Here’s something I’ve never really wondered about, or cared much for, in a Hitman game: Agent 47’s voice.
Agent 47’s delivery hasn’t ever been a real factor in the Hitman experience. Occasionally you’ll get a small quip or a line from the barcoded assassin in one of his many masqueraded roles. But entire sentences, crucial lines of dialogue?
That’s not what people play Hitman for, right?
It’s something that comes to mind only because for the first time in the series, Hitman‘s dialogue is worth paying attention to. I’m not talking purely in a mission to mission sense, but Hitman 3‘s great little revenge story afoot that underpins the subterfuge and camouflaged murder nicely.
It makes you concentrate on Agent 47’s voice over, because the lines have meaning. Consequence. This is the end of the assassination trilogy. Potentially the end of Agent 47 as we know it.
The dude certainly deserves a holiday after all these decades of wholesale slaughter. But where could you comfortably relax when you’ve drowned, choked, poisoned, electrocuted and accidentally shoved someone off a cliff at every luxurious resort and getaway retreat on the planet?
The sense of escapism isn’t as great in Hitman 3 compared to its predecessor, although it’s primarily story driven. The nature of the series and how expansive each level has to be means you’re always going to notice anything that stands out from the rest. I won’t reveal any spoilers, but the super enclosed nature of the final location and the lack of disguises you can adopt along the way means Hitman 3, just on the raw numbers, is missing a small piece.
Still, it makes me wonder. In a franchise that has become known for its semi-sandbox design, how good could a Hitman set piece be?
Hitman has always traded on making you feel like a genius. You study the patterns of the NPCs around you, make a plan on the fly, and then casually wait for the pieces to fall into place. A great example is the second mission, a trip through a country manor, with a fun detective sequence if you’re patient enough to explore and observe all the surroundings. You could also adopt another personality to complete the mission in a more traditional fashion, although out of respect for the embargo conditions and players, I won’t discuss what those roles are.
But those alternatives are what gives more character to Hitman than Agent 47 has ever had before. It’s also why I couldn’t stop thinking about Agent 47’s voice over. Even in instances where Agent 47 is forced to adopt a more personable character, he still retains that clinical stiffness and rigidity you’d expect an assassin to have.
That makes sense. But can you imagine what it’d be like when similar mechanics are embodied by someone with more charisma, more character?
And it’s not like Hitman 3 lacks character as is. Mission stories are your most direct route to that, providing direct objectives on the different ways of infiltrating and assassinating your various targets. As you inhabit those roles, or various disguises enroute to those roles, you’ll get small pieces of humanity. They’re not game changing moments — it could be as simple as talking about a bottle of wine, a prompt from an NPC guard or a civilian casually chatting to Agent 47 unawares. But they’re all bits and pieces that would be fascinating fodder for lore, franchise in-jokes, and other throwbacks that could work wonders particularly in the world of something like James Bond.
Moving to a world with more defined boundaries would also guard against some of Hitman 3’s failings, too. A nightclub level in Berlin is a great example. Instead of giving you more freedom to move throughout, you’re tasked with assassinating multiple nameless targets — so the level is naturally filled with enforcers, roaming in packs, who can all recognise your disguise. There are some more casual Hitman-like elements beforehand, like grabbing someone’s drugs from a nearby bike so they can smuggle you inside. But that claustrophobic design encourages an all-out assault, something that has always been the antithesis of the Hitman series.
That context in James Bond, however, would be totally fine.
Coupled with some of the previous modes Hitman has used in the past — the Sniper Assassin levels, the Ghost Mode co-op play, contracts mode — would be brilliant, and potentially a lot more successful, when tied to a giant franchise like James Bond. That’s not something I want to wish for, but given the rocky road the Hitman series has taken to get here, it’d be nice to see IO have a big hit once again.
The modern Hitman series — it’s not a reboot per se, although studio executives and producers have referred to the trilogy as a reboot of the Hitman IP — has always been great. It’s just never had the commercial success to match its technical proficiency.
I don’t know how whether Hitman 3 will change that calculus much. It’s a great deal if you’ve never played the Hitman series before. There’s the graphical benefits of the latest game, with all the missions and content from the previous games. But it’s also fundamentally more Hitman, and the franchise formula is largely the same as what came before. It might be larger in scope than Hitman 2, with more variety in characters, NPC density and visual scope. But if Hitman 2016 and Hitman 2 didn’t look enticing to you, Hitman 3 won’t change how you feel.
Do you like poking the bear and watching systems fall apart? That’s the beauty of Hitman 3. It’ll also be the basis for what could be the greatest James Bond game we’ve ever seen. Hitman 3 has all the parts in place.
The studio — hopefully — just needs a bit of luck. They, and Hitman‘s Agent 47, deserve it.