HITMAN – Let the show stop and the sky fall

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I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed in a game and impressed with it at the same time. In fact, I don’t recall ever being so frustrated yet dazzled about a story in a long time. Obviously, we are not talking here about the gameplay. Although there is a lot to be discussed, this is not what this series of write-ups is all about. This is about everything but the gameplay! Funny how that works!

‘What is your point then?’, you ask angrily looking at me with your fibre wire already in your hands. ‘How can you say the story is both bad and good at the same time? Are you insane?’

Yes. Yes, I am. But that isn’t important at this moment. What is though is that I wasn’t expecting much from HITMAN’s storyline. Especially after Absolution which gave us stereotypical, crude characters, never developed them and did everything it can to destroy the mystery and the uniqueness of the International Contract Agency. You can imagine I wasn’t in the best of moods when we didn’t receive any information about the storyline of HITMAN (Can I just call it H6 from this point on? It’ll be easier… whatever, it’s my piece, I can do whatever I want!) when it was announced and I didn’t go into the game thinking that this will be the next Silent Assassin level of storytelling.

Now, after having played the game and spending ~20 hours doing so, I am asking myself – well… is it?… You’ll see what I mean.

Let me preface this by saying – if you want to hear my thoughts on the Prologue, I already wrote an opinion piece on that. And since nothing has changed, all of my remarks are still valid. Go here, if you’d like to have a jab at it. This article is strictly about the Showstopper mission and I’m planning to write one for each episode, so hang tight! Depending on how much detective work it’ll need it might take a while sometimes.

First, let’s go through some inconsistencies when it comes to the lore. Very quickly, so I don’t bore you too much. All of this is also in the Legacy cutscene, so we don’t stray far from Paris. In fact, we’re leading into it! It’s like I’m writing my own story!

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Delgado is shown in the Legacy cinematic and the Delgado cartel are a big part of the H6 story. Does it mean the other targets will be referenced too? Who knows?!

The throwback to “Traditions of the Trade” is wrong. It shows 47 wearing his suit. That is not possible in Codename 47 as the guards will never let you enter the bathing area without changing. If they are alive that is, but canonically, 47 is a Silent Assassin. Killing Fuchs and wearing the suit at the same time is an option in Contracts though. If you’ve read my original Storyline write-up, you’d know that Contracts isn’t the most reliable pieces of narration and therefore, this is a straight up mistake. Next!

47 doesn’t have a serial number on his head. This is also the case on his in-game model. Ort-Meyer’s diary clearly states – “He has been given the number 640509-040147 which, as per standard procedure, has been tattooed to the back of his head.” That was simple.

Lastly – the date on 47’s ticket to Paris. I don’t know what to make of this. This is a very big inconsistency in the timeline as the Prologue cannot take place in 1996 and if the main story of H6 is indeed starting on October 25th, 2016 that wouldn’t make much sense. One – because it is my birthday and I am now scared for my life and, two – because 20 years earlier 47 would still be stuck in the Romanian facility. Codename 47’s “Kowloon Gangs in Triad War” happens “one year later” after “Training” and Contracts states that the events of “The Setup/Meet Your Brother/Asylum Aftermath” happened in 2000. Either the H6 story ends in 2019 and you just didn’t word it correctly, or you are completely wrong here, Mr. whoever was responsible for that!

EDIT: Talking HITMAN: Storytelling Part 2 did, in fact confirm the year 2019. Still though, what the hell is going on with the ticket then?

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I am now scared that 47 will visit me on my birthday. I guess I’ll be avoiding Paris that day.

For now, this is all I have trouble with. Unless we factor in the possible Silent Assassin reference in the Showstopper level itself. ‘Wait… what Silent Asssassin reference?’, you are asking now slowly caressing the fibre wire. The diorama Sebastian Sato is so angry about every time someone touches it, was actually bought by “Sergei” in St. Petersburg. At least this is what Viktor Novikov informs us about if you let him see this work of art in action. As we are all well aware, the main story of Silent Assassin revolved around a fella called Sergei and he was indeed in St. Petersburg for a quite long amount of time. Sergei is now also dead and that would mean that the diorama is at least 14-17 years old (depending on what year Showstopper actually takes place in). Could it still be operational after that time? I guess. Is it likely? I honestly don’t know. Would you carry it around and leave it unguarded if it is almost a 20-year old diorama? I wouldn’t. It seems like it would be worth a lot. But Novikov is a billionaire, so maybe he just simply doesn’t care about preserving art. That bastard!

As we’re now on the topic of Novikov – I do truly enjoy that we finally have targets that can’t be summed up by a simple “he is involved in trafficking drugs” line. There is so much more to this guy! He’s actually made his money in corporate espionage, arson, kidnapping, extortion and insurance fraud instead of drug dealing this time! What a lovely man! The target characterization in H6 is fantastic. I’ve mentioned it before in my Prologue review and it appears that Jasper Knight was just a beginning for those amazing, background-rich characters. Almost everybody in Paris has that little story to tell. Whilst I wouldn’t agree the world feels truly alive, it is a damn good start. Running around the Showstopper level, I heard multiple names I couldn’t help but jot down in my little physical notebook. I ended up seeking out specific sub plots, learning about characters motivations, their thoughts about the situation and their plans for the future. The player triggered events “help” with having to listen to conversations multiple times and I am absolutely sick of them now, but we’re not talking about the gameplay here!

‘…I hate having to run around Novikov for minutes just so he can go to the damn kitchen area so I can poison his bodyguard and then spend ages escorting Decker to the pavilion and wait for Novikov to enter the scene…’, she is heard mumbling to herself in her sleep.

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Also, the UI and the briefing typography and design is fantastic. That person should get a raise. Or at least, a high five from yours truly!

There is no doubt that the world building and the effort put into creating those unique characters and their sub stories is huge. I’ve been also very impressed with the voice acting and just general AI dialogue. Disregarding the occasional popular media references and the fact that Sato’s name probably should be pronounced differently if it originated from Asian territories, the conversations do seem like something that would be said between two people. Not like in the Prologue where the regretable two encounters between 47 and Diana were filled with cliché action movie-like lines. Here, I couldn’t help but smile after hearing the “so help me God, I will ruin you” line from Novikov or Sato’s reactions to having my hands on the diorama. The characters feel like people. If the player chooses to do so, they can dig up enough information to not treat those characters like simple NPCs anymore. Dalia is a mastermind, Sato is in an unfortunate position of being forced to work for IAGO, Kruger isn’t so sure about his role as a spy. It is almost like they were given characterization! Which brings me to our new main bad guy.

In my ‘Assembling the puzzle’ write-up, I mentioned that “the best thing you can do to an antagonist is to write him well, give him a story and make people sort of “get” him”. Soders has been left in the dust at this point, but I wouldn’t rule out some sort of a magic trick to get him back into the game. We do, however, have an entirely new antagonist. Our Main Bad Guy – which still doesn’t have a name, therefore I have came up with a fitting acronym of OMBG – is a Metal Gear Solid looking dude that has probably smoked way too many cigarettes in his life. From his dialogue, it seems like he has a deep understanding of the ‘World of Assassination’. He knows about the petty amateurs, the ‘good enough’ professionals, and the Silent Assassins. In fact, he’s knowledgeable about 47 himself. He speaks highly of him. Almost poetically too! “You defined the art, and it defines you.”, he says. This guy is all about preserving art!… a different kind of art, but still… I like him already!

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And all I am going to do is stand here overlooking the Eiffel Tower, so everyone knows it’s Paris. It can’t be Paris without the Eiffel Tower!

I wouldn’t say that information about 47 is available in public libraries. OMBG has access to that intel. How? It appears that he has grasp on how the ICA works. In particular, he singles out Diana by saying “Do you realize what kind of world you’ve been shaping? Does the ICA? Does your Handler?”. I wouldn’t be surprised if his motivation for setting up the kill on Novikov was to simply get the Agency involved in his larger plan. It wasn’t Novikov that contacted OMBG and asked him to get rid of Kamerov. It was OMBG that sought out Novikov and offered him to take care of his problems in exchange for the IAGO dossier. OMBG knew about IAGO. He knew that they have recently acquired the NOC list. OMBG is an overlord, overlooking the depths of the world we live in. Researching the meaning of deaths, seeing patterns where no patterns should be seen. Digging for knowledge, immersing himself in crimes, sacrificing his life to learn the true ideas that shape this world. He has “seen the consequences”, he has “felt the cost” and now, he is ready to finally get in touch with the man he’s been obsessed with since the start. He’s been researching every piece of information he could find about him. He knows every single detail. Every bloody dot that man has left on the map of this world. And that man is, of course, Agent 47. …It’s almost like OMBG’s me when I’m older! I don’t want to have facial hair like that! Wait… I don’t think I can even grow facial hair…

Back to the mood though… “Powerful men have fallen by your hand. But, by the same token, others have risen.” OMBG clearly has been studying 47’s career, which is why I don’t believe he’s contracting him just to see him work. Especially since he most likely has his own men that would be eager to do the dirty job for him. “In St. Petersburg, an ex-KGB officer is assassinated, a terrorist is found dead in Sicily, a nuclear arms deal is foiled.”, he says in the World of Assassination trailer. OMBG knows more about the storyline of Silent Assassin than most people that have played the game! Alright, the mood is ruined now. Let’s just get to the point.

Our Main Bad Guy is definitely a very intriguing character once you actually take the time to analyze his lines and listen to people talk about him. But is he an interesting character when you don’t? Or is he simply a stereotypical antagonist that has been working with one of the only names you hear if you straight up play the game? This was my impression when I first finished my playthrough. The ending cutscene wasn’t a twist. There were only a few names I’ve been given by the main story and since we’ve already been shown OMBG in Paris, it was pretty clear that he was involved in some way in Novikov’s death. If I didn’t go back looking for those hidden pieces of lore and if I didn’t care about the world building, I wouldn’t be hooked on the story as the twist was predictable and didn’t truly matter in the end. And I shouldn’t have to explain how poor for an episodic model is to not make the player invested.

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And I have found that you can still have cool sounding lines that are not over the top and make it work!

My guess would be that after failing with focusing a game on storyline, the devs decided to hide it this time and missed a very important reason as to why people didn’t like Absolution. The story being in the spotlight is fine, but only if the story is good which is why Absolution failed in terms of getting players involved in the world. As a lore nerd, it pains me to this day that this happened. H6 is a complete opposite though. It switches the focus from the story which is actually great this time around! Instead, the game itself wants to once again concentrate on the gameplay experience. Which is fine if the gameplay itself is good… I think we’re stuck in a loop here somewhere. And I promised myself that this is a story-specific piece!

My main problem with the state of the H6 story is that if you don’t care about seeking it out, you miss out on so many things that it can hinder your experience with the game. What you are given is an action movie-like setup with a mysterious bad guy leaking the names of British undercover agents most likely to get attention of certain organizations or people… wait. I’ve heard that one before. Let me think… where did I hear this before?… something about a spy… IAGO is a spy ring. Something about MI6… OMBG either tricks the Agency into believing that the MI6 is the client or he straight up stages MI6 to contract ICA. Something about a guy… he wears a tuxedo every now and again… what was his name? Yes, James Bond! Thank you, Mr. French guard!

Skyfall in particular!

You can’t deny that some of the references are maybe a bit too much. Skyfall was about going back to Bond’s origins – which is sort of what happened in the Prologue. The psychological and physical evaluation were a big part of Skyfall – and the H6 Prologue. Bond works for the MI6 which is mentioned as the client this time around, but if that detail is true we are not sure about. The main antagonist of Skyfall exposes the names of MI6 agents – which is what happens with OMBG too. Silva’s motivation is to get close to M – Bond’s boss. OMBG mentions Diana in the Legacy cinematic. 47 also has access to the rubber ducky explosive gadget. Probably something Skyfall‘s Q would have a laugh at. (Personal note: I love Q. He’s a fantastic character to watch.) This is all way too close for comfort and I’m not sure if I like it. Am I to expect now that OMBG is, in fact part of a large group like what happened in Spectre? Do we have a bigger group in the Hitman lore? Oh yeah, we do. Alpha Zerox.

The theme itself is more Bond-ish too. I remember seeing the E3 announcement trailer and thinking “This doesn’t look like Hitman at all”. I didn’t understand why at the time, but after thinking about it, I do now.

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The only good part about this trailer for me is that it inspired me to jog. I’ve been doing my morning forest runs for the entirety of summer.

It’s easy to just say “I don’t like it”. It’s harder to find the reason as to why and I did. Cause it intrigued me that I was pretty much the only person in the universe that didn’t like the E3 trailer. It dawned on me when I thought about my favorite Hitman game – Contracts. Contracts is dark, Contracts is mysterious, Contracts is mature and Contracts is the closest thing you can get to horror without it being a horror game. Obviously, not every Hitman game is like that, but Contracts was a wake-up call. Look at how 47 was portrayed in the Contracts trailer. “Oh, but it’s just Contracts and you’re a Contracts fangirl!” (as you can see, I’m trying to use the word Contracts as many times as I possibly can) Is your fibre wire ready already? No, it’s not just Contracts. In fact, it’s literally every other Hitman game that presents 47 that way. What way? Well, you see…

47 is quiet. He’s withdrawn. He’s very observant of his surroundings and he’s hiding his feelings most of the time. That’s a fact. It’s canon. Even if you disregard that, you are still looking at a professional hitman. A man hired to kill. A man hiding in the shadows or plain sight. The Silent Assassin. A myth. A legend. That sort of guy probably shouldn’t just let you see his face. You most likely wouldn’t see him at all. He evokes fear. He’s threatening. Going back to the Contracts trailer – look at the target. Look at how scared he is. Don’t want Contracts? Blood Money then. You’ve all played Blood Money. You’ve wanted Blood Money 2! So what’s the first mission of Blood Money? Well, the training level. “Death of the Showman”. Target – Joseph Clarence. What is it that he does when you approach him? He begs 47 for mercy. He’s afraid. He’s vulnerable. This is the feeling that 47 evokes with his presence. How do we show it then? Let’s examine a couple of promo arts, shall we?

Even in Codename 47, which was obviously inspired by action movies (just look at that scene! Also, completely unplayable, the gun isn’t even in his hand!), 47 is always shown shadowed or against dark backgrounds. Not only that but when his eyes are shown, he has a sniper rifle right in front of him. The eyes are the most important! Why? Because people feel uncomfortable when we can’t see someone’s eyes. We feel like that person is hiding something. They are not sincere. It’s why it’s seen as rude to talk to people whilst wearing sunglasses. Or why when people want someone to tell them the truth, we want them to look us in the eyes. Showing 47’s eyes gives us that comfortable feeling and as we’ve concluded, we don’t want that. He doesn’t want that. His job is making people scared of him. It’s why the Agency sends him, not some random wannabe assassin. Are we clear on that? Alright.

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One of my absolute favorite promo arts. The atmosphere is real, the fog adds to the scene. The shadows are beautiful.

“But there are arts in Contracts and Silent Assassin that show his eyes! You’re clearly wrong!” Yup, and in pretty much every single promo art, he’s holding some sort of weaponry in front of him. His hands are in front of him, he’s almost hiding behind the weapon. There’s only one art I can find where that’s not true and that one definitely evokes a different feeling. Especially seeing as it is placed in Silent Assassin – a game that explores the vulnerable nature of 47 and his journey to find a new meaning. Every other art – shadows and his blue eyes as an accent color. Let me tell you something about colors. We’ll go back to that topic soon enough, but you need to know that blue is a cold color. Is this exactly how 47 wants us to see him? As a cold person? Yes. Well, score. We’ve done it.

So how that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s continue the topic of colors as we’re talking about backgrounds. Primary colors of Hitman, let’s go! Black, white, red! It’s obvious. This is how it’s always been. “But the new game shows him on white backgrounds, you’re wrong!” And you’ve missed the entire paragraph on shadowing eyes! Ha!

Backgrounds… backgrounds. What else do we know about 47? He’s classy. He enjoys well-made suits. He carries a briefcase, he likes his blood-red ties. His main weaponry? Silverballers. We have another color. What is silver seen as? Ornate, rich, sophisticated, stylish, graceful. So what can we deduct from that? We can deduct that Absolution didn’t know what it was going for with its atmosphere, throwing away the classiness and replacing it with mindless stereotypes and crude humor. That’s the thing you think is “wrong” about Absolution, but you were unable to place it.

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Even when the mood is lightened up by the rubber ducky, 47 is still shown looking at the camera, yet the eyes are hidden. His pose is threatening and the camera is clearly lower so we have to look up to see the man himself.

As we’ve mentioned before, black is the color of shadows, so it immediately fits. It’s also usually a color of death, sadness, etc., but you all know that already. White is a symbol of being pure as well as a new beginning. It is also used to show neutrality and independence – I think we’ve found it. White was used mostly during the Codename 47/Silent Assassin era – Codename 47 obviously being a start of 47’s journey and Silent Assassin – him realizing that what he’s doing is wrong and trying to get away from that. White was even used in Contracts. It’s an empty, clean color. Isolating. What’s the main feeling of Contracts? Being alone. In that goddamned motel room with a fever and a bullet stuck inside of the body. White is also a color of death in some cultures. Ring a bell? It should.

So what about red? Red is an aggressive color. It’s the color of blood. It’s violent, it’s passionate. It’s used primarily in Absolution. What is the main reason as to why things in Absolution happen? Unfortunately, it’s because 47’s furious about the fact that the Agency creates more killers based on Ort-Meyer’s research. It’s something 47 didn’t want. It’s what he was inclined to stop right there and then in the Romanian facility in 2000. It’s why he slashes his barcode. I wrote about this a while back. Does red fit? Yeah. Death is a violent thing. 47 is a violent person. Obviously. I imagine he’s seen a lot of blood in his life. Red’s fine.

We’ve concluded the atmosphere of the series now. It’s very classy, very quiet in both narrative and gameplay (or… it should be. It depends on how you play, but it’s quite obvious that that Silent Assassin rank exists for a reason… or it doesn’t exist at all in H6… hold me, rubber ducky deity…), 47 is a person that should always be in the background. Yes, that works even for main characters in a story. Look at Diana in Blood Money. She’s pulling the strings. We see her in every cutscene. Do we see her fully? No. Does it work? YES. But now we need to look at the first time we’ve seen 47 in the new game. In the E3 trailer. What do we see? Oh, I’m so excited!

Blue. The calmest color possible. And his eyes. And no shadows. Anywhere. Goddamnit.

H6 continues the trend of showing us 47’s face and except for the one scene in the Prologue, I never felt like I’m looking at the 47 I know. And remember, I’m OMBG-level of obsessed. What bothers me even more is that they do it right sometimes. The Day 47 image that the @Hitman twitter posted later became one of the H6 Steam backgrounds. This scene from the Sapienza trailer straight up reminds me of Silent Assassin’s Gontranno. And it’s there only for a few seconds. The tone doesn’t feel Hitman. It feels a lot more Bond. And after playing the first episode of HITMAN, I now know why. It is Bond. It is Skyfall. It is my biggest worry.

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We live in a World of Assassination, where the shows stop for nothing, the power can stop the weaken and the money can stop the righteous but we might not be able to stop the sky from falling.

Also, it’s not Reaper. It’s Rieper. Get your Codename 47 knowledge straight!

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