Hitman 3 is out today. And while it’s pretty different from previous games in the rebooted trilogy, it’s still a lot of fun. If you’re new to the series or coming back from a while away, should you jump right into 3 or start with the earlier games? Personally, I’d say you’d be fine just starting with 3, but if you really want to understand what the new game is doing, start with Hitman 2.
Hitman 3’s plot picks up in the aftermath of 2. Hitman plots aren’t the easiest things to keep track of, since they’re full of globe-spanning conspiracies, agencies with spy thriller names, and a ton of characters and relationships. A cinematic early in Hitman 3 gets you up to speed on the overarching events of Hitman 2, so you’ll have a basic grasp of who’s who and why they’re doing what when you start.
I haven’t played Hitman 2 in a while, and I found it helpful to check a couple wikis as Hitman 3 played out to remind myself of details from 2 and the broader Hitman canon. But even when I felt hazy on some of the specifics, I still found the plot events of this latest entry interesting and moving.
Still, Hitman 3 doesn’t have many levels showing off what the games do best: sprawling areas to investigate at your leisure, full of accidents to engineer and clever assassinations to pull off. One level doesn’t have any story missions—narrative opportunities you can follow to pull off a hit—while another is very on-rails. If you want some sandboxes to explore and replay or if you just want the fullest grasp of what Hitman 3 does differently, play around in Hitman 2 before heading into 3.
Why not Hitman 1, you might ask? The first game has some great levels—the Paris fashion show, the multi-area town of Sapienza, the elegant Hokkaido spa—but 2 improves on the lessons of 1 in its levels design and gameplay. Hitman 2 gives you a lot of great locations: the exciting Miami racetrack, the sprawling Mumbai, the charming Whittleton Creek, and the exciting and absurd Isle of Sgail. Hitman 2 also has some excellent DLC, in the form of a tense New York bank mission and a flashy resort. Hitman 2 will give you the most thorough look at all the locations, gameplay, and tools that make the modern Hitman games so fun, and its plot will be the most relevant for understanding the events of Hitman 3. You should obviously play Hitman 1, because it is Hitman and Hitman is great. But if you had to pick, I’d go with 2 over 1.
You can also play levels from 1 and 2 in Hitman 3, through a convoluted tangle of purchasable DLC. There are discounts on them right now—for instance, on PC, the Hitman 2 “gold version,” which includes Hitman 2 and its DLC levels, is $20, a pretty good deal for a whole lot of Hitman. You can also import levels you might already own into the game, though IO Interactive and the Epic Games Store are still working out how PC players can do so without repurchasing. As of this writing, eager players are hammering the servers, preventing me from importing my owned levels at all. Importing your progress from the earlier games—which will bring over your profile and the starting locations and mastery items you’ve unlocked—will overwrite whatever Hitman 3 unlocks you’ve earned, so you might want to wait to start Hitman 3 until you’re able to import.
But if all of this is too expensive, too confusing, or you just can’t wait to play some new Hitman, go ahead and jump into Hitman 3. Its opening level, Dubai, will give you a good taste of what Hitman does best, and you’ll still have a great time with the rest of the game.