The Best Levels From The Entire Hitman Series

I recently finished Hitman 3 and absolutely loved it. The game, no, the entire World of Assassination trilogy, starting in 2016, has been one of the greatest gaming experiences I have ever had.

IO Interactive really pulled out all the stops for this trilogy, with stunning locations, unique scenarios, and one of the most personal and human stories in the AAA gaming scene. The reboot, which is now over five years old, still looks beautiful even when running off an ageing PS4.

Today I wanted to talk more about the locations Agent 47 visits in his grand tours around the world. The series is known for creating some of the most breath-taking and intricate levels in gaming, so I wanted to rank the best locations from every single game, starting with Codename 47 from 2000 up until the most recent game from 2021. Let’s start!

Hitman: Codename 47 – “Traditions of the Trade

Despite being over twenty years old, the original Hitman has one of the best levels the series has ever devised, containing a perfect blend of location and eliminations.

“Traditions of the Trade” sees 47 head to the Hotel Galar in Budapest (based on the famous Hotel Gellért) to take out Austrian terrorists Frantz and Fritz Fuchs and collect a chemical bomb Frantz has planted in the hotel.

The level is absolutely stunning, giving the players an entire hotel to explore. In comparison to the other levels in the original Hitman, this one values player freedom and non-linear gameplay as the highest priority. There are zero waypoints to your targets, but the game gives you clues to where to start searching.

For example, what would be the first thing to do in a hotel? Maybe check-in at the front desk. When you sign the guest book, you see one of the target’s room numbers. It’s so simple but perfectly logical, and the entire series has made a habit of including details like these.

The hotel is a nice and calm setting, you’re not immediately being hunted or needing to be stealthy. But that doesn’t mean the level is easy to beat. Security is tight (the hotel is about to host the UN, hence the threat of a terrorist event) so players have to work within the limitations set.

Metal detectors are placed at the entrance of the hotel, meaning you can’t bring any weapons with you. That’s something quite revolutionary for the series, you can complete the level without firing a single shot.

Some unique kills and scenarios (staples of the series) are present here, such as trapping Fritz in a sauna and turning up the heat, and jumping from balcony to balcony to reached Frantz’s bathroom, the only place he isn’t surrounded by guards.

Despite its simple premise, “Traditions of the Trade” is a quintessential Hitman level, with it being the template for many locations throughout the series.

“Traditions of the Trade” is so iconic it was remastered for the 2004 game, Hitman: Contracts, almost unchanged in terms of gameplay. (Source: hitman.fandom.com)

Hitman 2: Silent Assassin – “The Jacuzzi Job

A short level, but a fun one due to the location alone. “The Jacuzzi Job” is the final section of three missions that see 47 head to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, chasing a hacker who has stolen a valuable missile software programme.

I absolutely love this set of missions purely due to the setting, the Petronas Towers, which at the time were the tallest structures in the world. And while the first mission set in the towers takes 47 to the basement, “The Jacuzzi Job” takes place in the penthouse suite.

To reach his target, 47 first has to traverse the roof of the skybridge between the two structures, before using a window-cleaning platform to reach what is, essentially, the top of the world. Taking place during a horrendous thunder storm, with rain lashing down the windows, the location is dark and creepy.

47 must make his way through a series of work offices before the penthouse, with the soft glow of the computers casting shadows across the smart yet mundane work spaces. This is then contrasted with the penthouse suite with its dark-red lighting fixtures, ostentatious architecture, and tacky signs of luxury.

The target, Charlie Sidjan, is surrounded by his female bodyguards (you could call them is ‘Angels’?), chilling in the jacuzzi as the level implies.

To not arouse suspicion from the authorities following Sidjan’s death, 47 has to make his hit look like a robbery gone wrong by stealing some tasteless yet expensive art. It’s an interesting inversion of the standard Hitman trope of being a ‘silent assassin’, leaving no evidence you were even there, making it stand out amongst the rest of the series.

Charlie with his ‘Angels’, with 47 waiting for the right moment to strike. (Source: hitman.fandom.com)

Hitman: Contracts – “The Meat King’s Party

Hitman: Contracts took a series already known for its dark tone and turned it up to eleven. While some fans think the mission “Beldingford Manor” is the better level, I think the “The Meat King’s Party” is the more iconic.

Set in Romania, 47 is tasked with killing slaughterhouse entrepreneur Campbell Sturrock, and his lawyer, Andrei Puscus.

Sturrock was accused of kidnapping the daughter of an ICA cilent (the International Contracts Agency, 47’s employers), but because of legal technicalities and a few bribes, Sturrock got away scott-free. 47 infiltrates the celebratory freedom party being hosted at one of Sturrock’s slaughterhouses to rescue the daughter and eliminate his targets.

The party is absolutely wild. A BDSM-inspired rave with leather-clad guests fuelled by opium pipes and dancing to a dark techno beat, strobe lights dancing off the clinical white walls and machinery, the location alone would be enough to grant its place on this list.

The main target is another highlight. Campbell Sturrock is absolutely grotesque. Morbidly obese, unable to leave his bed due to his size, and eating entire roast chickens with his hands, he is disgusting and vulgar, and one of the stand out targets of the entire series.

But the detail that makes “The Meat King’s Party” stick in the mind is The Girl. Kidnapped by Campbell before being handed over to his psychotic brother Malcolm, 47 finds the girl hanging upside down, her eyes gouged out and her severed arm on the floor under her. Car tree air fresheners hang from the ceiling with her. To one side is a shrine of sorts, and to another is a gramophone playing Paul Anka’s “Put Your Head On My Shoulder”.

And the most chilling part…despite Malcolm being the girl’s killer, Diana, 47’s handler, tells him the mission hasn’t changed. To get the perfect rating, Malcolm must survive. Even in Hitman’s twisted world, sometimes the bad guys still escape justice.

47 collecting ‘evidence’ of The Girl, truly ones of the most chilling moments in a series known for its dark tone. (Source: YouTube, Willzyyy)

Hitman: Blood Money – “A House of Cards

Hitman: Blood Money is widely considered to be the best game of the series. With improved AI, greater flexibility with kills, and a story that takes 47 all across America, it is still the benchmark for every subsequent game to compare itself against.

With levels such as “A Dance With The Devil” (a Heaven/Hell themed party filled with rival assassins) “Curtains Down” (killing the lead tenor during an opera house rehearsal) or “Amendment XXV” (killing the US Vice-President INSIDE the White House), it takes something special to stand out in Blood Money. For me, “A House of Cards” reaches that peak.

Set in a giant, Arabic-inspired hotel and casino, “A House of Cards” has three targets for 47 to eliminate, each one working on a different schedule, but crossing paths at set times. It creates a tense atmosphere when trying to juggle all the moving parts and manipulating events, making it that much more rewarding when the plan goes right.

It’s also remarkable how many ways you can take out your targets; catching them alone in their hotel suite, sniping them from the roof, strangling them in the elevator shaft, or even impersonating one of the targets and heading to a secret meeting with the others. With everywhere from the casino floor to the penthouse suites being available, it is truly one of the greatest of Blood Money’s stellar levels.

The Shamal Hotel & Casino sets the stage for one of the most intricate and layered missions in all of Hitman. (Source: hitman.fandom.com)

Hitman: Absolution – “Attack of the Saints

While Absolution is seen as a lesser game in comparison to its franchise, it still has a few stand-out levels.

Some favorites include “Run For Your Life”, with 47 on the run from the police, ending with him having to wait in a crowded metro station without being spotted, hiding amongst the civilians, before slipping away onto an incoming train.

Another is “One of a Kind”, where 47 visits his blind tailor, Tommy Clemenza, to fix him a new suit. It’s a small level, but adds so much to 47 and his world.

But the one I chose for this list is the big one, “Attack of the Saints”. First seen in a promotional teaser trailer, the Saints are a team of female assassins who are dressed in BDSM-inspired nun outfits. It’s a little out-there, but it fits into the grindhouse aesthetic Absolution goes with.

The Saints hunt 47 down to a seedy motel he’s laying low in, and proceed to blow up the entire complex. It’s the first time 47 has ever been caught completely off-guard, dressed in nothing but a skimpy bathrobe and having none of his gear, as the Saints close in to make sure the job is done.

The setting of the motel and surrounding landscape including Tiki bars, a mini-golf course, and cornfields, are the perfect variety of locations, giving us everything from tight hallways to open plains. The cornfield especially, it’s so much fun stalking through the long grass, silently taking out one Saint after another, with bonus points for dressing up as a scarecrow in the cornfield and hanging from his post.

It’s one of the few levels in Absolution that reaches to Blood Money’s success, giving us a variety of targets spread across the map and lets us get on with it, taking them out how we see fit. The Saints are touted as the best agents below 47 and are all heavily armed, so it does feel suitably badass to see 47 take down the people gunning for his job as top of the ICA.

The Saints in their debut appearance, the E3 ‘Attack of the Saints’ trailer, gearing up to take down 47. (Source: gamezone.de)

Hitman (2016) – “World of Tomorrow

To anyone that has played through Hitman (2016) the choice of this level is no surprise and for good reason. The second level of the World of Assassination trilogy takes 47 to Sapienza, a small fishing town in Italy, which hides a dark secret. 

While the first mission of the reboot, “The Showstopper” (set in Paris), was an excellent first step for the game, “World of Tomorrow” was the perfect follow-up. The location is amazing; a beautiful sea-side town, complete with cafes, winding narrow streets, and even beaches.

The targets, two bio-engineers, are housed in an impressive manor built amongst ancient castle ruins, with spectacular gardens and walkways and even an observatory dome complete with giant telescope.

But the location that makes “World of Tomorrow” such a memorable level is the almost sci-fi chemical weapons laboratory underneath the small town. Hitman has always had a little dash of sci-fi (I mean, 47 is a result of a Cold War cloning experiment), but this feels like something straight out of a James Bond film (funnily enough, IOI are now working on a 007 game, which I have previously written about).

Along with the two targets, 47 is tasked with destroying the virus they had been working on. It’s always fun when the levels ask us to do more than just kill targets, such as crack safes or even destroying organs ready for transplant surgery. What’s even better, there is more than one way to destroy the virus, one remotely and one more up-close and personal, catering to different play styles.

Player freedom is at an all-time high in “World of Tomorrow”, with several ways of killing the targets, anything from shooting down a plane using a cannon (from the castle walls), to using an explosive golf ball when a target practices their drive.

The location, tied with the signature eliminations, makes it one of the best levels the series has to offer.

Death and destruction are always an inch away in Sapienza, where 47 hunts down the greatest minds of their generation. (Source: hitman.fandom.com)

Hitman 2 (2018) – “The Ark Society”

Hitman 2 expanded on its predecessor’s work with more intricate level design, distinctive scenarios for each location, and more unique ways to eliminate a target.

Levels such as “The Finish Line”, set at a Miami racing event (with one target driving their prototype vehicle), “Chasing a Ghost”, set in the Mumbai slums (where 47 has to deduce who one of his targets is), and “The Last Resort”, set in the Maldives (with targets hiring you mid-mission to enact their own schemes) are absolutely stunning and worthy of taking 2nd place on this list. But for me, the top place has to go to “The Ark Society”.

Set on a remote North Atlantic island off the coast of Scotland, “The Ark Society” is mesmerising as a location. The main complex is a medieval castle with burial sites, chapels, and a maze of sewer tunnels underneath, yet has a giant glass meeting box perched atop the keep, a dash of modernity clashing with the ancient.

The Ark Society are a collection of wealthy elites, plotting how they will survive the apocalypse, designing remote cities to flee to, researching new ways to extend their lives, and checking out the newest and most lucrative tech companies to invest in.

And because it’s a party, everyone is donned in formal wear and domino masks, aside from the higher level members, who have ceremonial robes.

It’s all pomp and circus, pageantry and playing at running the world, yet it is the perfect hunting ground for 47.

The two targets, the leaders of The Ark Society, are twin sisters coming from a nouveau riche family. To prove they belong with the old money members, they enact crazy schemes like placing themselves inside a phoenix effigy or putting prospective members through a polygraph test and electroshock torture.

The great twist on this level is the VIP, The Constant. 47 wants to extract him for later interrogation, but the twins are under strict orders that if The Constant becomes compromised then they have authority to use a “kill switch”. Inside The Constant’s head is a poison chip, and each twin has a detonator on them to use at any point. Before 47 can secure The Constant, he needs to be in possession of both switches.

It’s a cool theme, taking away a small amount of freedom to make players feel tense, having to ‘protect’ someone from the other targets has been done before but not to this extreme.

“The Ark Society” is an amazing level and the perfect crescendo to Hitman 2.

The blend of the old and the new makes The Isle of Sgàil one of the most memorable and unique locations of the entire series. (Source: hitman.fandom.com)

Hitman 3 – “Apex Predator”

Some fans of Hitman 3 will say that “Death In The Family” is the best mission of the game. It’s a good candidate; set in an old country manor in Dartmoor, England, and featuring a Knives Out-inspired murder mystery that the player can solve…but for me “Apex Predator” takes the top honour.

The set up; 47 is on the run from his own people and the shadowy Providence faction. It’s not the first time that 47 has been hunted, but after being possibly betrayed by his long-time handler and friend, Diana, 47 is at rock-bottom. He plans to meet his only other contact, Olivia, in Berlin, but just as he zeroes in on her location she tells him to abort their mission.

47’s employer, the ICA, has found the duo, with agents having orders to shoot on sight. Olivia is ready to cut and run, but 47 calmly tells her to keep her head down, signing off with, “I’ll take care of this.”

“Apex Predator” has one of the best locations of the entire series. IO Interactive love setting missions in clubs. We’ve had “The Meat King’s Party” in Contracts, “A Dance With The Devil” in Blood Money, and “Hunter and Hunted” in Absolution.

“Apex Predator” builds upon Blood Money‘s club setting, even keeping the Hell motif, with the name of the nightclub being Club Hölle, and expanding the rival agents from two in Blood Money to twelve in Hitman 3.

Set in a disused nuclear power plant and based on the infamous and iconic Berghain nightclub, it is disorientating and imposing. Between the three separate dance floors, coat rooms, smoking areas, juice bars, back rooms filled with gun-toting bikers, and even the DJ booth, it is an excellent sandbox for the player.

The best part though, the player has no idea who the enemy agents are. Disguised amongst the party goers, club security, bar staff, and more, it is a real unique and discomforting experience, not knowing if the next person you bump into is one of your hunters.

As the level goes on, 47 gets hold of an earpiece and listens in on the handler controlling the operation and the cocky agents who don’t realise they are in way over their heads.

As 47 picks off each agent, the handler, Jiao, becomes more and more panicked, eventually calling off the mission once enough agents are dispatched. If the player manages to kill all twelve, Jiao remarks, “Expertly done, 47. Expertly fucking done.”

It’s a small moment, but paired with 47’s line, “I’ll take care of this”, it elevates the level into iconic territory. Despite being hunted by some of the ICA’s most accomplished and battle-hardened assets, 47 is…well, the apex predator.

The variety of kills is astonishing, with everything from dropping lighting fixtures onto the dance floor, to arranging a closed door meeting with several assassins, where 47 reveals his identity before getting into a raging gun fight.

The location, paired with the excellent set up and loop of hunting and being hunted, make it quite possibly my favourite level of the entire series.

Death awaits 47 on the dance floor of Club Hölle, the main location of “Apex Predator”. Source: pcgamer.com.

Banner Photo Source: playstationlifestyle.com

Thoughts On Project 007

James Bond games used to be a major force in the licensed game industry.

Starting with Goldeneye in 1997, players were blessed with a fantastic new game every other year, featuring different play styles and genres as the years went on.

We had the excellent first-person shooter Nightfire, the superb third-person shooters Everything or Nothing and From Russia With Love, and even a remake of the classic Goldeneye, which updated the 1995 film to the modern day, complete with Daniel Craig instead of Pierce Brosnan as the iconic superspy.

But after a few years in the 2010s, with only the poor Quantum of Solace adaptation in 2008, the okay Blood Stone in 2010, and the abysmal 007: Legends in 2012, the series has been dark for nearly a decade. That all changed in the tail end of 2020.

Back in November 2020, IO Interactive, the Danish developer of Hitman, posted a tweet teasing their next game, with the working title Project 007.

The trailer, which is just under one minute in length, shows someone loading a bullet into a gun, before the camera sweeps around to show the iconic gunbarrel, accompanied by the James Bond theme. IO also posted a press release on their website, saying the that the story will be a “…wholly original Bond story…” where players will “…earn their 00 status in the very first James Bond origin story.”

While it is still early days, as a James Bond fan, I’m already hooked on a new game being on the horizon.

With nothing less known about the project, let’s do a bit of speculating, and create a wishlist of things that I would like to see in the game.

For Your Eyes Only – What Would I Like To See In Project 007

A New Bond

With IO’s phrase, a “wholly original Bond story” in their press release, and Daniel Craig stepping away from the role after the film No Time To Die, it seems like IO’s 007 will have nothing in connection with the most recent incarnation of Bond films.

I think this is a good thing. While the mid-2000s were the peak of licensed games, with Spiderman 2, The Chronicles of Riddick, and The Simpsons: Hit and Run, nowadays the market has shrunk to a mere fraction of what it once was.

Sure, every now and again you’ll get an Insomniac Spiderman, Telltale Walking Dead, or WB Shadow Of Mordor, but these are few and far between. However, these games smartly take their setting and characters, and create an alternate universe that stands apart from the more famous media. Project 007 should work on the same factor.

But with no cinematic Bond to base the main character on, what would he look like? In IO’s press release, it says “…players with earn THEIR 00 status”, could we take this to mean that some character customisation could be involved? To take the customisation point further, players could be awarded experience points to make Bond quicker, stealthier, tougher, better with gadgets or weapons, in essence, making their Bond entirely unique to them. I think this would be a fun angle for players, and would be cool to see the different variations that we could make.

However, even though the game is named Project 007, the name James Bond comes up many times in the press release, so sadly I don’t think we’ll be seeing any playable female agents in the main story.

A New (Old) Era

IO’s main series, Hitman, is a thoroughly modern game, always full of hi-tech gadgets and settings. While it would be easy for IO to slip in 007 to these locales, I think it might be fun for the developers to leap back in time. It would be something not just interesting and original for IO by setting it apart from the Hitman series, but would also be new for the Bond license. The majority of the games have been set around the Pierce Brosnan/Daniel Craig era, with one outlier, From Russia With Love, an adaptation of the 1963 film, complete with Sean Connery voicing 007.

Setting the game in the 1950s and 60s means the game would be full of tense East vs. West standoffs, with Bond going against his KGB contemporaries. Being hunted and hunting enemy spies or double agents is a perfect scenario for any spy media, and I hope Project 007 has at least one mission based on this idea.

The 1960s also gives us new weapons, unique architecture, and snazzy suits (we know how much IO likes their suits). Being set in the past, the game also deals with the ‘smart phone’ problem. In more recent 007 games, especially ones based on Daniel Craig’s interpretation of Bond, 007’s smartphone is his primary gadget. It’s a camera, a tracker, a communication device, a codebreaker, it does EVERYTHING. Having the setting be the early 60s means the game can be creative with a range of gadgets, like a laser watch, sonic cufflinks, and coins as grenades to name a few.

From Russia With Love has been the only James Bond game to be set in the past. Maybe Project 007 could be the same? (Source: denofgeek.com)

A Mash Of Genres

Many James Bond games are straight-up shooters, but I think that loses a lot of their character. It’s less 007 and more CoD. To alleviate this, I think a 007 game should have a mix of styles.

Just like the new Hitman games, 007 should be able to shoot his way through to his objectives, but stealth should also be a viable option. It would also be quite refreshing to have a few levels where killing is forbidden or highly discouraged, and we have to focus more on a simple Judo chop or our gadgets than our trusty silenced pistol.

It might also be good to take some inspiration from what previous games got right. The great granddaddy of James Bond games is Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64. While it is chock-full of baddies to blast away, Goldeneye tasks Bond with sending messages, escorting Soviet defectors, installing gadgets, and photographing evidence. These simple tasks made the game more ‘alive’ than some modern 007 games, as we are doing actual spy work.

Another staple from previous games that was always a joy were the driving sections. IO have never done a driving game, but they could take the same approach to vehicular gameplay as they did for Hitman, using the 2001 game Agent Under Fire as a reference.

In many James Bond games, the driving sections are little more than linear or even on-rails affairs, where players just have to maintain speed and not crash to continue. In Agent Under Fire, Bond is given an open world to drive around in and complete his tasks. These are everything from tracing a suspect vehicle, delivering codes to MI6, to shooting down enemy helicopters. The open approach gives the player so much freedom, where even if they crash or go a different way, they aren’t immediately thrown to the ‘Game Over’ screen. IO should really take inspiration from the past 007 games and recreate what made them fun.

Multiplayer?

Multiplayer deathmatches have become a staple of James Bond games ever since Goldeneye, with players being able to choose from a rogues gallery of prior Bond characters, in iconic locations, and blow each other to pieces.

While IO could implement a fun third-person shootout, I think they could also reuse their multiplayer aspect from Hitman, having two agents (say, MI6 and KGB) race to complete their missions, all the while trying to stop the other from completing theirs.

If we added the customisation aspect I mentioned previously, I think this could be a really fun way to see how different players work with their unique versions of Bond.

IO also have little modes in Hitman such as Contracts (players select a target and test others to kill them in a specific way) and the Sniper Challenge (players have to eliminate certain targets but only with their sniper) that with a little tweak could easily slot into the world of 007. These mini games don’t even have to be connected to the main game, but can be a fun offshoot for players to mess with. 

The Hitman Sniper Challenge from Absolution. Something like this in Project 007 would be cool. (Source: ioi.dk)

Conclusion

As I said in the opening, it’s been nearly a decade since we last had a James Bond game. Games have moved on, not just in terms of trends and graphics, but with new gameplay modes and interactivity.

Back in the day, James Bond used to help push the games industry forward, from experienced and lauded developers such as Rare, Eurocom, EA Redwood Shores (later known as Visceral) and Bizarre Creations.

With Goldeneye in 1997, it showed that an FPS could work on home consoles. Everything or Nothing and From Russia With Love are still marvels of artistry and design, with insanely detailed models of Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan. With its new Hitman trilogy, IO have built upon their previous success and made something that is completely unique in the market.

If they can bring the same level of craftsmanship and detail that they bring to Agent 47, I think Project 007 would be well on its way to being not just one of the best games of its year, but the best James Bond game ever.

Banner Photo Source: bosshunting.com.au

How Hitman Challenged My Attitude About Violence

I’ve recently been replaying Hitman: Blood Money in an effort to gear up for my eventual play through of Hitman 2016. I hadn’t played a Hitman game in some time, so I took a little while to get a feel for the controls again.

I spent around half an hour learning the recoil and range of the trademark Silverballer pistols, perfecting a few of the timing “hacks” to speed up killing/sneaking animations and just generally remembering placements of guards and patrol routes that I could exploit. Once I had re-calibrated my console controls I jumped into the game proper and went merrily on my way, sticking clowns in wood chippers and feeding circus performers to their pet sharks.

As well as replaying the game for a recap of the series, I had wanted to talk about violence for a third and final time in games. I had already looked at Assassin’s Creed and L.A. Noire, for their displays at violence and I thought Hitman might be a good game to finish the mini-series on. And the idea to write about Hitman hit me on this playthrough.

On this playthrough I had decided to ramp up the difficulty to the highest setting, Professional. I had yet to complete the achievement “5 Professional Silent Assassins” awarded for completing five levels with the “Silent Assassin” rating on the Professional difficulty (kind of self-explantory) and so I aimed to complete the achievement this time around. “Silent Assassin” is the best rating in the game. To fulfill it you have a set of guidelines including things like; not having your cover blown, no witnesses, only killing your targets, and many, many more rules.

I had completed a few levels on Rookie and Normal difficulties and achieved the “Silent Assassin” rating, so I decided to use similar strategies on the higher difficulty setting. I jumped into the mission “A New Life” since I knew the perfect way to achieve “Silent Assassin” and played through the level. And this is the level that inspired this post.

Hitman: Blood Money And The Death Of Innocents

The mission “A New Life” has player character Agent 47 heading to sunny California to kill a former Cuban mob boss, Vinny “Slugger” Sinistra, who has “turned” and entered the witness protection program. The hit takes place in Sinistra’s gated community while his house is being monitored and patrolled by at least twenty FBI agents. It is a piece of cake.

Alongside killing Vinnie, 47 must retrieve a piece of microfilm hidden in Mrs. Sinistra’s necklace. However, Mrs. Sinistra counts as an innocent, so if we are to harm her it must be accidental therefore leaving no connection between the crime and us.

The most straightforward and infamous way to do this is to obtain some lighter fluid from the Sinistra’s garden shed and douse the barbeque set and sit back and watch Mrs. Sinistra prepare lunch. After she is burnt to a crisp we can simply walk up to her corpse and retrieve the film.

So I dutifully did my job; blew Vinnie’s brains out and set his spouse on fire. I finished the mission only to realise that I had not achieved “Silent Assassin” instead getting “Professional”, the rank below. So I went back in and took a more methodical, slower approach.

On the second approach I decided to play dress up. One of the more humorous aspects of the Hitman series is that although 47 is a towering bald assassin with a barcode tattoo on the back of his head, he can pretty much throw on any disguise and get away with it. So, as I got back into the Sinistra’s home I stealthily “acquired” the Pool Boy’s uniform and equipped it. The Pool Boy is having an affair with Mrs. Sinistra and after I had donned the outfit the wife told me to follow her upstairs. Since Mrs Sinistra had been day-drinking, she promptly threw up in her bathroom and then fell asleep and leaving me to take the microfilm necklace as she peacefully rested.

Then I proceeded to blow Vinnie’s brains out and complete the mission, earning “Silent Assassin”.

On all my playthroughs of “A New Life”, I had never taken the Pool Boy approach. I had never thought to open up my creative mind and critical thinking and think about how to acquire the necklace differently. I had always gone for the more “fun” barbeque approach. And it started to horrify me at how nonchalantly I had killed someone because it was “fun” and “easy”.

Another mission later on, “You Better Watch Out…”, had a similar sobering affect. One of the targets is in a pool with a glass bottom overhanging a mountain outcrop. If you mange to get below the pool and shoot the floor then the target falls through…along with the five or so party revellers with him. Again, it had been “fun” and “easy”, but after passing by the innocent victims that had fallen through the pool, my brain started to question it.

So let’s think about it…

As mentioned previously, it wasn’t the brutality or the bloodshed that affected me (like it did in L.A. Noire). It was that it look little to no effort on my part…and without much coercion. The game gave me the tools and sat back as I played a violent fantasy.

A similar event happened in Spec Ops: The Line with the infamous white phosphorus scene. In his analysis of the game, Lucas Raycevick states a similar feeling,

“What unnerved to the core me was how casually I did it [used white phosphorous (an outlawed weapon)]. How routine it was to fart a laptop screen and play polka dots with missiles, exterminating white blips that may as well have been zombies.” (17:20).

Another comparable gameplay event, the AC130 gunship level “Death From Above” in Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was critiqued for this similar ease of dispatching of life. Journalist Quintin Smith, talking about the mission on Charlie Brooker’s How Videogames Changed The World, says this,

“It is tremendously disturbing because you can’t make out what these figures are. It could almost be a statement, but it is not. It is just there so you can have fun and that’s very dark.” (1:26:10).

But with the white phosphorous and the AC130 gunship, there isn’t any choice. The lack of alternative gameplay can undermine any statement that might be trying to be addressed, they were forced into that situation with no way out, other than turning off the console (which is an interesting thought but counter-intuitive because…you made the game, so why would you want people to turn it off?). But with Hitman: Blood Money I could have taken many different non-violent routes, but valued the easiest route rather than the less violent.

Conclusion

Thinking of the game as a whole, Hitman: Blood Money has a continual theme of unnecessary violence against innocents. Throughout the game a rival firm is mentioned in the end mission newspapers (the newspapers are how you find your score/how good of an assassin you were). In these margin stories it seems the rival assassins have no care for innocent life and will murder anyone who gets in their way.

Even the first assassination of the game is meant to spark the realisation that murder and assassination is not meant to be nice and “fun”. The first hit, Mr. “Swing King”, is not fully guilty for the crime that he has been targeted for and begs for his life after you confront him.

Warning: the following dialogue could be very disturbing with themes of murder. Reader discretion is advised.

“Please, haven’t I suffered enough? Don’t you think I know how much suffering I’m responsible for? I can’t sleep. I haven’t slept in…the guilt I feel. I’m so sorry, I know I can never…I’ll pay you. Twice what your client is paying, triple, please, I’m a [inaudible, I think he says broke or good] man. All I want is a second chance. Everything I ever did I did for love…please…I see it in your eyes. You’re not a bald man, uh, a bad man. You can’t just kill me…please…ah, no, don’t…please, please, I beg you, I haven’t done anything. Please, I don’t wanna die.”

Note: I recorded that scene on my phone and play it back a few times to get the full quote and I’m not going to lie, the dialogue and delivery messed me up. I had to take half an hour after writing the quote just to compose myself.

Yet we kill him anyway because it is what we do. We continually bringing destruction and death to subroutines and AIs until the job is done. Like 47 we are “born” into the game world to kill; we have no morality system to shape us, only a number with seven zeros after it and two words signalling if we have done a “good job”.

So while I love the Hitman series I have to admit that it has broken me. And all it took was the absence of violence. The lack of a kill made me realise how much it is pushed within the games I enjoy and how much I’ve been conditioned to go for it.

And that is very dark indeed.

 

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