Video Game Perfection In The Hitman Trilogy
Ask any gamer what comes to mind when you say the word Hitman, and chances are they’ll laugh about a bald assassin.
Yes, the Hitman franchise has always been thoroughly tongue in cheek, leaning heavily into a camp tone. It’s laughable that a large bald man with a barcode on the back of his head would ever be stealthy, but developers IO Interactive have always been well aware of this.
The studio has been making the iconic franchise for a long time, with the first entry dropping in 2000.
After Hitman: Agent 47 turned out to be a surprise hit, another 7 games were released in the following years.
The most recent, Hitman 3, launched in 2021 and was met with near-universal acclaim.
Making The Perfect Stealth Game
The average Hitman mission may see the enigmatic Agent 47 dress up in a full-body chicken mascot suit, use the disguise to sneak through a painstakingly accurate Formula 1 track, only to then smash his target’s face brutally with a hammer. It’s purposefully silly, even as it leans into unmatched levels of stealth strategy, all held together by the character of Agent 47.
Never once will Agent 47 break his unflappable demeanor or hint that what he’s doing is absurd. Even when dressing up as a giant mascot chicken.
This serious/absurd tone is a fundamental part of what makes it all so appealing.
Combined with the astoundingly detailed and versatile maps, all of which support literally dozens, if not hundreds of options, you have a stealth perfection that other game developers drool over.
The latest entry into the franchise demonstrated such gob-smacking degrees of skill on the part of IO Interactive that, rightly, many have called it the ultimate stealth game.
Going Through Changes
There was, however, a time when many thought that IO Interactive would close its doors.
After finding initial success, it seemed as if the industry had moved on from stealth focused games. Although many hailed Hitman: Blood Money, released in 2006, as an excellent entry, the franchise then went dark. Eidos Interactive then acquired the company, and subsequently, the team tried their hand at a few other concepts.
Kane And Lynch: Dead Men, released in 2006, focused more on action doing away with stealth entirely. The family-friendly Mini-Ninjas followed in 2008. Neither release was especially successful. Soon after, in 2009, the studio was once again purchased, this time by Square Enix.
Kane And Lynch 2: Dog Days went live in 2010, however it ended up having a largely negative reception.
The studio finally got back to what it knew best with Hitman: Absolution in 2011. Although relatively well-received, original fans of the series complained that the entry was dumbed down, not demonstrating the immense versatility the series had become known for.
IO Interactive would answer these complaints in 2015 with the simply titled Hitman. It was a true return to form, though the release was somewhat ruined by an unpopular scheduling system.
Instead of the game dropping complete, the content was doled out over time. But unlike Borderlands 3 shift codes that periodically provide free extra cosmetics and weapons, Hitman 2015 had entire levels released monthly. The big sting? Each level came with an additional cost.
Thankfully, the next entries into the new trilogy were released as traditional, complete packages.
The Art Of The Perfect Stealth Level
The most lauded level in Hitman 3 is aptly called Thornridge Manor. The sheer effort and skill put into the map demonstrate that this is, indeed, a studio that has been perfecting its craft for decades.
Players get dropped into the English countryside, with the titular manor sitting on a hill before them. How to get inside and assassinate the Lady of the house is, as always, completely up to the player. The impatient may simply shoot every moving body, barely stopping to notice the immaculate paintings that adorn the Manor walls. But the patient will discover something extraordinary.
An honest-to-goodness whodunit murder mystery is unfolding at Thornridge Manor, featuring a full cast of classic English characters. Players that choose to steal the detective’s attire can investigate, solve the mystery, and kill the target without ever reaching for a real weapon.
It’s everything the franchise is known for in a perfect, dazzlingly beautiful package. From the voice acting and trademark attention to detail to the dizzying array of options, it truly does seem as if Thornridge Manor is a glimpse into an entirely different world.
After the surprise success of Hitman, the news that IO Interactive is working on a James Bond game couldn’t be any more perfect.