Minor spoilers for Hitman 3's final mission ahead.
Hitman developer IO Interactive is making a James Bond game, and it's a match made in heaven. Yet with no release date, no footage, no screenshots, and very little concrete information about IO's Bond project, we probably won't get to play it for at least a couple of years. Maybe even longer. However, if you want a preview of what it might be like right now, look no further than Hitman 3.
IO's latest murder simulator is extremely good, and features some of the best levels in the series' long history. It also feels like a test run for IO's Bond game. This Hitman trilogy taps into 007's legacy frequently, particularly the most recent movies. The tone, atmosphere, increased focus on espionage, and luxurious locations are full-on Bond. The developer even straight up borrows the setup of a scene from Skyfall in one of the first game's cinematics.
Hitman 3 doesn't just continue this fascination with the world's most famous fictional spy; it doubles down on it. The opening level begins with Agent 47 jumping from a plane above Dubai and landing at the top of the city's tallest skyscraper. All he's missing is a Union Jack parachute. He skirts the edge of the building, crawls through a window, slips into a stylish suit, and merges with the cocktail-sipping crowd inside without breaking a sweat.
It's the kind of flashy, dramatic set-piece you'd expect to see in the movies. One of those lavish, expensive pre-credits sequences that probably use up a quarter of the budget. The rousing orchestral score, which dramatically announces 47's entrance and swells with a romantic flourish of strings when he enters the sunlit atrium, is pure Bond. Even Agent 47's tailoring seems inspired by the impossibly sharp suits worn by Daniel Craig.
The similarities don't end there. In Hitman 3's second mission, Agent 47 travels to Dartmoor, England and infiltrates Thornbridge Manor, a dusty old country house. The manor stands alone in the middle of a barren, windswept expanse of countryside, and every time I play it I can't help but think of Bond visiting his ancestral Scottish home at the end of Skyfall. It has secret passages, but sadly no shotgun-toting gamekeeper to team up with.
A beautiful level set in Chongqing, China recalls Bond's visit to Shanghai, again in Skyfall, with its moody neo-noir atmosphere and colourful neon signs. Roger Deakins would be proud. Later, a soirée at a winery in Mendoza, Argentina is exactly the kind of high-end party Bond would find himself sneaking into. Agent 47 wears an ivory white dinner jacket in this mission, recalling the iconic outfit Sean Connery wore as Bond in Goldfinger.
The final mission, set aboard a train speeding through the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, is another part of Hitman 3 that feels like a dress rehearsal for IO's Bond game. As the rattling train roars along the tracks, battered by an icy blizzard, 47 makes his way from the back to the front. He sidles along the icicle-covered outside, creeps across the roof, and slips in and out of cabins, choking out guards as he goes. Bond has a long history of train-based action set-pieces, which almost certainly influenced this mission.
That's not all the Bond there is in Hitman 3 either. There's a secret underground base to infiltrate, deadly gadgets disguised as everyday objects, and, naturally, eccentric villains conducting sinister experiments. The previous two games borrowed a lot from 007, but Hitman 3 takes this influence and runs with it. I don't know who at EON, the production company behind the Bond movies, saw Hitman and realised IO was a perfect fit, but I'm glad they did.
Of course, there are some crucial elements missing. The chances of Agent 47 seducing anyone are slim to say the least. He's given a little more humanity in Hitman 3, but he's still fundamentally an emotionless, steely-eyed killing machine with no personality. I can't wait to see what IO does with a more charismatic character, and I'll be disappointed if its Bond doesn't have a quip primed and ready for every cool thing you do in the game.
IO's mysterious Bond game is way, way off, but until I get to play it the Hitman trilogy scratches the itch. Now I just need a talented modder to replace Agent 47's character model with Timothy Dalton, the best Bond, to help pass the next few years.