It's HITMAN... and PSVR... Like You've Never Seen Them Before...
Reviewed by Liam Noble Shearer
The Gimmick That Keeps On Giving...
I've spent more than my fair share of time agonising over the future of PSVR. Like, really. I've picked through every rumour, decoded every one of Jim Ryan's off-hand remarks, all in the hopes of finding some hint as to what the fabled PSVR2 could be like.
But after I played through HITMAN 3 on PSVR, I think I know exactly what the future of the headset looks like: awesome immersive Triple-A experiences, which flawlessly combines the rigour of the console gaming experience with the magic of Virtual Reality (VR).
But perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself. So, without further ado, here's my hottest takes about HITMAN 3, launched this week with PSVR compatibility on the PS4.
A Mix Of Console & VR... Literally.
HITMAN 3's VR integration wasn't an inevitable achievement - not by a long shot. While the trailers looked phenomenal - and we didn't waste time hyping it up - I must admit some hesitancy, given that the developer planned to ditch the Move controllers in the transition to VR. Instead, you'll be using the last-gen DualShock 4 for this one, with only limited motion tracking.
This basically means that you shouldn't go in expecting immersive haptic controls. Most things are either controlled in the same was as the standard version of the game or, optionally, with rather rudimentary motion controls. Being a VR news site, and me being a VR reviewer, I opted for the latter wherever possible. My conclusion: the VR controls are rather harmless most of the time, but sometimes can't help but feel a bit awkward. Platforming and punching, for instance, are two particularly sticky areas.
You'd think in saying that I'm about to proclaim that HITMAN 3 VR somehow falls flat, squandering the immersion. But there is the game's crowning achievement: the VR integration, harnessing the frankly outdated PSVR hardware, doesn't sacrifice much immersion at all. That's pretty lucky given that the game ups the immersive-sandbox factor many times over.
Even In VR, Agent 47 Knows How To Make A Killing.
HITMAN 3 wraps up the 'World of Assassins' reboot trilogy with style and dedication to the tried-and-true HITMAN formula. But HITMAN 3 doesn't just copy the franchise, rather it builds on it: the levels are wider and more expansive, stories more imaginative, and moments more surprising than we've ever seen before.
The playstyle stays pretty consistent, though, even if Agent 47 is gifted a few new tools to navigate his new terrain. If you're playing in VR though, you'll suffer from Agent 47's lack of a sixth sense to detect enemies through walls. PS5 players may feel like they're playing a HITMAN 2 expansion, even if it is a fantastic one, but PSVR players will have a whole new skillset to contend with.
We've also know that IO attempted to really put the HITMAN narrative in the spotlight with the final instalment of the 'World of Assassins' trilogy. They succeeded to an extent, but HITMAN 3's story is standard enough that you could still play through the entire game without noticing it. It's a fitting end to the saga, don't get me wrong, but I'd guess most fans will be relieved this particular saga is now over.
A lot has been written about the HITMAN 3 maps, with very good reason. The six maps included in HITMAN 3 are some of the best we've seen yet, even with the limitations of the PSVR version. Regardless, you really feel the scale of your surroundings, which adds an extra element of amazement when you use them perfectly to take down your foes.
That being said, VR doesn't always feel like the perfect format for what IO Interactive are trying to do, and the limitations of the PSVR & PS4 hardware are sometimes obvious. Large crowds filter in and out of existence to preserve computing power, and the feeling of aiming down sights is completely destroyed by a lame 2D screen that pops up.
HITMAN 3 is an absolute blast in VR. I literally can't wait to play it all over again on PS5, so if that's not a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is.
We've had our fair share of AAA disappointments as of late, with Medal of Honour only the most shocking recent example. IO Interactive avoided that fate and then some, transitioning the third and final HITMAN reboot title to the format, almost all of a sudden, with grace. It's not a perfect transition - whatever is? - but it's certainly worth a play.
Most significant though is what HITMAN 3 VR could tell us about the future of PSVR. All in all, I think the resounding conclusion is that the future of PSVR is bright. I've said it once and I'll say it again, Sony aren't done yet publishing awesome immersive Triple-A experiences, which flawlessly combines the rigour of the console gaming experience with the magic of VR.