In a franchise which has always excelled at creating replayable missions, the level design in Hitman 3 refines IO Interactive’s process even further to create areas which are not only just as fun to explore the second or third time around, but more so than they were the first. While part of this is because of the many fantastic set pieces and mission stories which are sprinkled throughout the majority of Hitman’s world, but the biggest reason Hitman 3 feels like such a step forward in the series is due to its new Shortcut system.
Shortcuts in Hitman 3 are transitional areas, such as doors or ladders, which are initially locked when the level begins. However, once a player reaches the other side and, say, unlocks a Shortcut door or breaks free a Shortcut ladder, that change is saved in the game’s files and will be present from the beginning of all subsequent playthroughs.
In practice, this works similar to the shortcuts featured in FromSoftware’s Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro games. While Hitman 3 lacks bonfires to return to (at least, bonfires in that sense) the way newly-opened shortcuts can change the way a mission is played makes it possible to take a completely different approach to combat, infiltration, and exploration. While some of the shortcuts (such as the ladder in Dubai) are more helpful than others (such as the locked room on the train) they all serve Hitman 3’s ultimate goal: to make replaying the missions fun.
Few games make revisiting the same areas as enjoyable as Hitman 3 does. Shortcuts are a natural evolution of the puzzle-box mentality nearly every Hitman game has embraced since the franchise began, and it’s amazing it took until the end of the World of Assassination trilogy for them to be implemented in such a unique way. Like all great video game inclusions, once players get used to seeing Shortcuts in Hitman 3’s levels, it’s hard to imagine why any previous game didn’t think to add them.
Unfortunately, IO Interactive didn’t go back though all of the levels from Hitman 2 and Hitman (2016) and update them with new Shortcuts as well, although it would be a pretty cool gift to players if they did. Even so, the amount of variety on display in the levels Hitman 3 adds means fans of the series will have a lot of content to explore anyway. Hitman 3 features some of the best level design in the entire Hitman franchise, and now that Shortcuts are here, they should definitely stay in the games for good.