You can find our non VR review of Hitman 3 here.
If I said I went into Hitman 3 expecting VR to be the best addition to the franchise in decades, it would have been a lie as bald-faced as Agent 47 himself. VR modes, particularly ones exclusive to the less-than-cutting-edge PSVR, are often novelties. A bullet point to add to marketing materials.
A weird side mode that lasts less than a Move controller’s battery life. Basically anything than the surprisingly all-encompassing, trilogy rejuvenating affair that we have here.
IO Interactive doesn’t just deliver an entirely new perspective to play this concluding chapter in, it’s also generously retrofitted the previous two games to have full VR functionality as well. That’s upwards of 18+ intricate, handcrafted murder sandboxes to experience through the peepers of a glassy-eyed sociopath.
Calculated, hands-on mass murder married with the eerie “there-ness” of virtual reality? Well, that’s just good, clean wholesome fun.
Take it from a VR veteran who’s clocked this all on Master mode already; Hitman 3 represents absolute apex PSVR gaming. It’s within shooting, nay garroting distance of what I consider to be the current best-in-class, Resident Evil 7. It’s a reason to replay Hitman (2016) and Hitman 2 (2018). Hell, if you’ve traded those games in since, I’d go so far as to say it’s a reason to re-buy them.
VR is a game-changer.
Hitman 3 PSVR Review
The good news is that IO has gone with a full-body rendering of a virtual 47 – you’re not just a hovering, disembodied pair of murder mitts. Looking down at yourself isn’t just a chance to admire one’s signature blood-red tie, either – it’s the best way to remind yourself of which of the many available disguises you’re rocking. Actually having two feet and a heartbeat also works wonders in delivering a greater sense of vertigo as you’re balance beaming along the side of a skyscraper. I honestly believe that people with a fear of heights legit won’t be able to finish the first level in Hitman 3. It’s like The Walk VR times ten.
It’s also worth mentioning that Hitman 3 throws your usual, omnipotent situational awareness out the window like a strangled guard of no further use. Gone is the X-ray vision button that once allowed the tracking of fully outlined targets through concrete via…I don’t know, some sort of bat-man echolocation. VR only lets you tap up on the d-pad to ascertain a roundabouts location of your main target only, plus a distance measurement to the icon above their head. You have no idea which direction they’re facing. No firm idea of how many soldiers are guarding them. Nothing.
Needless to say, peeking around corners quickly becomes an artform, as is keeping a track of your own limbs as you get your gawk on. Unlike the vanilla game which obviously came with a pivotable, third-person camera and a cover system that would keep you out of trouble, you’ll need to keep your head on a swivel and your elbows in all the time. Add in the fact that VR mode doesn’t register auto-saves, and you can probably already guess what this does to the difficulty of the experience.
Becoming a man of focus, control
Speaking of new challenges, while a great deal of the controls remain as they are, a bunch of buttons and functions have changed. For starters, you can still open doors with a tap of triangle, but now you can also physically reach out with 47’s virtual hand and “here’s Johnny” them open with a leather glove slap. Likewise, you can use your virtual appendage to gingerly tap NPCs in the environment in a non-lethal fashion (we’ll get into the usefulness of this in a second). If you want that love tap to be a king hit you’ll need to hold R2 to “prime” your assault. Unlike the vanilla game, punch velocity is a thing, so by all means wind up and send some poor bastard skidding across the floor.
If you don’t want to get your hands dirty and would prefer to belt people with objects, VR mode handles…er, handling things differently. Firstly, you’ll need to reach out, grab the item when an R1 button prompt spawns. Then, you can either drop it again with another R1 tap or stash it in your bottomless magic pockets by holding it to your chest and tapping again.
Practically anything you can hold in the game can be used as a more or less one-hit murder weapon. Who cares if John Wick can kill three men with a pencil. With 47 you can take out a small platoon with a blueberry muffin. He’s also an absolute widowmaker with a thrown can of soda (hold L2 to paint a throwing arc, tap again once a homing headshot is locked). That latter is so effective, you’ll probably favour it over gunplay with a silenced pistol.
Create a few cadavers, and it’ll be time to play corpse Tetris. VR mode requires you to reach out and attach your mitt to a victim, drag them to a locker, reach out and tap R1 to deposit them in there. Unfortunately, there can be a bit of a contextual traffic jam when you make a heavily armed foe join the choir invisible. There were times when I wanted to quickly grab a nearly departed and boot them off a cliff, only to start scooping up their personal items instead. Not a huge issue.
Likewise, the two most important moves in your assassin repertoire, strangling and garotting, require much more finesse than the simple one-button taps in vanilla Hitman. You need to carefully judge the distance to your target, reach out and wait for 47 to splay out his ten fingers in what Apu once called the traditional form of apology. Screw up the distancing, and you’ll be clutching the air like an idiot as the enemy goes on full alert.
Getting one’s gat on
Gunplay here is perfectly functional and fun but, much like a hastily stolen NPC Santa costume, it’s not Hitman VR’s strongest suit. First of all, IO has opted to go with DualShock 4 support as opposed to the 1:1, two-handed potential of your Move controllers. That being the case, PS5 owners are forced to have the PS4 version of Hitman 3 installed, right alongside their existing PS5 install for when they want to play without VR. This is less than ideal.
Gunplay is a completely different ballgame with a headset on your melon. First big change: forget about a targeting reticle for boomsticks. You’re going in like Tony Stark with a broken heads up visor – every single shot has to be eyeballed to target by peering down some virtual ironsights. That said, in a properly lit and well setup room, the tracking and accuracy work surprisingly well with single-handed weapons like pistols. However, things get sub-optimal when rifles are introduced.
I basically had to give up on assault rifles in VR as they were woefully inaccurate beyond anything farther than spitting distance. Shotguns fare much better (because that’s their ideal range anyway) but there’s something awkward about the way you have to twist and hunch in over a rifle. Worse, I experienced some times when my AK would be anything but OK as it wigged out and discombobulated out at weird angles. Too often would the PlayStation camera struggle to understand what I was trying to aim at.
The good news for Lee Harvey Oswald types is that sniper rifles aren’t negatively affected by this issue. Leaning into your virtual scope will trigger a dedicated view mode that allows for easy aiming and zooming via the d-pad. As a big fan of ye olde arcade game Silent Scope, I can’t tell you how awesome it is to have three full games to just go snipe in with a system this accurate and robust. If turning heads into canoes from a postcode away is your thing, sniping in Hitman 3 VR is worth the price of admission alone.
Despite a few forgivable hiccups with the spray ‘n’ pray weaponry (excusable because Hitman games are rarely played like John Rambo) VR gunplay shoots for fun and accuracy and mostly hits the mark. Having remarkably detailed gun models and satisfying reload animations is definitely appreciated. So too are fully functional holographic dot sights and full bullet puncture modelling on NPCs.
Unique tactical changes and challenges of VR
In the vanilla Hitman, if you want to distract a guard (to either break a set patrol pattern or to lure them into a more discrete spot for an execution) you largely relied upon throwing coins or creating a bullet ricochets with a silenced weapon. In VR you can simply physically bump into the guard, tap them on the shoulder with your mitt or give them an inappropriate back rub. That in itself is a huge game-changer that’ll completely reshape the already insane speed run times of these games.
Next big switcheroo is the drop item function. Drop a “non-throwable” item in vanilla (like a silenced pistol) and you have no say in how that discarded object lands in the world. It simply plops straight down to your feet. Being in a virtual space allows you to sidle up to an open window, possibly adjacent to a weapon frisk checkpoint, and slot your firearm through for later retrieval. To do the same in vanilla would require you to physically leap through the window (at which point you’d get spotted) or hurl a rarely acquired briefcase through that’s holding the weapon inside.
I’m not going to spoil all of the little VR loopholes I found here, today, suffice to say this mode adds a whole new layer of deceit for the sneakier assassins among you. Outwitting the guards (and by extension IO’s level designers) quickly becomes a new source of endorphins, even if you’ve clocked these missions a dozen times in vanilla.
Honestly, when you tally up all the features and the fatalities, Hitman 3 VR is a massive breath of fresh air for this franchise. While obvious sacrifices had to be made in the graphics department – primarily seen in pop in NPC crowds and removed weather effects – it’s still remarkably good looking and blur-free for a VR title.
Throw in exciting new ways to outfox missions, plus visceral sniping and shanking, and what’s on offer here is unmissable for PSVR owners. Providing you have the iron stomach needed to play this from go to woah, the Hitman trilogy experienced in VR as Agent 47 will blow your hair back. Or completely off as the case may be.
Hitman 3 VR was reviewed on a PS5 using PS4 code provided by the publisher.