Through two of the six missions in Hitman 3, the sport is already bringing IO Interactive’s World of Assassination trilogy to unimaginable new heights. I don’t simply imply that by way of the gorgeous locales that Agent 47 infiltrates or the additional toys and techniques at his disposal, both. Perhaps probably the most shocking ingredient of Hitman 3 up to now is how properly IO Interactive has developed the story and characters of the sequence — whether or not it’s 47 and his teammates, or the targets they’re looking.

Now, I’d wager that the overwhelming majority of Hitman gamers don’t come to the franchise for its storytelling. It’s clear that IO Interactive was making an attempt to layer in some narrative parts right here and there over the course of Hitman 3’s predecessors, 2016’s Hitman and 2018’s Hitman 2. But it wasn’t till halfway by the second sport — after some huge revelations surrounding 47’s previous — that this swirling vortex of a worldwide conspiracy story got here into focus.

The triumphant ending of Hitman 2, during which 47 and his group managed to seize the chief of the shadowy world cabal referred to as Providence, additionally unearthed a ticking time bomb or two. And about one-third of the best way by Hitman 3, the story has taken some explosive turns. I received’t spoil them right here, in fact, however I’ll say that by the tip of the second mission, I really felt invested within the story. Until now, this Hitman trilogy’s narrative parts principally appeared like an excuse to string collectively the meat of the sequence: its sprawling levels and their clockwork equipment, and the strategic stealth gameplay underlying all of it. But at this level, the shit has hit the fan, and I’m all-in.

In this 12-minute uncooked gameplay video from Hitman 3’s Dubai mission, “On Top of the World,” we concurrently take out each targets in a Silent Assassin run.

In a good nod to the episodic nature of Hitman (2016), the marketing campaign of Hitman 3 options a previously-on video to get you caught up on the occasions of the previous two video games. As the third begins, Agent 47 and his cohorts — his ICA handler, Diana Burnwood; his long-lost childhood good friend (and co-trainee within the artwork of assassination), Lucas Grey; and Grey’s hacker affiliate, Olivia Hall — are scorching on the path of the three Providence Partners, trying to wipe out the group by chopping off the top of the snake.

Hitman 3’s opening mission, “On Top of the World,” begins with Grey and 47 leaping out of a aircraft excessive over Dubai. They’re aiming for the Burj Al-Ghazali, aka the Sceptre, which, within the sport’s fiction, is the world’s tallest building. (The cutscene in query cribs from a Paris-based sequence in the latest Mission: Impossible movie, and whereas it’s not fairly as heart-stopping right here, it’s nonetheless a breathtaking Hitman introduction.) The skydivers nearly get shredded by a helicopter taking off from the skyscraper — that of Alexa Carlisle, one of many three Partners. That leaves the opposite two, Carl Ingram and Marcus Stuyvesant, because the mission’s targets.

The Hitman trilogy has been marked by missions set in sprawling places, just like the Amalfi Coast city of Sapienza in Hitman and the streets of Mumbai in Hitman 2. The first two maps in Hitman 3 — the Sceptre in Dubai and Thornbridge Manor in Dartmoor, England — are extra compact experiences, with simply three “mission stories” (guided assassination makes an attempt) baked into each, though the places are no much less intricate in design.

a ladder with a yellow metal locking mechanism at the top, leading up from a catwalk, in Dubai in Hitman 3

A locked ladder main up from a catwalk on the Sceptre. Where she goes, no one is aware of.
Image: IO Interactive

The ace stage designers at IO Interactive have some new methods up their sleeve this time round, most notably a shortcut characteristic. On your first playthrough of a location, you might come throughout some ladders and doorways with yellow steel locks that may’t be picked, which made me consider a boot positioned on an illegally parked automotive. Instead, you’ll have to determine the best way to attain them from the opposite method (i.e., the highest of the ladder or the other facet of the door), the place you’ll be capable to break the lock.

These shortcuts are designed to incentivize replaying a stage; as soon as unlocked, they’ll stay accessible in future playthroughs. Veteran Hitman gamers are accustomed to returning to places in an effort to extend their mastery stage, and in Hitman 3, they’ll be capable to use the persistent shortcuts to shave valuable minutes off their completion occasions. I additionally admire them only for encouraging me to discover each nook and cranny of the levels, though that’s the form of participant I already am.

Dubai, proper on the start, introduces one other characteristic that’s new to Hitman 3: Agent 47 has a high-tech digicam now. You can use it to snap pictures, however whereas it’s doable to use some filters to the pictures, the characteristic doesn’t actually qualify as a photograph mode per se (which is why IO Interactive isn’t billing it as that). Instead, it’s used for sure challenges, like one in Dartmoor that asks you to take a image of two individuals flirting with one another, and for scanning. In Dubai, you may scan some locked home windows to open them; in Dartmoor, the place a homicide thriller takes place, you may scan clues à la … properly, plenty of video games.

As an murderer, 47 has to remain hidden; as such, many Hitman levels give him the chance to go undercover behind the scenes of some form of occasion. Dubai isn’t any completely different: As 47 arrives on the Sceptre, Sheikh Omar al-Ghazali is conducting the constructing’s opening reception. A backstage space for an artwork set up is stuffed with slender corridors, multilevel scaffolding that includes catwalks and staircases, and loads of giant trunks excellent for storing gear — or our bodies. And when you acquire a disguise for a guard, waiter, or upkeep employee, you may freely discover the various flooring of the constructing. But there’s a neat twist: Because 47 parachutes into the Sceptre with out his traditional intel and kit, you received’t have entry to the in-game map till you stroll as much as an data kiosk and obtain the constructing’s flooring plan.

As in lots of Hitman levels, Dubai’s targets have a tendency to hang around in their very own separate areas; Stuyvesant roams across the reception, whereas Ingram is ensconced in his main bedroom on the penthouse stage. Part of the enjoyable, in fact, is determining the monkey wrench(es) that 47 can throw into the proceedings to get his targets to cross paths. This stage affords an ingenious double assassination which will find yourself being considered one of my all-time favorites within the franchise. I’ll simply say that it entails skydiving, and that the interconnected structure of the general public and staff-only areas of the Sceptre makes it a lot of enjoyable to drag off, no matter whether or not you employ one of many aforementioned shortcut ladders.

[Ed. note: If you’re unconcerned with spoiling yourself and you’d like to watch the skydiving assassination in question, scroll up and check out the 12-minute gameplay video near the top of this article.]

The finish cutscene for “On Top of the World” is the place 47 and Grey’s quest begins to go south. The Constant, the chief of Providence, has escaped Diana’s custody — and it seems that he orchestrated every little thing all alongside! (Like I mentioned, it’s a spy story with extra twists than a Twizzler.) Alexa Carlisle, the third Partner, fled the Sceptre as a result of she came upon that every one her billions have disappeared. And she’s the goal for “Death in the Family,” the second mission of Hitman 3.

Agent 47, in disguise as an undertaker, stands with Thornbridge Manor in the background and birds flying above him in Dartmoor in Hitman 3

Image: IO Interactive

The mission is about on the English nation mansion Thornbridge Manor, the Carlisle household property. IO Interactive didn’t need the media to reveal any plot particulars concerning the mission or any specifics about its homicide thriller. So I’ll simply say that it’s a good, riveting mix of an Agatha Christie-inspired journey with the standard Hitman method.

There’s the anticipated dose of household infighting and intrigue, plus a household historical past ingredient that lends a tragic air to the proceedings. Of course, the manor has its position to play, with secrets and techniques harking back to the board sport Clue and a enjoyable nod to Knives Out. And the best way during which the case unfolds — for those who select to play Sherlock, quite than merely fulfill the mission situations — is built-in with Hitman’s present “intel” system. When you encounter clues, they’ll seem in your intel menu. As you uncover extra of them and get nearer to cracking the case, the merchandise descriptions will develop with data gleaned from placing two and two collectively, as if 47 is filling in particulars in his detective’s pocket book. (If you’re not a lot of a sleuth your self, Diana’s voice-over helpfully makes the connections out loud.)

And for those who can handle to search out each single clue … boy, is there a whopper of an ending ready for you while you report again to the non-public investigator’s shopper. It entails the primary dialogue alternative of its type that I can consider in Hitman, and it stopped me in my tracks — which is spectacular, contemplating that 47 is famously a cold-blooded killer devoid of human feelings. I’m very to see the place Hitman 3’s story goes from right here.

Hitman 3 is scheduled to be launched Jan. 20 on Google Stadia, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. The cloud-based Nintendo Switch model doesn’t but have a launch date.