The final entry in IO Interactive's incredible World of Assassination trilogy, Hitman 3 sees everyone's favourite follicly challenged freak return for one more round of slick and addictive assassination action, and what a way to wind up Agent 47's story this is. From its glitzy, glamourous opening in a Dubai skyscraper, a fully-fledged whodunnit murder mystery in a labyrinthian Dartmoor mansion and a thrillingly tense ten spy stand-off at an illegal Berlin rave, Hitman 3 just keeps on posting up perfect headshots with a series of spectacular missions that make for the most immediately enjoyable entry in this dazzling series thus far.
While Hitman 3 absolutely retains the almost endless replayability and inventiveness of its predecessors, it's also apparent that IO Interactive has decided to reign in the wild intricacy of some of their previous sandbox playgrounds at times here in order to focus just that little bit more on the resolution of a narrative which, let's face it, has never been the series' biggest attraction. There are occasions in this outing where more linear, scripted elements channel you through points of the odd level, the whole thing feels leaner and zippier and, while this narrative drive does ultimately lead to an almost on-rails final mission that left us a tad disappointed, for the majority of the time it gives this final entry a real sense of immediacy and momentum.
None of this, let's be clear, is to say that Hitman 3 is in any way less of a game than its predecessors with regards to the level of choice and creativity it gives its players over the course of its campaign. In fact, not only does Agent 47's final foray occasionally rise right up to the gold standard of the very best missions in the franchise's history with its sublime Dartmoor whodunnit and in a fantastic Argentinian winery escapade that's ripe for all manner of darkly hilarious hijinks, it also manages to mix things up in surprisingly playful new ways as it goes.
Take that Berlin nightclub level, for example, how it strips the flow of the game of its expected rhythms and charges 47 with wading into a throbbing techno nightmare to face off against ten other assassins. Coming off the back of the straight-up classic nature of the game's Dubai opener, and the almost luxuriously in-depth and intricate goings on at Thornbridge Manor, this feels like a real shock to the system at first, a total change of pace and a real test of even hardened Hitmen's skills. We've replayed this brilliant mission several times now and what initially seemed to us like an almost fast paced, action-oriented and rather shallow addition soon reveals itself to be a stunningly complex playground crammed full of potential opportunities to pull off some seriously satisfying kills as you show your foes just how a real apex predator gets down to business.
The game's Dartmoor level too, in a standout optional story strand that sees you assume the role of a private investigator arriving to investigate a suicide, gives you refreshingly free reign to come and go as you please, question suspects and inspect the entire premises at your leisure as you slowly solve its Cluedo-esque mystery. It's a gloriously complex puzzle-box of a mission that may very well be one of our favourite Hitman sorties since the series rebooted in 2016, which is really saying something given the wealth of spectacular scenarios we've been treated to over the course of the past four years.
Hitman 3's heavier focus on its narrative/cinematic aspects also results in this being the very best looking entry in the series to date, not just in terms of graphics in general but also with regards to the wonderfully stylish little cinematic flourishes that bookend each mission. This is a supremely slick game, a noticeable step up graphically from its predecessors and with a truly sumptuous soundtrack, it absolutely oozes atmosphere and quality in every single one of the six levels it presents to the player.
The franchise's trademark humour, in equal measures dark and supremely silly, is also present and correct here, not just in the daft costumes and slapstick ways in which you can choose to go about taking out your targets - explosive golf balls are present and correct - but also in the constant, and highly entertaining, chit-chat you'll hear from random NPCs dotted throughout levels as you stalk your prey. IO Interactive are undoubtedly absolute masters of mission creation at this stage and, that last level fumble aside, they're on truly top form here, blasting players with a succession of top-notch missions that delight and enthral in equal measure.
It's not often an entire trilogy of games manages to hold up quite so brilliantly from start to finish but with Hitman 3 we've got ourselves a rebooted franchise bowing out in pretty much top form. Taken by itself this is a superb stealth title, a hugely replayable, clever, slick and exciting game that expertly weaves in fresh new ideas, refines old tricks and manages to bring its protagonist's tale to a satisfying conclusion. Add to this the fact you can play each and every one of the missions from both of its stellar predecessors, enhanced and fully integrated into the experience - should you already own them or choose to pick up the deluxe edition - and you've got yourself what is easily one of the great gaming experiences, each entry by itself superb but together nothing short of a masterwork.
And so it is with some measure of sadness that we must bid farewell, for now at least, to Agent 47. Honestly, who could have ever guessed that this brooding baldy with a big barcode slapped on the back of his bonce would wind up becoming one of gaming's most beloved protagonists? We can at least take solace in the fact that a certain Mr Bond is on his way to keep us entertained until such a time as 47 finally decides to return to the fray.
Hitman 3 is a superb final entry in what must now be regarded as one of gaming's truly great trilogies. This is a fittingly slick and satisfying send off for Agent 47, a succession of expertly crafted and endlessly replayable missions - omitting that final level dud - that sees our favourite assassin wind up his story in triumphantly fine form. IO Interactive really has brought all of their mission crafting expertise to bear here, resulting in a handful of levels that rank with the very best Hitman has to offer, and all while throwing in a couple of genuine curveballs and surprises as they go. This is essential stuff.