Hitman 3 for Xbox review: An almost perfect kill

Hitman 3 perfects its stealth gameplay, but it's held back by some lackluster missions and high price tag.

Hitman 3 Hero
(Image: © Windows Central / Zackery Cuevas)

For 20 years, the Hitman series has delivered some of the most ambitious and most creative stealth games on the market, and that trend is set to continue with Hitman 3, the final entry in the World of Assassination trilogy that started with 2016's Hitman reboot. Players are thrust back into the bespoke suit of Agent 47, a genetically-engineered assassin tasked with killing some of the most infamous people in the world.

Since adopting an open-world design in Hitman 2016, IO Interactive has been able to polish and build upon the non-linear gameplay of earlier Hitman games to staggering new heights. As a result, Hitman 3 offers some of the best missions in any Hitman game yet. However, uneven pacing, a massive paywall, and a lackluster conclusion cap the new trilogy with a limp whimper instead of the thunderous applause the series deserves.

What I liked about Hitman 3

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Source: Windows Central / Zackery Cuevas (Image credit: Source: Windows Central / Zackery Cuevas)
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CategoryHitman 3
TitleHitman 3
DeveloperIO Interactive A/S
PublisherIO Interactive A/S
GenreAction & adventure
PlatformsXbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Epic Games Store, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Stadia
Game Size61.8 GB
PlayersSingle player
Xbox Game PassNo

When talking about the new Hitman trilogy, it might help to think of Hitman 3 as the third season in the series' revival. On its surface, Hitman 3 is not too different from the previous two Hitman games. Players must sneak through an open world sandbox and try to figure out how best to murder their target and make an escape without a trace. In Hitman 3, there are many small improvements that make the latest installment the best-looking Hitman game to date as well as the most fun to play.

IO Interactive spent the last three years refining the core Hitman gameplay, and it is near perfect in Hitman 3. The game just feels good to play, and the densely packed levels breathe life into every encounter. Hitman 3 delivers some of the most complex and interesting missions in the game's history, made larger than life thanks to some very cinematic opening sequences. Some of my favorites include solving a murder mystery reminiscent of 2019's Knives Out and playing a game of cat and mouse with a group of assassins in a crowded underground rave. No one creates a murder-filled playground quite like the Hitman devs.

Source: Windows Central / Zackery Cuevas (Image credit: Source: Windows Central / Zackery Cuevas)

Players are then rewarded for their exploration of levels and their patience. Each mission has a few predetermined assassination scenarios, but you're free to approach each kill as you please. Poison your target, stage an accident, or going in guns blazing are all viable options for getting the job done. New to the series is a camera that allows Agent 47 to gather intel and manipulate locked doors and windows, as well as permanent shortcuts scattered across levels that allow for easier navigation during repeat playthroughs.

The game encourages multiple playthroughs and it's unlikely that each one will be the same.

Every mission also features a set of challenges that earn the player experience points that unlock more options for mission replays. Challenges include pulling off specific types of kills or changing into specific outfits found throughout the mission. Despite there only being six levels, the game encourages multiple playthroughs and it's unlikely that each one will be the same.

You can still import missions and modes from Hitman and Hitman 2, as well as your progress from Hitman 2 directly into Hitman 3 as long as you own the previous games. This allows you to experience older levels in the latest game engine and play the entire story in one go. Players can also create custom contracts to share with other players online in the same way they did in previous games, although you'll need the older Hitman games to access the older game's contracts. Sniper Assassin, the multiplayer mode introduced in Hitman 2, is no longer playable online, but can still be played solo. Hitman 2's Ghost Mode, on the other hand, was cut entirely.

What I didn't like about Hitman 3

Source: Windows Central / Zackery Cuevas (Image credit: Source: Windows Central / Zackery Cuevas)

While Hitman 3 features some of the most ambitious and multi-layered levels in the series history, the Hitman series has a habit of taking one step forward and two steps back. The game's pacing takes a turn for the worse during the back half of the game, particularly in the game's finale. I won't spoil anything here, but it would end on a flat note. That's not to say the later missions are bad, but they just don't reach the highs of the first few levels.

The Hitman series has a habit of taking one step forward and one step back.

I also had a problem with the content available in the game. If you purchase Hitman 3, you'll have access to six missions and the contract mode... and that's it. If you want access to the previous game's missions or the Sniper Assassin mode, you'll have to buy the older games. Depending on your preference of digital or physical, getting all the game's content could cost anywhere between $50 and $150 on top of Hitman 3.

While it's by no means necessary to own the previous games, aside from the new story missions there's not much else that's new. Hitman 3 feels like an expansion pack that's incomplete without the previous games. I also wish that IO Interactive could implement an account system that would allow users who own the game across platforms to still be able to access their content instead of locking it to a single platform.

Source: Windows Central / Zackery Cuevas (Image credit: Source: Windows Central / Zackery Cuevas)

Another area where these games have always faltered is with their finicky AI, and that remains the case in Hitman 3. Even on higher difficulties, enemies can sometimes get caught up on doors or just run in a single file into your line of fire. Gunplay is also just as stiff as it was in previous games, although the melee weapons are still a blast to use. Chucking a banana across a conference room and knocking someone out will never cease to amuse. Fans of the infamous homing suitcase will also be pleased.

Hitman 3 Xbox review Should you buy?

Source: Windows Central / Zackery Cuevas (Image credit: Source: Windows Central / Zackery Cuevas)

If you own the previous games, then Hitman 3 is a must-own. The game is a culmination of years spent refining the Hitman formula. The stealth gameplay is rewarding, and the open-world missions invite exploration, creativity, and lots of replayability. The level of detail is staggering, and it's just fun to run around and uncover a shortcut or a new weapon to whack someone with. Even without the previous games, Hitman 3 is still worth your time, but you may not be able to avoid the phantom pain of older campaigns.

At its core, Hitman 3 is fun to play and the first few levels of this installment are some of the best in Hitman's history. Unfortunately, the game starts to lose steam as it approaches the finish line. If you own the previous games, or if you're willing to spend the additional cash necessary, Hitman 3 has a lot to offer, and even if you don't, it's still a lot of fun to explore the incredibly detailed levels and find unique ways to pull off the perfect kill.

With IO Interactive's upcoming James Bond project on the horizon, I can only imagine what the Hitman team will be able to do, especially considering how sophisticated the Glacier engine has become. Until then, the bald man with the bar code on his head is more than enough.

Zackery Cuevas

Zackery Cuevas is a writer for Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore. I like playing video games, talking about video games, writing about video games, and most importantly, complaining about video games. If you're cool, you can follow me on Twitter @Zackzackzackery.