I bought hitman 2 and all of its content, including the 2016 game’s legacy pack, in January of this year. I was vaguely aware that these games existed, but never knew what they were about. For me, they existed in name only.
I am thankful I stumbled upon it. It was one of the most intriguing games I have experienced in years.
Looking at the game in a technical aspect, it was amazing. The game play is fun and the levels are well-designed. I have over 120 hours and have only completed about 60% of the content and look forward to playing the rest.
But, I am here to give my thoughts on characters themselves.
In writing and story building, your character’s emotions take center point. So much of what the viewer experiences comes from understanding the protagonist. Sure, this is a video game and a lot people only care about the gamplay, which is fine. The fact that a story is even attempted makes these games better than many other titles. So, in writing this, I am going to ignore the gameplay aspects. I am just going to look at the character aspects.
47 is an emotionless super solider clone. On the surface he is not supposed to care about anything. He is made to follow orders and to never question them. Yet, he turns against his creator, meaning he must feel something. Fear? No, I don’t think he fears anything, but there does seem to be hatred and anger.
Here lies my issues with the story of these games. In order for 47 to want to do anything other than follow orders, he must feel something. Want and need are very different feelings. You need to eat. You need to sleep. But you want to watch certain movies, you want to plant a vegetable garden, you want to use rubber ducks as explosives.
He must WANT to take down the people responsible for making him. He must WANT to remember his past. He must WANT to help Diana in absolution. We are never shown why he wants anything. He just acts and we are expected to accept it.
I could rant for hours about the issues I have with absolution’s story. Instead, I will focus on 47. He has ‘personality traits’ in that game. Wanting to help a girl who is similar to him, sparing Diana and even comforting as she lies injured, having a preference for a certain pair of guns that goes so far as to be seen as an emotional attachment to them. Despite absolution’s issues, I find that version of 47 to be the most ‘relatable.’ He seems like a human being. In 2016 and 2018, he acts much more robotic.
47’s conversations with people through those two games may lead me to believe he does have a sense of humor, or at the very least is a sociopath who is thrilled by the prospect of another kill. Hinting to his victims of what is to come. Or, he could be stating simple facts and it means nothing to him. This is where my problems lie. It is left up to interpretation on what is going through 47’s head.
His personality, or lack there of, is vague and confusing at times. Why does he use rubber ducks for explosives? (ignoring that it is probably just a comical thing added by the game devs) Why does he prefer fancy suits? Those suits stand out in many locations and dressing casual would be a better camouflage tactic. Meaning he must hold some preference for these items.
In the 2016 game, the scene in the airport stands out to me. 47 is very detached. Diana is troubled, hinting they are being used. But all 47 cares about is that the contract is complete, and they should move on. Diana also acts wary of 47. This fits for a character who feels nothing. Being used as a pawn would not matter to an emotionless living weapon. Moving on to the 2018 game, 47 is suddenly willing to risk everything because his supposed forgotten childhood best friend is back and giving him his memories back. It goes from a man following orders without question to a man seeking revenge.
It is too harsh of a character shift. In absolution you have a man willing to risk his life to save a little girl, then years later he is back to being an emotionless hitman who cares for nothing, then becomes a semi-emotionless hitman who also wants revenge.
If this was a novel or a movie, the story would benefit from showing small character quirks. 47’s thought process for why he wears his suits, why he uses certain weapons. To be shown what he is thinking when he is hinting to his victims of what is to come. What does he do between missions? Stare blankly at a wall? Train obsessively? Knit kitten scarfs? Does he feel anything for the people around him? Absolution would make you think so, but 2016 says otherwise. Many games will have little journal entries for you to get to know the characters. To see into their minds. I wish there was a way to add this to hitman.
The main goal is to make the game enjoyable to play. Whether or not 47 has a hobby and the consistency in character development is the least of the devs concerns. Which is fine for them to focus on what will bring them the most profit. I doubt 70% of their players even care about story.
I know this post will probably be disregarded. But I want to write this down and get it off my mind.
This world and it’s characters interest me. It’s unfortunate the two movie attempts were failures. There is an amazing film story to be told here if the right people could get their hands on it. A way to delve deep into the characters. Diana is just as interesting as 47. Her parents died and instead of becoming a lawyer or a cop she chose to join a hitman agency. The game doesn’t need to focus on any of this to be great. Which is where a film could become the vessel for the story, and the game stick to what it does best, which is the mechanics and maps.
My rant is over. I am tired now. I thank anyone who takes the time to read my ramblings. I do love this game. Any criticism I have of it comes from a place of fascination with it and wanting it to be the very best. At least now this might stop bothering me.
I will leave you with this. An example of a world building journal/mission log that could be read in upcoming games.
Diana Burnwood: Entry 150-Date: 9/20/15
Agent 47’s recent method of target elimination continues to amaze me. The first target he drowned in the toilet, quite violently I might add, after slipping rat poison into the subject’s drink. A brutal method, but one I have grown used to. It was in that same night he placed an unassuming yellow child’s toy on the desk of the second target. Perhaps it was my imagination, but when asked why he was placing a rubber duck on the desk, there was a visible upturn of the agent’s lips when informing me of the explosives inside.
An hour later the target discovered the toy, and quite confused by its appearance lifted the device. 47 remote-detonated the device from the safety of the sport’s car he commandeered from the garage. I am uncertain of my emotions of that night. The sight of human anatomy and bright yellow rubber splattering the pale gray walls of a Victorian town home has stuck with me. As a child, I played with many a similar toy. I must say 47’s increasing arsenal verges on comical, especially for a man unable to feel any such emotion.
Diana Burnwood: Entry 181-Date: 2/4/2017.
A turn of evens has required me to visit my agent in the field to deliver sensitive data. Agent 47 has given an address for his current safe house. The 9th floor London flat was as I expected. Sparsely decorated, stocked with only the necessities and lacking any personal touch. He greeted me with cold empty eyes, and the invitation to enter was a stiff nod of the head.
He received the data, I gave him the briefing, and not a touch of emotion was on his face, nor was there questions to be asked. I often wonder if I gave the order to kill children would his reaction be the same. He was made to be the perfect solider. 47, the living weapon, and I controlled the trigger.
I noticed his preferred pistol, the ICA silverballer, taken apart and scattered across a metal table with bright light illuminating it. The muzzle was scratched and the grip dented. The sight was cracked and the silencer was cut in multiple places from where he had to forcefully remove it from the gun. This was the result of close combat from a previous mission. I assumed the gun was no longer usable and he would dispose of it.
When asked why he had not requested a new pistol, his response was to say he preferred the current one. Even when promised to be given the exact make and model, 47 insisted of fixing the ruined pistol. There was almost the spark of something in his cold, predatory eyes. In any other person I would view it as emotional attachment. He did not have a simple, logical answer for why he needed to fix that particular silverballer. His eyes shifted from the gun, to me, back to the gun, and settled on the blacked-out window above my head. Was he experiencing discomfort? Eventually, his response was to say he preferred this silverballer above anything else.
I had overstayed my welcome . I left him to prepare for the mission. The last sight was of him standing over the pistol with a critical gaze. Looking back, the only explanation I have is that Agent 47 is attached to that weapon. There is no other reason for his behavior. I could provide him with dozens of silverballers identical to that one. Though, they would never hold the history of that same weapon, which he has used for over two decades in the ICA’s service. It was HIS silverballer.
I need to make a note of this emotional development. This could prove problematic for upcoming contracts.