Pros and Cons of Humanizing 47's targets


Continuing the discussion from Mission Idea: Amish in the City:

Making a new topic for this because I don’t want to clutter up other topics with the same argument that comes up from time to time - the theory that Hitman needs targets who are “innocent” or at least “not the worst person ever”.

The thing that makes Tom Goldberg and Joseph “Swing King” Clarence evoke a response from the player is not their “innocence” but rather that they’re targets which:

  1. Are humanized to us: They have every day problems and things we can relate to - whether it’s the money problems, relationship problems, fear of death, etc.
  2. Their respective killers confront them so they get a moment to deal with their impending death in a way we can relate to.

Neither of these has much to do with innocence.

1. Character Design

There’s nothing to stop one of our targets being an international arms dealer who supplied death squads with chemical weapons, but also is separated from his demanding wife, has a teenage daughter who is going through a punk/goth phase and is currently in a lot of financial problems due to some business accidents.

This could even be used in level design (47 could pose as a prospective client and get past security due to his desperate to get more business, or steal the daughter’s phone to lure him out of his secure office, etc) however it does mean that this becomes a design priority to include all kinds of character building information and consistency in it.

Currently the level of characterization tends to be “cardboard cutout” so if they were to do characters like this they’d have to be consistent so that they don’t make one character look boring compared to another. Personally I’d be in favour of this - but I’m in favour of this in all games.

2. Confrontation

The whole target spilling their guts about how afraid they are and now that they’re about to get shot in the face they regret their decisions etc part requires a scripted sequence - which can only occur under set circumstances and well… was not well implemented in the last instance of Hitman. Special sequences ranged from annoying as shit (Wade, Skurky, Travis) to pointless shit (Layla, Dexter) and so were not terribly fulfilling. It also starts to fall in Assassin’s Creed territory very easily.

Overall the real question would have to be “what circumstances” and “what targets” - since if it was for every target it’d quickly get old and would imply that each target had a “correct” way to be killed, thus diminishing all the other methods by default.

Personally I got no ideas except “Don’t do any of the ideas from Absolution”

47’s targets

Part of the reason that 47’s targets are so often criminals or super criminals is it allows a lot of creativity to make them interesting - none of us know a super criminal and real criminals are pretty much nothing like their video game counterparts. That and they have good justifications behind why they have armed guards, super security etc.

Consider the “innocent” options most commonly put forward:

  • Scientists: Has to have a really shifty reason to spend money on security instead of science stuff. Ruining the world via destroying great stuff isn’t going to be exciting for a fan base and won’t really match with characterization or any kind of depth.
  • Politicians: Boring as fuck people because they need to be “safe” to get elected. One smiling asshole in a grey suit looks more or less the same as another smiling asshole in a grey suit. Killing a rare honest politician again offers nothing of any real substance and their security is… going to be boring.
  • Military leaders: By the book military people are so boring it’s amazing. Everything about their business life is regimented and they basically excel at following orders. Plus their security is… boring.
  • Honest business men: Can be exciting but generally have no reason to need the kind of security that warrants hiring the ICA - particularly since usually they represent huge interests rather than individual power.
  • Celebrities: Very hard to make us give a fuck about fictional celebrities and again, very difficult for them to warrant 47 out to kill them without getting their hands really dirty. I mean if Mark Ruffalo can campaign against Fracking and everything else without getting whacked why are we supposed to believe some video game guy warrants 47?

The amount of trouble and sacrifice to be involved to say “we made a character you’re not going to enjoy killing to show you the gritty reality of hitman with barcodes on the back of their head” really just doesn’t stack up - it’d get in the way of making the game fun.

[quote=“hthomos, post:24, topic:1699”]
I think he was saying it’d be pretty important to remind people that 47 is absolutely neutral.[/quote]
Um… the first game in the series his targets were literally all super criminals. Then he was sent by one super criminal to eliminate all his criminal business partners, then he went up against the Franchise and saved the President of the USA and then he took down the corrupted elements of the ICA and a ruthless arms manufacturer.

It’s a bit late to try to portray him as “absolutely neutral”. His job sends him to kill bad people.

47 is the best of the best, he is the assassin who does jobs that are supposed to be impossible and does it with such regularity he is considered too awesome to be true by many in the know - how is a guy who makes recyclable energy going to require this level of expertise?

Targets being bad people is basically part of the branding now and makes everything run smoothly - changing that wouldn’t make the game special or unique, it’d just make it… boring.


In my opinion 47 shouldn’t give a fuck about who he has to kill, actually i’d like to see a child as a target in H6 just to see how far would 47 be willing to go for money.


I’m all for showing 47 as a ruthless,relentless,badass.but killing a child/innocent isn’t a correct way to show it.I love to see some humanized targets(like Joseph Clarence),but high profile targets who are big criminals are what H6 needs more.because it makes atmosphere,and the feeling of you’re in a secure place and any wrong and quick movements will get you killed.but killing children in a park when they’re playing football with each other has nothing interesting to add…in my opinion.


You sure Joseph Clarence wasn’t just meant to evoke a thirst for cruelty that’s innate to humans? I wanted to kill him just because he was short, bald and pathetic.


“I am the badass Hitman who does anything for money” is only an idea from Blood Money and not supported well by the other games.

Hitman 2 ends with 47 telling a priest he “can be of better use” killing people than working in the church, and vowing to himself to “seek justice for himself.” He doesn’t seem like someone who would turn around and kill an innocent kid the next day for money… especially when you consider that he gave most of his money away before the events of Hitman 2.


Um excuse me? how is The Swing King, King of Chinatown, some playboy tycoon, a guy in his jaccuzzi, an witness protection guy, any more important than a guy whos about to put the entire Oil Industry out of business? Anybody who is about to present that kind of research would of course be very VIP.

Thats mostly true but there are obvious cases where the line is very unclear. For example The Russian generals were part of a political assassination. theres no good or evil in politics. Vinnie Sinistra was a witness protection about to testify for the mob! so technically he’s a ‘good guy’.
47 Is the best but nowhere in his job description does he strictly kill bad people. he even says to the Albino “I can kill, whoever Im paid to kill”


You want to kill people because they’re short and bald? That sounds too extreme.

Honestly, I felt like killing him just to end his misery.


Well let’s see, Swing King is a one off where someone who wouldn’t normally have access to the ICA is given the number to call by a friend (who may or may not be working with the Franchise) and is the tutorial mission that 47 does as soon as he arrives in America. It’s basically pocket change opportunity.

King of Chinatown is a mobster who is protected by all the corrupt police and is made vulnerable via his vices (his car, drugs, need to go around and bully people) etc. If he’d been just like the richest guy in China Town he would have just hung around.

Charlie Sidjan is the designer of a guidance chip that’s used in the missiles that 47 that Sergei has - hence why he has bodyguards in his jacuzzi and a private security team on standby. Lorne de Havilland is a blackmailer who covers up murders in order to manipulate senators into doing his bidding.

Who’s this guy that’s going to put the oil business out of business? Tony Stark? Why’s it suddenly going to stop if he dies? He’s got an indestructible security system but he can’t back something up or write a will and testament? The oil tycoons can’t handle him by more conventional means like smear campaigns, litigation battles, etc. Who’s paying for all his security and research?

They facilitated the sale of at least one nuclear warhead to a super criminal named Sergei - that’s usually considered a bad thing.

Henry Hill, yes the guy from Goodfellas, got pinched multiple times after he entered witness protection for drug related crimes and misconduct. Agreeing to testify doesn’t magically make you a better person - it just means you’ve chosen to change sides for any number of reasons (like say avoiding being killed or jail time)

Most of the people I know socially who played Blood Money wanted to kill Swing King to put him out of his misery.

He’s the top assassin in the world after C47 - he can make shitloads of money, more than he ever could spend, killing bad people - and he doesn’t even spend that much of it.


No he doesn’t say that, he says “I can do whatever i’m paid to do”.


It’s a bit late to try to portray him as “absolutely neutral”. His job sends him to kill bad people.

The sequel to Codename 47 alone has you kill a Sidjan twin, whose most harmful deed seems to be hacking on behalf of his brother. He seems content to live in a pretty decrepit basement and live off cheap pizza; he doesn’t seem exactly “evil”.

The first game’s “canonical” assassinations (if the special cutscenes for the deeds you perform are of any distinction) have you kill a civilian for his clothes (The Lee Hong’s Assassination, for the poisoned soup). Dr. Kovacs stops really being an objective the moment SWAT bursts into the hospital (no cash from that), and killing him becomes pragmatic (clothes) and a bit more personal (he faciliated the experiments with Ort-Meyer).

Moving on to Contracts, 47’s memories involve killing Klaas Teller who’s only killed because he needs to be silenced. That same game penalizes you for killing Malcolm Sturrock, the actual perpetrator of the little girl’s gruesome death - although you can get Silent Assassin rank while having him among your kills, he still counts as an unnecessary kill nevertheless, and 47 “assumes the mission hasn’t changed” - Diana’s confirmation pretty strongly implies what the usual procedure is in such a case.

47’s job description, to me, has always been killing for the right price; whether it’s a good guy, a bad guy or someone in the way is a different thing. For what we know, he’s mostly been depicted killing only the bad guys. He’s also often hired by the bad guys (Hitman 1 and 2 both use that plot point) or more-or-less shadowy governments (the ICA has a strong relationship with the United Nations, Chad Bingham Jr. dies on behalf of someone from the Senate). Thing is, 47 is a scalpel, that scalpel is a good way to take out targets that are of some threat to someone while being rightfully paranoid about something. If you’re wealthy enough that you can afford him, you can afford any other candidate for the wetwork – at which point the only reason to hire 47 is if the assignment is extraordinairy - and how many “good” guys are there whose good behavior warrants massive paranoia and people going at such great lengths to assassinate them? It’s very easy to silence an altruist, a public figure, or a well-intentioned champion for someone’s rights who has no reason to hide and all the reason to come out to the public (Gandhi, Kennedy). 47 kills people who meet in secret. Who blend in with the crowd and have to be weeded out. Who enclose themselves for fear of people who are gunning for their spot. Not exactly good guy behavior in most cases.

That is to say, he is not of a “Neutral” character, to use a D&D moniker - to be able to kill for hire as a trade is pretty obviously evil, regardless of how much scum dies in the process. But he doesn’t seem to do his job out of any higher purpose; I would argue, myself, that it isn’t really 47 that isn’t neutral; his actions are colored by the intentions of the people sending him out (and people who pay for assassins aren’t exactly white knights themselves).

Someone (bit of a hurry and the layout is wonky - can’t quote much - sorry!) says that only Blood Money made him a badass “money first” man, but just look at Diana’s reaction to 47 asking for triple his “usual wage” and how he doesn’t do “ordinary hits” anyway – he gets a ton of money for what he does and he is quite selective when it comes to job commissions. Whether he does his job solely for monetary gain or whether having a lot of money is a gateway for his services of sorts (because if you’re willing to spend this much money on something, this gotta mean something good) is debatable.

Finally, my 2 gold pieces on the subject - humanization of the characters is fine, as long as it doesn’t get in the way. I’m an outspoken “luddite” so to speak and mostly play for the puzzles and challenge; Jarbinger has the right idea in that the ideas from Absolution like those stupid Wade/Skurky/Layla cutscenes have to go mostly because they added unnecesary cinematization. I like how humanization of the characters surfaced itself in the way they eat, they talk, they meet up with people, they act, especially in fear when they realize you’re coming to get them. Meeting Frantz Fuchs in the shower or ambushing Fabian Fuchs in the crapper is a pretty nice example.

I also agree that 47 just isn’t depicted as killing good guys because if they’re truly that good, they aren’t really that interesting to pursue.


Okay you clearly didn’t read the scenario or understand. If a person invents a infinite source of recyclable energy, that will most certainly put the oil industry out of business. But that’s not even what we’re arguing here, you’re straying off topic with semantics again.

Are you saying that 47 should be portrayed as a hero then? Because most hits are bad people, yes. But the games could not have been clearer that 47 invests zero interests in the clients’ motive or the personality of his targets. Are you arguing that all Hitman targets should be evil people? I don’t really understand what you’re trying to argue, you’re just attacking other people’s posts with semantics non-stop. You’re not adding anything to the discussion at all.

Also consider the scenario where a president was to be taken out during a meeting to send a message. The kind of security would easily be enough case to call in the ICA to take out a “innocent” target would it not? Just because most of the targets have been “evil” does not mean all of 47’s targets have to be. And just because a target is “innocent” doesn’t make the mission any less interesting.


Gotta say, I’m not particularly interested in feeling remorse over the hits I perform as Agent 47. I want to revel in the kill, that’s not gonna happen if I find the action super morally questionable.


Of course,47 shouldn’t hesitate killing someone who might blow his cover.(a nice example of it=first cutscene of till death do us part)killing is a dirty job,you sometimes have to kill an innocent just to leave no traces behind,that’s different,but the idea that “47 will kill anyone if you pay him good” isn’t correct.47 never tends to kill an innocent,unless the times when he has to,and it’s needed.

Imagine you’re a developer for H6,no doubt that you love your job,and you’re probably a professional at what you do,but neither of these will get in the way that…you should be paid real good to accept the job,that’s exactly why 47 receives payments for what he does,not that he’s a money lover,not to mention that he has nothing to spend that much money on.but as Joker says"if you’re good at something…never do it for free"


Some of the targets in my Level Ideas, that I posted a while ago, are for the most part not bad people.

You have an individual who hires 47 to eliminate his family because he’s been cut out of his father’s will. The father is an innocent while the brother is slightly dodgy. And in another the CIA want 47 to take out a US Senator primarily to stop her from becoming head of the intelligence oversight committee.

I also suggested in a different scenario that 47 might be hired to kill a specific target, but during the course of the mission he could discover that another person is actually guilty of the crime 47 is meant to avenge. So a lack of interest in exploration could see the player kill an innocent (although they wouldn’t discover this until someone in the real world told them about this little twist).

And I could see some other situations where the target for assassination might not be a totally bad person.

For instance the Japanese PSIA could hire 47 to kill a North Korean rocket scientist. The guy could be a genius with no interest in politics or war, and if he’d been born anywhere else he’d probably be employed working on a mission to Mars, or some such thing. But due to the circumstances of his birth he’s stuck working for the North Korean government, so he’s got to go.

You could have a rich Indian couple who’ve been forced by their families into an arranged marriage. Neither are happy, and want out but are trapped, so they both take out contracts on one another. 47 could choose to accept either contract. Perhaps one of them could be a worse character than the other.

You could have a situation where a person, such as a famous Central Asian human rights campaigner, is about to be uncovered, by long time enemies of his, as having embezzled charity funds many years ago. Previously he’s survived attempts on his life, so he is currently well guarded. 47 is hired to kill him before his legacy is destroyed. He will serve his cause better dead than alive.

And finally. You could have a scenario in the Middle East where an Arabian country’s leader is terminally ill. He has two possible successors. The first wants to continue being a dictator, like his father. However, he is different in that he is a declared moderniser. Specifically he wants to dramatically cut the military budget in order to increase spending in other areas and diversify his country’s economy away from being purely based on oil.

The second possible successor though has no interest in being a moderniser and wants to keep the country’s army, navy and air force just as they are.

47 is hired by the arms companies to assassinate the moderniser and ensure that the military spending, which amounts to billions of dollars annually, is maintained.


I think an indirect approach to this would be best. That is, IOI could humanize targets through NPC conversations or other such incidental means.

Overheard Conversations
Even though I considered much of the acting in Hitman: Absolution to be campy, I still remember that one guy getting the good news from his doctor on a phone call in the prologue as well as some schmuck having a spout with his significant other regarding his issues and trying to find peace and God in (I think) Terminus Hotel. Realistically, 47’s targets would have full lives, including problems and conversations about those problems upon which he could eavesdrop.

Disguise Conversations
Moving away from Absolution, I think that Hitman: Blood Money came close to a good approach in the mission Flatline. 47 could don the psychiatrist’s outfit and have a faux therapy session with his targets. The opportunity to humanize the targets presented itself ostensibly, though I do not opine that IOI capitalized on this.

Environmental Items
Another incidental approach could be through environmental items. Prestigious awards, divorce papers, photos, newspaper clippings, and other items could all help build a background story to help humanize the target.


This has already been debated ad nauseam in A darker, more mature Hitman


For all you know Clarence Thomas valued his life and wanted to live, as bad as his life seemed to be. To say you just wanted to end his misery is a cop out, and selfish on your part. At least I was honest.


I’ll stand by what I said before. Having 47 kill an innocent guiltless person in one of the levels in Hitman 6 would be a cool reminder of his character. A clone made specifically with the single motive of being a killer, that is his way of life, in his head, his purpose, the only way he truly knows how to live. 47 is a living loaded gun, and the one wielding it only needs to pay up to use it. No morality, no ethics.

Innocent people can be highly protected and make for good levels too. There is no reason to believe otherwise. We had a thread a while ago about a political assassination. Not every politician is an evil bastard. 47 killing the equivalent of Kennedy would make for a fascinating level to be sure.


There is no cop out here. In my eyes, he was responsible for the death of many children, and he managed to hoodwink the law and get away with the crime, albeit at a high cost of his money. Then instead of trying some good ventures, he rents out his run down amusement park to drug traffickers in the hopes that he will get a lot of money. Frankly, he sounds like someone who’s incompetent, cowardly and willing to stoop very low for his profit. That after all that he’s mistreated by his partners and his wife abandons him only shows that his plans didn’t work. He may value his life, but it’s very hard to get out of his position and he doesn’t seem capable of correcting his mistakes, or even facing them head on. So I think it was good that he died by 47’s hands.


I kind of disagree. I believe people, and when I say people I mean the audience, gamers, etc., don’t really want to know how sausage is made, meaning they don’t want to own up to the responsibilities of a real Hitman who kills indiscriminately and without remorse. It’s a heavy burden to carry. Imagine 47 being hired to assassinate a 7 year old because he/she is a witness to a murder, and let’s say this mission takes place early in the game, how is that gonna look, 47, the child killer carrying on for the rest of the game? Granted, there are exceptions to the rule and there will always be those people out there who enjoy human suffering and would be moved or indifferent to 47 slaughtering innocents, generally speaking though I don’t think it would work.

Killing innocents works with villains because villains are generally exciting and have other redeeming qualities and you always expect the villain to die at the end and pay for his sins (I’m not religious but I’m feeling metaphoric right now).