Hitman Absolution EP7: Get Thee to a Punnery

By Shamus
on Mar 25, 2015
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

77 comments


Link (YouTube)

This game is a master class in why developers need to stop pretending to be moviemakers. The moment when 47 is approaching the elevator is a great example of a dev mindlessly aping the language of cinema without understanding why or how those techniques originally worked.

In a movie, this is a source of tension and dramatic irony. We (the audience) know the elevator is a threat. The character in the story doesn’t. The suspense comes from our anxiety over whether they will figure it out in time. The scene specifically requires that the audience and the protagonist have differing knowledge. Outside of a railroading cutscene, this is not possible in a videogame because the audience controls the protagonist.

Either you realize the danger and avoid it easily with no suspense, or you don’t realize the danger and get an abrupt game over. Either way, this situation can’t work here the way it works in a movie.

Also note the hilarious stupidity of these mooks randomly shotgunning the girl they were sent to kidnap. No thought was given to how characters would act in this situation or what anyone’s goals are. The game shifts gracelessly from being a dumb movie to running on Doom-level videogame logic. Of course the bad guys shoot 47! What else would they do? Point their guns at this seemingly harmless priest and demand he surrender their target?

And then the writers try to have an emotional climax where a character we don’t care about kills a character we don’t know anything about as the resolution to a rivalry that they never bothered to establish.

Also, while the level technically ends with you killing Wade, it still doesn’t count as a proper Hitman level. The area where you kill Wade is tiny, you have very few options, and no matter what you do to him he dies in a cutscene. And then you stand there like a doofus while Lenny makes off with the girl. Speaking of which…

  1. Where did Lenny get a HAND GRENADE? Even if we accept that Wade’s gang has them and they would bring them to a job like this, how did Lenny get one?
  2. Is Lenny really smart enough to think to use a grenade in this way? (No.) Is he brave enough? (Also no.)
  3. Why can’t Agent 47 use point shooting and drop Lenny? Is the grenade unpinned? If so, how does Lenny resolve that situation once he gets outside? He’s propping up a girl in one arm and holding an unpinned grenade with the other and he needs to put the girl in the car and drive away quickly.
  4. Victoria is still a sack of plot device with no will of her own. A few minutes ago she was too weak to walk. Now she’s exactly strong enough to walk but too weak to do ANYTHING ELSE. That is a very specific level of helpless.
  5. Are we supposed to believe that simpleton Lenny managed to do a cross-country drive with a girl in her pajamas? I guess he gave her bathroom breaks and he never had to sleep and money wasn’t a problem and she never called out for help and nobody asked him any difficult questions about the girl he was dragging around?
  6. Even allowing for all of that, how on Earth did Lenny get away from 47? The Hitman took Wade’s car and began driving right away. He should have overtaken Lenny about three minutes later. Did Lenny also have the presence of mind and navigational skill to take all the secondary roads from here to SD?

My goodness. I love to hate this game.

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Footnotes:



2020201777 comments. (Seventy-seven is the smallest positive integer requiring five syllables in English!)

From the Archives:

  1. Epopisces says:

    Sings “I’ll never forget about Lenny. . .no matter how I try!”

  2. Synert says:

    gunshots can be heard from upstairs at the start, so it’d be pretty safe to assume that there aren’t gonna be nuns in that elevator

  3. Paul Spooner says:

    You know what would be amazing? If when Agent 47 uses any of those pamphlets, you get a game over because he becomes a pacifist and turns himself in.
    Just, you know, anything to break up the monotony and inject some humor into this train-wreck… present company excluded.

    Also, yeah, I didn’t want to bring it up, but the scripted rant fell pretty flat. Good points, but you’ve got to practice improv on cue cards or something.

    • Syal says:

      That would be a great mechanic for a parody game.

      Get too close to a religious structure/person? Game Over, you’re a pillar of their community now.
      Too close to an attractive lady? Game Over, you’ve got a family to take care of.
      Buy a delicious cake? Game Over, now you’re a fat chef.

      • pdk1359 says:

        That would be glorious.
        Make a game about a wild adventuring sort who only wants to alternatively fight, celebrate and prep for the next job.
        Adventuring? a short cutscene or sequence like those running adventurer flash games.
        The real game is navigating the town to avoid getting attached, which causes you to settle down and quit the business.
        Need to heal? Gotta visit the temple, gaining religious points.
        Need better equipment? Talking to merchants/craftsmen, who seem to be make a good living off stupid adventurers; you gain commerce points.
        Only way to reduce the various quitter points? Drink yourself stupid at the bar, and possibly end up becoming a dad when chatting up an attractive lady of negotiable affection.
        A ‘good’ end is death on the job, any ending that you retire is a bad end, the golden ending is taking out the final boss, getting presented with the princess and then heading for the hills!

  4. 4th Dimension says:

    Oh Josh. He goes to trouble to bring up the hint telling him to hide behind the curtains, and he doesn’t read it or ignores it and is surprised to get shot. Such a Josh moment ;)

  5. Uscias says:

    The boss fights and cutscene assassinations in Hitman feel a lot like the ones in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Both in that they’re disconnected from the rest of the gameplay and that your actions during the fights or levels leading up to it don’t have any impact on them. And the ones in Deus Ex atleast were outsourced, which I don’t know if they did for Hitman.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      Alpha Protocol has the same problem, right down to the dissonance of shooting a guy seven times in the head and leaving him with a bloody nose.

      • INH5 says:

        Though with Alpha Protocol it was more excusable as talking to people in cutscenes was the only part of that game that wasn’t a chore to play, utterly broken on a technical or balance level, or both.

        It’s a shame no one except maybe Tell Tale (and I don’t know if they just came up with a vaguely similar system independently) has taken inspiration from Alpha Protocol’s dialogue system. It wouldn’t even have to be in an RPG, as there’s no reason such a thing couldn’t be put into just about any game genre apart from tradition. The system could use some improvements (in particular, using short phrases instead of single words to make sure the player is thinking “what should I say?” instead of “what the heck is Mike going to say if I pick ‘Professional’?”) but they way they implemented it with the time limit and non-looping dialogue really made it feel like you were participating in tense and important conversations.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Youre in over your head.

    • Trix2000 says:

      On the plus side, those were revamped in the Director’s Cut version so that the fights are a lot more open and versatile (allowing for hacking/sneaking approaches for them as well as shooting). They’re still a liiiiittle out of place, but at least it doesn’t make you do the pew-pew.

  6. guy says:

    Okay, that elevator is kinda bugging me in other ways. So, either 47 doesn’t know the building is under attack, which leads to the question of why he’d hide, or he does and it begs the question of why he’s carrying the girl to the elevator. I mean, the attackers could cut the power to trap them in the elevator like they did, or they could ambush him when the doors open on arrival.

    Granted, I suppose he’s not exactly spoiled for choice if Victoria can’t walk down the stairs on her own, because fighting his way down the stairs while carrying her is unlikely to end well, and if he were able to defend the top floor they could light the building on fire.

  7. SpiritBearr says:

    Thanks guys now I want an Archer game. Also Austin Powers is cited by Craig as being why the new Bonds are ultra serious.

  8. SlothfulCobra says:

    Hitman is sort of a unique game, it’s easy to see how the development team forgot what game they had made and went with more “popular” design choices.

    Ubisoft took the bulk of assassination out of Assassin’s Creed a while back, and they’ve been doing decently since.

    • CJ Kerr says:

      AssCreed is a little different, though, in that it never really worked out how to make the assassination missions interesting.

      In particular, I’m thinking of that abominable sequence in AC2, the DLC one that SW skipped in their playthrough. A whole bunch of assassinations in a nominally “open” world, but they all boil down to “sneak through the ring of dudes 50 feet out from the target, then cheese your way close enough to stab him”.

      It was boring because the mechanics only make assassinations interesting if the level design is interesting, and the level design was rubbish.

      Until Absolution there had never been a Hitman game which made assassinations boring. Even in the early ones where you had precisely one interesting way of killing someone and the alternative was to shoot them, the bulk of your time was spent exploring and that was fun. The broken disguise system screwed that up.

  9. INH5 says:

    I’ve mentioned it in the comments before, but a Hitman 2 level actually did have a disguise with a full face mask, in the form of a ninja uniform. But the level had to challenge you somehow, so watchtower snipers will inexplicably detect you and shoot you on sight, and if you get close to any other ninjas, they’ll drop everything to check your papers (and I guess realize that you’re an imposter because the guy you killed isn’t supposed to be guarding that particular area?).

    I know other people have probably already covered this, but the way they implemented the disguise system in this game didn’t work out very well. The thing where people with the same sort of outfit can detect you is supposed to add realism, but leaving aside issues like “does every chef in chinatown know every other chef?” the result is that when you’re around other guys in the same sort of outfit, you spend a lot of time crouching and hiding behind stuff, and when one looks at you the first thing you do is sneak behind something to get out of their sight.

    Not only is this not particularly fun, it also fails at realism because any expert at social engineering will tell you that the key to not being noticed in a place where you aren’t supposed to be is to act like you’re supposed to be there. For example, a hacker trick for getting past a door with a keycard lock is to carry an armload of boxes in, then wait by the door until someone with a keycard comes by and offers to help you through (or alternatively, don’t bother with the boxes and just say that you’re a new guy and you lost your card).

    Earlier Hitman games kind of tried to model this with a “suspicion meter” that will be raised if you get close to a guard, or if you run, and while that sometimes led to its own problems, it felt a little more lifelike and added some more tension, in the sense of “I need to get through this area, but I have to walk right next a guard and he might detect me; should I take the risk?” With this game, most of the time it seems like more conventional stealth games where you’re playing hide and seek, except if you have the right disguise, you can either just walk by enemies or you get a few seconds to move out of their sight if they spot you.

    • Ledel says:

      I think an easy fix for this would be to have it operate: instead of only people with the same outfit recognize you, everyone gets suspicious of you, but those with the same outfit become suspicious more quickly. The way you could even it out is that more common outfits draw attention more slowly, but there are more people around who would notice you quickly. The rarer outfits wouldn’t have any particular person outing you quickly, but draw attention from everyone at a slightly faster rate.

      They already have similar AI programmed, it would just be adding a (x1.?) modifier to the outfits/NPC noticing you on to how fast you are noticed and someone goes hostile.

      • Tizzy says:

        I like this idea.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Any solution that would universally paint all enemies with the same brush would run into the same problem,because thats what makes this disguise system broken.What they shouldve done is add specific flags to enemies,either at random,or better one by one depending on the level,that would tell which disguise they can see through.It would be more work for them to do this,yes,but the end result would be much better.So,for example,no one would recognize yet another chef in the huge crowd,but a unique chef in the villa would be recognized by all.A repairman in this hotel with constant staff would be suspicious of the new guy,but a mercenary guard wouldnt care if other mercenary guards are new.Everyone working in a strip joint would recognize the manager,but no one would recognize a full body suit mascot.Etc…

        • Ledel says:

          I like the idea of having random guards being always alert to anything suspicious while having others not care if you’re wearing one of their outfits. Though, I don’t think I could get behind the way it trivializes the unique disguises. If there is no reward for finding the rare and unique outfits, then they might as well not be in the game at all.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Why?If every person on the level had customized outlook towards every disguise on the level,you could easily set some unique disguise to be invisible to all.

    • Majromax says:

      It doesn’t work because the game conflates two systems: visibility and verisimilitude.

      If you play the game as an unseen assassin, then it doesn’t really matter whether you’re wearing a tuxedo or a squirrel suit: nobody would see you to become suspicious.

      If you play the game as a master of disguise, then everybody would see you, but since you blend in they wouldn’t notice you.

      To separate these mechanics, the game would need a system to answer “what would someone with this disguise be doing?” Someone in a chef’s uniform would be perfectly ordinary anywhere in the vicinity of a food stand, but it would be wildly out-of-place in a dark alleyway.

      Such a split-system would also interact with the playstyle. A chef who dives behind boxes is inherently suspicious. A thug-mook who stares at a donation pamphlet makes no sense. A cop behind a turntable, acting as DJ for a disco floor makes no sense.

      • I wonder if the problem is that the devs aren’t using the mechanics properly because it’s not what they’re used to.

        If they replaced “sight” with “eye lasers,” “stealth” with “eye laser shields,” and then treated the disguises as being supplemental shielding that makes you immune to “damage” from environmental conditions, it might solve a lot of headaches.

      • Alex says:

        I’d go one step further and say that that array of suspiciousness ratings could vary not just by disguise and action, but also depending on who is watching. If you’re wandering around Chinatown dressed as a chef you shouldn’t be any more suspicious to a chef than you are to anyone else, but if you start acting cheflike – if you’re standing behind a counter pretending to prepare a meal, for example – you might make yourself less suspicious to a cop wandering by but more suspicious to another chef who can tell you’re just making it up as you go.

  10. Well obviously they take away your noisemakers. If you had your coins, you could just jam them into the fuse box.

    I’m sure that’s what the devs were thinking, right?

  11. Bropocalypse says:

    The conversation ~13 minutes in makes me think it’d be fun to play a game where both players are both indirectly trying to reveal the other’s disguise to the enemy NPCs.

  12. “I have wood.”

    I can see the Tarantino misinterpretation, but it also seems to have the scriptwriting taint of all those Godfrey Ho movies, but with less cheesy ninja shenanigans.

    If you’ve never seen one of those movies, there are clips on YouTube. I will not be held responsible for any resulting dain bramage.

  13. Tulgey Logger says:

    Rustkarn brings up a good point about Agent 47’s antagonists; I don’t want to kill them because of what they do so much as I want to skip the cutscene because they’re obnoxious. Also, the very fact that these obnoxious assclowns are somehow Agent 47’s rivals really brings Agent 47’s competency into question. The whole “stoic badass forced to deal with the antics of people well below his league” could be funny, and it sort of seems like that’s what they were going for, but the tone is so horrendously misaligned that it feels like the various characters are from different (unpleasant) stories entirely.

  14. Dreadjaws says:

    Ugh, there’s nothing that infuriates me more than a game in which your task is completed in a cutscene no matter what your actions are. It robs you of all your glory, it takes away your prize. It’s like when you’re in an MMO and take out a bunch of goons and you’re beating the boss then at the last moment some jackass comes from nowhere, delivers the final punch and gets the reward.

    It also takes away all the fun when you’ve come with an inventive, complicated or otherwise ingenious way to beat a boss and he ends up always dead in the same spot with a pool of blood behind his back (Deus Ex: Human Revolution, for instance). I’ve devised an interesting way of dealing with my opponent and the game still treats it as if I had just pumped his chest full of bullets.

    Mind you, there are games that are far worse than this than Absolution (Mass Effect 3 comes to mind). And it’s even worse when the cutscene doesn’t even end with you winning, but with your enemy somehow waking up unharmed after the beating you’ve given them (again, like in ME3).

    Seriously, I’d love it for [AAA] game developers to stop pretending they’re Hollywood filmmakers, to stop it with the “cinematic” BS and to start going back to the strength of the videogame medium: interactivity.

  15. The Ground Aviator says:

    The best part about the cut scene where you kill Wade is that if you are holding anything other than a gun (i.e. a syringe) when you start the cut scene, it will show 47 menacingly holding the syringe upright like a gun as it makes gun sounds and as he waves it at Lenny in a threat against his life.

    Not sure if they fixed this in a patch but it happened to me first play through, pretty great stuff.

  16. Tizzy says:

    Now I realize the point of the field trip in the last episode.

    Last week, I thought this was a quick throwaway scare (“Oh no, Victoria and her friends have left the safety of the convent/orphanage and are very vulnerable. False alarm, Victoria was left behind.”)

    But actually, this is just so the devs could have their bloodshed while keeping the children alive. Having their cake and eating it too. It’s sick and sad.

  17. Teljor says:

    I don’t condone this but if there was a Archer game like this I think is would have to be called “Hitman: Archsolution”

  18. Supahewok says:

    Wow. This game feels like the script was given to a bunch of particularly deliquent middle schoolers who were given free reign on doing whatever they wanted.

    I think I said it a few episodes before, and I’ll say it again: this game just feels really immature. Meaningless cussing, stereotypes as disgusting as they are boring, lack of any self-awareness whatsoever, tenuous grasp of continuity, utterly static characters. When I only knew of this game through reputation, I attributed most of what I heard to executive meddling, but having now witnessed the game in action…

    You can often tell, when experiencing media, when an aspect started at a certain base level, and as it grew, was modified, twisted around. But you can still sort of feel the base of it, that the foundations were good and that it’s what was built on them that were perverted. I don’t get that sense with the narrative here. Its terrible all the way down. The original script was awful, and its editing either changed nothing or made it worse. Absolutely shameful.

    I’d be interested in a comparison between the writing staff and producers of this game and Blood Money.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      True, a lot of the story in this game seems to be driven by a “OMG can you BELIEVE we just did that!?” mentality. Also, furiously copying stuff from better source material and putting it’s own anemic spin on it.

  19. General Karthos says:

    Reminds me of DMotR: “That is a very specific level of tired.”

    As for how Lenny escaped, remember that in video games, once an object crosses out of the render range, it ceases to exist.

    In Ace Combat, you can fire a missile through a building (or even a mountain) if it’s too far away to see, because the object doesn’t exist unless you can see it.

    So clearly, once he was out of your line of sight, he simply teleported to his destination. Because that makes about as much sense as the rest of this stuff.

  20. Galad says:

    What? 41 comments in and no one’s enquired about you folks non-chalantly saying something about Half-Life 3?

    And Gabe: what? Valve needs a reason to make HL3 other than..you know..finishing the god damn series less than a bajillion years later?

    Source of said podcast, please? I feel like this sort of .. probably call it nonsense, since I can’t see what possible angle Gabe might be coming from .. might be just the type of thing to warrant some sort of an open letter from the HL fans on the internet.

    edit: I guess this article is relevant, with a link to said podcast in?

    http://www.polygon.com/2015/3/18/8253189/gabe-newell-valve-half-life

    • Alex says:

      He says he gets it, but he really doesn’t. Half Life 2 Episode 2 ended with what amounts to a “To be continued…” It is a cliffhanger without a satisfactory resolution. It is half a story.

      I still do business with Valve because they on occasion offer games sufficiently cheaply that I’m willing to put up with their DRM, but I’m really not a fan of anything they’ve done gamewise since the Orange Box.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        It is half a story.

        And now you get why its called half life.

        Also,every other game that they made a sequel to(not counting online games)was a self contained story.So it makes sense that when they make a game that ends in a cliffhanger,they decide not to make a sequel.

  21. Fawkes says:

    I wanted to make a joke here, or complain about the gun in the cutscene. But after replaying, you do start this area with a gun. An unsilenced one, of course, but at least it is a gun, and the game didn’t just give you one no matter whether you pick one of the ones around the level. (One of which you can only get by killing Wade the way Josh did in the video and picking it up in the few seconds before the cutscene begins and the level ends. And never seem to see again. Making it I gues purely a Multiplayer thing? I don’t know how any of that works.)

    Instead, you can just have this fun glitch by itself,

    http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=414198237

  22. Daemian Lucifer says:

    What did he do with that grenade afterwards?Did he put the pin back in?Did he just toss it somewhere to explode?I dont remember hearing an explosion,so what happened?

  23. Leviathan902 says:

    This sequence frustrated the hell out of ME because you’re playing a Hitman game in a non-Hitman situation. I mean, you have EVERY reason to kill every single mook in this level, story-wise. There’s no reason to “assassinate” a specific target without being seen here. Every single one of these mooks is complicit in a massacre of freakin’ nuns. I wanted to be an angel of vengeance killing every single one of these guys, but the game’s score system punishes you for it, even though there’s no reason to.

    It reminds me of something Chris talks about in one of his Errant Signal episodes. Scores in games make value statements about what is right and wrong in the game space. In an assassination mission, the score system in this game makes perfect sense: it rewards hurting nobody but your target and not being seen (making you the perfect silent assassin). It even kind of works in the “escape from the police” mission: hurt nobody, don’t be seen. In this mission, it makes no sense whatsoever because it’s in direct conflict with the story: don’t hurt the pointless nun-murdering mooks, but kill the guy who ordered the nun-murders, don’t be seen by the nun-murders who already know who 47 is because…why? Why shouldn’t they see me? They already know who I am!

    UGH this level pisses me of

    • Chamomile says:

      More than just the fact that these guys are nun-murdering psychos, they are specifically here to kidnap Victoria, who is completely helpless right now, and we had to leave her behind in order to clear the way out. I’m fine with being forced to leave her behind, because seriously how do you fight while carrying someone like that? But my immediate concern is that someone might go and do exactly what Lenny did, so it’s just good strategy to thin the pack as much as possible and get all the mooks running towards you and not searching for Victoria.

      • Keeshhound says:

        On that subject, the first time when Josh just walked up to the elevator, he failed because Victoria died. So what happened was, these thugs who’d been explicitly ordered to capture Victoria immediately started shooting her when the elevator doors opened, and not 47.

        (I’m sure it’s just that the AI aims for body shots, but still.)

    • newdarkcloud says:

      Funny thing about this mission is that with the Syringe, it is possible to incapacitate every single enemy in the level. Unlike the syringe in Blood Money, this one apparently has an unlimited amount of medicine to non-lethal knock out every single guard.

      You’ll still get penalties, but if you hide the bodies you can make up most of it.

  24. Mersadeon says:

    I feel like we already had this episode title in all the years of Spoiler Warning, but I’m not sure.

    Also, the “specific level of helpless” line really reminded me of DM of the Rings “specific level of tiredness” scene!

  25. Grudgeal says:

    This mission felt like a Metal Gear Solid level: Sneaking around an enclosed space filled with a lot of armed mooks to reach a designated Boss Fight Area you never knew about, after which something stupid happens in a cutscene. And also possibly because that Wade person looked faintly like Revolver Ocelot, only he’s nowhere as memorable.

    …And speaking of memorable, who were those people again? Have we met them before?

  26. Completely off topic but, if Shamus (or anyone else) are in need of some music for their projects (CC BY license) then I just uploaded my 3 albums plus a 4th previously unpublished album.
    The music of all the albums are from the late 1990s and early 2000s, so if you want “retro” it might fit.

    They are all available as lossless FLAC. Use, remix, edit, even commercially as you please as long as I’m credited. A link to the album on The Internet Archive or to my new website would be appreciated (so others can find the music too).

    The Naudives album is now available as flac from The Internet Archive
    https://archive.org/details/Rescator_Naudives_Album

    My other 3 albums are here
    https://archive.org/details/Rescator_Ryoko_Album
    https://archive.org/details/Rescator_ZXY_Album
    https://archive.org/details/Rescator_Game_Over_Album

    Hopefully some of this music will be of use to some projects out there.

  27. MrGuy says:

    Also, Lenny threatens to put a bullet right in Victoria’s head. He is holding Victoria with one hand, and the grenade in the other. But he’s threatening to SHOOT her? What’s he going to do, put the grenade gun, grab a gun out of his holster, and then shoot her?

    Why threaten something that you’re specifically not capable of doing right now, when other perfectly reasonable threats like “I’ll pull the pin!” or “I’ll blow her to kingdom come!” or even the generic “I’ll do it, man! I swear I will!” would have worked equally as well and NOT made Lenny sound like he doesn’t know “how I can grenadez”

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