Hours away from the release of Hitman 3, the hype around the game is palpable. If early reviews are to be believed, the game is well on its to becoming the best in the new trilogy. To the point, it is already shaping up to a strong early contender for Game of the Year
IO Interactive has bet on themselves with Hitman 3 as the studio themselves have also taken up publishing responsibilities. This time around, Hitman has been developed and published by IO Interactive without support from WB Games or Square Enix as was in 2016 and 2018.
It is safe to assume this is the true Hitman experiencethe studio had envisioned from the start of the trilogy. Since the developer has complete control over the product, fans can expect it to be the most unfiltered and ambitious game in the trilogy.
The new Hitman trilogy, dubbed "The World of Assassination Trilogy", in many ways, represents the pinnacle of AAA games. The franchise exemplifies in the best way on a how a studio can balance quality and quantity.
Hitman 3 and how the franchise reinvigorated gaming
A return to form
With the 2016 reboot, fans were right to be skeptical about whether Hitman's appeal may end and whether 47 and IO's his brand of stealth would still be relevant.
Their skepticism and guardedness stemmed from an experience with the infamous Hitman: Absolution. This game took a bold and new direction. However, such moves later felt misguided with its ambition of being story-oriented, action-heavy, set piece-driven romp a la Uncharted or Max Payne.
Hitman's core identity was all but lost. Hence, fans had their reservations about the 2016 reboot. A few neat trailers and solid marketing material later, players could sense this was a completely different ballgame than Absolution.
While it looked like the franchise's identity had returned, another beast reared its head on the horizon. News broke that Hitman will be following an episodic release, which led fans back to a frenzy state.
An episodic release meant players would have to wait for weeks before a new level. Plus, the additional cost per episode and with every leve didn't sit well with the audience.
When the players were through the first few levels, they realized the uniqueness of the new direction. Each level was a self-contained sandbox that could easily be an entire game unto itself.
A target in the game could be eliminated in multiple ways, using various weapons, and in a variety of disguises. The new 'Opportunities' in the game provided an accessible way for newer players to experience Hitman without running into the various complex issues presented by each section.
All things considered, an excellent marketing campaign as well ingenious multiplayer Contracts mode introduced in the game propelled the 2016 Hitman to iconic status. Several levels and locations from the game have achieved fabled status with the core fanbase. Destinations like Sapienza elevated the reboot into legendary status that could rival that of Blood Money.
Safe to say, the studio's experiment worked out. The episodic release fed into the structure of the game instead of taking away from experience. Eventually, this aspect augmented players' enjoyment of the game.
Then came time for the sequel. IO Interactive this time had major expectations of the audiences to deal with and tremendous hype to navigate with the sequel.
By the time Hitman 2 was making waves and nearing its release, fans began appreciating the constraints under which the studio was working that neccesitated the episodic release structure.
However, IO Interactive entered into a publishing deal with WB Games. As a result, the studio now had plenty of resources at their disposal and major headway could be made in several departents.
Improvements to the fantastic Glacier engine were made possible. Yet, the most significant step-up was that the episodic release structure was scrapped. Instead, the entire Hitman 2 was made available on launch and More content to the game would be introduced in the months to come post-launch.
The series had hit new heights with the 2016 reboot with solid exploration, level design, AI behaviour, the inclusion of creative game modes. To top all that, the studio would need to break new ground.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, IO Interactive took a smarter approach by taking the winning features from the 2016 game and polishing those attributes further. Each aspect of Hitman 2 was refined to a great degree and the game delivered on virtually all fronts.
Levels were bigger in Hitman 2, but lost none of their depth. The Elusive Targets remained as fun as they ever were, and included even more hilariously grim ways to take out Targets. This game was punishing with an accutely aware and smart AI on greater difficulties, making for one brilliant game in the franchise.
Hitman 3: An end to the saga
Hitman 3 marks the end of what has come to be known as the "World of Assassination Trilogy." Hitman is possibly one of the strongest trilogies in gaming history if early reviews are to be believed.
For any game franchise that has had such a long run in the industry as Hitman, it is a wonder that no game from the series was never thrown into the mediocre section.
Even games like Absolution or Codename 47 had their moments and have come to be appreciated for what they were.
Hitman 3, in many ways is expected to be the definitive way to experience the studio's unique brand of stealth.
Hitman 3 is expected to be the most advanced game in the series, visually and technically. Players can also import their progress from the previous games and experience the same levels with the new game's gloss and advancement.
The Hitman trilogy game presents the some of the most value for money in the AAA space with three excellent titles with endless replayability. As the curtains draw on the new trilogy, fans couldn't be happier with the way things have turned out for IO Interactive and our favourite rubber-duck enthusiast, Agent 47.