Hitman 3 just launched, and IO Interactive's latest stealth assassination sandbox game has garnered high ratings from many publications — PC Gamer gives it a 90, for example. But what sort of hardware do you need to run the game properly? We've grabbed a copy from the Epic Games Store, downloaded all 55GB, and set about running some benchmarks.
Anyone familiar with the past two Hitman releases will be right at home with the launcher, which includes a couple of built-in benchmarks if you go into the Options screen. The graphics options also look pretty much the same as before. There are ten main settings, plus super sampling — aka, supersampling anti-aliasing (SSAA). You should probably leave this off on most GPUs, or at most, use it very sparingly. Setting SSAA to 2.0 effectively quadruples the number of pixels the game renders before downsampling to your selected resolution, so running at 4K with SSAA at 2.0 is the same as running at 8K. If you have a 1080p display, though, it might be worth enabling. The remaining settings cover the usual gamut of texture quality, shadows, reflections, and a few other miscellaneous items. We'll discuss those in more detail below.
We did some initial testing with both the Dartmoor and Dubai benchmark sequences, ultimately opting for Dubai as it feels a bit more representative of what you'll actually experience in the game. The Dartmoor test is more demanding and features a lot of physics and particle simulations, but for a stealth game, we don't think most people are concerned with pulling out a pair of machine guns and laying waste to an empty mansion. The Dubai sequence consists of various camera angles from the game's first mission, which has NPC crowds but no explosions. Dartmoor might be useful as a worst-case view of performance, but it also stutters quite a lot during the first ten seconds while the level is still loading.
We've defined our own 'medium' and 'ultra' settings for our testing, and we test at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K on both. Medium has everything at medium where applicable, plus anisotropic filtering at 4x, variable rate shading at performance, and simulation quality at base. Ultra just maxes out all of the settings, except for super sampling, as noted above. Interestingly, there's no DirectX 11 option this time — it's all DX12, all the time. On the previous two games, DX12 did help performance on most GPUs, and it definitely helped fps at lower resolutions and settings. IOI seems ready to ditch the old DX11 option and focus solely on DX12, and as we'll see in a moment, performance hits relatively high frame rates.
Our test PC, for now, consists of a Core i9-9900K running on an MSI MEG Z390 ACE motherboard with 2x16GB Corsair DDR4-3600 CL16 memory. We've grabbed the latest AMD and Nvidia GPUs for starters, but we'll look at adding more GPUs and some additional CPU tests soon. (Updated with RTX 20-series GPUs now. More to come!)
Hitman 3 has some sort of partnership with Intel this time, but it sounds like it's focused on CPU optimizations rather than GPU enhancements. Unfortunately, the extra 'Intel sauce' doesn't show up in the settings menu, and the details of what Intel has helped with are rather vague. Eight-core and higher CPUs may show some extra details, and Xe Graphics might have a few extras as well. Based on what we've seen so far with AMD and Nvidia GPUs, the Intel collaboration might be more for future updates (Intel discrete graphics is mentioned at the end of the video, for example).
Hitman 3 Graphics Benchmarks
Starting at 1080p, whether you're running medium quality or ultra quality, performance isn't going to be a problem with any of the RTX 30-series or RX 6000-series graphics cards. Even the RTX 20-series cards, from the 2060 up, skate past 1080p with nary a hiccup.
Interestingly, AMD's GPUs all have a clear performance lead, despite being CPU limited. Nvidia's GPUs all max out at around 220-230 fps at medium and 190-200 fps at ultra, while AMD's GPUs hit 270 fps and 230-235 fps. AMD did release new 21.1.1 drivers that are game ready for Hitman 3, but we did a few initial tests with 20.12.1 drivers, and performance wasn't all that different (a few percent slower at most).
Regardless, we need to step up the resolution if we're going to tax these modern GPUs. We'll add additional commentary once we've tested with some mainstream and budget GPUs as well.
Running at 1440p, the RTX 3060 Ti still reaches 132 fps at ultra quality, so discussions about what GPUs run Hitman 3 best are still largely academic. The RTX 2060 also breaks 60 fps, sitting at 81 fps. Basically, if you have a high-end graphics card from the past two generations, you should be fine, and most of the GPUs (RTX 3070 and above) average 144 fps or more — perfect if you have one of the best gaming monitors. If if you can't quite break 144 fps, using a G-Sync or FreeSync display should smooth out the occasional stutters.
Looking at the individual cards, the RTX 3090 barely drops at all going from 1080p to 1440p, while the other GPUs lose anywhere from 5 percent (6900 XT) to 30 percent (3060 Ti) of their 1080p performance. That's pretty typical, and the drop corresponds to whether a particular setup is more CPU or more GPU limited.
Wrapping up with 4K testing, the RTX 3060 Ti still breaks 60 fps at 4K ultra, along with the 2080 Super. Anything below that mark struggles a bit, though even the RTX 2060 is still playable at 42 fps. Based on what we've seen so far, Hitman 3 isn't nearly as demanding as some other games — at least, not in this initial release.
Meanwhile, the AMD vs. Nvidia comparisons continue to favor AMD by quite a lot, at least on the latest generation GPUs. Well, they're favored based on the theory that the suggested prices on the various GPUs are anything remotely close to reality (which they're not right now). Nvidia narrows the gap at 4K, but the RX 6800 XT is still faster than the RTX 3090, and the RX 6800 is nipping at the heels of the RTX 3080 and easily stays ahead of the RTX 3070.
We'll be running some GTX 16-series and RX 5000-series benchmarks next to see how last-gen GPUs stack up in the near future. Based on what we've seen so far, Hitman 3 isn't nearly as demanding as some other games — at least, not in this initial release.
Hitman 3: Future Updates Planned
That last bit is important. Hitman 3 is already a very nice looking game, but IOI plans to update the game with additional features, including ray tracing support, in the coming months. However, it's not clear when the DirectX Raytracing (DXR) update will arrive — or if it will even make the game look all that different.
One of the big benefits of ray tracing is the ability to do "proper" reflections and lighting. Most games fake shadows, reflections, and other elements using various graphics techniques, but Hitman 3 goes beyond straight SSR (screen space reflections) in some areas. For example, it was a nice surprise to see Agent 47 and his surroundings properly reflected in building windows right at the start of the first level. Bathroom mirrors also work properly. But other reflective surfaces only do SSR, meaning they can only reflect what's visible on the screen.
There are some compromises with the mirrored reflections, though. They appear to run at half the target resolution, which means there's a lot of aliasing present. That's a bit odd, as it shouldn't be hard to run an AA post-processing filter to improve the look. Still, after seeing so many reflective surfaces in other games that don't accurately model things (I'm looking at you, Cyberpunk 2077, with your lack of V reflections), at least Hitman 3 attempts to bridge the gap between SSR and full ray traced reflections.
The thing is, Hitman 3 already looks good right now, and if the choice comes down to improved reflections and shadows but performance plummets, most people will be happier with higher fps. Or maybe IOI is waiting for Intel's high-end Xe HPG solution that will also support ray tracing, in which case it might be late 2021 before we get the patch. For now, the game runs well and looks very pretty. If your PC could handle the previous two Hitman games, it should still be fine for this third chapter that concludes the current story arc.