Disclaimer: I was a part of a community event held at IO HQ in Copenhagen taking place October 18th and 19th. I’ve also received multiple gifts and shook hands with a lot of people when I was there. It was dope.
“Do you realize what kind of world you’ve been shaping?”, is one of the first lines we hear in HITMAN. After a short Prologue, which established our main duo and showed them in action, the proper storyline starts off 20 years after, and with a seemingly strong antagonist to spruce it up. That question, however, extends beyond the barriers of a simple video game universe. This “world” is obviously our World of Assassination but I wouldn’t call it being shaped. It definitely tries to appear in some form, yet it doesn’t go far enough and it ends up feeling like it’s being painstakingly dotted around in an attempt to catch its tail like an Ouroboros snake.
I took a different approach to this level. Knowing that it is the last mission of the season, instead of rushing to the next two minute ending cutscene, I instead took my time and explored the location. I figured that if I learn more about what’s going on, I’ll be more open-minded when it comes to the CGI finishing touch. After all, the only reason why I’m so partial to Colorado is because of its lore-heavy in-mission storytelling as well as not spoiling it to myself beforehand. I approached Situs Inversus without watching any trailers or reading much about it. I wanted to have a fresh experience to be able to fairly assess the presentation. So what happens in Hokkaido, you ask?
Not much. I was desperately running around trying to find bits of the story like in previous missions. I was pumped to do my lore runs after the fantastic Freedom Fighters and was very disappointed in Situs Inversus as it is a huge drop in quality in regards to storytelling. There’s not much going on behind the curtains and the only meaningful character ended up being… not even Erich Soders but instead, the other one of the two targets. Let’s start with her.
Yuki Yamazaki feels like someone Ken Morgan should have been. Only now that Ken Morgan was introduced in the same story, she sounds a lot like a rehashed Ken Morgan with some actually interesting ideas thrown into her character. First of all, her design is tickling my fancy. But I am absolutely done with everything being so great and amazing in this universe. Every character we meet is the best in what they do, and Yuki Yamazaki is no exception. One of the first lines I heard in the level was about the “trial of the century” in which she was involved! Maybe that’d be something if it wasn’t downplayed by people in Bangkok saying the same thing about Ken Morgan.
To be fair, I would be absolutely down with having Yuki’s characteristics instead put into Ken Morgan’s character. Why? Mostly because her being a strong handed lawyer born from Yakuza doesn’t even fit the Japanese culture. The attorneys in Japan are few and far between as people don’t sue each other that often, instead settling on compromises and discussing things in private. Especially in high caliber situations. There are also many technicalities you need to go through to become a lawyer (being a part of your local prefecture’s bengoshikai, wearing your assigned badge of honor at all times during work) and to keep your status. In Japan, Yuki Yamazaki would most likely be shunned for not respecting her clients and opponents and damaging the reputation of the profession itself. I don’t think even Providence would help her if she’d be seen in such light and by such culture-focused community as the Japanese.
In addition, I doubt that any Japanese hospital would have a room marked with the number 4 as it’s the case in Gama. The Japanese numeral for 4 can be read in many ways, one of them being “shi” which also means “death”. For that exact reason, it is seen as an unlucky number and public places refrain from using it in numbering floors or rooms as to not wish bad luck on people staying there. Although I don’t really care about Amos Dexter, who is residing in room 4 of the Hokkaido hospital…
Then, there are other minor discrepancies, such as major plastic surgeries being performed in the same facility as organ transplants and the calm female voice of a robotic AI presence which runs the entire place. To be fair, I’ve seen these in so many sci-fi media already that after my first reaction of wondering if it was inspired by Deus Ex Human Revolution‘s Eliza Cassan, Zone of the Enders‘ ADA or one of the other millions of AIs voiced by a female, I completely disregarded it and paid no attention. As I mentioned before in one of my write-ups, this “couple years in the future” trap you are falling into will probably not look as impressive in the actual “couple years in the future”.
As for Mr. Erich Soders, you can barely even tell that he’s there. For such an important character in the lore you are trying to build up, you sure sabotaged his potential of being a threatening antagonist by making him a stationary objective with multiple ways to complete. To add to that, the pacing feels completely off (once again) as the set up of him being a traitor was only at the end of the last episode and it is now suddenly resolved in this one. I do appreciate a tiny bit of his backstory added in the briefing and Diana’s remarks once 47 eliminates him but all of that feels like a filler, especially since the time gap between the Prologue and Situs Inversus is so huge. I was hopeful that even though Erich Soders will not be up and running during this mission, the storytelling will still manage to get its points across. There is one opportunity that leads to a few names being dropped but even those matter more to a person we’ve never seen before than to Soders. All we hear about him is that he is a big fish in the Agency and that he is willing to sell their people to Providence. That is the plot of H6 summed up in one sentence for you.
Speaking of in-mission storytelling, I am absolutely tired of using the same old trick in each level. What I said was fun in Showstopper, now becomes tedious and straight-up boring as I stood in one place trying to listen to every piece of Yuki Yamazaki’s dialogue. The phone call which happens during her cycle has five different sets of lines. She also has a few other lines but those conclude a lot earlier so I ended up placing 47 next to the restricted area in Sakura Sushi and playing Solitaire on my phone. Not only that, the conversations were only mildly interesting, giving bits of context to cutscenes we’ve already seen. I know you want me to catch onto these pieces of info during normal playthroughs but how many people are going to take an hour to kill the target, especially in such a condensed environment? Role-playing detective in Paris worked because the lines were spread across multiple NPCs and there was quite a crowd of them. Both in Hokkaido and previously in Colorado though, if the player wants to get the full story, they absolutely need to spend an hour of their time to find it (Colorado’s interrogation scene comes to mind). And let me say, as much as I enjoy my lore runs, I am quite fed up with standing around doing nothing just to maybe overhear a namedrop.
And of course, there is the infamous easter egg which I will not spoil but again, as with Soders and the huge, never-to-be-filled time gap, the circumstances are summed up in one sentence making it seem like there’s been not much care put into it and instead it was thrown in just so it makes sense within the plot. Actually, it almost seems like the story had been written and approved before realizing a terrible mistake. To which someone said “Ah, just give him an additional line of being a part of Interpol now. Done!”. Kind of sounds like a cop-out…
Now that we have that out of the way, in what seems to be a very short amount of time in comparison to other levels, let’s have a look at the CGI finishing touch of this season!
As for the cutscene itself, I honestly wasn’t expecting much. Somewhere deep in my lore-loving stone cold heart, I was maybe expecting some closure to the story so far but if you’ve been following my write-ups from the start, you’d know I’d be lying if I said I was expecting more than this to end on a cliffhanger. And it did, as predictably as all of the plot points of this story. Mr. Wannabe Mysterious Syndrome, presented to us previously for entire two minutes of screentime, has found our beloved handler Diana Burnwood and is trying to strike a deal with her. To be fair, this is more than enough for a summary but let’s go through the “Partners then?” cutscene as we always do. You like me rambling about lore and illogical behaviors after all.
The scene takes place in a suspiciously empty non-descriptive train somewhere in the world. There is some writing at the top which is a nice touch but it still doesn’t paint any picture in regards to any time or place in which the events are happening. Mr. Wannabe Mysterious (cleverly hidden in the shadows, in contrast to the bathed in warm light Diana) approaches the ICA handler and calls her by her name. The name which, as we quickly learn isn’t even on Diana’s ticket so any mention of it would already set off alarms in her head and she probably wouldn’t respond in any way or have some sort of silent way of an emergency contact with the Agency. Let’s not forget, she is responsible for their best man and has extensive knowledge of the World of Assassination. Would she really be so naive as to confront a random person that’s just walked into the compartment and called her out?
She continues reading her book yet the man isn’t discouraged by her behavior. He takes a seat on the opposite side. Very slowly and very menacingly. Diana is obviously uncomfortable with this behavior (again, you should probably have something in case of emergency. Just sayin’!) but they have a little talk regardless.
“I didn’t catch your name.”, the handler says. Another red flag that you should most likely not even respond, don’t you think? In addition to everyone else never catching the man’s name as he was never properly introduced… The dove pin is still there, though!
Mr. Wannabe Mysterious claims that Diana has gotten close to someone that’s been playing with the Agency for a while now. That is technically true but you never explained how she did that, boiling it down to a sudden “there is a shadow client” and “the ICA analysts are closing in as we speak”. I wish I’d known how impressive Diana’s work was when it comes to unveiling the mysterious of OUR MAIN BAD GUY but that is, sadly, for Mr. Wannabe Mysterious’ eyes only. Another example of how details are important and add depth to your writing… although figuring out the identity of THE MAIN BAD GUY OF THE STORY is hardly a detail.
The man offers her a job in the organization he’s a part in, yet she isn’t interested. She catches on to the fact that they are talking about Providence and still does nothing about it because that would be logical. She continues in this fruitless dialogue for several more lines before coming to a conclusion that they cannot be trusted. Can you believe that this is the same Diana Burnwood that has infiltrated The Franchise and played literally everybody in that group as well as her own agent back in Blood Money? And if we go that far and put Absolution into the continuity, this is the same Diana Burnwood that has fooled the entire Agency and her agent again and faked her own death?
“Some twenty years ago, your agency took in a young man with no past and– extraordinary skill.”. Mr. Wannabe Mysterious claims because there is obviously no other way of summing up 47’s character. It’s laughable at this point. Same as with using the fake name of Tobias Rieper in almost every mission of H6. You’d think someone would catch onto that. Surely booking anything under that name is now as dangerous as Diana using her own on some random train.
“In his own special way, he cares about you and vice versa.” Good thing you pointed that out cause I would never be able to tell with how their relationship was presented in this game. I actually do enjoy those tiny facial reactions we are being shown here but the close-up on Diana’s face may be a bit too much. To be fair, there is, once again, nothing else for us to look at and the only thing the camera does is shot reverse shot… once again…
With complete disregard of any non-disclosure agreements or even pure respect for Mr. 47, the handler clearly states to an absolute stranger (who is working for a very powerful and not very friendly organization, no less) that her agent is a product of some mad scientist’s experiments and that said mad scientist is now gone. Mr. Wannabe Mysterious offers her a deal for the second time and this time, she looks at the photo he has brought with him. She doesn’t do anything to indicate that she has changed her answer but I guess Providence can read people’s minds in addition to everything else, so the man asks “Partners, then?” and claim that they are the lesser evil. He calls the shadow client a terrorist to which Diana comments that “he’s only a terrorist if you win”… whatever that means. Mr. Wannabe Mysterious is quick to correct her on that fact.
“Miss Burnwood. We won a long time ago. This? This is maintenance.” Can I ask how can this statement coexist with the previous one about Diana getting to the shadow client closer than they ever could? This conversation was actually quite down to earth before all of those weird metaphors kicked in. But I guess it’d be too boring if nothing out of the ordinary happened. The scene ends with the camera revealing (and I use that word loosely cause, to be frank, it wasn’t that hard to figure out) a photo of a bald and somewhat angry child. Diana never accepts or rejects the offer, nothing concludes, I’d even argue that it would be a way better cliffhanger if they never showed us the photo. CUT TO THAT HITMAN LOGO!
So in the end, you’ve just decided to once again recycle the old ideas instead of stepping back and looking at the existing lore to find other points to base your plot on. How is it that after so many years and after Absolution, we are again at a point of destroying the mysteries of the series? Even Blood Money had some dignity when it came to that. Never showing us Diana’s face, placing her always outside the lens of the camera even though she was the main character in the story. Blood Money couldn’t do 47’s character right but it constructed its plot in a very skillful way. Building up from the series theme; cloning, and basing its premise upon it. That game shaped the world in a much better way than H6 and it could have easily been used as a starting point especially when Alpha Zerox still exists in the universe and the albino clones subplot was never truly closed off. Not to mention, Blood Money was actually quite adept in presenting its story to the players. Giving them subtle hints in characters’ reactions and interactions and using cinematography to paint the picture. As it should be. Cutscenes are a form of non-interactive visual media. In H6, we are instead shoehorned into uncovering the mysteries. Because Romania is so interesting and unique! Do you know where that uniqueness came from, though? It came from the fact that there are so many unknowns, so many questions and so many tales that are fun to be simply theorized about rather than strictly told. I don’t want to be shown 47 as a child. As much as I love that tiny section in Enemy Within, I think that’s enough for me. Do not run Romania to the ground as you did with the Agency in Absolution. It’s the last unique plot point of the series and if you milk that, we might as well have nothing to stand out in the sea of other works of media tagged as “assassin” or “agent”. I miss the maturity. I miss the mystique. I miss the uniqueness. I miss Hitman.
That’s not to say H6 doesn’t have good ideas. Of course it does, this is what I liked about Freedom Fighters! Those are the ideas that should shine! Even I found things I’d be interested to hear more about. After all, it was me who complained that this game isn’t “Hitman enough” and I am now complaining that it’s forcing Hitman on me and that’s bad, too? No. See, Hitman was always using Romania as an origin, not a central plot point. If you look at every game and every story, they all start at Romania, even if they don’t specifically say so (Silent Assassin). The difference is in the implications this origin brings up and how the story plays out each time. Codename 47 had a fairly standard plot about killing powerful people which concluded at presenting us why those people were important and how our main character’s life wasn’t as straightforward as we first thought. In Silent Assassin, all of that transformed into 47’s personal moral journey with a theme of Christianity to spice it all up. In Contracts, we saw consequences of said journey and Blood Money, as discussed earlier, threw a spin on it. Even Absolution tried to latch onto Romania in a promising way but failed and now H6 is doing the same thing. Instead of exploring the intriguing worlds of Providence and thought-provoking concepts such as using expensive technology to prolong lives of their own people instead of giving out that information to the public, we get an attempt at an emotional reaction in form of a sad picture of a bald child we never really wanted or cared about.
I think what I’m mostly disappointed with is that even though I’ve been clearly smelling a cliffhanger from miles away, the cliffhanger wasn’t even there. The fundamentals of a cliffhanger are that it’s an unexpected event happening right before the end of an episode, to drag the viewer in, to make them want to know more, to crave the next piece of the puzzle! None of that was there as of the end of H6. What you call a “story” was so predictable throughout and involved no emotional attachment. Cliffhangers are often used to create tension but there’s none because I don’t care about any of your characters. Who am I supposed to care about anyways? Completely distant to each other 47 and Diana? A random scared guy we’ve seen in one cutscene? An antagonist that is portrayed to be capable of taking care of things for himself? A huge organization that has for years worked as a middleman in killing for money? Or another huge organization that is said to be basically the Illuminati? There is nobody to root for in this “story” so the cliffhanger is absolutely pointless.
I would even argue that it works for your disadvantage. You promised us that the story will have a proper conclusion at the end of the season, in addition to painting the world you’re trying to establish. Having such a blatant “ending” is completely disrespectful to the consumer who now feels like he needs to throw in more money to know how the story unfolds. The last time I read a book, it didn’t close itself at chapter four and expected me to pull out my wallet. In fact, if it did, I’d probably just not bother. And that’s exactly what I’ll be doing in H6’s case, as I’m disappointed and simply annoyed with this situation. I’d also claim I’m not the only one.
Do people care about the story of Hitman? I boldly claim they do, purely basing it on the experience I’ve had this year as well as the raw statistics of my blog. I’ve received so many private messages thanking me for revealing the lore hidden in previous games and bringing it to people’s attention. Some found validation of their own opinions in my pieces and some were already huge fans of the story and were glad that they can come out of hiding without people dismissing them for caring about an aspect of a video game which they find enjoyable. Others never had any idea how rich the Hitman lore is and ended up enjoying the games a lot more after reading my original Storyline write-up. Throughout the season, the community showered me with questions and asked about my take on the plot. Every time a new episode was coming out, people were already checking my blog to see if a new piece is up. There are those who care. I truly believe that. It’s a big shame that you don’t. I guess I don’t care anymore either.
You can try telling your overambitious story in mere twenty minutes of runtime. I think I’m through that. I’ll stick to the old lore, thank you very much. I’m going to the garden shed. Time to dig up the pa–