The brilliant Hitman 3 from IO Interactive is here, an ambitious cross-platform project that sees the firm’s proprietary Glacier Engine deployed to more target platforms on launch day than we’ve seen in previous series entries. We’ll be taking a closer look at this latest iteration of the engine in more depth soon, examining the enhancements made to the technology and how they play out in Hitman 3’s new levels – as well as the legacy missions from the two prior titles, which are all playable within the new game. But in the here and now, it’s PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S that are under the microscope, and it’s the first title we’ve seen where Microsoft’s additional hardware investment delivers a tangible spec increase over the competition in a cross-platform game.
But really, where it truly matters, Hitman 3 delivers on all next-gen systems – principally via a commitment to 60 frames per second gaming. In previous Hitman titles on consoles, IO offered users a choice: the ability to play with a 30fps cap, or alternatively to allow frame-rate to run unlocked. On top of that, the enhanced consoles offered both quality and performance modes, with various resolutions. Hitman 3 dispenses with all of this, delivering a flat 60fps performance level on all systems and with no need to choose between quality and performance modes. This time around, last-gen systems are pegged to 30fps instead, with the curious exception of PS4 Pro, which also offers what IO describes as a 1080p60 ‘frame interpolated’ option.
We’ll go into specifics on performance in due course, but suffice to say, IO’s gambit pays off as all three systems barely waver from a 60fps lock from start to finish, but how they deliver this varies according to the host system. Starting at the top, Xbox Series X runs the game at native 4K resolution (incidentally doubling frame-rate and increasing pixel count over Xbox One X’s 1440p). Just beneath this sits PlayStation 5, running at 1800p. Meanwhile, Xbox Series S aims for the same 60fps target, but this time the GPU is tasked with running the game at 1080p resolution. There’s no dynamic resolution scaling from what we can see, but there is a smart pass of TAA anti-aliasing on all systems.
The first of Digital Foundry’s Hitman 3 videos – this one concentrating on the three next-gen consoles.
Beyond that, the visual feature set of Hitman 3 is broadly consistent across all three next-gen machines with just some minor changes. The developers were even helpful enough to give us the complete lowdown on how every system compares with PC equivalent settings for each system, so we can confirm that in addition to resolution, there are a couple of further changes. This starts with texture quality, where Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 run with the equivalent of PC’s highest settings, up against the memory-constrained Series S, which opts for high quality textures instead.
Meanwhile, there are additional tweaks to shadow quality too. Series S uses the equivalent to PC’s low quality shadows (in common with the last-gen base console renditions of Hitman 3), while PlayStation 5 runs at medium (similar to One X and PS4 Pro) and Xbox Series X operates at high. The difference is fairly subtle across all three, but it’s there nonetheless. In all other scenarios, all three next-gen consoles are the same and the overall presentation is first class. Yes, Series X’s resolution advantage is there, and the Glacier engine thrives on precision, giving it a pristine edge. With that said, however, the lower resolution on PlayStation 5 is in no way a problem and still looks wonderful.
All of which leads us to the topic of performance, where IO interactive has done an excellent job in delivering Agent 47’s latest missions with a nigh-on faultless 60 frames per second from start to finish, regardless of whether you’re gaming on Xbox or PlayStation. Hitman 3 does allow you to sample every mission right from the get-go and so we’ve been able to test the title across the length and breadth of its content.
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Put simply, it’s 60 frames per second… with just one exception in our hours of play. In the Mendoza mission set in Argentina, it is possible to see Xbox consoles run between 50 to 60fps around a field towards the outskirts of the level, while PlayStation 5 remains constant at 60fps. Hopefully IO will look at improving this for owners of the Microsoft machines, but everything else we played ran flawlessly – bar a very slight stutter in a cutscene at the beginning of the Miami stage from Hitman 2, where all consoles dip from to near 40fps. At this point though, it feels more like a nitpick rather than anything that would have an impact on any specific purchasing recommendation.
Any other variations between the consoles? They are difficult to find if there are any, let’s put it that way. One of the biggest ‘quality of life’ improvements in Hitman’s transition from last-gen systems to next-gen concerns loading times, where we’re looking at something approaching a 4x improvement, meaning that general loading times are well under ten seconds. All systems seem to benefit here – in our tests, PlayStation 5 is fastest in like-for-like loads, but with only a split-second advantage over Series X, which in turn has a very small advantage over Series S. It’s good news all-round in this respect too.
We’ll be looking at Hitman 3 with a broader perspective, encompassing last-gen consoles, in content coming soon – and we’ll also be focusing on the PC version too in a separate piece. One thing we can share right now is that last-gen and next-gen consoles have much in common, and it does require PC to really push this engine to its limits – in this sense Hitman 3 continues the mission in the same way as its predecessor. The push to 60fps does set the next-gen consoles apart, but PS4 Pro’s curious 1080p60 mode is a fascinating outlier. We’ve not put a huge amount of time into it, but it works well in the Dubai stage, running almost flawlessly, and it’s curious not to see it on Xbox One X too. Regardless, we’ve got much more to share on Hitman 3 and we’ll be reporting back as soon as we can.