– Originally written in Polish, in 2010, translated in 2017 –
The pungent scent of urine. The morbid atmosphere. The emptiness.
47 was sitting on a cold cement floor in a room he was sharing with two of his “brothers”. There was a sharp piece of hard wood in his hand. He found it a while back and was determined to keep it just in case. He didn’t know where the wooden piece came from but it was more than plausible that it was once a part of a chair, destroyed by one of the clones in mad fury.
A loud snore filled the space and 47 winced thinking 43 woke up. He didn’t want anyone seeing him with a sharp object. Guardians did not permit of such trinkets and he knew exactly why. Just a few days ago he himself was a witness of 7 tearing holes in 11’s belly using only a tiny screw. There were still no news as to whether or not the victim survived. Albeit it’s not like that information was hugely desired.
Listening to his brothers sleeping noises, 47 was pretending to draw on the light gray flooring. A symbol of some sorts. A one he felt as if he was connected to somehow. Maybe he’s seen it before? The back of his head was constantly stinging. Only a week has passed since a barcode was added to the numbers. A fresh tattoo, especially on a delicate piece of skin and a spot like this wasn’t healing as fast as he’d like. A sharp pain was clawing into not only his head but all of the clones’. Doctor Kovacs was claiming it will harden them. 47 didn’t believe him.
He believed none of the things guardians were telling them. He could not understand how other boys could trust and blindly follow each of their words. No. That’s not something he could ever do. He was proud of his individuality. He knew what he wanted. The only problem was actually achieving it. If not for 6…
47 hated 6. Always “the best”, “the strongest”. Full of self-confidence, everyone’s pupil. His brothers stood in lines to lick his very feet. How many times has 6 punched 47? How many bruises and broken bones he was responsible for? 47 wished everyone would finally see who 6 really is. Not some strong warrior who should be looked up to. He was a monster. A cold hearted monster.
47’s heart was filled with hatred for the boy. His fist hit the cement floor and he immediately felt cold sweat on his back realizing how much noise he’s just made. Especially since there was someone walking down the corridor. Three adult men, judging from the sounds of their footsteps. Yes, they always sent more than one. Predominantly to 47. He threw the piece of wood under the bed and hopped on top swiftly deciding he will attempt to fool them that he’s asleep.
The door opened with a creak. 47 heard guardians walking into the room but his back was turned towards them so there he could do nothing more than listen in. First they woke 43.
“Easy. It’s just a vaccine shot.” sounded Doctor Kovacs’ voice. 47 has heard it multiple times and could recognize it anywhere. 43 made no noise as the needle pierced his arm. He was calm, staring into Kovacs’ eyes with his own. Ice blue. The guardian forced a slight smile and patted the boy’s bald head. Now it was time for 47.
“Hmm…” Kovacs thought to himself. “Is he asleep? At least we won’t have to use much force.”
47 knew the men were coming closer. His heartbeat picked up. Thoughts were crossing his mind faster than he could catch them. In one unexpected motion, the boy jumped off the bed just as Kovacs tried to reach him.
43 was curiously observing the situation. His brother retreated to the corner of the room and he almost wanted to come up to comfort him but one of the guardians held his hand up to stop him. They knew what 47 is capable of. Kovacs still had no idea what the scientist sees in this boy. Otto Wolfgang Ort-Meyer and his strange ideas. Sure, 47 was doing better at some of the exercises and classes but there were clones stronger than him. Less coy. Less emotional.
“Just look at 10! Or 26!” he pointed out to the scientist one day. “How can you get your hopes so high up for a boy who cried whilst burying a rabbit? May I remind you that 47 is the single one who shows signs of any emotional connections. Why did you even let him keep that rabbit? You should have just killed him!”
“You’ll see, my friend.” Ort-Meyer replied. “I am never wrong.”
Doctor Kovacs was now seeing a mixture of fear, anger and determination in 47’s eyes. What was he planning? The guardian was trying to reap into the boy’s mind. He could usually foresee clones’ behavior. 47 was difficult to predict, though. He was asocial. Shut in his own little world. Objecting to everything.
“Little rebel.” Kovacs thought before saying aloud: “You don’t have to be scared. I won’t hurt you.”
47 could not be fooled. He knew these men too well for that. Most of all, Doctor Kovacs. He was sure he was going to remember him for the rest of his life.
“47, please. It’s just a quick shot. The faster we get to do this, the better.”
The boy shook his head. Did anyone ever heard him say something? Kovacs had no memory of even a single word spoken by this particular clone? And now, he was starting to get on his nerves.
Tired of playing nice, Kovacs made a discreet gesture with his hand. Two men accompanying him stepped closer and 47’s brain was now plowing through ideas. He took glimpse of something shiny. Kovacs was hiding a syringe behind his back. The boy felt twisting in his stomach. He hated needles.
Guardians came closer. Their plan was to grab him by his arms but 47 motions were quicker. Just as they leaned over to capture him, he ducked and crawled between their legs. In mere second he was over by the bed, reaching for the previously hidden piece of wood. The boy stood up, holding the sharp object in front by his chest in the same fashion he was taught to.
“Goddamn you! Can you not even keep an eye on one measly child?” Kovacs roared.
With all of the strength of his tiny body, 47 pushed the wooden piece into the guardian’s stomach. He was expecting it to pierce through the skin but was incorrect. Kovacs grabbed him by his clothes. The boy kicked him to no avail. Looking for a way out, he latched onto the doctor’s coat tearing one of the pockets. Empty syringes dropped on the floor with an array of sounds quickly echoing in the room.
“Get off!” Kovacs shrieked. 47 managed to seize one of the syringes. One still armed with a silver needle. Before anyone could react, the needle dug into Kovacs’ knee. The answer to that was a kick. 47 bent in half. Another guardian blocked the door. It would take ages to find the clone if he was to escape and hide somewhere.
With tears in his ice blue eyes, the boy slowly lifted his head and looked around. No… there’s no way… he can’t lose…
Kovacs took out the syringe out of his knee, grabbed the clone and applied, what he called, the vaccine. Just as he let him go, the boy jumped back on top of the bed and bundled up heads to toes under a dirty blanket. Doctor Kovacs felt as if anger was boiling inside of him. He left the room with both of the men accompanying him and door loudly closing behind him. A yell was heard in addition to the footsteps this time:
– Originally written in Polish, in 2010, translated per request in 2017 –
The underground metro was suspiciously silent that day.
A man dressed in an Italian black suit, perfectly fitted white shirt, silk red tie with gold decorations and polished black shoes let out a sigh. His hands were clothed in leather, fingers playing with a tiny silver key. There was a number engraved on it. 137. Locker 137. That’s where his equipment was stashed. Same area, same procedure.
47 remembered his last visit in St Petersburg quite well. This time he was alone. No Russians dressed in long heavy coats and furry hats, sleeping somewhere at the back of the compartment before rushing off to work. No company today. Diana explained his mission in detail. His target was expected to occupy the same office as before and the assassin already had a vast knowledge of the immediate area. To add to that, The Agency was to supply him with weaponry; thus, he himself only took his trusted fibre wire. It was his first murder weapon and the one he could not leave without. Besides, if he was to be frisked, no bodyguard would ever feel the thin piano wire underneath his clothing. Other than that, 47 was also carrying binoculars. To have a better view of the situation.
Whilst his body was in an unpleasantly cold Russian town, his mind was wandering sunny Sicilian grounds. That is until a female voice sounded from the speakers announcing the next station. Kirovsky Zavod. 47 fixed his tie. It was time to go to work. A few moments later, the vehicle stopped and the doors opened. The assassin instantly recognized the environment. In front there were wide stairs, leading to Varosnij streets. 47, however, headed towards a wall of lockers, situated to his right. Still playing with the silver key, his feet were bouncing off the floor tiles, arranged in a chessboard in various shades of brown.
137. The assassin had to crouch down to insert the key. He turned it cautiously inside the lock and opened the locker. A quick look at the state of affairs on the station. Can someone see what he was doing? There were two men wandering around. Both of them were currently near the stairs. The assassin was sure they could not notice him, especially since he was hidden behind one of the decorative pillars. He examined the contents of the locker. A Dragunov sniper rifle and one bullet. 47 frowned. Last time, the Agency supplied him with other weaponry in addition to the sniper rifle. A pistol, nightvision goggles and a stockpile of ammunition. The rifle was better than nothing but the assassin decided to leave it inside the locker. It was a bother to carry it through the Varosnij Square. He chose to trust his fibre wire instead. Besides, he had nothing more to lose…
He threw the key into his pocket after closing the metal doors of the locker. Still avoiding the looks of Russian men waiting for their train, the assassin headed up the stairs to the snow-filled streets of St Petersburg. The snow was falling onto his bald head. He felt cold when the wind started blowing and began to regret taking nothing more than his suit. There was a purpose to that choice, though. For him, it was the most comfortable of attires and he could not place comfort over the freedom of movement. Back in Japan, he was wearing a parka on top but quickly learned that it was too hindering and that’s not something he approved of.
He took a few steps forward. He was now standing in front of a not too busy of a road which he immediately crossed. A bridge on the Neva river was somewhere on the horizon. A horizon which, as 47 realized, looked completely different when it was not full of Russian army men. Last time he was to eliminate a Russian general during a meeting inside the Pushkin Building. Next, the client wished for getting rid of other members of the board. 47 was chosen for every one of these contracts. Now, he was to complete his last mission in St Petersburg. Kill the person responsible for all of the previous assignments – Sergei Zavorotko – a terrorist taking part in illegal weapon deals and currently having his hands on a nuclear bomb. The Agency usually didn’t approve of eliminating their clients, but apparently the UN had offered a significant amount of money. The situation also opened some interesting opportunities for further cooperation, thus the organization could not say “no”. They tasked their best man. Besides, 47 already had knowledge of the terrain and his handler – Diana simply trusted him to finish the job. And for him, this is all it was. Just another job.
The Pushkin Building was situated in the center of Varosnij Square. The assassin could not rely on a long distance weapon this time around. He had to strike up close. Hence, the neighboring building, from which he took the shot last time was useless. There were more and more guards appearing as he approached the center. All of them, dressed in classy black suits, Desert Eagles in gun holsters. Eyes hidden behind sunglasses. They looked just like any other generic special agent but 47 knew he was dealing with no ordinary bodyguards. These were Russian mobsters. He had to be careful.
The assassin took cover behind a corner, took out the binoculars and examined the Pushkin Building through its lenses. Most of the windows were opened but the rooms appeared to be empty. “Something’s wrong.” he thought after realizing there is nobody inside. His instinct was usually right and he could not simply ignore it. 47 went around the building to look at it from a different angle. Again, he used his binoculars. First floor was empty. Slowly, he began examining every room on the second floor, every open window. Impossible. The Agency had no reason to set him up.
Then, he noticed something familiar in front of one of the windows on the second floor and quickly hid behind a wall. Didn’t even have to make sure. It was the barrel of his favorite sniper rifle. Walther WA2000. A weapon he’d always recognize. He knew its specification, he knew what it can do. But who was behind the barrel? Sergei Zavorotko himself? Did his target know the UN wants to get rid of him? 47 had no time to think about that possibility. There was too much to think about already and yet he had to keep his mind in complete focus during the time of the assignment. He had to assess the situation accordingly but how to accomplish that if the enemy is armed with such a powerful tool?
The feeling of uncertainty subsided after realizing that his knowledge of the Walther WA2000 is so great, he surely has an advantage over his enemy. The assassin suddenly knew exactly what to do. Throwing the binoculars back to the pocket, he ran to the back of the Pushkin Building, trying to spend as much time hidden behind the neighboring architecture. Just because his enemy had a long-ranged weapon did not mean 47 had no chances of getting in. Much more important than a .300 Winchester Magnum round was always a good, solid plan. The assassin had to surprise the shooter. Sneak into the Pushkin Building and fibre wire him from behind. A plan so simple yet so difficult to accomplish, once 47 began executing it. Sergei’s bodyguards were everywhere. One wrong move and all of their Desert Eagles turn toward him. He had no answer to that one. A thin piano wire will not help once the men draw their guns.
After circling around the building, he came much closer to the back entrance. Two of the mobsters were standing next to a nearby garbage container, having a conversation and a smoke. Pretty unlikely they will pay any attention to the assassin. Another enemy was on patrol, up North but it seemed easy enough to sneak past once he’s not around. There was one more man left to deal with. The one right in front of the doors. This called for a distraction. Nothing fancy. Usually the simplest solution brought the best results.
47 came closer. Still hidden behind the architecture so the men could not spot him. After searching through his pockets, he found a couple of coins. Guess the change still comes in handy. He chose a silver five Ruble. A double-headed eagle on the reverse looked at him curiously. 47 swung his arm. The coin flew in midair for a few seconds before hitting a wall. The bodyguard reacted immediately. Intrigued by a strange noise, left his postage to examine the sound. 47 used this moment of inattention to enter the building. He’s decided to worry about his way out once he’s done with the job.
Once the door closed behind him, 47 grabbed the fibre wire. Holding both of the handles, he tightened the wire. Grasping a weapon in his hands made him feel confident in his craft. The assassin knew there was a shooter in the building. Armed with a Walther WA2000. The enemy will hear the most silent of sounds, will notice the smallest of details, thus 47 took his steps lightly. Knees bent, he was sneaking towards the stairs leading onto the second floor. He was searching for the very room he saw earlier. The gun barrel was sticking out of the window on the opposite side of the building where a meeting was taking place last time he was here.
The overwhelming silence meant 47 could hear the beating of his own heart which sounded louder than usual. His instinct was never wrong. The assassin doubted the shooter is his original target. It was probably somebody sent by Sergei to eliminate the last person who knew about the previous contracts. But 47 has seen too much in his life to be this naive, instead presuming the worst of scenarios. He walked up the steps, crossed the corridor and looked through a keyhole of one of the doors. There were huge tables made of dark wood set by the wall. The windows were open and in front stood a tall man in a black suit. Walther WA2000 in his hands. The assassin slowly opened the door and crept inside. A huge fluffy carpet laying on the floor absorbed the sounds of footsteps. The shooter was dressed very similarly to the Russian mobsters, thus 47 thought he was one of them for a brief second. A second before he came close enough to see the barcode on the back of his head.
This cannot be…
Not thinking about it too much, 47 tied his neck with his trusted fibre wire. The rifle fell on the floor as the man began to choke. Sunglasses, previously hiding his cold blue eyes slid off his head and met with Walther on the carpet. The assassin grasped the handles tightly cutting through the skin on his victim’s neck. He didn’t even count the time it took until the shooter stopped fighting him and gave himself to Death, falling next to his weapon.
“Another ‘brother’,” 47 mumbled turning the body and staring at clone’s dead face. “Thought I killed all of you. But I wonder who’s behind this, trying to kill me with a lesser hitman…”
Then, he heard a familiar voice. Leaning by the shooter, he examined him and noticed a small earpiece which he quickly untied.
“17 – Do you have problem? Report back, 17! Did he take the bait…? What is it, 17? Are you there?”
The voice was harsh and there was a noticeable note of panic heard in man’s speech.
“Where are you?” 47 asked pushing the device into his own ear.
“Far away. Why? Why do you need to know?”
“Sergei, 17 is gone. This is 47.”
“47?” Sergei repeated surprised. “But I…”
“You had your chance, Sergei,” the assassin interrupted him. “Now get off my back or I’ll slit your through.”
“There must be some misunderstanding,” the Russian replied. “Both me and my friend Vittorio think so.”
47 felt as if something was grasping and twisting his heart.
“You got Vittorio?”
“Let’s say he’s here for… spritual guidance.”
There was no point in disputing with the terrorist, thus trying his best to keep his calm, 47 simply said “Sergei, you keep Vittorio out of this. Understand?” before tearing out the cable wire in disgust and throwing the device on the floor, right next to the dead clone.
“Staging his own assassination… double-crossing creep”, he thought. This was the proof that it was Sergei who was responsible for capturing padre Vittorio. And he himself, completely oblivious to this fact was hired to do the dirty job for him. If only he knew, he’d send a bullet into his head during the last visit in St Petersburg. Zavorotko will be waiting for him when he arrives back at Gontranno. The assassin was sure of it. But he will not let Vittorio get hurt. He owes him too much.
All of a sudden, 47 noticed the Russian mobsters moving towards the Pushkin Building. He dove behind the windowsill. He had to flee. And quick. The enemy most likely covered the underground metro entrances. But 47 had another idea. His knowledge of Varosnij will be of use.
Out of the room, the corridor and down the steps, the assassin ran out of the Pushkin Building. He was wearing a similar suit to the one of 17’s so there was a chance bodyguards will mistake him for their ally from a distance. How much time will it take them to find the dead clone, though? Sergei might have forgotten to mention that detail when he let them know something’s wrong. 47 had maybe three to five minutes to disappear. An art he could definitely manage if he plays his cards right.
Paying no attention to civilians who were now curiously observing the action happening at the Varosnij Square, the assassin ran towards the streets. The snow was cracking under his feet as they were falling into the white fluff. He remembered coming through the sewers last time he was here. Now, those same sewers might very well become his only escape route.
The assassin stopped to let a truck drive past him before he crossed the street. He was hoping there were none of Sergei’s men below the ground. 17 was armed only with a sniper rifle and as it was too big of a weapon to carry, 47 was still without a firearm. He approached a manhole and pried it open. Carefully putting his feet on the ladder, he descended into the sewers to meet with an everpresent darkness.
A sewer map drew inside the assassin’s mind. His memory was remarkable, he knew that he had to cross to the other side and then follow a long hallway right below Kirovskij Zavod. At least he won’t have to spend hours in this fetid place looking for the right exit.
Not even a minute later, 47 noticed an enemy. The man was standing a few meters away staring into the darkness. The assassin hugged a nearby wall. Hiding in the shadows, there is a good chance no-one will ever spot him. He began to control his breathing. Even the quietest of sounds may echo and thus, reveal his position. Sneaking towards a slimy footbridge, his thoughts were orbiting around padre Vittorio but he could not let them distract him. No, that was not the time. He had to escape St Petersburg, leave Russia and go back to Sicily.
God, don’t let anything happen to Vittorio…
After crossing the desired footbridge, 47 jumped back into the shadows right before detecting another of the Russian mobsters. Thankfully, before he had a chance to spot him. The assassin took a few steps back and hid behind a corner. There were only a couple of meters between the assassin and the final corridor. Silence was amplifying the tension. He could not stop thinking about what happened. He has never wished death to someone and now his heart was filled with genuine hatred towards Sergei Zavorotko.
This hatred almost cost him. Two of the Russian men were waiting for him by the exit. 47 stood still going through different possibilities in his mind. Maybe be could just slip past them. They were fairly far away from the corridor he was planning to take. There was no turning back now, who knows how many of them were now guarding every corner, every footbridge, every manhole. He had to rely on his skills and natural talent. Taking each step as slowly as he could, he began to creep. Ice cold blue eyes were fixed on the enemies and at one point the assassin could swear that he is right in their view. His heart stopped for a second. He took another step, went into the corridor and crossed it to get to a wooden door. He dug up a lockpick out of one of his pockets and pushed it into the keyhole. Even though the situation was tense, his hands kept steady. He forced open the lock, ran down the stairs and back onto Kirovskij Zavod. The train was right there, almost as if it was waiting for him. 47 hopped on board.
It did not matter where he was going. It did not matter what will happen at Varosnij. It did not matter what either Diana or the ICA will think. He had to go back to Sicily and end Sergei Zavorotko’s life. This was what mattered. To him.
Mobile is a viable gaming platform. Whether you like it or not.
We’ve come a long way since the monochromatic screens and the original Snake. We are no longer limited by a tiny LCD and a weird antenna sticking out of a huge plastic box. Remember how we used to insert text messages via physical numerical keyboards? Or how we played Tetris on a silly oversized toy with just a shoddy uncomfortable joypad? And while Tetris still holds the number one spot on the “Best selling video games” list, it is now less than uncommon to see headlines like “[Mobile game] has surpassed [incomprehensible amount of money] in [horrifyingly short time]” on industry websites.
A major franchise going mobile is often responded to with a disappointed sigh of its fanbase. Who can blame it? We still think of Candy Crush or Flappy Bird when someone mentions “mobile gaming”. Simplistic mechanics, limiting controls, low graphical fidelity. All of that sends a clear message. A downgrade. At the same time, exploring a new marketplace is oh so exciting to publishers, especially once they get a few of those aforementioned industry news headlines thrown their way. Thus, we get mobile spin offs. Or companion apps. Although it feels like those are fading away as time goes on. Still, I can appreciate having an interactive map of Camp Omega on a second screen. And I can also dig switching around my inventory with the touch of my fingers instead of tapping the same arrow key over and over again… I can only imagine my character’s frustration as they have to turn that little knob to get to the desired bottle of coke… Even Hitman Absolution had a companion app! An app full of potential, as was Absolution itself. Fully in-universe with an access to player stats and some additional lore. Shame it was discontinued and did not end up being one and only Hitman lore encyclopedia. Guess my original series of write-ups will have to do…
Nowadays it seems like every franchise, not just gaming, has to have their own marketing space on a mobile device. This more often than not leads to a rushed knock-off of the existing product reskinned with iconic characters of the target franchise and filled with microtransactions. Want to build a town? How about building your own Springfield?! Or helping out Twilight Sparkle and Spike as they do it?! Doesn’t it sound so much nicer when you put it against generic “develop your own world”? You get to do it with Noctis or Peter Griffin or those annoying yellow Tic Tacs with eyes!
Or would you rather match treats for popular internet cats or Disney emojis?! Or play a complete depredation of your favorite childhood classic in the form of a free-to-play portable franchise currently owned by Electronic Arts or Atari? If none of those sound particularly pleasing yet you still wish to indulge in your favorite franchise whilst holding a small device in your hand, you may have to look at the GO series. And whilst in this piece we will be looking at Hitman and how it beautifully translates the franchise-specific game mechanics to a tiny screen, I wholeheartedly recommend the other titles as well. Except for the weird extended reality monsters one. That’s by a different company altogether…
If you’ve ever happened to come across White’s opinion on Hitman GO, you know that the first thing I always do is gloat about its aesthetic. Let’s get that out of way as early as possible then. I absolutely adore the art design of the GO series, especially Hitman. It’s very minimal and clean with a high focus on pastel colors. All of the characters have their distinctive color-coded looks, meaning you know very well what you’re dealing with just by looking at the screen. On top of that, every level is presented as a diorama, with all of the characters being pawns. This makes yours truly wish they could own a physical version of the in-game scenery on their Hitman altar and, as you may imagine, also very sad the only copy of it exists at the Square Enix Montreal headquarters. We also do get a relaxing atmospheric tune accompanying our adventures and Schubert’s Ave Maria ‘cause it would not be Hitman otherwise!… ugh…
You might have scratched your head when I said “diorama”. In fact, scratch it again cause Hitman GO’s primary mechanics are based around an idea of a board game. How can it still be a Hitman game, then? It most certainly can! The title is an environmental puzzle game, akin to the rest of the franchise, albeit with a bit more limited movement abilities. Our pawn 47 can only move to predetermined spots on the map once you slide him with your finger. Personally, I always found to be extremely adorable. The game begins simple enough with only a handful of static enemies on the screen. You can eliminate them, also prompting a board game-inspired animation. You literally take their pawns off the diorama. Wonderful!
The game introduces its concepts in a steady fashion. There is no over the top tutorial. No tool tips, no messages breaking the game flow. Instead, the player learns by doing. Level 1-2 is a straight path, allowing the player to eliminate an enemy from behind. 1-3 gives them an option to move in-front of the enemy’s line of sight, thus teaching the player getting seen equals “bad”. Hey, isn’t that also the premise of big console Hitman titles?
Moving forwards, the game teaches you going straight to your goal isn’t the best of options. You will often have to loop around the level getting rid of enemies who stand in your way, thus clearing your route to the ending space. In fact, you can influence those pesky pawns to move if you find a distraction. 1-5 is all about throwing a rock and seeing it fly. The latter is mimicked by a usually stationary guard who suddenly goes almost Metal Gear Solid-level of “huh” accompanied by a question mark over his head. He also twitches anxiously to signify something is about to happen. And it does! Once you take your next turn, he moves forward to look for the source of the noise. It’s almost as if usual stealth genre distraction mechanics are being translated to a mobile title!
1-6 gets fancy with adding some drums to the ambiance as well as a few challenges to the gameplay experience. From now on, players can gather insignia which unlock further stages. The concept of three stars was popularized by Angry Birds, so there’s no surprise it also appears in Hitman GO. After all, as a mobile title, it has to be familiar to the platform user demographic.
Speaking of challenges, they are my one big gripe with the title. They often circle around either killing or not killing enemies, retrieving a briefcase or finishing the stage in a set amount of turns. They are exclusive of each other, meaning replaying levels is a given. And whilst some of the later levels get so complex, accomplishing those goals is a true brainteaser, it sometimes feels like a bother in early simpler stages. That might be because I am not fond of replaying stages to achieve some sort of completion mark to begin with. Hitman games thrive on their replay value but my personal opinion is that players do not need products to give them specific reasons for playing. Those should come from good design and enjoyment instead. It’s always so much more engaging when it’s the player who creates an argument for the playsession – be it further environmental exploration, learning the game mechanics or simple curiosity: an “I wonder what will happen if I do this?” type of scenario. As much as people want to hammer home the point that visual media defile receivers’ imagination, I beg to differ. Give me enough stimuli to fuel my creativity and I will stick by your product like a guardian dog. Hence being the Hitman lore expert and all…
1-8 is our first kill! Up to then, we were simply scouting the territory and getting close to our target… hey, that’s what the main games of the series do! This stage is also where pawn 47 has to manipulate his movements to avoid getting spotted. You are required to move back and forward, waiting for an opportunity to arise. I remember wondering why there isn’t a “skip turn” button first time I played Hitman GO but after a while, it became clear to me – the lack of it is a gameplay mechanic. The player has to make a move and time it such as to traverse the stage unnoticed. It is almost as if someone took the old-school Hitman titles and used their ideas to build a board game!… Wait. That’s exactly what had to happen!
The game introduces new mechanics in a steady fashion. The player never gets bored of the existing content as it is used in more complex and interesting ways. Soon after the first kill, we get an ability to hide in a potted plant. Probably more akin to a Looney Tunes cartoon rather than Hitman but the concept of hiding behind cover is there. World 2 begins with teaching you of a new way of travel – trap holes. They use a turn and transport you to the according space meaning your mind will be twisting and turning trying to time things correctly. We also get some new enemy types to spice things up. The world map notifies you of this beforehand so you can anticipate it. This also motivates the player to keep playing. I remember personally being very curious of how Square Enix Montreal manages to pull off disguises in this diorama setting so I got more than excited seeing them on the world 2 map.
World 3 ends up being focused on weaponry. We start of with a sniper rifle and even more reasons to time your turns as pawn 47 has an impressive ability to eliminate multiple enemies with a single bullet if they reside on the same space. Landing that shot is satisfying to say the least. There are also more and more enemies and ideas limiting your available routes. You get to find keys to open doors which end up being a double-edged sword in some situations – giving more level access not just to the player but also shifting the timing of NPCs as they get one more additional space in their pathing. The enemies all act in a predictable way as they only operate on the most basic of behaviors. Truth be told however, the game would simply not work if this was not the case. I can only imagine frustration if I was not able to predict how the next turn is going to go. Especially on some of the later levels.
Hitman GO gets complex. And I love it for being this complex. It reminds me of some of the big open levels of main series Hitman games and the strategies for them I used to create in my mind. One of my most powerful memories of the franchise is coming up with my unique way of accomplishing Blood Money’s Amendment XXV on Professional difficulty with Silent Assassin rating and I keep searching for ways to scratch that itch once again. Late stages of GO give me exactly that. As the mechanics pile up, the player has to use their foresight, game knowledge and strategic abilities to reach that end circle. It’s never as simple as it looks at the first glance and I can assure you, pawn 47 will land on the board time and time again before you finally hear that satisfying jingle.
It truly feels like a Hitman game. Maybe even more than the latest installments. It carries the old school feel in a modernized way all whilst gracefully translating it to a much more limiting platform. It’s a 3D environmental puzzle game with creative stealth elements albeit player creativity comes in play in different scenarios. It’s not focused on eliminating one singular target. Actually, levels which contain a target make them simply an ending goal you have to reach. It’s more about the journey rather than the destination. The puzzle element lies in figuring out how to clear the path, dissimilarily to how the main series plays out.
How is it a Hitman game then if it’s not about killing specific NPCs with whatever you can find on the map? It manages it by proving core design ideas are more important than themes. Just as with the big titles, it relies on strategy, creative thinking and timing. It provides a map and various tools to help players solve a puzzle. It requires to plan movement carefully, learn enemy patterns, further the knowledge of game mechanics. Remember how I mentioned being surprised when I realized there is no “skip a turn” option? I had to incorporate it into my play and dig deeper to find out what advantages I could use instead of this obviously-too-easy one.
It’s almost poetic as a title which had to adapt complex mechanics onto such a limiting device also ends up being a game on getting around your limitations. The movement area is a set of straight lines, you can only move one space at the time, as the NPCs all take a turn with you. Items can only be used on the very spaces they were placed by level designers. No carrying stuff around, no magic pockets. You get seen – you go back to start. You really have to Silent Assassin your way through the stages… if taking their pieces off the board counts as an accident kill…
In the end, it embraces core Hitman ideas and presents them in a very refreshing manner. Whether it’s the aesthetic, the overall feel, the focus on mechanics and game knowledge or straight up nods to the source material such as disguises, a sniper rifle, double Silverballers or sets of levels inspired by the old school classic – GO embalms the franchise and I am so very glad it does so this respectfully in a marketplace filled with money-grubbing reskins with a big franchise logo slapped on the top. It wasn’t the first mobile Hitman title (that was a Blood Money promotional tie-in: Hitman: Vegas) but it was the one which has done Hitman in a way Hitman should be done. Personally, I admire the team for truly knowing what the series is all about when it comes to design. And for the amount of research it had to take, I tip my hat.
Thus, I leave you with these words – go and play Hitman GO. You might just scratch an itch you didn’t realize you’ve had.
I get a lot of questions coming from the Hitman fanbase. Understandably, given I am jokingly called a Hitman lore expert. I’ve seen many since the beginning of my involvement in the community. “What do you think of the new Hitman game?”, “What are your thoughts on Absolution?”, “Are the novels worthy of reading?”, “Have you seen the movies?”, to show you some examples. With the continued development of Things From White’s Mind, I attempt to answer at leastsome of those and many have been inspirations for my pieces. Some, I will have to come back to. Others are simply not interesting (and if you know me, you’ll also know this means “not overly complicated”) enough for me to cover. Those I might answer in few words over the /r/HiTMAN subreddit or our community Discord. This is not one of those topics however. This one I’m particularly passionate about and if you’ve ever seen passionate White, you know where this is going. Let’s answer the burning question of “Is Hitman: Codename 47 still worth playing?”. Once. And. For. All.
You most likely have no idea how many times I have seen and answered this question already. It usually comes with a second one accompanying it – “Can I just play Contracts instead?” As Contracts is my personal favorite out of the Hitman franchise, I think you can already see the frustration building up within me. But to learn the answer to the second, we’ve got to take care of the first. So let me guide you through the original Hitman. Called not just Hitman like someone wisely decided 5 games later, but Hitman: Codename 47.
TRIVIA TIME: The sixth installment of the franchise was rumored to be called Hitman: Profession and was meant to come out of the talented hands of Square Enix Montreal – the same folks behind highly successful mobile adaptations of the Square Enix franchises.
Released in November, 2000 and developed by a small team in Copenhagen, Denmark, Hitman: Codename 47 was a PC exclusive which meant it can pride itself on its working mirrors. Don’t laugh just yet! The studio relished on that fact too by putting it as one of the features in Glacier’s engine documentation.
TRIVIA TIME: The above was a feature lacking in the sequel – Silent Assassin – due to it being multiplatform.
The game was created by a handful of people, meaning the player could actually watch the ending credits sequence instead of wishing it would end already, finally getting out of their chair and going to grab a cup of coffee. The team was small but the ambitions were big. The title was inspired by action movies of the time (47’s voice actor recalls the first images he was shown reminding him of Blade Runner) and our main protagonist was to be a middle-aged classy male. Unfortunately, the hair technology just wasn’t there yet, leaving us with 47’s iconic– excuse me; signature bald head. A featureless egg-shape is no fun to look at, especially from the back, so the team had to figure out a way to make it more interesting. After all, the camera was placed right behind our antihero. Thus, the barcode was born and incorporated into the game lore. Our man was not a nameless classy man anymore but a… technically still nameless… classy clone, sporting a black suit, a white, slightly striped shirt and a red ornamented tie. This hitman was codenamed “47” – borrowed from his serial code. And since we’re here already and if you haven’t noticed yet – this is why the game is called Hitman: Codename 47.
TRIVIA TIME: The numbers are 640509-040147. Date of birth, series no., class, model. The barcode also leads to quite an adult item, if you ever decide to scan it.
Life was kind to our hitman. Definitely kinder than he was to his targets. Eidos picked up the publishing deal, set up a neat little webpage and treated us to marketing writings such as this:
Similar texts can be found inside the game’s manual. Attempting to juggle life and death as philosophical topics and asking if life is even worth living. Try finding references to that in the new Hitman games. If you ever need to have your pretty mind challenged, go old school.
TRIVIA TIME:Hitman: Codename 47 was placed on the German BPjS / BpjM index, meaning it is forbidden to sell the game to minors. It joined titles such as Total Carnage, Killer Instinct and many games of the Resident Evil franchise.
But it served another purpose. The writing isn’t just world building. It also serves as an introduction and presents the premise. “Think to survive, and learn to plan your hits. Exploit your enemy’s hideout (…). Never point a gun in this game, unless you really intent to use it.” What a beautiful way to condense what the Hitman franchise is all about. All of it was right there, even before the first installment!
Of course, it had to be. The Eidos UK site describes the game as a “thinker” before a “shooter”. The term has been coined by the Io-Interactive managing director at the time – Janös Flosser. This was, and arguably still is, a nuisance. Albeit, Codename 47 features many straight-up shooting sequences, it tried its best to give you as many methods of dealing with a situation as you could think of. Creativity is key.
After launching the game and creating your profile (and completely rebinding the ancient control setup), the player is (literally) dropped into a padded cell to meet with the character they will be controlling. A peculiar voice is heard out of the speakers. “Always remember – I am not only your guide and mentor. Think of me… as the person you trust the most!“ it says. “You see – you have been carefully selected. You are very special to me…”
We are then prompted to begin the tutorial, also set in-universe as our protagonist is to re-familiarize with his body and unknowingly pass the last of the tests he’s been given. Nowadays, this sequence reminds me a lot of the original Portal game – both aesthetic and story-wise. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, does not punish you for skipping the tutorial sections and is definitely memorable as nothing quite like it is seen in the next act of the title. Is it a good tutorial though?
It gives the player much needed freedom in learning the controls and mechanics in their own time. There are no timers, no dangers. It’s just the player and the game. The peculiar voice offers flavor text and some additional (almost accurate, yet the reality is bent, understandably) information regarding weaponry. Otherwise, it’s a pretty standard tutorial section, teaching mechanics rather than controls. In fact, I do know of people who get stuck in the first elevator as they cannot figure out how to properly interact with the environment. Apparently, the movement controls were to be introduced as a basic “move right, move left” kind of deal but it was cut from the final product. Maybe it’s for the better, personally, I believe those to be too on the nose.
TRIVIA TIME: There is a hidden recording of the Io-Interactive team if you wait in the agility training area.
But the game is titled “Hitman (Codename 47)” and if the beginning section did not invoke a feeling of a killer for hire, this next one surely will. It seems like popular media thinks “hitman” is synonymous with “sniper” so after waking up in Hong Kong, our antihero is sent on a mission which heavily suggests taking out the target at a bigger range. A sniper rifle is available to purchase during the setup (and that’s what the game defaults you to) and the level features multiple accessible rooftops. Of course, you are never forced to do things the way the game points you to. It cherishes player freedom. It was built to allow for as much creativity as the player can juice out. “Seemingly, it is all linear storytelling, but the player can accelerate the events, or plan the hits according to his temperament. He has to accomplish the mission, but there are several ways to do it,” Janös Flosser says in an interview with GameSpot UK.
Let’s come back to the setup phase for a brief moment – those are amazingly in-universe which deeply pleases yours truly. The entire UI mimics the one of 47’s laptop. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of clicks to get to the right menu and if you miss something, you will have to get back a few screens. The item menu features 3D models (if you can get them to work nowadays) and even more flavor text to fuel your interest. There is also a map which arguably isn’t as useful as it is in later titles especially as you are interrupted by the famous red loading bar if you wish to access it during the mission.
TRIVIA TIME: The red loading bar was used in every Io-Interactive game up to (and including) Mini Ninjas.
The first chapter of the game cleverly introduces more and more mechanics before climaxing at The Lee Hong Assassination where the player’s (and by extend – 47’s) newly found skills are put to the test. Everything that the game has taught them so far is now more than useful as it throws them into an open field with complex objectives and a randomized element. The latter is a questionable design choice still open to discussions. On one hand, it creates a variable which makes each playthrough unique in a sense. It also means the player is likely to restart the mission until they get the desired outcome. Whether you like it or not, The Lee Hong Assassination is a great finisher to the Hong Kong arc and definitely a difficulty spike. Due to complexity of the level design and limited textures used throughout the environment, it can quickly become a maze especially if player doesn’t pick up on the clues or does not manage to even find them.
TRIVIA TIME:The Lee Hong Assassination features an easy to grab R93 sniper rifle and a hellish route to retrieve ammo for it.
As the China chapter ends, the game’s narrative begins to gain traction. Our antihero establishes relationships with new characters and unveils some of the overarching storyline. We get a cutscene reminding us of the owner of the peculiar voice from before and are on our way to another location as Hitman is all about traveling the world.
TRIVIA TIME: Bunch of the areas are historically correct. The U’wa tribe and all of their religious references do exist in real life. In addition, in an interview with IGN, the managing director states: “We have done a lot of research to create a great visual adventure, so when Hitman walks around in an art deco Thermal Bath Hotel from the turn of the 19th century, all the details are actually correct.“
Our next destination is Colombia and the wonderful jungle inhabited by the U’wa tribe. This is where the game becomes more of a shooter – many of the missions require you to eliminate large amount of people which may be one of the reasons as to why this arc isn’t popular in the community and was not chosen to be remade in Contracts. It centers around a Scarface-inspired fellow who has barricaded himself in a tightly secured hacienda. It ain’t easy though as 47 must first find required intel and make his way there.
Navigating through the Colombian rainforests can be a hassle. The game offers a compass as purchasable equipment but that still barely helps. Even our protagonist wonders “Which way is south?” Your first times through the location may be painful, especially as there are multiple weapon caches over the perimeter and those do come handy. Upon further notice, the designers have placed indicators you can follow – the roads and trenches all lead to various points of interest. If you can pick up on those – good. You’ll need their help as taking too long to traverse through the jungle can mean difficulty rising drastically. It’s easy to not be as perceptive however. The original draw distance is a problem especially since the enemies can see the player but the player can’t see them.
TRIVIA TIME: There does exist a Draw Distance unlocker which makes the rainforest absolutely stunning even by today’s standards and does make me wish for an open space level rendered in Glacier 2.
Doesn’t help that this chapter is a home to probably the most forgettable mission in the entire franchise. Anyone remember The Jungle God? Since we were just talking about level design, the Colombia arc is definitely the experimental one. Find the U’wa Tribe features a fetch quest/rescue/escort mission you can entirely skip. The Jungle God has you sacrificing a pig to a jaguar and Say Hello to my Little Friend starts you off having to run around the entire level just to enter the proper mission area. You can also snipe the target from that very same starting spot, which is quite convenient if you are speedrunning… but you still need to enter his office to pick up a quest item.
If you are wary about Colombia, it does feature my favorite track out of the entire soundtrack and, possibly even the entire series – Jungle Exploration. Shame it only plays for the duration of one level before changing into Dark Jungle. Both of them do a fantastic job in delivering the mood however and I consider the OST great overall so I cannot complain much. I only want to present it to as many people as possible as it often gets overlooked and overshadowed by the awards winning soundtrack to Silent Assassin.
TRIVIA TIME: Originally, a cutscene was supposed to happen during disguise changes.
What follows is the pinnacle – Traditions of the Trade. It established many of the original basis for what later became a standard Hitman level design. Continuously built upon and improved to this day. It’s also most likely the reason as to why the community is never tired of hotels getting featured as locations for hits, albeit I’d argue they aren’t used to their full potential in any of the circumstances. It’s also usually the first contender whenever the fanbase talks about possible remastering of old levels and again, yours truly wonders how many times can you play the same stage…
The story arc itself is odd. It does not have a build up like the other two. There are no stages leading our antihero to his target. Instead, we are thrown into the environment, similarly to The Lee Hong Assassination, and required to do all of the detective work ourselves. The iconic sauna elimination happens in this mission, as well as we can enjoy the sights of 47 is swimwear. The location itself is huge and offers multiple points of interest, options for creativity in accomplishing goals and getting out of the situation unscathed. There are two possible exits. Something quite uncommon by old school Hitman standards.
TRIVIA TIME: This is the first time we get to hear the name “Tobias Rieper”, referenced (too extensively for my likings) later in the 2016 HITMAN.
Otherwise, as I’ve mentioned before, Traditions of the Trade became a framework for future sandbox level design in the franchise. Disguises being not only a huge part of player’s available strategy but also a very reliable option, blending in and hiding in plain sight were later confined to a term “social stealth” coined by the community. As in case of the aforementioned The Lee Hong Assassination, the player also had to pick up on the clues dotted around the Thermal Bath Hotel, find his way to the objectives and complete them all in one sweep. An intimidating task but oh so rewarding if you manage it. Traditions of the Trade definitely is surprisingly memorable for being a one-off in a series of multi-mission chapters.
TRIVIA TIME: Franz Fuchs is a real life terrorist operating around the same time the game is taking place. According to Wikipedia; “Criminal psychologists characterized him as a highly intelligent but socially inept loner.”
“How do you follow that?” you ask. With “the biggest cliché of the game”, to quote the GameSpot interview once again. Rotterdam Harbor is our next location and suffice to say, it does not match the legendary Thermal Bath Hotel. Instead, it has back to the usual formula of having a build up before the main hit of the area. Gunrunner’s Paradise has our protagonist investigate, gather intel and plan his approach. Unfortunately, it also has him having to gun down a crowd as well. It has its ups and downs when it comes to design. There are some neat tricks, similarly to Find the U’wa Tribe. This time, your best guide would be the train tracks. There is also a randomized element, akin to The Lee Hong Assassination as the meeting you are meant to attend to can take place at three different warehouses. No matter that, Rotterdam is where the game goes back to being more on the “shooter” than a “thinker” side of the scale.
TRIVIA TIME: “[Gunrunner’s Paradise] is the only mission in the game you can’t do without buying any items, because you’re forced to take the GPS with you; going into the mission without it will fail the mission at the end.”, courtesy of ZerglingWasteland.
But what a setpiece it is! A giant ship! And it’s going to blow up if the mad man behind the detonator isn’t stopped! Interestingly enough, when remade for Contracts, both of the Rotterdam missions were merged into one – Deadly Cargo. That has definitely helped make the arc bearable but not much as it’s still the worst part of my beloved Contracts. It isn’t the best advertisement if the community’s first advice is to purchase as many bullets as possible and kill everyone in sight whenever you get around playing through Plutonium Runs Loose. Even that approach isn’t as easy as it may sound, echoing the original draw distance once again. The level is a slog, requiring you to wait for NPCs to pass through security gates and access more and more of the environment. Enemies’ behavior can be confusing as they may start attacking you seemingly with no reason. The ship itself can end up becoming a maze especially since you’re pressured by a time limit. There are also dogs you will most likely have to slaughter. Overall, Plutonium Runs Loose does not allow you to have fun, but at least it has another amazing track by Jesper Kyd – Harbor Themes.
TRIVIA TIME: Judging by the game files, Rotterdam Harbor was supposed to be the second location Codename 47 brings us to. Thankfully, the devs must have realized in time that Plutonium Runs Loose isn’t “humanly possible to finish”.
The game culminates back in Romania with the story climax. There’s something off-putting at the briefing screen already. This is the first time our text-only support character actively warns the protagonist. The mission is suspiciously simple in concept and suddenly becomes a lot more interesting albeit not very difficult if you’re in the right disguise. The Setup is, as the name suggests, merely a setup to the ending twist. Focused on exploration, delivering the right atmosphere and framework for the encounter with the last boss. It’s all about deciphering hints and figuring out the level’s puzzle. A breather before what it precedes.
TRIVIA TIME: The Setup is also the birth of the famous rubber ducky running joke.
That being another puzzle. This time placed in an action-oriented environment instead. The peculiar voice from the beginning of the game is back and delivers his side of the story somewhere in the background. Unfortunately, as the player will most likely fail at least a couple of times, the dialogue repetition might become an annoyance. Either that or it will get completely drowned out by the noises of an intense shootout. There’s little to no options to be stealthy during this mission as the enemies will actively look out for the player and attack him on sight. Arguably, trial and error is a big part of the franchise, even nowadays so the last mission of Codename 47 still ticks at least one box of the “Hitman level design” checklist.
TRIVIA TIME: Failing in killing the last boss makes the entire experience very interesting… A similar situation takes place if you get zapped by the orderly in the Training level.
You know the overview now. Hitman: Codename 47 is definitely not a perfect game and its age does not speak in favor of it. The control scheme is ancient but you can rebind it to your likings. Almost as if it was a standard back in the day! The graphics have their unique charm which I personally really enjoy yet I can see the contrasting perspective. The AI is basic even though the role they are to fulfill is quite an ambitious one. The level design choices can be perplexing but they tell a clear tale if you analyze them and compare to the later installments. The voice acting quality is questionable to say the least.
TRIVIA TIME: The placeholder voice of 47 is documented and can be listened to if you desire.
The music is fantastic. The story might not be the most complicated or unique but it’s told in a thought-provoking fashion. You may entirely skip it, if that’s your choice but naturally, as a lore expert, I recommend you take at least a peek. Traditions of the Trade is a huge selling point. So is the overall atmosphere of the title and its presentation. It’s an origin story, not only for 47 as a character but also for the franchise. It’s successful at that. It features many mechanics reworked and improved upon in later games. It tried many things. It wanted to be a shooter at times, with its leaning mechanics and the second camera mode. It tried its best to offer a silent path throughout the level, even with the technological limitations of the artificial intelligence. It drew a path for the sequels to follow – disguises, sandboxes, puzzle-solving. All ended up being so much more attention-grabbing than the straight-up action sequences.
TRIVIA TIME: An Italian and apparently Russian audio localization of Codename 47 is available albeit not in the Steam version of the game. Speaking of dubs, Japan’s Absolution and HITMAN releases were fully voiced.
Let’s go back to the original questions we have before us then. The first one – “Is it still worth to play Hitman: Codename 47?” – you may now answer for yourselves, depending on what your heart tells you. The second – “Can I just play Contracts instead?” – is always a clear “no” in my mind. Contracts was never meant to remake any of the Codename 47 levels. In fact, it was supposed to be what Blood Money ended up as. Which might be why it features a side story taking place during the events of the latter. The team had decided to reuse some of the missions to save on development time as they were pressured by Eidos to finish the title.
But even looking at both games in a complete vacuum, they have little in common. The stories and atmospheres they present are very different. The level concepts may be reused but they were remade in a way they offer another experience to the one seen in the original. Echoing the aforementioned Deadly Cargo and it merging both of the Rotterdam levels. As those same missions in Contracts are shown to us from the perspective of 47 himself, they also get more interesting. There is much to analyze when it comes to the psychology of our antihero simply by comparing two versions of the same scenario.
Worth mentioning that Contracts, as the third game in the franchise, was in a fairly established phase for the series. It knew what it wanted to do and did it well. It ironed out a lot of bugs and issues which plagued Silent Assassin and focused even more on bigger levels, player creativity and freedom. It’s a completely different experience from the campy, action movie-inspired Codename 47. It’s mature, dark. Moody and foreboding.
If you really want to get everything you can out of the Hitman franchise, do yourself a favor. Do not choose between the titles. Play both. Experience the original missions as they were, compare them. See what the team decided to change over the years. What they improved. And even more importantly, what they left behind. Codename 47 may not play or look great nowadays but it’s still very enjoyable if you excuse its obvious signs of age. It does not only begin to paint a picture of the series we now know and love. It was a breath of fresh air. A “thinker” before a “shooter”. Or, to quote Game.EXE: “This game was like a lonely bright star in a nearly empty sky of releases during last year. Thus, this single stunning game easily won IO Interactive “The Best Developer of 2000” title.”
If only he was to format Io-Interactive correctly…
PS.: If anyone would like to part with their big box edition of Codename 47, yours truly would love to have a word with you.
Big thanks to Kotti for linking me his commentated speedrun shedding light on some things I might have not known of or forgotten, GuLe for lending me his save file, Mad Max for helping me confirm, research and double check facts, ZerglingWasteland for his insight, every single person who has ever taken part in Weekly Mission Discussions and, especially, my Patreons for their continued support.
The history of Hitman is defined by its games. And gamers who have played them. What if someone could create a better story than what has been shown in the games? Someone tried.
The project was initiated in 2013 by the company named 20th Century Fox. It’s purpose was to create the video game movie. A story about human beings without emotion, or fear, or remorse. The resulting subject was called Hitman: Agent 47(even though the previous movie was already known as Hitman: Agent 47 in several regions). The program was a financial success. But the price of creating a terrible movie loosely based on a video game is a slew of angry fans.
No-one had ever imagined, that in the end, it would come down to one, not little anymore and actually not a girl.
As the times went on, I thought I’d never find myself in a situation where I’m watching this movie. Hitman: Agent 47 was a sequel no-one ever wanted. Even the company itself as it canceled the previously planned follow-up to the 2007 Hitman and instead, rebooted the film universe. This time, the project was given to Aleksander Bach – a commercial director working mostly for Asian-territory based companies. He recalls the film to start out really small and then get bigger and bigger as time went on. The script was, again, devised by Skip Woods and was to feature likable characters and “great story”. “To make this successful, what you need first of all if you do a game adaptation — it really doesn’t matter if it’s a video game or not — you need a great story and characters”, the director said in an interview with BlackFilm. He also mentioned video game 47 being too cold to ever be relatable. “This is the big difference between the game and the movie, you need to create a character you care about.” That honestly makes me feel alienated in how much I personally care about the video game character of Mr. 47…
The protagonist was to be played by Paul Walker before his unfortunate death. Rupert Friend was casted in his stead and afterwards, a wave of news on the supporting cast begun to surface. Hannah Ware was to play a female role, Zachary Quinto joined the team as John Smith and Thomas Kretschmann as the antagonist of the story. Not many promotional materials have been released. Except for a few high action trailers and generic movie posters, the biggest promotion campaign happened during San Diego Comic Con 2015. That also featured two panels in which actors try their best in answering questions from the crowd and present the movie as appealing to the on-house audience.
Knowing all of this, I think it is time to finally jump into the film itself. If you’re interested in an in-depth experience of yours truly getting progressively more and more drunk in “White’s reaction to the second movie”, the audio recording is available on my Patreon, so remember to check that out as well. For now though, let us begin analyzing the unfortunately titled 2015 feature film – Hitman: Agent 47.
The first two minutes of the movie are filled with a long exposition/establishing speech from who we can only assume is Diana. It talks about creating a better version of man. A task that was apparently accomplished by a scientist by the name of Peter Aaron Litvenko. Do you know him from any of the Hitman games? Cause I sure don’t and I’m apparently the Hitman lore expert. Fueling the Agent Project, Litvenko focused on their abilities to kill and be rid of emotions. This meant they were perfect as hired guns and quickly took toll on poor scientist’s conscience. He fled. Shut down the project. The surviving specimens vanished into the world as well. Multiple efforts were made to reinvent the Agents yet everyone who has ever tried, failed. The man who got the closest – Dr. Albert Delriego – spent the last 6 years looking for Litvenko to get an insight to his brilliant mind. Finally, he has a lead. A photograph of a young woman.
This is the premise of Hitman: Agent 47 and pretty much the only piece of the grand story that we will see for a while. All of this in mere two minutes of the movie! It’s obvious that it takes inspirations from both Codename 47 and Absolution out of all the things. The CG of the intro scene is also very similar to Absolution‘s in its design choices which I guess should not be a surprise as it was the latest Hitman(debatable) game released at the time. I do however wonder why they opted to use the canon names of 47 and Diana, yet completely disregarded Ort-Meyer’s or Victoria’s. Maybe they were thinking their movie equivalents are different enough to warrant a name change. Personally, I think both have so little personality it truly doesn’t matter. And Victoria is so hated among the fanbase anyways, I doubt anyone would defend the possibility of destroying her character.
Hitman means world traveling so this time, we arrive at Salzburg, Austria. We are quite welcomed at the Syndicate International Research Facility – home to Albert Delriego’s investigation. Compared to the 2007 Hitman movie, everything here is weirdly high tech. Something which was never the case in any of the games, even the 2016 HITMAN. In fact, the older titles always managed to keep their campy feel so the choice of using a high tech aesthetic is baffling.
They aren’t the only ones looking for “the girl” or Katia van Dees as we can learn from the huge letters on the even bigger screen. A man with a barcode on the back of his head is also interested in her and he’s currently sabotaging the Syndicate machines by uploading a simple virus onto their servers. Via his smartphone. That’s it for the high tech computers. I guess some other piece of media has already shown us you can do pretty much everything just using your smart device so I should not be that surprised…
Using tracking devices attached to the Syndicate Audis (product placement!), he watches them on his super smartphone and then uses it to detonate a bomb, cleverly placed in the exact spot the cars were passing anyways. Then we are introduced to a self-sniping rifle (still no briefcase, though…) and a safehouse location which has apparently already been breached. Our antagonist demands to give him an update in a very similar manner to Absolution’s Benjamin Travis however. Or maybe I’m just delusional and try really hard to pick up some references to the source material.
Delriego attempts to convince the barcoded man that they are already working on the next generation of the Agents, but when that obviously fails, he plays another card – a chip implanted in his heart. Once that stops beating, his personal security service will barge through the door… something which I don’t understand why hasn’t happened already…
You need me.
No. I only need pieces of you.
This apparently convinces Delriego to give him the information he requires but also mentions Katia being a “ghost”. I think that fills the “ghost” quota of this movie. We are also witnesses of the “cool guys don’t look at explosions” moment because this is a Hitman movie.
Following is a high action scene with a tiny bit of Hitman which can be shown in one screengrab:
The fight at least seem to be somewhat choreographed this time around so it is a bit more enjoyable to watch especially as a guy is literally thrown down onto stairs handrails which he bounces off of and lands on the floor like a ragdoll… I guess that’s game accurate. And if you were looking for references – the barcoded man ends up with blood on his shirt in a very similar way to Absolution’s promo arts.
Another high tech environment, meaning we’re somewhere in the Syndicate HQ. From the barely even audible dialogue we can make up that Delriego was close to finding “the girl” yet now he’s dead. As his investigation lead him to Berlin in Germany, this is where we end up as well in the very next scene. There, we end up meeting who appears to be “the girl” herself. It seems as if she’s not only being hunted but also the huntress as we see her digging through papers and photographs. She’s looking for… presumably a man of… most likely Slavik origins… but there are literally 71,291 possible matches and… this dialogue speaks for itself:
You have to realize that millions of people have lived in Berlin over the past 25 years. I can’t be expected to sort through everyone of them for your mystery man, can I?
Our girl is also pretty sensitive when it comes to people touching her as it’s presented to us in a completely NON-OBVIOUS WAY BY FOCUSING A SHOT ON THE FACT THAT SHE ALMOST JUMPS FROM HER CHAIR WHEN THE WOMAN TRIES TO COMFORT HER. Unfortunately, without a name or really any lead what-so-ever except for the blurry photograph I’m sure Syndicate can easily CSI with their technological capabilities, there is nothing that can be done and she leaves unamused. A bus scene reminds us (already) that Katia doesn’t like physical contact. There’s also a suspicious dude looking directly at her as “you’ve gotta be emotional now” tune plays in the background. She exits the bus and with her, the suspicious dude does the same. “The girl” then attempts to purchase a false passport. The data strip is demagnetised and the seller is apparently very easily intimidated for someone working in such profession so she gets what she wanted after all. He leaves her with a generic “Be careful, little girl. This world is a dangerous place.” comment. Following that completely pointless scene, we establish that Katia is able to either sense or see or have weird visions of stuff around her and she helps out an innocent woman who’s getting beat in her own house by signaling the police.
In the meantime, the barcoded man exits an elevator. A badass music accompanies his slow walk as he enters a high tech apartment and takes out a tiny computer out of his huge suitcase filled with all kinds of tools of the trade. He hacks into the Berlin police servers and attempts to find a match for the mysterious “the girl”. He then puts his weaponry next to him and goes to sleep sitting up.
Katia returns home as well. Hers being messy and dark, to contrast with what we’ve been seeing so far. We get shown her own investigation as well as few disassembled pieces of machinery. She gets more weird visions, cries a bit, takes some pills and also goes to sleep. Just laying on her mattress and exhaling in an exaggerated manner. Back to the barcoded man. The tiny laptop has found a 100% match and presented it to him in a visually exciting way!
“47. It’s Diana”, says a woman of an… Asian… accent… Shortly, we can see her face and indeed, she ends up being of Asian origins. Who would have figured that Diana Burnwood, with her identifying characteristic being a heavy British accent would be portrayed by Angelababy – an actress almost exclusively taking part in Chinese productions before starring in Hitman: Agent 47? “47” is apparently having a tail. A Syndicate operative. They know nothing about him except that he’s found “her”, so they set up a contract. The barcoded man now has 46 (cause 47 might have been too on the nose) hours to eliminate both targets so he leaves immediately. I’d like to point out now that we’re at 20-minute mark and the biggest story development we’ve had so far was the intro info dump.
Back into Katia’s apartment. She’s dreaming of 47 (don’t we all?… just not this non-bald movie version), or rather has another weird vision. Knowing she’s in danger, she takes her time to get properly dressed, casually grab stuff off her wall and then storm out of the building. I’m sure she could have avoided leg work if she didn’t stick around her apartment for what seemed to be forever. The barcoded man finds her pills, disassembled machinery and a public transport map from which he somehow knows exactly what she’s been eyeing. The entire trio heads there.
Katia uses her weird visions to steal pills off some poor woman’s purse but is caught by the suspicious dude from before.
Are you some kind of cop?
How do you know my name?
I’m John. John Smith. I’d like to buy you a cup of coffee.
Katia’s obviously not interested, so Smith – here portrayed by Zachary Quinto as a generic sort-of handsome dude even though the main characteristic of agent Smith in every single Hitman video game was his red hair – asks if she’d be interested in living instead. This wooden dialogue leads to even more wooden delivery of “the girl” trying to pull of a Heather Mason.
“Walk away or I’ll scream”, she attempts to convey but doesn’t manage to convince anybody. Not even John. “He won’t care. He’s here to kill you, Katia. And I’m here to stop him. I know you don’t have any reason to trust me but look at him.”…what?
Few more unconvincing lines later, they come to a conclusion that they should indeed be working together. Smith mentions he knows Katia is looking for someone and that’s apparently enough for her to completely trust him. A high action scene begins. 47 uses such tricks as pushing some guy onto Smith to make him fall over and then shoots his pistol to move it out of his reach. He lines up to shoot “the girl” but John manages to jump on his back and they both fall down onto a moving train… and then down onto the train tracks. They casually wrestle in a terribly choreographed fight scene, so we get shaky camera movements instead to compensate. Apparently, this was meant to buy Katia some time but, as we all know how hasty she can be, both John and 47 get to her in record time. They run to the parking lot, where somebody who I can only describe as “some dude” waits for Smith behind a wheel. He nonchalantly asks “Where’s the Agent?” so Smith hurries him up and they drive away and this time it is 47 who’s looking unamused.
Only now Katia has the decency to ask who are the people whose car she’s is now sitting inside. “Some dude” manages to mumbles something about them “trying to protect her” and then immediately gets shot in the face (literally) so I fail to see how credible this statement is. Smith fires some shots for some reason or another even though 47 is miles away. Although he managed to somehow hit “some dude” in from said distance so maybe it’s not as unrealistic as I think given this movie logic. John reestablishes what we already know and they jog into the American Embassy. “We’ll be safe here”, Smith states and immediately draws his weapon to fire shots in front of the building.
Katia gets interrogated by the only character (called Sanders… in reference to Absolution’s Sanders?… I doubt it) consisting of any logic in this film. Just as 47 enters the Embassy himself with all of his weaponry on him. And obviously gets captured. Sanders fails at being the only smart person of the story by bringing a high caliber sniper rifle and pointing it at the barcoded man now sitting with his hands cuffed. If you can make up what the policeman is saying at this point in time, you are rewarded with a Hitman reference as the rifle is supposed to be a custom Blaser R93.
Why don’t we start out with your name?
This is not a name.
No. But it is mine.
The barcoded man then goes on to say that he’s an assassin tasked to eliminate “the girl”. Sanders obviously doesn’t believe him cause no-one would in this situation. 47 teases him with threats featuring the man’s family and then some more generic wannabe badass dialogue ensues resulting in a silly slow-mo action scene. Smith manages to break Katia out, 47 dresses as a cop and also leaves the building. I guess it’s not so safe if you lead the man who’s trying to kill you to the very place you want to hide at.
At the 30-minute mark, Katia asks the same question every viewer is having. This being “You want to tell me what’s happening now?” John reveals that Litvenko is her father which I completely misinterpreted the first time I saw the movie. Either because the plot dropped so fast I wasn’t expecting it or because I was really drunk. This is the only important information out of everything Smith has to say in this scene. Even he prefaces it by stating “I don’t know much” before retelling the same info dump we’ve had at the beginning of the film. Also his name isn’t really John Smith. It’s Brian. Cause that is apparently important. Even Katia calls him “John” in the very next conversation. And I completely disregarded the visually exciting sniping scene because nothing comes out of it anyways.
Smith tries to discourage “the girl” from finding Litvenko but when she says “No”, he ends up telling her everything he knows about him anyways. Apparently her father has lung cancer which might be a way to establish an emotional connection. Also, there is a mention of the other parent being Sri Lankan. This entire conversation takes its sweet time so it’s only a good thing that 47 barges in and interrupts it. He shoots John in the chest, punches Katia in the face thus rendering her unconscious somehow and leaves with her casually hanging off his shoulder.
Apparently this version of 47 also has a safehouse in which he interrogates young women. They reestablish the same plot points once again but weird visions and flashbacks disclose that the duo are siblings. Or rather part of the same program. Even though the little 47 has green eyes and the adult one’s are more blue-ish. The barcoded man then tries to trigger a reaction in Katia by placing her in a dangerous situation featuring a high speed jet engine which she somehow did not notice beforehand …what?
“The girl” uses her enhanced survival skills to free herself and somehow the jet engine sucks in the chair and not her. She finds 47 and asks him about what she is, even though he literally just established that they were part of the same program. “Bullshit, I’m just Katia.”
And your name isn’t Katia van Dees. It’s “quatre-vingt-dix”. French for “90”.
…wha– You know, I actually like this.
Following is a high action scene featuring loads of artificial blood and a Wilhelm scream as 47 attempts to prove to Katia that she’s been programmed to deal with extreme situations. And by “high action” I mean “action at a moderate pace”. John appears out of nowhere even though he was quite clearly shot. His first words to the barcoded man are “I want you to know, I’m a big fan of your work, 47. It’s an honor to meet a legend.” which may be a reference to Absolution’s Attack of the Saints but I’m doubtful that’s the case. They wrestle a bit after Smith mentioning he’s “special”. 47 thrusts a knife into his chest but that quickly backfires and he ends up on the floor as John is aiming a gun at him and demands him to fuel up his ego. Katia comes to save the day. She shoots the glass window exposing the huge jet engine and a silly CGI death of two random armed men ensues. Smith’s survival is credited to “subdermal titanium body armor, injected under the skin in liquid form.” Something Syndicate likes to experiment with, their high tech capabilities and all. “The girl” reveals her father is in Singapore, as is the Syndicate Headquarters, conveniently. Diana ends up overhearing the entire conversation and sets up another man in black suit and with a red tie to join the party in Singapore.
Just as last time, Katia leaves a map from which other characters magically know where she’s heading to. 47 and her are now at the Singapore airport though and after acknowledging that the cameras are Syndicate’s eyes, the barcoded man disguises himself just as the Big Brother is clearly watching him.
Even though Katia did her best to stay out of sight, a camera still managed to snap her picture, thus the Syndicate knows everything rendering the previous scene completely pointless. “The girl” and the barcoded man attempt to have a bonding moment. Katia asks if the tattoo hurt and more incomprehensible details about the Agents program are given to us. Apparently, the barcode is given to them when they are born and the numbers when they become Agents. That’s both stupid and completely unreasonable as the barcode already is a way of representing the numbers anyways. Katia reveals that Litvenko will be “there” at 9AM and that he has lung cancer, trying to force an emotional response out of either 47 or the viewers. Both failed attempts. A conversation about suppressing emotions ensues before it is suddenly interrupted by the need to go to sleep. So 47 does that by sitting up and “the girl” continues on her merry ways which also means disassembling his guns. Which is apparently a thing she does when she cannot fall asleep. This also means the barcoded man is left without his pistols when some more folks join the fun first thing in the morning. 47 somehow knows they weren’t Syndicate. Instead, there is an open contract on the duo so everyone and their mother will try and stop them.
The siblings (ugh… I’m never using that word to desribe them ever again) finally get to meet with their father… somehow. The conversation between Litvenko and Katia is full of non-answers as he keeps reestablishing what we already know from the intro. His conscience was driving him mad so instead of trying to raise his children by himself, he instead left them to be further experimented on… what? Isn’t this what you were trying to stop?…
47 appears out of nowhere. Katia spurs something about people having a choice of who they want to be in life, therefore rendering the entire plotpoint about being programmed to kill pointless. Bad men cut short this very emotional moment and the trio escapes in a red Audi (not product placement except the logo is directly in focus of the shot. Multiple times.).
What do they want?
More of me.
Why would anyone want more of you?
What follows is a high action car chase which has the barcoded man leisurely sitting behind the wheel of the red vehicle as John Smith keeps hurrying up his collegue who appears to be the calmest man on the entire universe even though he is actively taking part in a high speed pursuit and Litvenko mentions being a part of the program working on the subdermal body armor.
Perhaps you should consider shooting him.
Subdermal body armour.
What, they actually got that to work?
I honestly cannot believe a “yep” is part of of the script but let’s move on.
Our heroes get out of the situation without a scratch, as is the red Audi even though it has been bumped and shot many times during the course of the scene. I guess you really need no more convincing if you ever wanted to purchase one. Suddenly, more plot is getting unveiled as the Syndicate chairman who we’ve seen for maybe two minutes at best actually has a name. Antoine LeClerq. Apparently, he never leaves his secure office and fourteen agents have already tried killing him. You know, I’d expect more from beings literally programmed to eliminate other beings but I digress. Syndicate uses their high tech capabilities to stick hooks in the poor red vehicle. Masked armed men attempt to rappel down onto the car but 47 activates his aimbot to shoot all of them down. Also understandably causing panic on the entire street. Cars are getting destroyed left and right, naturally though, our Audi is all fine and dandy.
Katia helps Litvenko off the busy street. He ends up getting shot in the knee which is apparently enough of a drawback that they leave him behind. Not before slipping him an inhaler previously stolen from a little kid in an elevator – a scene which yours truly didn’t mention as there was nothing more of importance. John Smith snatches Litvenko, brings him to the Syndicate HQ and interrogates him in almost a Bond-like fashion. He also learns that he’s a failed experiment and that is pretty much all out of the new plot information.
Le Clerq also gets frustrated by the lack of development in this story and exits his protected office. He wants to know how to build an army of Agents but gets nothing once again. Litvenko knows he’s going to die anyways so there’s no point in speaking up to anybody. In the meantime, 47 managed to get his hands on a helicopter and is now trying to reason with Le Clerq by selling her Katia instead… what?
So you want to trade him for her? Why?
Because I always close my contracts.
Either that, or because the script did not know how to drag a very basic concept onto a feature-length movie.
Katia breaks her ties once again and pilots her helicopter onto through the glass pane windows of the Syndicate building. She then exits the vehicle and begins either disarming or straight-up killing random armed men.
Plot twist: 47 was never actually on that helicopter. Instead, he somehow managed to enter the extremely secure office of Le Clarq. He shoots Smith in the hand as he walks in (a reference to Absolution, maybe?) and another wrestling match between the two begins. The fibre wire saves the day as it inducts electricity and finally manages to find a way to end John’s existence for good.
“When this is done, I will kill you”, Katia says and she definitely has my sentiment as a terrible Bond movie-like guitar riff track begins playing in the background. The duo clears their way up to the roof, Litvenko takes off in a heli and the barcoded man gets shot in the back trying to protect Katia. He’s not affected by it though and they both respond with a bullet to the attacker’s chest.
It appears the inhaler wasn’t just an inhaler. It was also a detonator… somehow. Litvenko knows that… somehow and uses it to blow up himself, Le Clarq and the poor innocent helicopter pilot leaving Katia in tears. Another plot twist – it was actually Antoine Le Clarq who 47 was tasked to kill. It was to stop the Agent program once and for all and to set Katia free. The barcoded man mumbles something about not having destiny, instead determining who we are by what we do. They try to leave but it’s never as simple as another Agent cuts in their path. A 48, no less.
Diana says “Hello”.
All of them shoot their guns and a terrible song plays over the credits. The end.
…Or is it?!
It isn’t as the mid-credits scene reveals that Le Clerq survives and is now an albino!
Hitman: Agent 47 fails to deliver as a video game movie. I’d argue that it also fails in many other aspects. Not only the plot can be contained in the intro info dump, all of the characters mumble their lines in almost incomprehensible fashion. Not to mention the dialogue is stilted and reminds me of the original PSX Resident Evil. The high action scenes are boring as they are often comical and fail to deliver the suspense. This is due to the characters taking forever in performing any actions and there is nothing to keep your attention on the film. At least there were no forced innuendos this time around…
And yet I still kind of prefer this one over the 2007 Hitman. Why? Maybe because I can see the potential in the story. Yes, they very clearly sequel-baited it in the end but I find it adorable that they tried to incorporate the games’ grand storyline into it in some manner. Would I watch it again? No. Would I recommend it to other Hitman fans? Of course not. But either because I’m partial to the albino subplot of Blood Money or I admire how the movie wasn’t simply about a superkiller on the loose, I’m not as offended as most people were when I talked to them about this film. It was still horrible but at least it tried. And I always give credit where credit is due.
I hope you enjoyed our little adventure in the realms of the Hitman movies. Whether or not you’ll decide to watch them on your own is obviously your choice. I personally would not recommend either of them unless you get really drunk like I did. If you wish to listen to my ongoing reactions to both of the movies, my Patreon is where you’ll find it. And thus, we end our Summer Bonus Episode. I certainly hope it was worth it, as many people asked me to cover the movies for much longer than “a while”. What will happen next Hitman-wise is to be seen but I more than encourage you to explore my articles on topics other than Hitman. I do video game analysis, so go check it out!
In the meantime, this has been White.
PS.: If someone can tell me where exactly is the credited footage of Absolution in this movie, please screengrab it cause I don’t want to see this movie again and yet I’m curious.
A big thank you to LadyFromEast for suffering through this with me as well as my Patreons for the continuous support! Remember to check out my Patreon for an audio recording of White’s drunken reactions to this movie. Don’t like Patreon? You can just buy me a coffee instead as a one-time donation!