Three Stories From Star Wars Battlefront

I love Star Wars Battlefront I and II. I should qualify that; by SWBI and SWBII I mean the original games, created by Pandemic Studios in 2004 and 2005 respectively.

They were my introduction to large-scale warfare games and the fact it was also Star Wars themed was a bonus (and so many prequel levels!). What made it even better was the splitscreen capabilities, allowing for endless co-op and counter-op matches with friends and siblings. I loved the series so much that I rebought both games for the original Xbox, as they were backwards compatible with the 360.

I didn’t play the original Battlefront when I was younger, skipping straight to Battlefront II. I had wanted to see the difference between the two games (as well as the “new” maps) so picked up a copy. As soon as I booted up the game, it instantly came back to me; that rush at the start of a map, trying to score a tactical position, aggressively pushing for the vacant capture points or maybe taking to the skies to knock out support vehicles. No other game I’ve played feels just like it.

Each level and each match has its own stories, the little differences that you talk with friends about. And after having so much fun going back to SWBI, I thought I would share three recent stories of my time playing. These stories are all from a co-op perspective with my friend, Alex, being the other player.

I hope you enjoy reading this little experiment in content. I’ve been wanting to stretch my creative writing muscles since graduating from university and this seemed like an excellent opportunity to do so. The three stories are below, just click on either name or the accompanying picture to read the story.

Rhen var

naboo__plains_1234_0

Bespin

 

 

 

Banner Photo Source: polygon.com.

“The Rebel Hare” Photo Source: battlefront.wikia.com

“Ride of The Kaadus” Photo Source: gamemaps.com

“Knight (Of The Galactic Empire’s) Skies” Photo Source: youtube.com (Channel: repinscourge)

“Knight (Of The Galactic Empire’s) Skies” – A Star Wars Story

Bespin Platforms

Local Time – 1100 hrs.

Team – Rebel Alliance

***

Alex and I spawn in late, with only one X-Wing left for the taking.

“Mine!” we both shout as we race towards the cockpit. I reach the ship a millisecond before Alex and engage the engine, taking to the skies as he fires angry blaster shots towards the craft.

“Even all the Y-Wings are taken!” he moans over the commlink.

“You could always take the center command post,” I suggest. I look towards my wrist-mounted computer and tap the screen, bringing up the map, just to see the previously white icon turn green. “Ah, scratch that, we’ve already taken it.”

“I’m hopping in an Ion Cannon,” Alex says, “Maybe I’ll shoot you out of the sky!”

I’m about the reply when I hear the unmistakable SKREEE! of a TIE Fighter’s engines. I swing around the X-Wing and realise that the sky is full of Imperial ships. I pass a Rebel platform and look on, pained, as a X-Wing tries to take to the skies but is immediately blown apart by a TIE bombing run.

I pull the joystick as far back as possible and put the thrusters on full, flying high into the atmosphere. As I reach the edge of the combat area, I dampen the engines and pull the ship around. I can now see the entire map below me, locking on to the closest TIE Fighter and fire three shots, hitting the craft right in the cockpit, blowing the ship apart.

I continue to descend at a snail’s pace, firing shots and missiles at any TIE craft that comes close. As I enter the high orbit of the platforms, I see a fellow X-Wing get blown apart by an enemy Ion Cannon, which promptly sets its sights on me. I try to swing around, but the cannon hits me square in the body, cutting my fighter’s health in half.

I can’t wait for the cannon to cool down; I’ve got to destroy it before it has a chance for another shot. I push the thrusters forward, flying straight at the cannon before reversing them completely and firing a missile. It was a tactic of “pressing”, getting as close to an enemy as I could get, so that there is a 99.9% chance of a hit. The missile streaks forward and hits the cannon at the base, completely destroying the machine.

I turn the X-Wing around and fly high again, but my computer starts to beep.

“Missile Lock, Missile Lock”.

A missile strikes me in the back, cutting my health down even further. I engage the thrusters to get away from my attacker, but they’ve seen I have low health and come in for the easy kill. I’m trying to do a quick repair and regenerate my ship’s health, but the TIE Fighter who hit me keeps firing blaster shots, and each third one hits my craft, diminishing any work I do.

“Alex, can I get some help?” I ask.

“What can I do? I’m just sitting here waiting for a craft to spawn in. I’d take a Cloud Car if I had to.” Alex replies.

‘You can have my X-Wing, if I don’t crash it.”

“Fine, where are you coming from?”

“South-west, coming straight for you.”

Alex turns the cannon and see me, full thrusters, flying straight at him.

“Watch your descent, you’re coming in too fast!”

“That’s the point, when I cut the engines, shoot.”

I fly closer and closer to the cannon, counting down the distance.

Hundred metres.

Fifty metres.

Twenty Metres.

Ten.

Five.

Two.

I cut the engine fully, dropping the X-Wing vertically, lining up the pursuing TIE Fighter with Alex’s cannon.

“Fire!” I shout.

From my cockpit view I see the TIE Fighter pilot finally realise what is going on. The pilot tries to veer to the side, out of the range of the cannon. But Alex’s shot rings straight and true, hitting the craft in the front of the cockpit, splitting the craft in two.

I clamber out of the cockpit and head up to the platform.

“Nice shot,” I say, “The X-Wing is yours.” We both look at the craft, balanced awkwardly off the edge of the landing platform.

“You could of landed it a bit better,” Alex says, climbing in, “but I’ll take it.” He boots up the machine, putting the engines on their lowest setting and slowly turning it so that it drops off the platform and engages flight.

“Hey, this X-Wing is nearly dead!” he shouts.

I laugh.

“I said I’d bring an X-Wing Alex, not a brand new one!”

“Knight (Of The Galactic Empire’s) Skies” Photo Source: youtube.com (Channel: repinscourge)

“Ride Of The Kaadus” – A Star Wars Story

Naboo Plains

Local Time – 2031 hrs

Team – Republic

***

“We need to get the center command post,” I say to Alex. “The CIS charge at the start of the battle. If we wait, the AATs and Droidekas will claim the position and cut us down in droves. I say we ride in on Kaadus and get the drop on them. They are fastest mounts we have.”

Alex nods.

“Good plan. Lets go with it.”

A flash of blinding white light washes over my eyes and the next moment I’m on the green rolling hills of the Naboo countryside. I start to run towards the Kaadus, seizing one and hoisting myself into the saddle. I turn back to see Alex running away from the battle.

“Where are you going?!!” I call out to him.

“Get moving. I’ll be there in a second.”

I turn around and whip my Kaadu. I’ve lost precious seconds figuring out why Alex is deviating from the plan. I can see the AATs already moving towards the center command post. The light Kaadu is twice as fast as the slow-moving AAT and within a few seconds I’m at the center, but the rolling Droidekas have already beaten me to the post. I leap off the Kaadu, landing behind one of the fallen structures, as a hail of gunfire flies towards me,

“Alex, where the hell are you?!!” I shout into my comm link.

“Right here,” he replies, as a Jedi Starfighter streaks overhead, laying down pinpoint fire onto the Droidekas, obliterating them in seconds. I watch him engage his thrusters for a second, flying high into the air, before spinning round and firing homing rockets into the incoming AAT, disabling it.

I whoop in celebration, watching in awe as he lays down more covering fire, destroying all incoming enemies before I can even draw a bead on them. Suddenly, an enemy rocket flies across the sky, hitting the starfighter in the back; the weakest point.

With my heart in my mouth I watch as high above, Alex ejects. He’s planned for this moment; instead of the Engineer class that can repair the fighter while piloting it, Alex has chosen a Jet Trooper. As he throws himself out of the cockpit, he engages his shoulder-mounted jet boosters, gently gliding himself down and landing with a gentle thud a few feet from me.

“Quite an entrance!” I say, as we crash forearms together in celebration. A Gungan rushes in on his own Kaadu, dismounting to help take the center command post, giving Alex a Kaadu to commandeer.

I clamber aboard my own mount that has been patiently awaiting my return and I call a general round up of all available troops to follow us. Alex and I whip our Kaadus and race off across the green pastures, as a stream of Clone troopers and mighty Gungans follow in our wake.

Ten seconds later we disembark at the final CIS command post, on an outcrop overlooking the entire battlefield. But we’ve misjudged the timing. The Kaadus have deposited us far ahead of the pack, and we are heavily outnumbered.

“Spin!” we both shout at each other, a tactic born out several hours spent playing co-op Timesplitters 2 Siberian zombie horde mode. We face opposite sides and start to spin counterclockwise, firing at the closest enemies to us.

We spin three or four times, taking down nearly every enemy with lock on to. I draw a bead on an incoming Engineer droid and fire off the last few rounds from my blaster rifle. The shots flying wide of their intended target. Damn! I had forgotten that continual fire makes the blaster rifle overheat and lose accuracy, and I’m about to pay for my mistake.

“Roll!” I shout to Alex as I switch to my sidearm and drop to prone. Alex doesn’t think about the command, rolling to the side and continuing to shoot down enemies facing him. The droid fires a cluster over my head, right where Alex had just been standing. I fire one shot into the droid’s chest plate before twitching a centimeter up and fire another shot. I miss by a hair and now am in range to be obliterated.

A blue bolt of energy flies over my prone form and hits the droid squarely between the photoreceptors, bursting the metal hunk into flames. I push myself up onto my knees and Alex grabs my arm, hoisting me onto my feet.

“That’s twice I’ve saved your skin today!” he says with a devilish smile, as the rest of the Clone/Gungan battalion finally reaches the peak of the hill. We secure the hill in a record time and the twenty-second victory counter starts to tick down.

“Same again?” Alex asks.

“Always,” I reply.

With two seconds to go until the round ends, we throw grenades ahead of us, before rolling towards them. The explosion goes off at zero, giving us our victory poses; a squashed character model, twisted like a pretzel, a millimeter from being vaporized by fire.

“Ride of The Kaadus” Photo Source: gamemaps.com

“The Rebel Hare” – A Star Wars Story

Rhen Var Harbour

Local Time – 0500 hrs.

Team – Rebel Alliance

***

The ice beneath me is cold and hard, not at all like the training simulations. I’m prone, trying to make my body as flat as possible, cradling my sniper rifle, looking out over the frozen harbour of Rhen Var.

As I perform last minute checks, my radio comm crackles into life. I shift my weight onto one side and hit the transmit button.

“Hey Alex, you nearly set?”

“Yep, just linking up with a few other fighters and we’ll be entering the caves. Whereabouts are you?”

“On the ice lake, ready to catch a few skinnies accompanying the AT-AT. Once I’m done I’ll make a dash and meet you on the other side.”

“Okay, good luck. Out.”

I switch off the comm link before pressing my shoulder against the butt stock of my rifle and looking through the optics. There is no movement in front of me. I hear a rumble from the heavens as heavy fog starts to develop and roll towards me. It always happens in the early morning, it gives the Empire an edge. Not to worry though.

I zoom in a bit further and immediately a silhouette pops out, darker than the surrounding vapor. I nudge the rifle a little higher to compensate for drop off before squeezing the trigger. It takes around a second for the light beam to travel across the whole ice lake and hit the grunt squarely in the temple, taking him down.

I start to swivel my rifle from side to side, picking out darkened outlines here and there, each one being brought down by at most two shots. I want to try and get as many at this range, before I am in any mortal danger. I move away from the optics to reload and out of the corner of my eye I start to see the first waves of soldiers break out of the mist and into the daylight.

Their all white uniforms make them easily identifiable against the grey background they emerge from. I pick off a few of the forward troops, before scanning for the big hitters; jet pack troopers and rocketeers.

I set my scope on a lovely Dark Trooper, but a giant metal boot obscures my line of sight. I back out of aiming to see what it is.

The AT-AT? Already? How did it sneak up this far without me realising? I’m a sitting duck if I stay here. I jump to my feet, grabbing my rifle and slinging it over my shoulder, before dashing across the harbor towards the walker. The AT-AT has a powerful set of cannons on its front side, but can’t aim straight down. If I get close enough, it won’t be able to focus its weapons on me, making it useless in terms of combat.

As I pelt across the ice and snow, I draw my pistol. Even though I’ve thinned the ranks, the majority of the Empire’s forces are charging across the bay. I serpentine towards the legs of AT-AT, rolling behind one to dodge incoming fire. I peek out and fire off a few non-committal shots, keeping any nearby soldier at arms length. I need to keep moving; staying under the AT-AT isn’t the safest option, even less with Snowtroopers surrounding me.

I roll away from the AT-AT’s back legs and sprint away. The Snowtroopers fire a few shots my way, but I am soon out of range, and they turn back towards the main battle. I make my way up a small snowy mound, switching back to my long-range rifle and do a quick scan of the horizon. There are only a few stragglers entering the party late. I quickly dispatch them, leaving the coast clear.

I throw my sniper onto my back and draw my pistol again, before setting off towards the Imperial command post. As I get close, I see the faint red glow of the capture point, reflected on the cold-grey stone walls of a bombed-out ruin that the Empire have commandeered as their forward base.

I switch from a slight jog to walking; taking pot shots at any late-coming Snowtroopers that gets close. My radio beeps again.

“Alex, how is it going?”

“We’re a bit stuck mate. They’ve got a turret on the entrance to the ice caverns; any time we try and push it cuts us in half. You got a sight on them?”

I stop, equip my rifle and look through the sight. The enemy is easy to spot; they are sat in a revolving turret atop the ruin, firing round after round at the small opening that leads to the caverns.

“Yep, I see ’em, top deck.”

I kneel for support, before tapping the trigger, hitting the Snowtrooper’s exposed head and silencing the turret fire.

“They are down, go!”

I rush forward, catching up with Alex as he exits the caves. We stop just before the stairs leading up to the ruin.

“Any news on the rest of the battle?” I ask. Alex gives me a grimace.

“That AT-AT is destroying all of our carriers. We need to get back pronto.”

I tap the screen on my wrist-bound computer, bringing up the map. I see the AT-AT; it is almost at the entrance to the marina, destroying every speeder that manages to spawn in.

I sigh in exasperation.

“Bloody amateurs,” Alex says. “Let’s capture this post and get back!”

I turn the map off, and check my weapons.

“Well, you’ve got the rapid-fire blaster Alex, after you!”

“The Rebel Hare” Photo Source: battlefront.wikia.com

Tomb Raider’s St Francis’ Folly & Intention In Level Design

Level design is one of the fundamental building blocks of creating a game; it is the world that we inhabit. We can all think of great games with some excellent level design and all in different ways.

Some games use their design to aid you with traversal through a single path; Faith’s “Runner’s Vision” in Mirror’s Edge guiding the way through colour, or scratched/worn down walls in Prince Of Persia showing you can wall run are two that come to mind.

In a similar vein, other games allow a wide range of possibilities from a single starting point. Metroid and Castlevania have an almost exclusive hold over this type of design (so much that “Metroidvania” is a portmanteau in gaming culture). Newer titles such as Hitman and Ratchet And Clank also deliver this type of world. You may not be able to reach all the nooks and crannies until you have gone away and learnt new skills.

Other games use their level design to bring their worlds to life. Bioshock’s flooded and rusting hallways, blossoming gardens and…everything about Fort Frolic perfectly paints the dying embers of a Galtian wonderland. Remember Me’s narrative snakes around its levels, with the Bastille Lake and St. Michel Rotunda amplifying the narrative beats that occur in those levels. The hidden tombstones in Modern Warfare 2’s “Contingency” highlight a possible cultural heritage of the area.

Today I wanted to write about a level that encompasses all three types of design, to varying degrees. That level is “St Francis’ Folly” from the Tomb Raider series. “St Francis’ Folly” is a level in the first TR game, meaning that it was remade in Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider Anniversary. So I wanted to talk about the two in tandem, because even though they are the same level, the way they differ gives a different tone to each level.

How “St Francis’ Folly”’s Meaning Changes Through Different Level Design

“St Francis’ Folly” is probably one of the most recognisable and memorable of the original Tomb Raider levels. Jason Botta, creative director for Tomb Raider Anniversary ranked the level second only to the “Lost Valley”, (mainly because the latter had a T-Rex) (2:14).

“St Francis’ Folly” is a really good example of a jump in a difficulty spike. The first four levels of TR1 are spent getting you used to the controls. You’ve done a bit of swimming, a bit of climbing, running, jumping, and most of it is forgiving. If you miss a jump, you just climb back to the spot and try again. “St Francis’ Folly” does not give you that privilege. If you mess up, you will most likely die. It’s really easy to die because the whole point of the level is being REALLY HIGH UP. The structure is so tall in the original game you can’t see the bottom; the draw distance fades to black.

Toby Gard, designer for the original Tomb Raider and Anniversary, stated the goal for the area;

“…It’s quite common that game designers even when they have a 3D vertical space that they can play with, they tend to sort of end up making long, flat things anyway. So that particular area from the original game was just sort of let’s go as vertical as we possibly can…” (2:55).

The level is virtually unchanged from game to game, only with a few trickier challenge rooms for TRA’s more nimble Lara and appropriately named rooms (TR1 had “Neptune” and “Thor” in a tomb in Greece).

The major change to the level is the opening just before the vertical room, so let’s jump back a bit and discuss that section.

Let’s Rewind To The Beginning

The openings of the level are again, very similar. All the designers really had to do was update the climbing and traversal mechanics and it was pretty much set.

But the main difference is GETTING to the vertical room and where in relation it is to the rest of the level. Lets start with TR1.

The start of the level introduces the vertical aspect, in a safe-ish way. You jump from pillar to pillar, working your way around the room. You have some fun with pressure plates and open the big door at the other end of the room. However, this does not lead to the next stage. It is another room with a switch.

The door is in fact above the entrance where you came in. You have to use the previously mentioned pillars to jump up into the rafters, before sliding down into a flooded tunnel and eventually finding the way out, into the vertical room.

Now onto TRA. 

The level starts off pretty much the same. You have a pressure plate that needs to be weighted down, which opens the big door at the far side of the room. You jump between the pillars to get into the rafters to secure the weight for the pressure plate, move it to the ground floor and proceed through the big door.

Then you proceed down a long, long corridor and into the vertical room.

So What?

This is such as small change, but for me it changes the meaning behind the whole set of Greek levels.

All levels in both Tomb Raider and Anniversary are built on top of each other. It is historically accurate; invaders have built on top of previous religious sites and settlements as an attempt to exert their dominance. It’s also thematically relevant, as the “origin” tombs are supposed to be hidden away, kept secret from the world.

But the opening for the first section of the Greek levels in Tomb Raider changes this meaning. In TR1, the vertical room (and by extension, the rest of the subterranean settlements) is hidden back the way you came. It takes a little more thought to figure out where you have to go. And even if you get that far you then have to survive an underwater current and a very hungry crocodile. It feels like a secret entrance to an underground network, somewhere hidden away so that grave robbers can’t just waltz in.

Tomb Raider Anniversary by comparison doesn’t feel like the entrance to a secret tomb, hidden away beneath 4000 years of history. It’s a straight line from the start of the level, the big door beckoning you forward. It feels more like the door to a vault (which is a rather good way of keeping people out). However, a vault-type opening indicates there is something precious behind it, giving grave robbers the incentive to break through rather than giving up because the entrance is hidden away.

Conclusion

It was only recently after playing the two games in comparison that I saw this minute difference. And it only really makes much of an impact if you are interested in the lore or the narrative of the world of Tomb Raider, but that distinction was big enough for me.

In terms of the original and Anniversary, there are more changes that are made for thematic reasons. “Sanctuary Of The Scion”, the final level of the Egyptian section of the game is one that springs to mind. In the original game you come out of the side of the temple, with your prize unceremoniously placed to your left.

In Anniversary, the sanctuary is at the end of a long corridor with a large gate blocking your entrance. You have to use the other two pieces of the Scion (the artifact Lara is searching for) to open up the gate. Thematically this makes much more sense that finding it on a pedestal, as it is the final piece of the artifact that has been locked away for safety.

Another one is the very first level, “Mountain Caves”. The finale of the level is once again, a large door, but to get to it you have to “run the gauntlet” of darts being shot at you. In TR1, you appear on in the corner of the room, an unglamorous (and not death defying) entrance to a hidden civilization.

The point I’m trying to make is the subtle differences between the two games. It’s almost like a translation error; giving us the same work but just off somehow. Don’t get me wrong, I love both version of “St Francis’ Folly”, but their thematic difference makes the original feel more “believable”, even in a game about mutants from Atlantis.

It’s a small change, but it manages to change the tone of the level for me. That’s how important level design is in creating the feel of a world.

That’s not a new observation, but it was very interesting to see it in action.

 

Banner Photo Source: gametripper.co.uk.

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 getting 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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