It's been a long time since the last big Bond game. Ignoring the licensed spin-offs that released in 2011 and 2015, the most recent was 2012 first-person shooter 007 Legends, a title which was not only received poorly but was pulled from sale mere months after its release. Beyond that, it's been ten years since 007's last major virtual outing, but now it's time for that to change. Hitman developer IO Interactive has announced it's working on a new Bond game, Project 007. And there's no better home for the world's greatest secret agent.
As the creator of the Hitman series, IO has been building a franchise with its roots firmly in classic Bond for more than 20 years. Agent 47 might not be anywhere near as charismatic as 007, but watching him stalk silently through the streets of Sapienza or Miami, it's clear that IO's frontman is perfectly capable of capturing the quieter, more brooding spy that Daniel Craig has been helping to establish since 2006's Casino Royale. While the series' strong, silent protagonists are a clear parallel between them, however, they're far from the only thing that Bond and Hitman have in common.
License to build
Lavish settings have been key to Hitman since the days of Codename 47, and the recent games are filled with locations that wouldn't feel out of place for a moment in the era of Daniel Craig's straight-laced Bond, from the reflection of Casino Royale's tragic final act in the sun-soaked streets of Sapienza to Hokkaido's twist on Skyfall's iconic Shanghai skyscraper fight. Earlier in the series, however, that sleek, modern architecture made way for locales that could have been lifted straight from classic Bond; a steam ship on the Mississippi; a Russian base deep in the Siberian tundra; a Senator's mansion dug into the Rocky Mountains.
Even within the realms of modern Hitman, however, IO doesn't turn its back on the more theatrical side of Bond – an aspect of the character that the recent films have steered away from. Ben Whishaw's Q might be a far cry from the gadget-peddling Quartermasters of old, but that hasn't stopped the Hitman from making use of exploding golf balls and electrocution phones to carry out his kills. And while Daniel Craig isn't as likely to finish his foes off in the more extravagant manner of Brosnan or Lazenby, Hitman is all about the big set-piece. Much like Bond, Agent 47 might look cool when he pulls off a headshot with his signature pistol, but the kills you really remember are those where 007 feeds a goon into a pool of piranhas or the Silent Assassin drops a submarine on the leader of a drug cartel.
It's the hammy, melodramatic side of Bond which helps define that entire series – and which Hitman has been subtly aping in everything from its settings to its supporting cast – that's the reason why IO is such a good home for Project 007. Capturing the brooding style of Daniel Craig is something this particular studio should have no problem with, but the classic James Bond games – GoldenEye, Everything or Nothing, Agent Under Fire - draw, understandably, from their own Bond eras, from films that were prepared to draw in turn from the more light-hearted nature of classic secret agent genre fiction. That might not be exactly what Hitman is known for, but it's something that IO has proved it knows how to capture even in Agent 47's most straight-faced outings. Whether facing off against Absolution's BDSM nuns or infiltrating a palatial Parisian fashion show, the series is full of ideas that wouldn't be out of place in any Bond film from Connery to Craig.
Despite the decades of canon on offer, IO has given itself a relatively clean slate to work with, billing Project 007 as an origin story rather than an attempt to create a new, virtual Bond story. That all-but untrodden ground offers the studio the chance to create something new, but which has the potential to draw from every aspect of Bond past and present. Thanks to Agent 47's 20-year homage to the world's greatest secret agent, there's no developer better equipped to tackle the breadth of ideas and tones that 007 has to offer.
If you can't wait for Project 007 to take shape, then check out Hitman 3 when it launches in January.