As I’ve mentioned before, the entries in this series exist as both articles and videos. You can watch the video version, or you can scroll down and read it. The one I’m showing you today was actually the first video we produced in this series. It was kind of a pilot episode so we could get a sense for what the series should feel like. I need a little personal time, so I’m posting this now to fill the gap. If it seems a little janky, that’s why.
I want to share a cutscene with you. This is something really special. It’s the most nonsensical cutscene I’ve ever seen in a AAA video game.
The scene in question is from Hitman: Absolution. If you’re not into the series, the setup goes like this: Agent 47 is a genetically engineered assassin. His job is to infiltrate heavily guarded places and take out powerful people without causing chaos. If you play well, then you’ll only kill your assigned target. If you play really well, then you’ll make it look like an accident and nobody will be the wiser.
In this particular mission your job is to infiltrate the Terminus Hotel and gather intel on what the bad guys are doing. You’re not even supposed to kill anyone.
Agent 47 has to sneak into the presidential suite. (I guess you could also shoot your way in, if you like playing games wrong.) The goal is to crawl into a vent so you can eavesdrop on the conversation between our antagonist Dexter and Layla his personal assistant. At this point the mission is technically over. You’ve gathered the intel. 47 should theoretically leave at this point. But for some reason we jump into cutscene mode, and this is where everything goes off the rails.
Agent 47 enters the presidential suite. Inside is a guy that looks like Danny Trejo blown up to Hulk-sized proportions. This is Sanchez, Dexter’s bodyguard. Agent 47 tries to strangle him, and Sanchez throws him into the next room. 47 is knocked out.
47 has no reason to enter this room. Even if he did, he has no reason to attempt to kill this guy. And even if he did, why is he trying to strangle him with piano wire? It’s the one weapon in his arsenal that requires him to physically overpower his target. For crying out loud, his signature weapon is a silenced pistol!
Dexter and Layla get a look at Agent 47.
I should back up here and explain something. The Hitman has this barcode tattooed on the back of his head. It’s just this thing to drive home that he’s this manufactured killing machine. At the start of this mission, Agent 47 renounced the agency he works for, and as part of that move he cut the barcode off the back of his head. Now he’s got a bandage there.
So now Dexter gets a look at Agent 47. The camera focuses on the bandage, and suddenly Dexter knows what 47 is. Nobody else in the history of the franchise has been able to recognize Agent 47 based on this barcode, but now that he’s cut it off, covered it up, and he’s lying on his back, Dexter can immediately tell he’s a hitman. It’s like, after years of nobody being able to see through Clark Kent’s disguise, Kent puts on a mask that covers his entire face, and then someone goes, “Oh look, that guy is Superman!”
Next there’s a knock at the door. It’s housekeeping. I’m not sure why housekeeping is going around knocking on doors in the middle of the night asking to clean the place, but whatever. Dexter invites her in, murders her with his own pocket knife, and then puts the murder weapon into 47’s hand.
He says he’d love to kill the legendary Hitman, but that would bring him “too much attention”. What? He already thinks the Agency is after him. Does he think they’ll leave him alone if he doesn’t personally kill the Hitman? What is Dexter trying to accomplish here? Is he trying to frame the hitman for murder? How would that bring him less attention than just killing the dude and dumping the body elsewhere?
And just to be clear, yes, he’s trying to FRAME a HITMAN for MURDER.
The frame-up isn’t even needed. 47 tried to kill Sanchez when he entered the room. That’s attempted murder. That’s a real crime. Just call the cops and you’re done.
When he’s done framing 47, Dexter cheers and says “Yee-ha!” Why is he happy about this? What is he getting out of it? He’s got a dead maid in his room. Even if his stupid plan worked, he’s still got to pack his bags and stay in a different hotel tonight.
So then Dexter begins dousing the room in alcohol. He’s decided to start a fire, even though this contradicts everything we just saw. He’s going to set fire to his own hotel room, which ought to kill the guy he just said he needed to spare and also destroy all the evidence he just planted. What’s he going to tell the police? That this bald guy snuck into his room, assassinated the maid, then set fire to the room and took a nap in the middle of the floor? What is this? What am I watching?
Dexter and his entourage then flee the room with no luggage, leaving all their belongings to burn.
We cut to the moment when Agent 47 wakes up. In the first half of this scene his was on his back with his hands at his sides and now he’s on his stomach with his arms over his head and the knife isn’t anywhere to be seen. I wouldn’t make a big deal about little continuity errors like this, but the last three minutes of this cutscene were spent establishing the details of this ridiculous frame-up.
47 wakes up in a burning room and his first move is to BLOCK ONE OF THE EXITS. He wasn’t awake for the previous scene, so he has NO WAY of knowing the cops are coming for him. For all he knows, he’s trapping himself in a burning room for no reason!
But the cops are indeed coming. Dexter fled the hotel and called the police, and the SWAT team somehow made it all the way to the hotel and got to the top floor before the flames could cross the room?
Dexter lit the carpet on fire. In fact, he poured the alcohol on the floor right in front of 47’s face. But now the carpet is the only part of the room that isn’t burning. The police are now trying to break down the door so they can question Agent 47 while the building burns down around them.
The cutscene finally ends and we transition back to gameplay. I don’t know what the furniture in the presidential suite is made of, but the entire room explodes as soon as 47 slips out the window. Despite this, the police still seem to act like they saw the crime scene. A helicopter chases you around. As 47 stands on a ledge outside the exploding building, the police shout at him to, “Stay where you are!” (Like, really? Stay right here on the ledge? Is someone going to come out on the ledge with me to ask me questions?) Apparently they want to talk to you about “the woman in the room”, who they never saw.
Dozens of police continue to hang around inside of this burning building. Eventually the helicopter chases you around and fires into the smoke at random, because shooting indiscriminately into burning buildings at people trying to escape the flames is a perfectly normal way to manage suspects in the middle of a murder investigation of a victim they haven’t even seen yet.
Like, is the writer saying these police are corrupt thugs, or do the police somehow know they’re dealing with a legendary hitman? Or did Dexter pay them off? But if Dexter has that much power over the police, then why did he need to frame 47 for murder and burn down a hotel? What is going on here?
Okay, deep breath.
There’s a lot more. This entire game with filled this sort of nonsense, but none of it is as deliciously moronic as this scene.
I’ve heard people defend this mess by claiming it’s satire. I’ll admit the scene is so bizarre that it’s tempting to look for these sorts of explanations, but there’s nothing really satirical here. There aren’t any jokes, references, or callbacks to other works. What movie is this scene supposedly satirizing? The only reason to think it might be satire is that it’s really extraordinarily bad. By that same logic you could claim The Room is satire.
This doesn’t even feel like a Hitman game. The scenarios are wrong, the protagonist is out of character, and the gameplay is off. It feels like Uwe Boll adapted Hitman into a movie, and Hitman Absolution is the tie-in video game for that.
The good news is that the series has recovered. The last two Hitman games have been really good. I don’t recommend playing Hitman Absolution, but it’s probably worth watching on YouTube. The whole thing is surreal, from the dialog to the level design to the premise itself.
So that’s the dumbest cutscene in video games. Maybe there’s something worse out there that I just haven’t come across yet, but I’ve played a lot of games and as far as I can tell this is the absolute best worst cutscene. If you’ve found something you think can top it, please tell me about it in the comments.
About This Series
I’m kinda frustrated with how this series is performing on YouTube. Each video gets fewer views than the one before. Sure, you could argue that maybe the videos aren’t very good and I’m getting exactly the views I deserve. Except, the videos are getting positive commentsAmazingly positive by YouTube standards. and a very good ratio of likes to dislikesGenerally about 98% likes.. This is YouTube we’re talking about here. If my videos were terrible, people would tell me in the comments.
So people like the videos, but the viewership is forming a clear downward trend. The only explanation is that I need to be doing more to placate THE ALGORITHM. Based on what I’ve read, THE ALGORITHM doesn’t care about quality, it only cares about engagement. It doesn’t care if you push the thumbs up / down button, it only cares that you expressed a preference. It doesn’t care if you insulted the creator in the comments, it only cares that you left a comment.
Which explains why every damn video on YouTube has to start with an advertisement for itself, begging for people to interact with likes, subscriptions, comments, and the stupid bell icon. It’s such a stupid waste of everyone’s time, but this is the world THE ALGORITHM has built for us. If Bob and I have similar quality videos but he begs for engagement and I don’t, then THE ALGORITHM will lift him up and bury me. That’s really frustrating, since I liked keeping my videos clean and free of all the usual social media nonsense.
Ten years ago YouTube was a very different place. I could throw up a half-assed video of random crap and score 35k views with no trouble. I have multiple videos with millions of views. Now I put up a proper video essay and I struggle to hit just 1k! Certainly some of this is due to the overall rise in quality on YouTube and the sheer number of contributors, but I think a lot of the blame needs to go to THE ALGORITHM.
I understand why it exists, and I don’t have any suggestions for how to help viewers find good videos in this tsunami of content. Still, the only thing I resent more than sitting through these endless engagement commercials is having to put them in my own videos. Yuck.
I put a plea for engagement at the end of this video. We’ll see how it performs. I really hope things turn around. I really love this series and it’s really cool to be collaborating with my son. I love the work he’s doing, but it’s silly to pour all these hours into videos that are seen by so few people.
 Amazingly positive by YouTube standards.
 Generally about 98% likes.
WAY back in 2005, I wrote about a D&D campaign I was running. The campaign is still there, in the bottom-most strata of the archives.
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