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The RPS Advent Calendar 2021, December 19th

One horse open slay

As you go to open today's door on the RPS Advent Calendar, you realise it's locked, and you'll need to get the keycard from somewhere. Plus you won't be allowed through unless you're dressed like a waiter, and even then you'll get frisked by a security guard, who would be none too pleased to find the poison in your pocket.

Best leave this to a professional. It's Hitman 3!

Matthew Castle: This makes it three for three, where Hitman and the RPS advent calendar are concerned. How very predictable. That’s three times we’ve put the same old sneak-and-snuff under the Christmas tree - I’m surprised you didn’t clock that telltale bald head shape under the wrapping paper on day one. (And no, I didn’t leave the price tag on - that barcode’s part of him.)

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But Agent 47’s repeat appearances make sense if you consider the ‘World Of Assassination’ trilogy less a series of individual games and more an evolving project. You could call parts two and three expansion packs for 2016’s Hitman, but what other expansion pack drags previously made levels kicking and screaming (or, more fittingly, limp and subdued) to its newly improved technical standard? This is the most compelling bit of new Hitman for me: that each new outing is an excuse to revisit those older, brilliant levels with updated visual gloss and behavioural tweaks.

And besides, each adventure does have some flavour of its own. Part one was deep, part two was wide, and part three is… weird? It has the sandboxes packed with murderous potential, but masks them behind odd structural twists. One level locks a target within a murder mystery. Another pits you against a squad of anonymous thugs you have to sniff out in the din of a rave. Later you’re playing rival facilities against each other or assisting an AI helper - the latter in a trip to an Argentinian vineyard that can end with a swooningly sauve moment on the dance floor.

Hitman 3 - Agent 47 walking through Chongqing at night wearing a reflective Pride suit and carrying the DLC pride-themed gun.

These beats are maybe not what you play Hitman for; this is a series celebrated for its agency and experimentation, rather than baked in heroics. But aside an overly cinematic blip at the end of the campaign, these locations present the best of both worlds. Poisoning a cabal of illuminati types in Mendoza is pure James Bond - a one and done thrill anyone can enjoy - but once you’ve followed the choreographed steps you’re still allowed to freestyle with a grape crusher. Remember: not everyone knows how to Hitman, and this feels like a good attempt to tempt people towards the light.

Not to mention the simple pleasure of embarking on another world tour with the best environmental artists in the business. Hitman may be a stealth game out of professional necessity, but there’s also a part of me that wants to take levels quietly so not to disrupt the perfect worlds. Who wouldn’t want an all access pass to a Dubai skyscraper or the rooftops of Chongqing? After nearly two years of staying home I refuse to feel bad for wanting to stick my head behind the curtains. My home office doesn’t even have curtains. When the sun hits the right angle it becomes a real problem. I can’t even see what I’m typing right now. I hope I spelt Chongqing right.

And all this before Hitman 3 grows again in 2022. New levels, new modes, not to mention VR. Yes, now you too will be able to experience first hand what it’s like to bowl an Expired Can of Spaghetti Sauce at some deviant’s skull. Agent 47’s spot on next year’s advent calendar is practically guaranteed.

Emma Carlisle tampers with a drink in Hitman 3's Dartmoor level. This is the conclusion to Another Death In The Family.

Alice Bee: I couldn't let this one go without expanding more on that murder mystery level Matthew mentions. Dartmoor is a perfect Agatha Christie pastiche, a weird posh person's manor filled with weird posh people who all hate each other - and one of them has already been murdered! It's the kind of level you'd only get in a Hitman game.

Your job is to go in, kill your target (the matriarch of the poshos) and get some info, and obviously there are a few ways you can do this. Dressing as an undertaker and shoving her into an open grave is a particularly grim delight. But the cleanest route, if the maximum effort one, is to replace the detective there to solve the murder and solve it yourself. You have to interview suspects and put clues together, find hidden passages and read secret letters, figure out what the butler did... suddenly Hitman 3 just becomes a mystery vignette with its tongue lodged so firmly in its cheek it'd need surgical intervention to remove it. It's completely delightful.

Katharine: I'm not gonna lie. I never got past the first level in Hitman 3 because I spent too much time staring at its incredibly polished floors. Okay, that was a lie. But I did hold back on playing too much Hitman 3 this year, because hot damn, I really can't wait for that ray tracing and VR update coming early next year. Hitman 3 is already one of the best looking games of 2021, but add ray tracing into the mix as well? Now that's a real beaut of an elite murder sim right there, and I cannot wait to play it all over again in 2022.

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