas, lure targets into kill boxes and methodically hide the bodies after the deeds are done. Complete this mission with Silent Assassin challenge cleared is likely the most satisfying moment in my recent memory.
The mission after the aforementioned nightclub hunt puts emphasis on the cyberpunk paranoia better than most of work in the same space and burns the story bridge in such a spectacular way that it’s clear that IO is going put Hitman series on ice for the foreseeable future.
The sixth and final mission of Hitman 3 let 47 loose and kill everyone on the map with Non-target Killed penalty. It feels like a Uncharted level, in a good way. It also feels like a response to the final mission of Hitman 2, in which there are a bunch of despicable rich assholes partying and you still get the aforementioned penalty if you kill any of them.
As the time of writing, Giantbomb’s Game of the Year 2020 has not be deliberated. But I would like declare Hitman 3 my game of 2021 for the time being. Unless something surprising happens in the next 11 months, these 9 hours ( according to the clock on Epic client) I spent with Hitman 3 would be hard to topple. It’s just nice to see a trilogy being consistently good all the way.