IO Interactive is telling a tale of 007 with its next project, and we're seeing a lot of secret agent DNA in the Hitman series.
Hitman 3 stands as the culmination of IO Interactive's reboot of the series, which took stealth and assassinations into a bunch of intricate, elaborate sandboxes. Though the Hitman series is done (for now), we know IOI's next move: a James Bond game, tentatively titled Project 007. The details on what exactly that game will entail are pretty thin at the moment, but with its three most recent Hitman games essentially forming one big, expansive package, we have a lot of material through which to search for clues as to what the developer might have in mind for an interactive take on 007.
We've played a ton of the World of Assassination series, and some aspects of its levels seem like they could work pretty well in a 007 game. At the very least, we've got some ideas about which we can speculate wildly. Take a look below at our notions of how Hitman might inform James Bond when players turn in their ICA 19 for a Walther PPK.
Unconventional Solutions (To The Problem Of Killing Guys)
Most Bond adventures start with 007 visiting Q to pick up whatever new gadgets the scientists working for MI-6 have devised. So we always see Bond heading into a mission with things like a watch that hides a cutting laser or a car with an ejector seat. The thing is, those items rarely get used in a straightforward way. The ejector seat isn't to save Bond from a wreck but to get rid of a henchman who has Bond at gunpoint.
IO's Hitman games are all about finding unconventional ways to kill your targets, like electrocuting them with frayed wires or tricking them into leaning against faulty railings. Those intricate and interesting dispatches would be perfect if combined with Bond's various gadgets. We know IOI is great at coming up with creative assassination scenarios, so it's not a stretch to expect them to offer players a handful of Bond gadgets that allow for some out-of-the-box thinking for their uses.
Real Secret Agent Work
Most James Bond games have largely followed movies, and therefore, feature levels built around each one's various action set pieces. But in reality, a lot of Bond's work is done undercover--he's a spy, after all. When Bond isn't chasing down, beating up, and shooting bad guys, he's sneaking around, locating key incriminating clues, and having cryptic conversations with super-rich villains. The middle part of most James Bond stories is the bit where he uncovers the villain's vast plot with his unique brand of spy skills.
That's already a lot of what happens in a Hitman mission. You know your assassination target, and you can see where they are at any given moment--but you don't know how to get to them or how you might dispatch them without getting caught. Hitman missions are replayable to give you a chance to learn all their secrets, track where your targets go and what they do, and uncover a variety of vulnerabilities and options. IOI could put a lot of that sort of game design into the Bond format, encouraging you to use stealth, misdirection, and charm to get into high-security areas and learn important information. Hitman's missions are extremely nonlinear in this way, so we could be looking at a non-linear Bond game as well--at least in moment-to-moment gameplay. Imagine your mission parameters and targets changing and being dictated by how good a spy you actually are.
A Secret Agent Take On Action
Hitman 3's last mission does something pretty interesting. After three games of big missions in which it's almost always better to avoid a fight than get trapped in one, the last level of Hitman 3 takes the restrictions off and lets you go wild with weapons. As Agent 47 makes his way to the front of a train, he's constantly constrained in tight locations where stealth is tough, and options are few. But as always, firing weapons can be extremely dangerous since it doesn't take much force to take 47 down. That means that, even though you're fighting a lot more enemies than you normally would in this last level, you still need to be smart.
The final mission, Untouchable, balances sneaking, fighting, and planning in a way that shakes up the formula you've been dealing with for 20 missions, and it feels like something that would be right at home in a Bond game. This isn't just a level where you shoot your way through everyone you see (although you can, in fact, do so). Some train cars are filled guards in numbers that will overwhelm you; others are patrolling in places that make them inopportune to eliminate or dispose of without getting caught. If you want to take out everyone, you have to use various tools like flashbangs, grenades, and even soda cans. Untouchable is a mission that feels like a perfect mix of Agent 47's preternatural powers for murder and his status as a real person who must protect himself--making it seem like something that would translate extremely well into a Bond game. IOI could be testing how it'll hit the Bond set pieces while still making him feel human (as opposed to some unstoppable super-soldier) and encourage players to rely on dealing with enemies in clever ways as well as with straight-up shooter skill.
More Story-Related Events Within Missions
In most of the Hitman missions, Agent 47 works alone. He gets tips on how to approach a mission over the radio from handler Diana Burnwood and a few others, but that's about it. That changes in Hitman 3's Mendoza mission, "The Farewell." In that mission, Diana is on-site at the same party 47 is trying to infiltrate, and she's even hanging around with one of his assassination targets. Diana can operate as a sort of partner if you choose to rely on her presence to get to your targets.
Bond movies aren't just about Bond--he interacts with other agents, finds allies, and relies on others to help him over the course of a mission. So it's not much of a stretch to see how The Farewell might show us what IOI is thinking in having a secret agent working with other secret agents mid-mission. Finding Diana at key moments (and in particular disguises) gives you opportunities to enlist her help to maneuver your assassination target to a particular location and set up possible kills. And if you follow through with the Mission Story called "The Tour" and the hidden follow-up one, you can see instances where there's more of a reliance on carefully scripted events, rather than the interactions of metaphorical cogs in the larger mechanism of the entire level. The combination of a larger scripted set piece, other characters and their actions, and the opportunity to work with other agents or assets on the ground feels like a perfect mixture for a larger design philosophy for 007.
Getting Close To The Villain
As mentioned, a lot of Hitman is preparation. You can just walk up and shoot your target out in the open, but most of the time, that's your worst possible option, and doing so will probably get you killed. Instead, you need to spend some time getting to know your target's patterns and routines or eavesdropping on other characters to learn about the targets to try to anticipate and manipulate their actions. Hitman actually lets you learn quite a bit about the people you're targeting through this method, fleshing out the characters to create small-scale stories within missions before you complete your objectives and carry out your assassinations.
Bond movies aren't just about Bond--they're also about villains who are often over-the-top in their evil schemes and brilliant machinations. Hitman has demonstrated its ability to add nuance and dimension to characters who exist for one level, just to be shot in the head (or crushed, electrocuted, thrown off a roof, and so on)--some of those characters are extremely interesting and their stories are pretty damn detailed. It seems very likely that we can expect to see IOI deploy this sort of approach (and solid writing skill) on a much larger scale on a Bond villain. With, say, 10 hours of game length, IOI has the opportunity to give us a lot more time to learn about its antagonist villain through spying, overhearing info, talking to other characters, and spending time with the villain in particular. That could mean that we could see one of the most fascinating, fleshed-out villains in the Bond pantheon.