The Hitman World of Assassination Trilogy (that’s Hitman 1, 2, and soon to be 3) ranks among JJ’s favorite gaming experiences, mostly due to its combination of smart puzzles, environmental world-building and the replayability of each meticulously designed level. In the leadup to Hitman 3’s 20th January launch, JJ dove back in to the first two games in the trilogy, discovering a newfound appreciation for IO Interactive’s efforts with its revival of this beloved series. As the maps are all fresh in the mind of IGP’s Hitman aficionado, it’s about time JJ ranked his favorite maps from the series, in terms of setting, targets, narrative, and achievements. Even better, these older maps carry over to the new release.
5. ICA Facility – Test #2 – The Final Test
There are so many reasons I love the ICA Facility level, which acts as a prologue and introduction to the World of Assassination Trilogy. First and foremost, its narrative rocks and sparked my motivation to do Agent 47’s dirty work. Taking place in the 90s, the level is set right before the beginning of 47’s ‘’partnership’’ with the ICA—and the odds are completely stacked against him, thanks to Soders.
Soders is the ICA exec who gets to approve or deny 47 for duty, but sadly he also desperately wants 47—and his would-be handler, Diana—to fail the assassination simulations he’s set up. The events of the level put the rest of the trilogy’s plot in motion. And every time I succeed, I find myself smiling and thinking, fuck you, Soders.
Adding personal insult to injury, one of this mission’s extra challenges retraces one of Soders’ campaigns during the Cold War era, which saw him assassinating Jasper Knight, an aptly named Russian secret agent and chess mastermind. The assassination (and its simulation) take place in a military base in Cuba. Any piece of media with a Cold War-era espionage setting instantly gets bonus points from me.
The setting is easily my favorite thing about this map, and makes me wish IO would work on a project set in one of the 20th-century conflicts (From Russia With Love, anybody?). Of course, the assassinations are satisfying as hell, and it’s a bold introduction of what’s to come for the player.
4. Mumbai – Chasing a Ghost
Proving that he’s not the American average, Agent 47 hasn’t spent his entire life within the North American borders. In fact, he’s something of a globetrotter. The Mumbai level sees 47 navigating the streets of Mumbai on the hunt for various targets: the Queen of the Slums, an illusive and unknown Maelstorm, and Bollywood director and self-proclaimed ladies’ man, Dawood Rangan.
Mumbai showcases an unfortunate but mesmerizing dichotomy of social class. The contrast between the poverty-stricken slums and Dawood’s millionaire mansion is jarring, putting you slap-bang in the middle of the kind of corruption that’s taking place across the world. Needless to say, doing your bit to curb that corruption makes crossing off each name extra satisfying, especially when you allow the greed of each target to bring their downfall.
The coolest aspect of Mumbai? The fact that you aren’t aware who the Maelstorm is until you’ve identified him—and his character model changes every time, so no cheating. All you have is some vague intel to lure him to you or find him when he’s vulnerable. All these things come together to make Mumbai one of the series’ most replayable maps—not to mention the sheer density of this map and the multitude of playstyles it accommodates.
3. Whittleton Creek – Another Life
Two targets: Janus, a former KGB and Providence head honcho who is … far past his prime, and Nolan Cassidy, a Providence operative who is in his prime. It might sound like the climax of an espionage thriller, but this mission actually takes place in a Vermont suburb in the fall—an homage to A New Life, a highly regarded mission from 2006’s Hitman Blood Money. Hold up—Blood Money is 15 years old now!? Well, moving on…
The juxtaposition between an all-controlling underground order and one of the most decadently peaceful places in the States is equal parts hilarious and jarring, especially seeing as IO emphasized the quainter elements of American ‘culture’ to make this romp feel like a supercharged present-day 1950s. It’s subversive as hell: Infiltrate a back-yard pot-luck, dress up as a realtor to show off a three-bedroom, two-bath … these aren’t things you’d typically read about in a spy novel.
But bear with me, this flipping of expectations really leads to one of the series’ most rewarding sandboxes. Dressing up like the mailman or gardener to get to these monsters where they feel safest. It’s poetic justice at its finest.
Whittleton Creek also boasts a deep-rooted investigative aspect, as 47 is tries to uncover the mystery of Providence, so let’s just say some of the objectives aren’t kill-based, and may have some clues about IO’s direction for their upcoming 007 game.
2. Isle of Sgàil – The Ark Society
The Ark Society mission takes place after Another Life and acts as the final mission of Hitman 2 (before the DLC). It’s the polar opposite of Whittleton Creek but still ticks all the right boxes. Isle of Sgàil pulls all of the secret cult society clichés you’d expect, but it handles everything so deftly, and the amount of player freedom is frankly amazing.
The Isle of Sgàil level is a North Atlantic island, home to a super-villain castle-complex that hosts mega-rich secret society conferences and galas. It’s the evilest and most complacent of the elite all in one place, so it’s open season for 47. After infiltrating the society, you discover that it’s not so secret after all—it’s just a bunch of rich assholes playing God and putting on a show, à la real-world society.
While the level is at first overwhelming, you’ll soon find yourself rushing around the castle donning chilling cult outfits, participating in ritual sacrifices, and kidnapping the main antagonist of the game. Echoing some of the strengths of the Soulsborne series, the level is teeming with hidden passage ways and obscurely located areas to discover. Apparently, IO is doubling down on this in the third game, so bring it on!
This ending also feels far more climactic than the climax of Hitman 1. While the first game’s ending was satisfying, Hitman 2’s Isle of Sgàil finale takes things further. It’s dripping in secret society ooze, and its IO’s way of screaming that Hitman 3 will be bigger, better, and even more bonkers. Let’s go.
1. Paris – the Showstopper
In 2016, the Hitman revival was seemingly IO’s—and the franchise’s—final stand. With its episodic announcement, the company faced scrutiny for veering too far from the makeup of the original franchise. Hitman (2016) was arguably the studio’s biggest and most important challenge yet. The franchise had a loyal fanbase, and there were plenty of naysayers to convince, so the studio had to strike a balance between classic Hitman and something completely and new.
They hit it out of the park, and the Paris level is the perfect case study, laying the foundation for the verticality and complexity that the World of Assassination Trilogy is now revered for. And the huge crowds in the fashion show harken back to the Blood Money glory—as well as hinting at what’s to come. Now, I might be a bit biased, as I was living in Paris back in 2016, but I always saw the location as the true catalyst for the World of Assassination; after all, cultural and governmental corruption are part of central Paris’ DNA – not to mention morbidity, with its hundreds of kilometers of winding bone-littered underground tunnels.
Simply put, this level exudes historical significance and mystery. And while there are definitely better levels, Paris is my favorite for truly kicking off this franchise revival and helping it flourish into what it’s become today. Sue me.
So there you have it: JJ’s favorite Hitman maps so far! With the third game right around the corner, you can count on even more Hitman discussions in the coming weeks—right here on the site and on the weekly International Gamer Pubcast.
Do you agree with JJ picks? Did he miss something? Let us know on Twitter @IGPubcast, and let your voice be heard!