I've played Hitman 3 for 20 hours, and I haven't left its first level. Not because I haven't beaten it. Oh, no, it's because I can't stop beating it. I've assassinated both targets in Dubai dozens of times. I've pulled off stealthy kills with poison and parachutes and chandeliers. I've worn every possible disguise. I've played the escalation missions. Plenty of people have told me how great Hitman 3's other missions are: the murder mystery at Dartmoor, the club in Berlin, or the urban streets of Chongqing. I believe them! But how am I supposed to move on when I haven't yet figured out how to tackle the imminently important task of throwing five kitchen knives at five different targets hanging in the air around Dubai?
I had a feeling this would happen. I already owned the first two games in Io Interactive's Hitman trilogy but had yet to touch them. Stealth puzzlers have a habit of putting my freetime in a stranglehold as dangerous as Agent 47's. As PC Gamer's Game of the Year deliberations approached, I remembered all the praise in our Hitman 3 review and decided it was finally time to bite the silenced bullet. After spending 20 hours on a single weekend combing the entirety of the Burj Al-Ghazali tower in Dubai, it's clear that I was right to fear Hitman 3.
Thrill of the kill
It started innocently enough. Because it was my first Hitman tour, I decided to follow one of the missions in Dubai. These guided story paths walk you through assassinating a target in a quest-like fashion to help introduce each stealth sandbox level and how it ticks. The Bird of Prey mission is tough to miss, beginning with an overheard conversation in one of the common spaces between two guards and another assassin. I was instructed to incapacitate this rival and disguise myself in his clothes to get a first meeting with one of my true assassination targets, Carl Ingram. After doing a bit of Ingram's dirty work (some freelance assassinating) and more dress-up (as a penthouse guard), I eventually killed him on the tower's top floor.
With that done, I figured I should also take on the (In)Security story mission that walked me through killing Dubai's second target, Marcus Stuyvesant. Well, with two story missions complete, shouldn't I just do the third mission, How The Mighty Fall, and take out both targets together? By then, I'd started getting comfortable in Dubai, poking around various areas of the tower unprompted. That's when I overheard a curious exchange between two guards about a security drill scheduled for the following day.
"It's easy," one explains to the other, "two of us are stationed up here and below, by the card reader. We get an alert—we both swipe our cards and bingo—lockdown."
"What if the other guard is using the bathroom?"
"Well, it's timed, so if that should happen, I should be able to run down and activate the other swipe as well. But I guess that will need a little practice ... "
Having overheard plenty of real-life conversations about the importance of eavesdropping on Hitman NPC conversations, my ears perked up. One person can throw both alarms if they're fast enough? That's no world-building chatter. That's a challenge.
I used Agent 47's instinct vision to look through the tower's walls and pick out both alarm points: one just outside the penthouse office, and another on the floor above in a hallway. In my penthouse guard uniform, I could safely stroll past the cleaning staff and up the back staircase at just the right moment to avoid being spotted by a guard who would recognize me. With a route planned, I pulled off triggering the alarm system on my first try.
After nailing the timing, I had exactly zero seconds to celebrate before my co-conspirator warned me over the radio that both targets were headed to the helipad to evacuate. I'd forgotten how to get to the helipad, pacing back and forth in a panic wondering if I'd shot Agent 47 in the foot. I lucked out, hearing over the radio that both targets were in fact leaving the helipad. "Their last chance is by parachute," my contact warned me. "Make sure that doesn't happen!"
Parachutes? I saw parachutes. Where did I see parachutes? With a bit more panicked stomping about, I remembered that I'd seen them on the wall conveniently hanging beside the alarm outside the penthouse office. I hoofed it there, opened each parachute case, and was delighted to find the prompt "sabotage parachute."
I stabbed a fatal hole in both escape chutes and hid myself around a corner just in time for both targets to come jogging up the back stairs to the penthouse flanked by a contingent of guards who were already too late to save them from their fates. With delight, I crept along behind the doomed posse, watching as Ingram and Stuyvesant were both ushered to jump off the roof of a tower in the clouds by their own well-meaning protectors. I saw two "target eliminated" notifications, followed by a "We got 'em, 47," over my radio.
That was the moment Hitman 3 had me by the neck.
Since that first big payoff from a bit of curiosity, I've been chasing the same adrenaline. After successfully pulling off that combo kill, I was determined to crawl back through Dubai level-by-level in various disguises, listening for new tricks to pull and special kills to set up.
I dressed up as the penthouse head chef to poison Carl Ingram's dinner. I figured out the exact angle from which I could hide behind the main atrium stage and chuck a gold brick at the Sheikh's head. I couldn't just complete the challenges that I stumbled into naturally. No, no, then it became time to dig into the full list of Dubai challenges and tick off every single one: kill both targets with a single sniper rifle shot, escape the level via helicopter, and take a photo of the Sheikh sleeping.
Now I'm in too deep. I've been in Dubai for 20 hours, and my pride demands that I check off every challenge before I leave. I've come this far already. Sunk cost fallacy? Never met her.
I still need to pull off the third tier of the Sinbad Stringent escalation mission, which asks me to find five kitchen knives and use them to hit five different targets, often in restricted areas, all over the tower. After that, it's time for a suit-only silent assassin run, which I definitely have not wrapped my head around a route for just yet.
Maybe I'll head to Dartmoor before I clock 30 hours, but I'm not making any promises.