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Hitman 3 beginner’s guide: 8 tips and tricks

We will leave you to prepare

a Hitman 3 screenshot from Mendoza with a view of the winery and villa from a scenic overlook Image: IO Interactive via Polygon
Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Hitman 3 is the third and final game in IO Interactive’s World of Assassination trilogy, but it’s also just as good of an entry point as Hitman (2016) and Hitman 2, if you missed those games. If that’s the case for you — and even if you do have some familiarity with Agent 47’s assassination adventures — we’ve got some tips on how to get started.

In this beginner’s guide, we’ll cover the basics of how to play Hitman: how to avoid getting overwhelmed, the best weapons and gear, and what’s new in Hitman 3.

How Hitman levels work

In most video games in which enemies patrol a location, they repeat the same behaviors over and over, such as endlessly tracing the same path. Hitman games take that and blow it out to the nth degree. Think of each Hitman location as set dressing for a stage play, with each character playing their part in the same way every time.

However, because IO has designed these levels with the player in mind, certain elements of this clockwork machinery won’t trigger until 47 shows up on the scene. For example, there’s a guard in Hitman 3’s Dubai level who explains the building’s emergency evacuation procedure — complete with the code for the safes in which evacuation keycards are stored — on the phone. But he won’t make that phone call until you’re within earshot of him, since this guard literally exists in the level for 47 to overhear him delivering some important information.

listening to a guard on the phone in Hitman 3’s Dubai level
You’re going to want to hear what this guard has to say.
Image: IO Interactive via Polygon

Most Hitman locations are large, multilevel environments, and at first, it can seem impossible to take everything in. But they’re designed to be replayed; as you gain an understanding of where the interlocking pieces are, how each one works, and how they all fit together, you become better able to use these situations and scripted behaviors to your advantage.

On your first time through a level, just mosey around gathering knowledge. That includes picking up weapons and tools, and grabbing items (like keys and disguises) that will grant you access to new areas, in addition to listening to anybody who’s talking, and watching how characters act. Most of it will show up in your inventory or the Intel section of the menu. You’ll be able to put two and two together pretty quickly.

Feeling lost? Try Mission Stories

Almost every Hitman location features a number of Mission Stories. Think of each one as a guided tour through the level that will put you in position to have a clear shot at one of 47’s targets.

You’ll come across these as you explore — a “MISSION STORY REVEALING” notice will pop up at the top of the screen as, for instance, an NPC says out loud that they’re missing a bottle of whiskey. If you choose to track it, a voice-over from 47’s handler, Diana Burnwood, will start playing to explain the opportunity that has opened up. You’ll then get step-by-step instructions in the top left corner of the screen, with green icons in the world highlighting where to go and whom to talk to.

However, you don’t have to hope that you’ll encounter Mission Stories. If you’re aiming to complete a particular one, you can track it as soon as you load into a level, which will tell you exactly where you need to go in order to kick off that story.

Mission Stories are great especially for new players because they introduce the mechanics of Hitman and the wide variety of kills you can pull off. As you complete more of them, you’ll start to see your assassination opportunities ahead of time. For instance, if a target takes a drink at any point along their preset path, you’ll instantly know that you can spike their beverage with some emetic poison, because that will cause them to walk to the nearest bathroom to throw up — giving you a chance to get them alone and drown them in a toilet.

Unlock multiple challenges by reloading saves

Hitman’s developers at IO Interactive readily encourage save-scumming, and they’ve designed the games in a way that facilitates it ... so you should totally take advantage of it.

For the uninitiated: Save-scumming refers to the practice of reloading a save file after something bad happens, allowing you to restart from where you saved the game and give yourself another chance. Autosave is enabled by default in the Hitman trilogy, but the games also give you eight slots for manual save files, and they allow you to save at any time (except while you’re in combat).

One of the obvious benefits of save-scumming is that it frees you up to just try things. Wondering if you can knock out that guard without being seen? Want to see if dropping that giant planter will cause any collateral damage besides your target? Save your game, and then give it a go; if it doesn’t pan out, simply reload and try it again!

a Hitman 3 screenshot from Chongqing showing a number of neon store signs, including one saying “Lite Lotus Jewelry” Image: IO Interactive via Polygon

You can also use save-scumming to your advantage to unlock multiple challenges on a single playthrough of a level. For instance, almost every level offers the same set of five Assassination challenges: headshot, lethal poison, drowning, garrote, and accident. (If you do all five, you’ll unlock the “Versatile Assassin” challenge.)

An easy way to knock out four of the five in quick succession is to use emetic poison on a target, which will almost always cause them to head for the nearest bathroom. Save your game right before they start barfing, and then drown them in the toilet (which will unlock two of the challenges, since the game considers any drowning death as an accidental one). Reload your save two more times for the headshot and garrote kills. Boom! You just earned thousands of XP toward your location mastery level within a couple of minutes, since reloading your game doesn’t erase any challenges you’ve already completed.

Use Agent 47’s Instinct vision all the time

As a master assassin, Agent 47 is more attuned to the world than we mere mortals are. This is represented in the game via Instinct, a special grayscale mode that’s much more than just X-ray vision.

In Instinct vision, targets will be highlighted in red, and they’ll be visible no matter where they are in the level. NPCs will be outlined in white, and a status icon above their heads will indicate if they can see through 47’s current disguise (large white dot) or if they’re incapacitated (an animated circle of little dots).

Note that if you’re in “blend” mode — i.e., you’ve dressed as a type of NPC that has a certain job or position, like a waiter wiping down a countertop — you’ll see outlines of white circles above the heads of NPCs who would ordinarily be able to see through your disguise. Blending is available only in very specific places, but you’ll know where, because these spots will be highlighted in yellow in Instinct.

a Hitman 3 screenshot showing Agent 47’s grayscale Instinct vision, with a keycard on a table highlighted in yellow and a target highlighted in red
Agent 47’s Instinct vision shows him items he can interact with (like the two keycards on the desks) in yellow, and targets (like Marcus Stuyvesant in the distance) in red.
Image: IO Interactive via Polygon

In fact, Instinct will put a bright yellow highlight on anything that 47 can interact with or pick up. Looking for a key, tool, or weapon that’s lying around somewhere? Use Instinct. Need to find the winch that will let you drop a chandelier on a target? Use Instinct. Can’t figure out which glass of wine to poison? Use Instinct. Wondering whether you can shimmy along a particular ledge or climb through a certain window? Use Instinct!

In conjunction with the interaction outlines and prompts that appear when you’re standing next to one of these objects, Instinct will instantly give you an overview of 47’s options at any moment.

Watch out for red exclamation points

The interface of the Hitman games throws a lot of information at you. One of the most important elements is an exclamation point.

Interaction prompts show up in the world to let you know, well, what you can interact with. They appear in white text. But beware if a prompt is accompanied by a white exclamation point in a red box: This means that performing the action in question will cause you to get spotted, if you do it in view of an NPC.

Now, this warning isn’t always permanent — here’s an example. In most cases, characters will immediately become suspicious of you if they see you poison a drink or a plate of food. However, you can get away with this action … if you’re disguised as a waiter. (Video game logic, eh?)

The best inventory items/gear/weapons

There are all kinds of objects you can pick up in Hitman 3, and there are more that you can unlock as you raise your mastery level of a location and your overall profile level. A few of them are universally useful — never pass up an opportunity to add them to your inventory.

  • coins: Coins are Agent 47’s best friend. You can toss them anywhere to attract an NPC’s attention — and we mean anywhere, including places where a small metal object shouldn’t make any noise, like grass. Even if a coin hits within earshot of a group of characters, only one of them will actually investigate the distraction, giving you the opportunity to take them out (or sneak past them) without being noticed.
  • crowbar: If you don’t have a lockpick, you can break locks with a crowbar. Just be aware that this will make some noise and look suspicious, so don’t do it within view or earshot of an NPC. You can also use a crowbar to break things that aren’t locks, such as the supports of a heavy object that would be very dangerous if it fell on somebody ...
  • wrench: Another handy tool, wrenches can be used to do things like create a leak from a motorcycle or an oil drum.
  • screwdriver: You’ll need a screwdriver to tamper with objects, like exposing the wire on a power strip. Note that unlike crowbars and wrenches, screwdrivers are lethal when used as melee weapons.
  • emetic poison: You’ll often find rat poison in places like storage rooms. This stuff is nonlethal; it will simply induce vomiting (that’s what “emetic” means). Poisoning someone’s food or beverage with it is a classic Hitman strategy to get them alone, since they’ll almost always try to find the nearest toilet — and any bodyguards they may have won’t follow them into the bathroom.
  • lethal poison: The only way to unlock the “Tasteless, Traceless” Assassination challenge is to give lethal poison to a target. It’s rare to find lethal poison out in the world, so if you see it, grab it.
  • silenced weapon: Assuming that you’re going for stealth, it helps to have a suppressed gun on hand. There are a number of options in the trilogy, such as silenced pistols like the Hackl 9S Covert or the various ICA19 models, or “covert” versions of more powerful weapons, like the Dak X2 submachine gun or Enram HV shotgun. Besides taking out a target quietly, you can use a suppressed gun to put security cameras out of commission (although NPCs will hear the gunfire if they’re close to you or the camera).

Unlock any shortcut ladders and doors you see

a Hitman 3 screenshot showing a button prompt to break the lock on a shortcut ladder in Dartmoor
Some of the shortcut ladders are in plain view but are hard to get to, like this one in Dartmoor.
Image: IO Interactive via Polygon

Persistent shortcuts are a new element in Hitman 3. On your first playthrough of a location, you may come across some ladders and doors with yellow metal locks that can’t be picked. Instead, you’ll have to figure out how to approach them from the opposite direction — i.e., the top of the ladder or the other side of the door — in order to unlock them. (Note that while you can unlock shortcut doors with a simple button press, you’ll need to have a crowbar in your inventory to break the lock on a shortcut ladder.)

These shortcuts are designed to incentivize replaying a level; once unlocked, they’ll remain available in future playthroughs.

There’s a scanning digital camera now

Something else that’s new to the Hitman series in Hitman 3 is a pocket camera. It comes with a bare-bones photo mode — there are three filters and a basic depth of field setting — and you can also use its 4x zoom lens for recon purposes.

But the camera is really a high-tech gadget like something James Bond would get from Q. Its lens has a scanning capability that lets you hack certain items, such as window shutters in Dubai, computer screens in Chongqing, and doors in Mendoza. The scanner also identifies clues in the Dartmoor murder mystery. Anything you can scan will be marked on your minimap with a little eye icon.