When I was first dropped into Berlin with absolutely nothing, on a dark night, in a grimy industrial location, I got the same feelings I'd had back nearly ten years ago, playing Absolution. A feeling that didn't quite sit right with me. But it was after sneaking around the club for a while and taking in my surroundings that I realised that this felt like Absolution, but done right.
First of all; the matured nature of the Hitman franchise's sense of humour meant that while some of the explosions and eliminations do feel very slapstick, this is good to contrast with the dark, grungy nature of the level and the targets; 47 is in a dense club, under bright lights, barely being able to make out a face in the crowd, and there are an unknown number of ICA agents circling your location, looking for him. There is a genuine fear to be had, whereas Absolution felt too edgy-teen-humour to give me any of the same feeling. While the latex nuns were a funny gag, it didn't feel like "hitman", it felt more like some lame parody I'd see on a talk show. Hitman 3, by contrast, takes itself seriously in some areas, and not-so-seriously in others, a blend which I feel lets me live out the life of a badass silent killer, while also being able to absolutely lose it at things like Tamara Vidal being flung about 8 feet by a sniper bullet.
In Hitman: Absolution, it felt like 47 made a lot of stupid decisions, and spent a lot of time running and escaping people through various action sequences. He took people out without reason in some of the levels, and the entire plot with the ICA felt odd and forced. IO interactive once again try to make the "Hunter and Hunted" style of level work, and I think this is their best use of it to date. In Hitman 3, it feels like there are genuine stakes at play; you've had one of your most valuable assets taken away, a handler. The mission feels scary and daunting without Diana in your ear, as the game has made you accustomed to. 47 feels alone, no idea where Olivia is, and while all of these drug-fuelled ravers mosh up against each other in the club, you're constantly seeking above heads, wondering where the next person will come from.
But slowly, you begin to figure out more about the level from observing. Just like 47, the game forces you to adapt, and use the last two games' worth of experience to force you into exploiting raw game mechanics to rise on top, and slowly make the ICA realise that they're the ones being hunted. Listening to the woman over the earpiece slowly begin to become more enraged and panicked as her men drop like flies is so satisfying and contrary to their threat and confidence they exude. Slowly, 47 turns the tide, and it's a beautiful exchange of the power of the contract.
Not to mention the missions before this, and the setup they play. You have Lucas in one ear, Diana in the other in Dubai, Lucas giving you passwords and guiding you carefully along mission stories. You feel on top of your game, completely in control in Dubai. When the game flips this easy control on it's head in Berlin and forces you to rely on just yourself and your instincts, it does something a little experimental in making this feel like a classic Hitman game, and changing the tide of battle and feeling like you're annihilating their strength in numbers with your wit and stealth, it feels so satisfying to hear the lady on the phone fluster and finally call off the hunt.
But unlike Absolution, there's no stupid stereotypes or strippers, there's no forced instinct management, the location is miles bigger, the targets are hidden to you, and you have no preparation. it's solely adaptation and using the world around you to turn the tides. And that's what makes it such a good level! Not to mention the replayability that you can play it twice and kill entirely different targets! The only thing I wish is that with the difficulty scaling up, the number of targets you had to kill also increased, from 5, to 8, to the maximum number.
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