Hitman: A World of Fumbled Assassinations

Hitman feels at its best when you don’t have things under control, when you’ve messed up and been spotted launching a fire axe into a guy’s skull. A large group of guards are chasing you, Instinct (your Hitman-vision that unveils character locations and highlights items) shows nothing but ominous white dots and gold outlines. Then somehow you sprint from a heil of gunfire, you shimmy down a drainpipe, and find a character with a new outfit alone and exposed. You take their outfit, become a waiter or a guard, and now you have a new lease of life. The guards will moronically walk past you, nothing to see here officer just a regular waiter who looks exactly like the guy you were just chasing, and you will laugh and laugh.

It is the artificiality of the guards that makes Hitman so joyful. It is not a hyper-realistic simulator, but a puzzle game consisting of various pieces that can only act in a pre-determined manner. This manner is complex and may occasionally act unexpectedly, but it is observable and one can predict what will happen with relative certainty. The moronic guards do not act like people, but they are given dialogue that has a warmth and humour that stops them from being entirely seen as the game pieces which they are.

Visually the game world and characters are presented with a brilliant clarity, mixing visual splendour and realistic details. The bins in the Paris level even have the Mairie de Paris logo you find on bins in the actual streets of Paris, and the buildings you can see beyond the level are definitively Parisian. It creates a great sense of place, anchoring you in Paris. You are not merely exploring a mansion, but a mansion in Paris. However, there is one way that this sense of place breaks down. In every map, no matter the locale, all the non-playable characters speak English, and do so in the same few American accents. This is particularly disappointing as in Blood Money, for example, in the level set in a French opera house the characters speak French. It is an unfortunate regression and one which is possibly attributable to the tight deadlines that the episodic model requires. Ultimately, it is only an issue due to the immensely high-standards the game sets itself.

One more story. Your target is descending a staircase in an opulent Paris mansion. He is about to show himself to his adoring crowd, to greet their applause with smug satisfaction. A bald technician stands by a control mechanism linked to a chandelier. As the beaming Russian descends he briefly pauses beneath the chandelier. It falls. He is crushed. Party over, a tragic accident. The bald man who was standing by the mechanism and is now making a hasty retreat could not have had anything to do with it, oh no.

Hitman has such a depth and variety of content that I will be playing it for the foreseeable future and I anxiously await where Agent 47’s future will take him.


Nothing to See

There was not a man in a black suit driving a white van away from a crime scene.

This man did not speed through a red light without stopping. There was no man to do so.

There was not a man in a grey track suit driving a silver Mercedes away from a crime scene.

There was not a woman dressed head to toe in black.

There was not an elderly lady dressed in florals.

Was there a crime scene? What was the crime?

I was told a young woman was attacked by an ex. Ex-boyfriend, husband, platonic friend? I don’t know. An ex.

She’s in hospital now, alive, just about. That’s what I heard anyway.

The man escaped. He was not wearing a black suit. He was not wearing anything. He was wearing something, but no one can remember what. If he was actually wearing nothing it would not have been forgotten.

I saw it all happen. Not it all, not the cause, not their relationship, whatever it may have been, before the attack.

I know what could have happened or should have happened.

The man is wearing a black suit, no tie, a white shirt with navy buttons. He has a generic short back and sides haircut, a number two I’d say. His shoes are black and dull, in need of a polish. He has no visible scars, tattoos, or piercings, which is not to say he doesn’t have any at all just that they’re not visible. The eyes are blue, almost grey, milky but not quite. Dark circles lie below both of them. The nose is distinct, strong, powerful, foreboding, worrying. The mouth turns downwards. The weight of all this causes the chin to sag.

The man calls the woman’s name. ‘Milly!’ he says in a voice that is not normally his. It all sounds quite absurd, the frilliness of ‘Milly’ and this artificially gruff voice. It’s all phony, fake, fraudulent.

She turns, her face is obscured. It is frightened. He approaches. His mouth moves. He says something I can’t hear in the absurd voice. They are half a foot away from one another. The back of the man tenses, the head lurches forward, collides with the other head, a body falls, legs flail, there are cries, the man his nose, head and legs all evacuate.

I did not see this. It did happen just like this.

A Wasted Day

Bryan woke up at 11:48am. It was Sunday and after a long week of work he deserved a lie-in. The house was silent as he walked to the shower. He showered for a long time, exactly how long I don’t know, didn’t think to check; I don’t time his showers, the room filled with steam, the mirrors fogged up. Byran got dressed; it was the first warm day of the year so he decided he could go without a coat. He didn’t really have anywhere to go but it would a shame to waste such a nice day. Even by going out he was wasting it, truth be told.

It was quiet out, windless; there was a distant sound of cars and other sounds that were not cars: the two great categories of sound in any city – transport and other. Quiet, too quiet, Bryan thought jokingly. It wasn’t too quiet; rather, all the sound was being made elsewhere, out of sight, and too far away for the direction to be pinpointed. He kept on walking and made it to the main road. Whitstable Road, I think, it was, I guess it was. The road was empty. I mean there were no cars. It wasn’t literally empty; the signs were still there and houses still lined the street. It was probably just road works or something like that. You never go straight to the worst option, like say there was a nuclear holocaust and our Bryan was the last man on earth (couldn’t imagine anyone worse), and if you do you don’t let yourself believe it completely. Anyway, there had not been a nuclear holocaust yet. At the end of the road walking towards the city centre was the usual crowd of people. There were men, women, and children; some were young, some old, some had brown hair, some had none at all; some walked on two legs, some did not; some people were there and some were absent. Just like a normal day.

“I’ll go look in the book shop then go get some lunch”, Bryan might have thought to himself.  He walked into the small bookshop with the small wonky door, ducking as he always did. A noise that resembled ‘hi’ but was not quite right left his mouth and fell limply on the floor near the elderly lady working the till. She did not notice him and carried on doing nothing. He walked to the back of the shop and scoured the same shelves that had some slightly different books as he always did. He had not developed an efficient process for searching the shelves and tended to look arbitrarily until he found a name he recognised. Today, he grabbed a copy of B.S Johnson’s ‘Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry’, a book he had read and adored, and read the first few lines before putting it back. ‘Christie Malry was a simple person’ begins Johnson’s book, not as simple as Bryan, of course, who does not even have a surname. He looked at these books for a good ten minutes. He picked up Bolano’s ‘The Savage Detectives’, put it down again, picked it up again, this was the moment of truth: for if he put it down again he could not pick it up again, one just does not do that three times. £1.99 was too good a deal to pass up for a book that might be or should be great, he’d never read any Bolano but he was sure he was good because smarter people than he had said so. He paid, said ‘cheers’ in an assertive tone that did not fit the situation at all, and left the shop, not before banging his head on the door frame.

Where he went for lunch, if he even did, is something of a mystery. I lost track of him. You see, there was this dog… I tried to find him again and failed so I went back to his house and waited there. He came back at 3:37pm and excitedly placed the Bolano on his shelf with his other unread books. That was Sunday. He spent the rest of the day looking at his laptop.

Even Drinking is a Struggle

He just wanted a drink but they wouldn’t let him, the fuckers. He’d look up and they’d look away, pretending that they weren’t looking, but he knew better.  You don’t own me. You do. They were always looking, waiting, hoping that he’d put the water bottle to his mouth, and then they’d laugh. Look at him! What an embarrassment! He wouldn’t give them the satisfaction, no he wouldn’t. So he wouldn’t drink, even though he wanted to, even though they wanted him to. He’d wait until he was back alone. They laughed anyway.