What a New Metal Gear Can Learn From Hitman 3’s Success (And How It Can Innovate Further)

Stealth games used to be all the rage. Only 10 years ago, titles like Splinter Cell, Metal Gear, and Hitman were large franchises that received new entries on a regular basis. Nowadays, the genre is far less popular, at least in the triple-A space. As it stands, the Hitman series is just about the only big-budget stealth franchise that's still active, as Hitman 3 launched just earlier this year, and there's a very good reason for the franchise's newfound success.

Throughout the World of Assassination trilogy, IO Interactive has proven that a single-player stealth game can work in an era dominated by online games, and it can even exist as one without sacrificing its solitary essence. If anything, the modern Hitman games show that online elements can actually enhance stealth games by allowing players to mold challenges for one another—something the Metal Gear series already has some experience with. If by some stroke of luck the rumors regarding a new Metal Gear game turn out to hold any merit whatsoever, one can only hope its developers have been taking careful notes on IO Interactive's successful trilogy.

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The recent Hitman games feature stories filled with twists and turns that continue the tale of Agent 47, but the defining feature of this trilogy is by far its online mode. Players can take on various custom contracts created by both developers and players alike that task folks with carrying out all sorts of hits with any number of qualifiers for success. It can be as simple as shooting a target in the head, or as complicated as suffocating them in the bathroom after they've consumed rat poison while Agent 47 is wearing a tactical wetsuit.

The sky is truly the limit, and this near-endless supply of Hitman challenges is undoubtedly a key part of the series' current-day success, as evidenced by the effort IO is currently putting into Hitman 3's post-launch DLC support.

While Metal Gear is certainly a different kind of stealth game from Hitman, that's not to say a future game couldn't benefit from a similar online feature. The Metal Gear games are generally built around the following premise: A soldier is dropped into the middle of an enemy encampment with very little equipment, and they must make their way through the base while avoiding detection. An innovative way for a future Metal Gear game to adapt this basic premise for an online age could be to follow Hitman's example and allow players to build their own bases for other players to infiltrate.

If this sounds familiar, that's because it is. Metal Gear Solid 5 featured the Forward Operating Base (FOB) multiplayer mode, where players could build up their FOBs using soldiers, vehicles, and other armaments like security cameras that they've acquired throughout the single-player portion of the game. One could try to sneak through another's FOB to steal their resources, or be called to defend their own should an intruder be caught by their base's defenses.

So the framework has been laid by MGS5, but how this future Metal Geargame could make its online mode stand out is by changing the context under which players are building a base. In MGS5, one's FOB is meant to ward off infiltrators. But in this speculative Metal Gear game, players would create challenges intended to be conquered, just like Hitman's online contracts. In a perfect world, one could customize their base's layout, weapon placements, enemy patrol routes, and maybe even add in some mini-bosses to liven things up.

After creating a foundation, one could then apply any number ofcustom objectives to the map; whether they involve assassinating an NPC, recovering an item, or reaching an area is up to the creator. Additionally, given the eccentricities of Metal Gear, which is a series that employs items such as bananas, adult magazines, and cardboard boxes as vital pieces of equipment while sneaking around heavily-armed soldiers, there would surely be just as many hilarious fan-made compounds as there would be heart-pounding ones.

In essence, by applying concepts from Hitman's online mode and incorporating elements of Metal Gear's previous multiplayer outing, a well-supported online mode in a new Metal Gear game could be just the thing to help the series thrive in an online age. Theoretically, it could give rise to a near-limitless amount of Metal Gear stealth challenges—something the starved, ravenous fanbase might be open to after nearly six years without a new mainline title.

Hitman 3 is out now on PC, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

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