A darker, more mature Hitman


#1

Copied and slightly modified from my topic on the old HMF:


Pros and Cons of Humanizing 47's targets
A few things to say about 47's personality
#2

I agree. Hitman as a game, excels in these sort of fucked up environments, so to speak.
Although, it can be too much. I don’t want each and every mission to be set at some dark and gritty BDSM/crack-cocaine den.

But if the devs decide to put one of these very dark levels here and there in between levels that are completely different, we’ll get a great game.

If we have a good mix of those amazing levels with a unique and exclusive setting, like “Death of Hannelore”, “Dance with the Devil” or “Beldingford Manor”, some creepy and dark levels like “Meat King’s Party” and then some levels set in a peaceful setting ie. “A New Life”, I think we’ll have a great variation of moments that suits Hitman just fine.
If we can get rid of those corridor-crawlers like Absolution had a few of, we’d get a great game.
The level design and setting in the Hitman games have always been one of the most important features, and the main reason why I come back and play each game several times a year.


#3

Eh… yes and no.

I would like it to go in the dark and mature direction, but that means being actually dark and mature - not dark and rather juvenile.

The Meat King’s party was kind of a mix. The idea of a BDSM party in an abatoir was very imaginative and parts of it were really atmospheric - however the actual people attending the party were rather disappointing in that it was big guys in gimp masks and skinny women in fetish stripper outfits. I’ll give it some leeway due to technical constraints and being smashed out in a hurry - but honestly once you arrived at the party proper for me it stopped being dark and started feeling like it was designed by a socially repressed teenager who knows about BDSM from stealing his big sister’s Cosmo magazines.

Dexter Industries, The Saints, Dom’s Strip Club, etc were supposed to be dark but largely subverted a lot of the game due to the ridiculous, over the top nature. It’s not so exciting to be a Hitman who can kill anyone and remain undiscovered in a world where you can blow up hotels, run snuff movie studios and perform incredibly cruel experiments in plain sight and remain undiscovered. It’s also harder to take settings and enemies seriously when clearly a top priority was “how can we fit as many sexy women as we can in here”.

Dark places are most horrifying to us when they can exist in the shadows of our own world. I’d like to see them take more inspiration from things like A Vintage Year/The Lee Hong Assassination, where criminals hide their lairs over credible businesses and build upon that. As well as helping with the “start in a safe area and move into danger to reach the target” approach of level design, it helps build horror if you don’t know what you’ll discover until you set foot inside.

I’m a grown up, if I want to see boobs I can go to a strip club. So I think that sexy women should be used strategically - there’s undeniably a trend of male crime bosses to want sexy women for their own comfort, but there should also be focus on these guys as being efficient and disciplined. These are supposed to be targets who warrant the attention of the finest assassin who has ever lived, not Tony Soprano’s drinking buddies.

Due to them handling them poorly in the previous games, and that the market is over saturated with people using them as a shorthand, I’d like Hitman to steer away from “dark” topics like coerced prostitution and crack houses, and branch out into alternative great evils like:

  • Organ harvesting/red market (possibly hidden in a free clinic or such)
  • Market fixing/Industrial sabotage (ala Le Chiffre’s original plan in Casino Royale - short stock and then blow up a business, or maybe just abduct and torture people for company secrets)
  • High end money laundering (something like the Firm, a law firm that kills off employees, takes prisoners, tortures, etc)
  • Forced labor/slavery (sweat shops producing anything from clothes to weapons)

All of these things allow for the veneer of respectability and the descent into things that are really dark and horrible without going all cartoony evil, thus keeping the maturity.


#4

I’m ok with any perspective they decide to go to. I liked the more revenge style almost James Bond level Hitman 2, I liked the dark Hitman 3, I liked the adventurer feel from Hitman 4 and I even enjoyed the cinematic B-Movie style from Hitman 5.

They really can do no wrong with the Hitman franchise when it comes to the feeling.


#5

Atmospherically, the ‘darkest’ part of Meat Kings Party is the area where the remains of the client’s daughter are kept. Entering a killer’s lair isn’t something the series has effectively explored, yet it’s shrouded in tension. The challenge of uncovering it was non-existent though, as it’s literally the first place I ran to because of it’s conspicuously marked position on the map. Still, I was genuinely terrified when playing this for the first time at age 12, and even more so when Sturrock’s brother came out of nowhere attacked me. Though, Beldingford Manor most closely epitomises the atmosphere Contracts was going for, and it’s clearly attempting to be a ‘haunted house’ mission, complete with ghost sounds and secret passages, but it doesn’t become too campy in any sense. So, I enjoyed it for what it was.

When it comes to creating a darker, more mature Hitman game, it needs to be progressive. A sense of discovery is needed. The more you explore the level, the darker it should become, as it’s seedy underbelly slowly engrosses the player. Now, ignoring the seemingly endless count of bodyguards and their inability to die after several headshots, the Aesir Plaza level in Max Payne is (contextually) a highly effective set-up for a mature mission of this type. Infiltrating a corporation which may secretly be a front for some dubious activities would work rather well, and I like the idea. You could discover documents, listen-in on employee conversations, access hidden areas – all which could confirm one’s worst fears. Just no boss fights, please.

If the cartoonish elements of Absolution were abandoned, and we borrowed the atmosphere from Contracts while changing the subject matter towards more mature themes, we’d be able to create some thoroughly engaging content. I’m interested to see which direction IOI take with H6.


#6

I think you’re on the right track here. To use an example, the atmosphere of the HBO show True Detective was incredibly effecting and very unsettling; the layers of a community and landscape were peeled away to reveal the rot beneath. IOI have shown flashes of inspiration at portraying this kind of unsettling atmosphere, I’d love for them to take another go at it.


#7

As far as the story is concerned I kind of agree. I think just the fact that you’re playing as a killer for hire will always give the game a darker feel. Personally, I would like to see less over the top villians and action oriented story, with more realistic scenerios and enemies (see @Jarbinger post above). Really, I will be happy just as long as the story isnt pushed down our throat. I wouldn’t of minded Absolutions story as much if the game didn’t center so much around it. The missions themselves should tell more of the story, rather than making a game loaded with cut scenes (worst of all replacing some of the kills with them), and having levels where 47 is carrying a little girl around and going shopping for a new suit just for the purpose of pushing the story. I personally liked how Contracts handled it with just small cut scenes/monologues in between the levels, which contributed to it’s darker vibe. But in this day of age where games are just as much of a cinematic experience as a gaming one, I’m not going to get my hopes up.

Also, while things like the storyline and music are big things that will impact how the game feels, another factor is how 47 is portrayed. Absolution definately presented 47 as more of a heroic character, where he goes against the agency and lets Diana live, which leads to his main objective being to keep his promise in keeping Victoria safe, similar to Silent Assassins where his main goal is to save the priest. While those games certainly had darker themes throughout, it felt more of a contrast from the more cold blooded killer-do my job and get paid vibe that I got from Contracts/Blood Money. I personally would enjoy more of the latter in the next game. I’m not saying he should just be a cold hearted bastard that kills anything that gets in his way. Professionalism is very important. But I would love some more moments like the Swing King, where you have a more innocent-down on his luck guy begging for his life, before you put a hammer through his skull. A few instances like this would be nice and would really drive home the point that 47 is a killer for hire first and foremost.


#8

Those are two really good points. Contracts and Blood Money told the story in a way that allowed the contracts and missions to take centre stage; whether that technique gets in the way of IOI telling a more traditional, “movie like” story like in Absolution is another discussion.

On your second point, the detachment of a hitman would go a long way to give the game a bit more of a sinister tone. Giving 47 personal stakes diminishes this reptilian image of the dispassionate hitman if its not handled properly (see Silent Assassin on how to do this properly).


#9

If we want a more mature hitman, I believe it’s necessary to have targets that are innocent/victims.
In almost all levels we have to kill bad guys, but what about killing a prosecution witness? Or a dedicated father who is also a businessman that messed with wrong people?
I think things like this would push hitman to new level of maturity.


#10

I want to pick up more severed arms in Hitman 6.


#11

It might, but I don’t think killing the Swing King (who you actually feel sorry for) made the game darker & mature. Assassinating scumbags makes more sense, as I don’t think anyone would spend a small fortune to hire someone like 47 to take out a vulnerable civilian.

The missions would also essentially have no major obstacles, as most average Joes don’t live in heavily guarded, fortified areas for example. The levels would basically be: find the target’s home, break in, kill them while they sleep, go to exit. Not exactly challenging & fun.


#12

You do kill a prosecution witness in A New Life - he also happens to be a former mobster because it turns out that most high value witnesses who are major threats to the types of organizations that employ professional assassins are criminals themselves. That’s why they have all the juicy inside information that warrants all the risk and expense in providing the projection.

As @Watson just pointed out - innocents don’t really require the greatest assassin on earth to dispose of.

Cartoony “we kill innocent people because we’re evil!” didn’t make pulp entertainment in the 90s dark and mature and it won’t make Hitman more mature - it’ll just give some people cheap thrills that are already available by Contracts mode and general free play.

What will work is better consistency and progression of build up. Less missions that are “These two are pedos, go kill them for our client.” or “Someone wants you to kill this pornographer… who lives in a porn mansion…” or “We have a set of assassins who blow shit up and dress in nun fetish outfits.”

For all the build up etc, the real problem with The Swing King mission was that there was no understandable explanation of why the father of a random accident victim somehow just happened to hire 47 instead of any other contract killer. The kinds of reasons I would expect someone to send 47 out to kill someone are things like:

  • Power mongering, send 47 to eliminate the leaders of a crime syndicate so you can take over their action
  • Deniable revenge, such as a crime boss has his son murdered and then is forced by his colleagues to make peace officially - he reaches to the Agency to get revenge without implicating his own involvement
  • Politics, eliminate someone powerful and ruthless so their replacement can make the decisions you want them to
  • ICA’s protection, someone robbed, burgled or hacked their way into possession of ICA files
  • Frame up, the opposite of deniable revenge - start a war between crime lords by making one think the other killed off his son/lawyer/whatever

All of these kind of things would also allow for missions with additional parameters that are actually interesting (rather than “Only kill one target… no wait, plot twist, kill them all!” or “And pick up this thingy on your way out…)”.

Part of what made some of the missions in Codename 47 awesome was that they built up hits to have real value and consequences - whether it was the strategic sabotage of Lee Hong’s power base to expose him, the tracking of a smuggler with a nuclear bomb so you could complete your contract and avoid nuking Rotterdam, etc. It added something that one of “here’s a dude, go kill him” missions don’t have.


Mission Idea: Amish in the City
#13

Your statement “innocents don’t really require the greatest assassin on earth to dispose of.”, is not true.
Yeah most of times the targets should me criminals, because as you said, it’s usually criminal organizations that employ professional assassins. However, there are a lot civilians who warrant high level security, like a business magnate, a politician or the heir apparent of a monarchy.
I just think that having to kill an innocent man who just made a bad move against the wrong guy, would grant a greater level of realism to Hitman.


#14

Those innocent people you mention occupy seats of some power though, and are therefore worth disposing by a skilled assassin if the need arises. Your earlier post made it look like you wanted 47 to go behind some ordinary innocent people to make the series darker. I’m not sure how killing people with a lot of power will make it darker, who’s to say how innocent they are?


#15

The use of strip clubs, brothels, porn-related businesses etc. is far too overused as a default ‘seedy’ location, every Hitman game has featured them as fronts/headquarters for illegal activity (with the exception of H2 I think). It’s not a hugely original idea, which has become quite predictable. As you say, let’s see some variety.


#16

Maybe I didn’t express myself like I wanted (english is not my first language).
Its not the killing of people with power that will make the game darker, but the killing of someone that hasn’t done a misdeed, but due to his actions as a politician,businessman, etc, is been targeted for assassination.
Also you mentioned “who’s to say how innocent they are?”, I ask who’s to say they aren’t? Or do you believe that only perverts, killers and sadists can hold positions of power?


#17

Of course not. But most of the time, when such important and influential people are assassinated, it’s because of something they did that greatly affected someone. Again, I’m not saying that innocent powerful people can’t get assassinated, but I’m not sure how it’d make the series darker. As Jardos pointed out, killing innocents just to show how evil 47 is won’t necessarily make the story more darker, focusing on the flaws of his targets, accomplices, and the world around him will.


#18

Well maybe my definition of dark is different than yours. Exploring the amorality of a hitman that only cares for money and doesn’t give a damn if he kills a scumbag or an innocent guy that got out of luck, seems pretty mature/dark to me.


#19

There are two reasons major factors though that mean innocent people are unlikely to come into 47’s crosshairs. It’s not so much as issue of perversion and sadism as it is an issue of living outside the law.

  1. Killing innocent people brings a lot of heat on you, this is why in the games have traditionally punished you for killing civilians. When criminals kill each other society tends to look at it as a problem resolving itself - when criminals kill innocents society views it as a crisis.
  2. There are numerous alternatives to dealing with legitimate people with power and usually their power is less personal and more representative. Killing an honest politician is generally not as helpful as destroying their reputation so that the public turns against them and whatever decision you didn’t want them to make. If you kill the CEO of a squeaky clean pharmacy company, the board will appoint a new one and carry on with business as usual.

47s already been shown to be largely indifferent to the deaths of innocents. The introduction vids to Blood Money went to great lengths to stress that nobody is too innocent to be spared if they get in his way, in Absolution he mows down four security guards because they’re in the way to Victoria’s room.

He even killed his canary!

Innocent guys who “get out of luck” don’t have premium assassins sent after them, they get killed by street level gangers or maybe a local mob hitman. Not someone who you fly into the country exclusively for the purposes of killing one person.


#20

Your first point is irrelevant, 47 never leaves evidence that can compromise him. Also this is just a videogame, applying every real world consequence wouldn’t make sense.
Your second point is true and I already said that most hits should be on criminals, but the truth is that in some occasions innocents are targeted for assassination and I would like to see missions like that in Hitman.

Not if he is rich or holds a position of power. You should have seen the royal palace of Madrid last thursday on the coronation of the new king of Spain. Even 47 would have a tough time passing that kind of security.