A case for immersion and story in Hitman

While seeing the mostly great reviews and YouTube content on Hitman III since January, it kind of bothered me how the story of the trilogy was being misrepresented.

“This game has a story?”
“Who plays Hitman for story? If you’re playing Hitman for story…”
“I don’t give a damn about the story in Hitman games” skips cutscene

This type of sentiment was repeated again and again.

A couple of things were common among these people. They didn’t really know much about the story from 1 and 2, and a lot of them mixed up ICA with Providence. Now this is of course in part due to the initial episodic release model and the 5 years that the story took to unfold, so you can’t exactly be surprised by this reaction.

But the people who never gave the story a real chance, also never held back on giving their severely uninformed opinions on the matter. That’s a little unfair.

I’m not saying that the story is Shakespeare, or even on par with the better videogame stories out there like RDR or LOU. But it is my belief, that taken in its full context the story is an engaging and interesting one, and it has it’s clear highpoints:

  • Grey as character, the side he brings out in 47 and how he ultimately stays true to his brother.
  • Diana acting as a vigilante conscience of 47 is a cool more modern take on Hitman and its morality.
  • The development from Agent 47 to a man with agency.

Those are just some of the things I appreciate about this story.

I have always enjoyed Hitman for the universe and the Hitman fantasy. The gameplay, story, universe, characters in one full experience. I have a feeling there are many players like me, even if the voices of the “who cares about story in Hitman”-crowd are so loud at the moment. This sentiment wasn’t really a thing with the original games back in the early 2000’s mind you.

I’m really glad that IOI stuck to their guns and really put the story front an center in H3 (even with internal pressure to do otherwise, as the Forest podcast revealed). Just play the new escalations, and feel how empty everything feels with no narrative connected to it. Even if you don’t like the story, narrative is always important to the overall experience of a game. Humans are narrative-driven beings.

The bigger point I’m getting to is that you can very legitimately play the Hitman trilogy for immersion and story, and I wanted to make a formal case for it and see if people agree.

“It’s a game about bald clone with a giant tattoo on his head that no one notices where you dress as a flamingo.”

Yes, just go straight to the most goofy disguise in the trilogy and make that the whole game. Hitman is an open experience where you can choose to go for the goofy stuff, but you can truly play this as a cool and immersive Agent experience as well (with dark humor sprinkled in there of course). You don’t have to choose the most flashy outfits.

And in some outfits, yes you truly have to suspend some disbelief to accept that no one notices 47 sticking out. But again, if you push the game away from the goofy stuff, most of the time you’ll be dressed as one of 100 guards (which 47 obviously looks the part) or one of 100 staff members. I’m not saying it’s realistic, but it doesn’t have to be as ridiculous as people make it out to be.

And for the barcode tattoo. No one knows about 47 or his appearance in the universe. So if you saw a barcode tattoo on a waiter (which is NOT in fact giant like people keep saying, but actually pretty subtle in the new games) in a universe where the game Hitman did not exist, I don’t believe you necessarily would go straight to concluding that he is an assassin.

I respect all playstyles in Hitman, and I believe one of the hallmarks of the game is its ability to cater to all of us. But I could hope for bit less ridicule for enjoying the immersion side of things.

Anyone with me?

Do you play Hitman for story and immersion?
  • Yes, it’s very important to the Hitman experience
  • No, I don’t care about that at all
  • They are ok, but gameplay rules

0 voters

Btw, I’ve been wanting to make this topic for a while, and Sunny Bunnyhop just released this excellent video in part about the trilogy story, and I really agree with his take. I highly recommend it:

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You can have story and immersion even without the whole providence thing being forced down your throat too. Plenty of depth in the cutscenes in H1 introducing the targets and then peeling back the layers of how they act and why.

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i think some kind of overarching story is important in making the game feel “complete”. in a lot of cases, the main story dictates which targets exist and which locations you go to.

i don’t play for the story, but it needs to be there if you wanna create something that feels satisfying in the end for a lot of players. im imagining the WoA trilogy if it didn’t have its overarching story, and i just cant see it being as memorable as it is. the introduction of Grey and their dynamic, how it plays into the levels, and finally being able to meet Diana in-person for the first time in franchise history because the story dictates it so.

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I love the Story of Hitman, from Codename 47 up to Blood Money, but it goes straight down hill from there sadly. HITMAN 2 is the worst.

I hope Morten Iverson will come back some day…

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When they throw retcons at someone that has been playing the series for 17 years, I can not be immersed but annoyed, especially since they tried too hard to make the plot be more serious and “realistic” but it ends up as being way too convoluted and dull.
It’s like the writers try way too hard to be noticed by Hollywood or something so that they can get another jab at a Hitman movie :roll_eyes:

If you want a good Hitman plot, play C47. If you want a decent plot, play H2SA. If you want a passable plot, BM / Contracts. :stuck_out_tongue:

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well i guess it turned out well seeing as they have 007 now :joy:

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I feel sorry for the Bond fans if IO decides to focus too much on the plot…

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What especially annoys me is the fact that every Hitman Game is written in a way that you can play and understand it without knowing the prior Games. Sure, it helps when you played Codename 47 before playing SA, but you still can fully understand its Story.

Those Retcons are not helping new Fans to understand overarching Story and a lot of old Fans are annoyed by them. They are only there to make it “easier” for the writers.

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Don’t get me wrong, I love the old games and grew up on them. And I agree that they are superior in some ways and definitely more tasteful and mysterious. I kind of dispense a bit with the story of the old games when playing the new trilogy myself. I play it as being a soft reboot with only major story beats of the old story in mind. They’re two separate interpretations to me.

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Retcons are something I could never bring myself to care much about, be it with a Hitman game, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Trek, or anything else. A lot of these stories are quite old (decades to half centuries at this point). The amount of content that many of these stories contain is mind boggling to me and I never expected every single detail of every single story to flawlessly mesh with everything that was revealed in the past.

Some level of continuity is needed, yes, but not 100%. My main argument for this is that it stifles creativity and forces subsequent creators to adhere to concepts that they don’t necessarily need to be tied down to. If an author like George R. R. Martin decides that in the 6th Game of Thrones book (yes I know it’s song of ice and fire and not really GOT) that Tyrion was actually 6 feet tall the entire time, that’s something that demands explanation. It’s a the same author messing up his own continuity. “I forgot” isn’t an acceptable excuse for that.

When some new TV show depicts Klingons without the hair that the older shows did, that isn’t some egregious error that “demands” explanation. It’s a stylistic choice. It’s OK and it doesn’t “take me out” of the show.

The basic outline of Hitman has stayed pretty constant for the last 20 years. 47 was cloned and raised in an asylum. He was trained to be the best possible Hitman and has a certain look to him. That’s pretty much all the background that you absolutely Have to adhere to. Anything else is nice, but not essential.

There are people who claim that Absolution isn’t really canon. Diana even refers to it as an “alternate universe” within Hitman 3. Why? It’s part of the series of games that IOI released under the Hitman name isn’t it? Players may not like it, but doesn’t doesn’t automatically make it non-canon. So what if players don’t want it to be canon. The events of Absolution are part of the Hitman story whether we like it or not. We can choose to ignore it but we can’t claim that it simply doesn’t count. We choose to accept as canon what we want to and ignore what we don’t. Providence is the same kind of thing. We may not like the story of Hitman 2016-Hitman 3 but it’s still the story being told.

People get up in arms and get “taken out” of the story for the smallest things these days. When we go to see the newest Spiderman movie, do we throw up our arms and storm out of the theater because Peter Parker’s web shooters are mechanical instead of part of his arms (or vice versa, depending on what source material you want to use)? No, we just sit back and enjoy the story being told. Rightfully so. What happened in the comics is immaterial to what happened in the movies and vice versa. I can’t stand people that will sit there and argue about how Thanos should have been 8.5 feet tall instead of 8.6 because way back in Marvel Comics number who-knows-what they showed him standing in a line-up or something else equally obscure.

Similarly, what happened in Blood Money is immaterial to what happened in Hitman 3. The basic outline is there and anything else is just immaterial. If it was intended to be part of the same consistent, non-changing, and canonical storyline, it wouldn’t be called Hitman 3 - it would Hitman 10 (or whatever number they’d be on). Each story stands on it’s own and tells it’s own thing with the basic foundation of a bald, clone hitman who was raised in that asylum.

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The WOA trilogy is amazing storytelling because it builds off of the games that came before, brings them to satisfying and logical conclusions, and explores what being whole again means for 47. What does it mean to be a man, and what do you have to do to make yourself into the kind of man you want to be?

C47: the Trauma and the Loss. 47 learns that he is a clone and has to gun down a hospital’s worth of people, many of whom look exactly like him, in order to meet and then kill his father who made him to be a weapon.

SA: Denial and bargaining. 47 goes into hiding, thinking he can escape the life he was bred to lead if he just gives enough to the church and lives a simple life but gets pulled back into it becase it’s the only thing he knows how to do to save his friend. By the end of the game, he’s disgusted with himself but also beyond the point where he can convince himself that he can be anything other than an assassin.

BM: Anger. 47 is no longer in denial but he doesn’t have to like himself. Names are for friends so I don’t need one. I can do anything I’m paid to do. I’m sorry to hear [about your impending death] - where’s my money? He gets cornered by a much stronger enemy and it seems like going out in a blaze of glory is his only option but he has Diana to pull him back from the ledge.

Absolution: Depression. He fucks up. Big. And it sends him to the lowest point we see him at. It’s not a coincidence that the first few levels take place in the rain and that almost every level after that is in somewhere dry and dusty. Sadness and numbness. And it’s only after he does helps Victoria and saves her that he starts to come out of it.

Now in WOA he’s beyond the grieving process. He’s accepted that he is a killer and he’s good at it but he also has people in his life who care very deeply for him because of who he is not what he can do for them. Grey only needs 47 to be his brother. Diana recognizes that she’s been using him and loves him enough to set him free and let him decide who he wants to be. It’s significant that the Bad Ending is, effectively, a kind of suicide. It doesn’t matter what kind of man he’s worked so hard to become. It can all go away in an instant if he gives into despair.

So no, I don’t understand the criticism of the game’s lore. It’s subtle and you can absolutely miss the inferences if you’re not paying attention but it’s incredibly intricate and well done.

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My criticism of the HITMAN World of Assassination story is it is way too convoluted for the casual fan to follow along.

Gonna spoiler the rest just in case.

In Season 1, 47is initially just performing seemingly unrelated hits, until it becomes clear a “Shadow client” is manipulating 47 to take out targets connected to a larger organization “Providence”. Fair enough. After realizing this, 47 takes out Erich Soders, who was a Providence mole (doing exactly what the Shadow Client wanted for some reason), then the Constant approaches Diana with Providence to hire the ICA against the Providence in exchange for information on 47’s past (which she accepts for some reason).

After killing several Shadow Client operatives on behalf of Providence, it turns out the Shadow Client is your “brother/ fellow clone”, and Providence are the bad guys. Lucas Grey (Shadow Client) reveals 47’s past via serum and that’s enough for the two to be best buddies again (somehow). Now 47 is attacking Providence again in Another Life onwards, but pretending to still be Providence clients (claiming Janus is the true Shadow Client).

ICA is still working for Providence in general, so by the time of Season 3, 47 and Diana are renegade agents, now working against both the ICA and Providence teamed up. 47 destroys the ICA for some reason, despite the fact they are seemingly just a neutral assassination agency working for the highest bidder (Providence in this case). Then Diana betrays you too, and joins up with Providence. But it is revealed she is secretly working with 47 all along and she was a double agent. At the end, you and Diana start your own new assassination agency, filtering for “moral” clients (apparently Diana is a good judge for this even though she/ 47 switched sides like 5 times???).

I hope I’m not alone in saying this makes my head spin, and not in a good way.

TL:DR (no spoilers): The story is excessively complicated especially for the casual playing the story once, likely with a few years breaks between HITMAN 1/2/3. The protagonists switch sides constantly and their loyalty is easily bought with info on 47’s past. The story tries to have a moral message even though the protagonists are shown to be poor judges of morality multiple times in the series (going back and forth on if certain organizations and individuals are morally correct, etc).

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I’m in the middle of replaying all three game back to back as one experience, to see the story and plot develop in one coherent narrative and not something I experienced over the last 5 years.

I wasn’t a big fan of the narrative from the start of H16, It felt a bit flat and superficial. H2 added more into this continuation and so did the comic, which didn’t impress me and it still doesn’t. However H3 added a lot renewed value into overarching plot and in my mind reframed some of past plot lines to the better, while creating a nice little bow on top of a overall narrative that goes back to the very start of the 2000’s.

I’m very curious to see how my overall impression of the trilogy develops while I replay the games.

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I did exactly the same thing after I finished the main Hitman 3 campaign. For me, the story wasn’t too complicated at all. I really barely remember the story behind the earliest games so I didn’t have that baggage, but the main story line of Hitman (2016) through Hitman 3 was coherent and understandable. The only thing really that felt out of place and disconnected was the Lucas Grey plot point of the end of Hitman 2. I still maintain that the way that they framed that Constant escape followed by Grey getting a text message that everything was “going according to plan” was a mis-step. It honestly felt like they were setting up a plot point about either Grey being bad or Olivia being bad and then in Hitman 3 that was just dropped entirely. It felt like they changed their mind mid-stream.

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I’ll put it real simple:

The prologue to Carpathian Mountains was one of the best cinematics I’ve ever seen. Right up there with MGS. I was taken by surprise.

It made you feel for 47 and his actions. Absolutely breathtaking.

Intricate is the right word for sure, which is why it is usually falls upon deaf ears. I always relate it to MGS lore due to the sinuous story. Both are unlike any other game IMHO.

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This was great response :+1:

I had never thought about the games as the stages of grief, but you really proved it. This adds a whole layer of depth to 47 in my eyes

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Sorry, but what is “MGS”?

Metal gear solid :wink:

Edit: I think so at least :sweat_smile:

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It should be, since it matches his description of a complicated story, with body doubles everywhere. Makes zero sense if you don’t look at the entire picture but it’s a very interesting story if you see the big picture.

p.s. speaking of body doubles, i ran past the ‘sephiroth’ hobo in chongqing ‘slums’ and was thinking, what if that’s actually Hush and sister Lei is the mastermind and is now using a brainwashed hobo as a tool.

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Yes, Metal Gear Solid.

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