Secret doors, a burnt diary in the fireplace, suspects galore, and a secluded, misty mansion in the middle of Dartmoor, England – Death in the Family has all the ingredients for the perfect whodunit, and Agent 47 is smack bang in the middle of it all with a crosshair on the suspicious matriarch who finds herself in the stranglehold of her family legacy.
Spoilers ahead for the Dartmoor, England mission in Hitman 3
The typical Hitman level tends to put you in an enthralling environment with a target who 47 has plenty of unique means to take down, whether it’s dressing up as an assassin slash model and taking out the mark in a private meeting or going pit-stop on your contract and rigging their ride. However, the whodunit formula is like nothing that came before it, with Agent 47 having the option to take the moniker of a private detective in the vein of Knive’s Out’s Benoit Blanc before venturing into the Clue-inspired residence to uncover a plot of intrigue, sabotage, and murder, none of which were at the hands of our favorite barcode-marked hitman.
Naturally, with being such an experienced killer, Agent 47 knows his stuff, so he slips right into the detective role with elegance and finesse. He knows poisons, the typical tricks to cover up a scene, and how to rustle the feathers of witnesses and suspects. He’s at home in the trenchcoat and fedora and somehow manages to slip by the most ignorant butler known to mankind. When Agent 47 rocks up – a different person entirely to the detective the butler spoke to last – he’s naturally without a British accent, instead donning a grumbly voice akin to Geralt of Rivia’s, but the butler’s not suspicious whatsoever. Fair enough, dealing with the lunatic family of Thornbridge Manor doesn’t pay enough to be that vigilant.
Still, this level manages to balance that investigative whodunit story with the typical Hitman gameplay that you’ve no doubt bought this game to experience once more. You can decide to play detective and figure out who is behind this mystery, but you still have your mark – Alexa Carlisle. That, and you have to gather the intel in her safe. You can ignore the unraveling family woes or stick your nose where it doesn’t belong. So, in that way, the whodunit doesn’t detract.
The mystery that Thornbridge Manor is tied up in is Zachary’s death, with Alexa Carlisle being the one to summon the detective: is she bringing him in to look innocent, or is she truly curious as to who killed her brother? He was found on his deathbed strewn out with a suicide note and, occasionally, Alexa will swing by to have a little chit-chat with his corpse, revealing her satisfaction that he didn’t live to discover her secrets. Everyone has their suspicious dialogue, even Alexa, but it’s the other family members that your attention should be drawn to. For instance, in Mr. Fernsby’s office, a burnt diary can be found in the fireplace.
Sure, Zachary’s burnt diary is weird, but does it mean anything? Well, yes. There’s still some information that’s legible in this hot potato of info, as it reveals that he and Alexa murdered their older brother Montgomery, and Mr. Fernsby helped cover it all up. Zachary planned to spill the details and confess, and then he died. Is it just a coincidence, so much so that Fernsby knew it would look bad for him so he burnt the evidence, or are he and Alexa behind the killing to stop his confession? Either way, it certainly seems as though they benefit from his demise.
Well, perhaps it’s best to check on the others, as you can peruse Zachary’s room before snooping around elsewhere, finding a slew of clues that point to the fact that his death is all but a suicide. In Emma’s room, a note can be found, one that reveals that her father was the murdered Gregory Carlisle and she saw it all with her own eyes. Not only that, Emma’s mother was expecting his child before his untimely death. Motive enough, the death of a father – everyone is a suspect, and the plot well and truly thickens.
You can sneak around, gather clues, speak to suspects, collect alibis, and be the best detective since Arkham Knight. It’s a curious case, one that ends with you accusing one of three people, with Emma being the true killer. A plot of revenge, anger at the killer of her father, followed by the assassination of Alexa to boot and the theft of intel. Agent 47 finds himself wrapped up in this mess, only worsening it before leaving, essentially discovering the truth for selfish gratification.
But it’s not just the whodunit itself that makes this level a treat to play, but the atmospheric Dartmoor landscapes surrounding the mansion, as well as the Victorian-era, upper-class interior that feels ripped right from Clue. There are paintings all along the walls of ancestors and the living, with rooms filled to the brim with tiny details that add a wealth of life. Why was Rebecca in such a rush to pack, leaving everything sprawled out sporadically? It all lends itself to the mystery without necessarily being part of the gameplay.
The selling point of this trilogy, and the franchise at large, is that you boot it up, get a target, and find an inventive way to kill them. Playing detective like you’re Sherlock Holmes is not often on the menu. You can still play that beautifully simple way that Hitman thrives on – the mystery is there for those who find themselves hooked at the prospect of playing an interactive, living, and breathing rendition of Knives Out, even if Agent 47 doesn’t sport Daniel Craig’s charm.
Then there are the background characters, whether it’s the maintenance crew, the cooks, the cleaners, or the security – they all have opinions and ideas that they spout to one another in the background as you strut around, trenchcoat and all, camera out scanning for clues. You can hear little slithers of tips that might send you hurtling towards another potential lead until the plot unravels and sure, maybe you get it wrong at the end of the day and leave after killing your target and accusing an innocent, but who cares? Agent 47 didn’t sign up to play detective, he just got a little bit more into the role of the person whose clothes he stole than he normally does. Dartmoor was a risk for IO Interactive, as it could have simply come off as a cliche, half-arsed attempt to incite nostalgia for the Agatha Christie type story, but instead, it came across as a perfectly interwoven assassination contract that tops all that came before it.
Beyond the whodunit storyline, there’s the option to lure Alexa to her fake funeral where you can kill and bury her – a bleak finale to her story – or, if you so choose, you can lure the entire family to get their photo taken only to open fire on the lot (or whatever other means of murder tickles your fancy). So, beyond the murder mystery, the content is still stellar, high-quality, expected Hitman stuff, but, right off the bat, as you are at the pearly gates of this Dartmoor mansion, your first interaction and lead are found with the detective summoned to crack the case. IO Interactive really wanted players to try that whodunit angle out, and I’m glad that I did because it’s the best Hitman level to date for intertwining these two arguably clashing ideas.
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Cheerio, or whatever it is that people expect the Brits to say, James is a Newcastle University student from, funnily enough, Newcastle, England. He’s been gaming for as long as he can remember, starting out with Half-Life and Thomas the Tank Engine.
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