The final level of Hitman 3 is an exciting and aggressive fight that moves across the length of a long cargo train filled with bad guys and guns. It’s also a bad Hitman level, but it might be our first sign of what an IO Interactive 007 game might look and play like. And that has me excited.
A bad Hitman level is still, oftentimes, a good level when compared to bad stealth games and missions. And Hitman 3’s last mission, the Carpathian Mountains train level, is just open enough with some variety in how to take it on that it doesn’t feel like a truly linear action level. But the constricted layout of the train and the level’s deep connection to the overall meta-narrative of Hitman 3 hold it back from rising up to the ranks of truly great levels, like the first in the trilogy’s Sapienza or The NYC Bank level in Hitman 2’s DLC pack.
The last level is more of a sendoff to the Hitman trilogy than a big, complex sandbox of death. And in that respect, it works as a great finale to the story, even if I don’t care all that much about any of it. Agent 47 gets to take out the main villain. In the process, he gets some revenge and ends things on his own terms. It’s satisfying as a story ending, but it left me disappointed as a Hitman player who cares more about the shenanigans I can get up to more than whatever is going on with the ICA and various other evil groups in the world.
Good Hitman levels can feel large and overwhelming at first. But as I play them more, I start to unravel each detail before I’m able to put the pieces together resulting in that, “ohhhhhh!” moment. I love those moments.
The final train level never gave me that. There are some things to discover if you poke around, but none of it connected to some grand death-filled spiderweb, like other bigger and better levels. This mission boils down to a simple idea: Agent 47 is on a cargo train and needs to reach the front of it to end the story. Its narrow, laser-focused narrative emphasis means it never feels interesting.
I still enjoyed my train expedition as a well-made, linear action-focused stealth sequence. The game even rewards you with points for killing the guards on the train, unlike other Hitman levels. You are almost persuaded to be more aggressive, sneaking around and pulling off slick headshots and stylish escapes. In fact, it all reminded me a lot of something a certain British secret agent would do.
IO Interactive is working on a James Bond game, which the studio confirmed in November of last year. We don’t know much about the game, except that it won’t star a previous Bond version like Daniel Craig’s take on the popular character.
Playing through the final level of Hitman 3 with knowledge of that upcoming Bond game felt like I was playing a backdoor prototype. I’m excited.
The way the train level lets players get loud, dangerous, and aggressive in one train car, before calming down and returning to stealth tactics in the next felt like a perfect way to blend composure and action. You can, as I have, easily shoot your wait through the train and it feels great. But with clever use of Hitman’s stealth options, like dressing up as a guard, you can zip out of sight and return without getting shot at. It made me feel like a badass, a feeling that I think a 007 game should aim for.
The focus on sneaky gunplay, even crafting a silencer during the level, also feels in-line with what I would expect from a modern Bond game, especially one built by IO. I never felt like I was sitting behind cover fighting off waves of enemies like past 007 games. Instead, I was the aggressor, hunting down enemies or skipping them entirely. The design of the train helped make this possible, and it was a good indication that IO can make smaller, more linear levels that don’t feel boring.
A disappointing final level is never good. But in this case, I had a more complex mix of emotions. I was sad the trilogy was over and underwhelmed that the last mission didn’t give me what I want out of Hitman. But I was also surprised by how unique it was and excited for what IOI is working on next. The 007 brand already felt like the perfect fit for the studio, and now I’m convinced it can pull off fantastically. I just hope it has a train level.