IO Interactive’s Hitman reboot series has been through the wringer. Originally released episodically in 2016, the first game was critically acclaimed, but kneecapped by polarizing decisions such as being always online and the episodic release structure. The financial failure lead to a split between IO and parent company Square Enix, and somehow IO arose from the ashes like a phoenix. They released two more installments to increasing acclaim over the next five years, and earlier this year introduced a new game mode. Just last week IO revealed more monthly updates to come. It’s been a remarkable reversal of fortune for both IO Interactive and the Hitman series.
Now that all the games have been fused into one title under the World of Assassination moniker, and with the announcement of 2023’s update schedule, it seems like a good time to rank how each level stacks up against the other. This ranking will only include the original missions, so bonus content such as the DLCs which take place in existing maps and holiday-themed missions will not be included.
22. Carpathian Mountains
The finale of the World of Assassination trilogy is a straight line. I’ve been stuck at my desk trying to come up with something positive to say about the level but it is such a disappointing finale for a series that prides itself on expansive level designs. It’s barely a level so much as it is walking down a hallway gunning down enemies. The level’s only saving grace is that it’s over quickly.
21. Colorado—Freedom Fighters
For what it is worth, Colorado is far better than the original counterpart in Hitman thanks to the addition of tall grass to hide in and multiple exits being patched in. Unfortunately, it’s still a pretty boring level. The novelty of having four targets instead of two wears off quickly, and the always hostile environment would be cool if an easily obtainable disguise didn’t immediately negate it. Colorado is a sad case of a great idea with subpar execution.
20. Morocco—A Gilded Cage
Probably the least memorable level in the trilogy, Morocco is devoid of much of anything. Of all the World of Assassination levels, it is definitely one of them. It’s forgettable, which is sad considering the setup of going into Marrakesh to prevent a military coup is a killer hook.
19. ICA Training Facilities
The tutorial levels in the first game put you in two simulated assassinations complete with fake buildings and actors that serve as a great intro to the game. The strong aesthetics of the tutorial level help elevate them slightly above the levels below them, even if there is less content overall. It does raise the question of what happens to the actors you slay during the training missions though.
18. Ambrose Island—Shadows in the Water
The latest level in the series, Ambrose Island is alright. There are some interesting ideas, such as the removal of the mission stories in favor of unmarked NPC quests. This is a double-edged sword, as while it does allow for more freeform assassinations, it also lacks the charm and variety that mission stories bring. It’s a free DLC level so I’m not gonna complain too much, but it feels lacking in the extra polish that other Hitman 3 levels had.
17. Hawke’s Bay—Nightcall
Another tutorial level, Nightfall is a superb intro to Hitman 2, easing new players into the mechanics of the game while also showing off the improvements from the first game, such as tall grass to hide in and working reflections. The beach at night and the single modern house the targets live in give a strong first impression. The main aspect that this one has over the other tutorial levels is its replayability and variance despite its brevity. It’s a killer first impression.
16. Dubai—Edge of the World
The opening level of Hitman 3 is totally fine. The skyscraper in the sky makes for a great intro where Agent 47 breaks in from above the building; it’s like IO was preparing players for their upcoming 007 game. Dubai feels incredibly simple compared to the following levels, in part due to it having to act as a tutorial level. The actual skyscraper also lacks a cohesive identity beyond “wow uber rich people!” which has been done multiple times in the series before. Still, Dubai has a solid presentation and is a hell of an opener to Agent 47’s last mission.
15. Colombia—Three-Headed Serpent
Santa Fortuna has a lot of moving parts, and this is both a good and bad thing. On one hand, there are some of the coolest kill opportunities here, such as feeding someone to a hippo, masquerading as a shaman, and killing a target with a cement machine, but the level is just too damn big. It doesn’t feel particularly cohesive as a level and half the locations feel like they were made independently of each other.
14. Bangkok—Club 27
The single funniest bit in the entire series is Agent 47 busting out a drum solo as part of one of the mission stories. Aside from that, the hotel setting is fun and the target Jordan Cross has infinitely more personality than most other targets. It’s a neat level filled with the zany personality that its predecessor in Marrakesh sorely lacked. It’s sandwiched between the first game’s weakest levels, but it isn’t quite as interesting as some of the others in the series.
13. Haven Island—The Last Resort
Haven Island is probably my least-played level across the World of Assassination, but it’s still a generally enjoyable experience. The resort comes with all sorts of shenanigans, and the level is basically a better version of Three-Headed Serpent. Aside from some small issues with enemy sightlines being too large in my experience, this is an incredibly solid level. Drowning someone in a jacuzzi has never felt so satisfying.
12. Dartmoor—Death in the Family
Dartmoor’s strong atmosphere is backed up by what’s probably the most intricate mission story in the series: a murder mystery. Solving the murder mystery while on your way to assassinate a target is delicious irony, and the dreary atmosphere of the gothic mansion just adds to the level’s flair. The rest of the environment is always hostile without disguises, but with only one target and a relatively easy side objective, it feels much more manageable than something like Colorado. The only downside is that the elaborate murder mystery means there are fewer mission stories than other missions, but the quality of the ones in this level almost makes up for it.
11. Isle of Sgail—The Ark Society
Essentially Hitman 2’s answer to Dishonored’s Lady Boyle’s Last Party, The Ark Society is a weird rich people party in a medieval castle. Trading the opulence of Dubai to instead focus on weird wealthy cult stuff, The Ark Society is definitely one of the stronger levels in the franchise. The castle allows for all sorts of unique kills, such as beating a treasure hunter at their own game, and playing dead so you can kill one of the targets during a funeral. It’s bizarre, moody and one hell of a way to end Hitman 2’s base game.
10. Whittleton Creek—Another Life
In a game that sees players going all across the world to assassinate targets in exotic locales, it’s really nice that Hitman has a locale in the incredibly bizarre world of idealized white suburbia. There’s the standard affair of bake sales, neighborhood barbecues, the presence of a surveillance state, white picket fences, and door-to-door campaigning by politicians. It’s easily the weirdest level in the game despite the perceived normalcy, as everything just feels slightly off.
It has some great options for kills, like putting a poison dart frog into an exterminator’s fumigator instead of standard pesticides to wipe out an entire house, and poisoning the food at the aforementioned barbecue. It’s equal parts silly and awesome. The only thing preventing the level from being ranked higher is its tedious side objective which revolves around finding clues. It’s whatever the first time, but it starts to get really boring on repeat playthroughs.
9. Chongqing—End of An Era
Chongqing is IO flexing how well their reflections and water effects work. It’s easily the most gorgeous level in the series with neon lights and flying drones adding to the cyberpunk feel of the level. The two targets are fairly divorced from each other, but this actually works in this level as there are actual ways to get the targets together. The ICA Facility is fun to explore with vents all over the place allowing for multiple points of entry in the high-tech labyrinth, and the low-tech makeshift lab where the second target, Hush, resides is a nice contrast and works well with the seedy nature of his experiments.
The main problem this level suffers from is the godforsaken door gimmick. To unlock the doors in the ICA facility, you have to pick up different keycards that correspond to different levels of clearance. This is fine. Then you also have to scan these keycards with the new camera tool added to the game to open the door. I get that they want us to use the camera but what a pointless addition. The keycards worked just fine!
8. The Golden Handshake—New York
Agent 47 robs a maximum security bank. The Golden Handshake is one of the more experimental levels design-wise given that there’s only one target to kill and the other objective is stealing a data core from a vault. To compensate, there are cameras all over the place. It makes for an interesting experience as trying to stealth your way through will require more finesse than some of the previous levels.
It’s a tightly designed level that trades open space for more density, and this works incredibly well. You can also live out your fantasy of pushing your boss out a window after you get fired if that’s what you’re into. The side objective being something that’s actually fun to accomplish on repeat playthroughs also helps immensely, and it makes me wish other non-killing objectives had this much thought put into them.
7. Mumbai—Chasing a Shadow
Mumbai is easily the best three-target level in the series by a wide margin. It’s a massive map with several distinct areas to explore, but they all feel extremely cohesive. There are incredibly intricate kills to set up, and cool setpieces, and having to sleuth out the identity of the third target is a compelling side objective. The slums are fun to explore, as the bustling streets of Mumbai feel like an improved version of Marrakesh and you can kill someone with a train. It’s ultimately standard Hitman fare, but the execution of Mumbai is so well done that I can forgive its minor flaws.
6. Mendoza—The Farewell
Hitman 3’s penultimate level boldly asks the question, “What if we did another rich person party level?” The result is one of Hitman’s finest levels, taking place at a beautiful winery while also feeling incredibly distinct from other levels with similar themes. The one gimmick this level has is that Agent 47’s handler, Diana Burnwood, is physically present instead of taking a background role. This doesn’t have too much of an effect on gameplay, but it does lead to a couple of cool opportunities to see the duo team up. Argentina is an absolutely gorgeous level that takes the game’s engine to its limits. The entire thing is this beautiful spectacle of opulence, dark comedy and badassery that acts as an incredible closing act for one of the best stealth games of the past decade.
5. Paris—The Showstopper
The first level released in the World of Assassination trilogy, the Paris fashion show is the perfect opener to the trilogy. There’s just something special about your first time booting up the level and just seeing how many different ways there are to approach a situation. Sure, you could attempt to gun down Victor Novikov the second he descends the stairs, but there’s still another target and a legion of guards you have to deal with. It’s the first real mission after the ICA training missions and it does a great job of easing players into the swing of things. The fashion show is an interesting enough setting, but when combined with the basement levels and occurring on the top floor, it helps really cement just how many options aspiring assassins will have.
4. Berlin—Apex Predator
Berlin sees Agent 47 taking on 10 (although you only have to kill five) other ICA assassins as they try to kill him at an underground industrial EDM party. It’s the most freeform out of any level as a result and there’s just something so badass hearing the other assassins freak out as they get dropped like flies by 47. It’s the ultimate game of assassin outclassing and it’s an incredibly unique experience that doesn’t overstay its welcome. There’s just something about taking out five well-trained assassins in a gunfight while techno music plays in the background that elevates this to being Hitman 3’s best level.
3. Sapienza—World of Tomorrow
Sapienza is easily the most iconic level of the trilogy and it’s not hard to see why. During my first playthrough, I pretended to be the ghost of a target’s dead mother in a villa, pretended to be the boyfriend of another target, and then destroyed a virus in an underground lab. As I was escaping, I realized there was an entire mapped-out town and beach area that I had barely even touched. It’s like the moment in Breath of the Wild where you look out over Hyrule after you get the glider for the first time.
Sapienza is never a boring experience. I’ve been playing this game since 2016 and I still find new stuff in the level. There’s a reason why it’s the level offered the most during free trial periods. It just perfectly nails all of the level design principles and tone of the game. It does a great job telling new players that playing the level once is not how you’re going to get the most out of the experience. It’s pure murderous goodness.
2. Miami—The Finish Line
The opening level of Hitman 2 is its best level by far. There’s just something charming about the fusion of a fictional NASCAR race and Lockheed Martin conference that leads to an absolutely insane opener. The entire dynamic of the level can shift depending on whether you want to take out the target Sierra Knox while she’s driving during the race or after the race. There are so many moving parts on this level and of course some incredible opportunities for kills. Also, the flamingo suit is incredible and I’m honestly shocked it took IO until the second game to get 47 in a mascot costume.
1. Hokkaido—Situs Inversus
Hokkaido is the final level of the first entry of the World of Assassination and it’s an amazing test of everything you’ve learned so far. There are two gimmicks to the level, the first being that you can’t smuggle any equipment into the high-tech hospital, but also many of the doors are locked electronically and only unlock for certain uniforms. It’s a level that asks players to demonstrate creative problem-solving when faced with routes that are physically blocked off and lack the comforts of even the basic pistol. It’s smaller than the other maps in the top three, but it more than makes up for it due to the sheer cleanness of the level design and the assassination options. Hokkaido is the Hitman formula refined with surgical precision.
The kills on this level are something else entirely. Locking someone in an overheating sauna, sabotaging the robot doing the surgery so it murders the patient, and ripping out the patient’s replacement heart and throwing it in the trash are all incredible. But these all pale in comparison to 47 walking up to the target in his signature suit and the target has a heart attack and dies just from your presence alone. Completing Hokkaido makes you feel like you truly are the world’s best assassin, and few games have provided me with such catharsis.
Desmond Leake is an intern for Paste‘s games section.