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Hitman World Of Assassination

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: IO Interactive
Release Date: Jan. 20, 2021

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PC VR Review - 'Hitman III'

by Andreas Salmen on Jan. 31, 2022 @ 12:25 a.m. PST

Hitman World Of Assassination is the dramatic conclusion to the World of Assassination trilogy, taking players around the world on a globetrotting adventure to sprawling sandbox locations, with Agent 47 returning for the most important contracts of his career.

Buy Hitman III

Hitman 3 has been out for over a year and, according to IO Interactive, it has sold exceptionally well, which is likely why it is supporting the game with additional content. Year two of Hitman looks to add new maps, a safe house, and game modes to all platforms in addition to ray tracing for the PC. The second year also marks the end of several exclusivity contracts between IO, Epic, and Sony. That means fans can not only expect a Steam release but also the addition of PC VR support that was previously exclusive to the PS4. We reviewed the VR mode on the PS4 last year and found it to be exceedingly solid given the limitations of the PSVR platform. It didn't feel like it could replace the flat mode of Hitman, but it was a different way to experience the game in a more immersive manner. Expectations for the PCVR port were high, but now that we've spent a week with it, it's hard to recommend it in its current state.

Since Hitman 3's release in 2021, I have spent many hours playing the game in VR on my PS4 and PS5. While it lacked the precision and speed needed to chase after high scores, it brought me hours of fun. It was a rather goofy endeavor, and its limited tracking via a DualShock controller captured through a camera meant that movement was severely limited, causing things to be imprecise. Garroting enemies from behind or knocking them out felt weird and regularly failed in the most hilarious ways. Hit detection was also spotty, which made it difficult to line up shots. Sometimes, enemies wouldn't detect that you were ramming a sizeable kitchen knife into their abdomen, so they awkwardly wiggled out of the way. The assumption at that point was that most of this was connected to the PSVR's limited tracking capabilities. Independent hand-tracking and the promise of further interactivity for PC players, such as two-handed weapons, seemed to indicate that we may see a massively improved VR game that goes beyond being a neat alternative mode. Alas, that's not what we got.

Hitman 3 is in a weird position here. After all, Hitman 3 is not a VR game. It's an excellent flat game that offers an additional VR mode at no additional cost, and I think it's fair to keep that in mind. However, given the year-long period between releases, it would be reasonable to expect an improved game that leverages available PC technology. What we have now is narrowly better than the PSVR port.

As was the case on the PlayStation, Hitman 3 allows players to play all three games in the trilogy in VR — as long as you own or have purchased the two previous entries. That alone makes Hitman 3 a content behemoth. There are 20 massive maps, and they're fully available to play with certain exceptions, such as most escalation missions or contract missions created by the community. Even without that content, what's here and available in VR is impressive and sure to keep you busy — if everything else doesn't turn you off from the experience.

In essence, almost everything I lamented about and (incorrectly) attributed to poor tracking on the PlayStation is still present on the PC. We now have independent hand-tracking, but the game doesn't allow you to use that extra hand. You can only pick up and use items with your right hand, so that locks out any left-handed VR players, which is a frustrating oversight. It also begs the question of what benefits the decoupled left hand may provide, apart from a slightly more realistic-tracking display within the headset. It improves some of the actions, like using your fiber wire to choke out opponents, but it lacks everywhere else.

The throwing mechanics works slightly better. You throw objects by aiming with your left hand and then make a throwing motion with your right hand to hit the target. I never had any issues with this mechanic, and it worked flawlessly most of the time, but many players have complained of being unable to accurately hit targets. I can see where that comes from, since Hitman in VR uses the grip and trigger buttons on VR controllers in weird ways, and it's not always clear when you're supposed to hold or let go of either. It's very easy to mess up, and that impacts your throw. The left hand can be used to grab larger weapons more realistically, and while that makes sense on paper, the left hand is still useless. Your hand automatically glues to your weapon, which looks more consistent, but it doesn't provide tracking input. You end up grabbing a weapon with both hands, but only your right hand can aim and move the gun around. It's an alien feeling, and I cannot fathom why it was included in this state since it adds no benefit.

Nailing the throwing mechanic is important, since interactions with NPCs can be spotty. You'll get into plenty of situations where hitting an enemy or trying to stab them with a sharp object is rarely detected correctly. Instead, they often wiggle around your hand and ask you to keep your social distance. It's so inconsistent that I've resorted to throwing blunt objects in VR. It is still not a consistent way to take out people, but it is the most consistent method available — aside from strangling them from behind.

What further aggravates the situation is that Hitman doesn't support any type of room-scale tracking. That was to be expected on the PSVR, but it's a bad look on the PC and sometimes disorienting. The game expects you to stay where you are and not physically rotate, or else your head stretches away from your digital body and causes unexpected behavior. You are usually able to recenter yourself with the click of a button, but ideally, I'd expect more leeway when physically moving or turning in VR. If you don't fight with the controls or the tracking, chances are that you will fight with your inventory, which hasn't changed either.

Instead of holster or other immersive methods to store inventory or guns, you have a small bubble in front of your chest to quickly retrieve the previous item. Other items can be accessed via button press, which works somewhat, but you can also open and close the inventory to select an item that then falls to the ground and alerts surrounding enemies. Other times, you may want to grab an object in front of you and instead pull out whatever your inventory holds since you were too close to your inventory bubble. Bonus points if that item is also illegal, basically guaranteeing you will be spotted and need to reload. As a side note, make sure to turn on autosave. I do not know why it's turned off by default, but it is certainly a much-needed lifesaver.

What's probably the most surprising, especially after everything said thus far, is that I still enjoyed my time with Hitman VR — as a bonus mode. If you expect a fully fledged VR experience, this isn't it. I wish it was because given the great gameplay loop and content available in the Hitman trilogy, this could easily be one of VR's killer apps. Instead, it's an immersive way to goof around in the Hitman universe, with the guarantee that things will go awkwardly wrong at every turn. Sometimes this occurs because of your actions, and other times, it occurs because someone wiggles out of your chokehold and catapults across the room to alert a guard around the corner. If you are interested in Hitman VR on the PC, my advice would be to grab the Hitman trilogy on Game Pass at this stage. There is the hope that IO goes back to fixing the VR mode in future updates, but it cannot stand on its own in its current state.

Speaking of patches, we already have seen a hotfix for PC performance that smoothed things out a little bit, but the title is still not performing great in VR on any PC platform. The good news is that we don't have to be content with masses of NPCs popping in and out of view as soon as they are more than three meters away from you like we did on the PlayStation. The bad news is that the game offers little to no adjustments at the moment to tailor the experience, with only two real VR quality settings and an overly aggressive dynamic resolution. The latter causes issues with image clarity, so objects close to you are much sharper and more detailed to look at on the PC, but as soon as things get further away, things get blurry to the point of competing with the PlayStation version. IO needs a more robust and customizable menu to ensure PC players can run and optimize the game as they see fit.

Overall, Hitman 3 VR is a fun distraction when treated as an additional mode and nothing more. If you've played the game in VR on the PlayStation, this is essentially the same thing with minor improvements, several of which turned out to be useless. It's a shame given the potential and how well the fundamentals have come together, but it pales in comparison to what consumers expect from a VR port. In its current state, Hitman VR feels like a one-man modding attempt rather than a big-budget studio investing resources to make it a worthwhile addition. If you were banking on getting a polished VR experience out of Hitman 3, this is not it. With a few patches or mods, that could change in the future, and I sincerely hope it does.

Score: 6.8/10

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