Let’s be clear from the outset, whatever IO Interactive comes up with for their James Bond game will probably be the best 007 game ever made. Hitman already draws a lot of inspiration from the EON Productions movies, and there’s a lot of great mechanics in the modern games to draw from.
While we know next to nothing about the game, we don’t even know if the hero will be James Bond or a new 007, we can safely assume MGM must have chosen IOI based on the games they’ve already made. In that vein, here are 5 things that should be kept from the Hitman formula, and 5 things that should be improved.
Keep the Sandbox levels
The Hitman games set themselves apart by their levels. Each one serves as a toy box for players, giving them a target, the tools to take them out and obstructions to overcome. Players can, and do, spend hours replaying levels in order to try all the options or to perfect their approach to the perfect kill.
Every previous James Bond game has been some kind of shooter-adventure game, following a linear plot with limited viable options within the level design. Project 007 can do something different and can create the ultimate spy fantasy for Bond’s world.
Indeed, when IO Interactive themselves left this formula behind for 2012’s Hitman Absolution, the resulting game was a mess. It lost what made Hitman great in exchange for what some called a “poor Call of Duty clone”. Speaking of Absolution…
Adopt some of Hitman Absolution
Hitman Absolution nearly broke IOI. The lacklustre reception of the game caused layoffs and firings from the top down, and the studio eventually reset everything with 2016’s simply titled HITMAN. One of my criticisms with Absolution is that it broke the Hitman mould too much. Levels were shorter and more linear, and there was a much greater focus on telling an action hero story with setpieces rather than sandboxes – sound familiar?
This was my impression back in 2013:
Absolution was a Bond game without the license, and while I would hate for IOI to simply remake it with Daniel Craig’s face, there’s a lot to learn here. Maybe a few smaller levels dotted between the Hitman sandboxes we know and love would be a good thing? Maybe instead of Bond sailing off to the main menu after escaping the level, we should be playing the escape in a DB5?
“Do you expect me to talk?”
Agent 47 is the silent assassin in more ways than one. As you play through a level, 47 avoids conversation and the player is never given any option to choose what to say.
But innuendo and witty repartee are Bond hallmarks! IOI should make their Bond suave, allowing him and the player to seduce or persuade his way into and out of trouble.
Keep taking us to beautiful, exotic locales
Bustling Asian metropolises, sun-kissed Bahaman beaches, sprawling Mediterranean villas – Agent 47 has travelled the world over and taken players to startling and varied new places. Project 007 should follow these footsteps, much like in the movies themselves.
When you’re dropped on top of a mountain in a Hitman game, you can expect to find a dozen ways into the secret labs, multiple hallways and spas to blend your way through, well-placed ledges to sneak around literally under guards’ noses – you’re every bit an explorer as you are an assassin and it’s delightful and beautifully realised.
Improve the Bad Guys
Regardless of whatever Hitman game you’re playing, in whatever decade, the most forgetful things are the overarching villains. Sure, you might be able to remember a target or two, but Hitman games have never been great at giving you a consistent “big bad” enemy that you’re hunting for or working against.
Bond villains, on the flip side, quite often make the movie. Bond’s investigations paint of picture of his enemy long before they meet face-to-face, and IOI should take great care to learn from this.
Keep Silent Assassin or Madman
The Hitman games are famous for doing everything they can to allow the player to play a level in whatever way they like. Go in guns blazing? Sure! Sneak around and try to only kill your target? Go for it! Make it look like they slipped and fell 100 stories? Why not?
Bond movies are usually action-filled affairs – look at the Skyfall showdown for that, but a game is the perfect medium to try and add some more “Secret” into “Secret Agent”. Project 007 could balance both aspects uniquely well.
Project 007: Bond the Detective?
Most of the plot development in a Hitman game occurs in the cutscenes after a mission. This is really where any mention of a big bad occurs, and actually has little or no impact on the missions themselves.
In a Bond movie, these developments often occur by interrogating a minor target or sleeping with somebody’s wife. M might drop in to provide some exposition and move it along a bit, but you usually see Bond put two and two together to determine where he goes next.
For Project 007, each level should build the plot through the player’s actions rather than cutscenes. Have the player interrogate someone, or hack files with Bond’s voice-over summarising them, or throw somebody off the roof and then read their text messages. We should feel the mystery either deepen or unravel with each mission, something the Hitman games have never been good at.
Keep the Disguises
Bond movies very rarely give you the feeling that they are about an actual spy. Bond himself seems more like an elite soldier that sometimes likes to play poker. He’s rarely seen sneaking around and he seems to draw the baddies to him more often than not.
Conversely, Agent 47 is a chameleon – if you choose to be, that is. The player can take down a waiter just for his jacket. 47 blends in with the people around him, using them as cover and camouflage to infiltrate, investigate and escape. Bond could learn a thing or two.
Add some support characters
There are only two real characters in the Hitman franchise, 47 himself and Diana, his handler. Their relationship has changed somewhat from game to game, but they are at least constant – if not distant – companions.
Bond has frequent returning characters who aid him, in ways big and small, from movie to movie. M, Q, Moneypenny, Felix Leiter – these are all characters that IOI can integrate into the Project 007 world to help it feel less lonely and to add some variety to missions and improve the story.
Bring on the gadgets
Agent 47’s gadget arsenal is pretty realistic and low key, and part of the fun is utilising whatever is in the world as a weapon, be it a crane or a fugu fish.
Q’s gadgets could add a nice level of fantasy fun and emergent gameplay to Bond’s methods. A laser in a watch could be used to open windows, cut tethers, blind a guard or distract a cat!
And if IOI somehow puts a usable jetpack in the game I’ll grin from ear to ear!
License to Kill… for
The current iteration of the Hitman franchise is a solid base for IOI to work from, but as you peel back the layers of what makes a Bond film fun you start to see what needs to be added to make it *feel* like a game that belongs to the Bond IP.
Nevertheless, with some inventive twisting of established mechanics, more focus on an overarching narrative, and some dialogue with flair, Project 007 could finally be the game that Bond deserves.