Last year Hitman: Absolution attracted quite a bit of negative attention with its Saints Trailer at E3 2012. For those who didn’t see that trailer, or want a refresher:
This trailer attracted negative attention because is showed women in fetish outfits being violently killed by Hitman’s protagonist, Agent 47. The eight women – known as the Saints – appear as nuns, strip off, shoot up a building (completing missing the target) then die in a variety of ways at Agent 47’s hands. As a trailer it was an odd mix of sexual imagery and bloody violence that turned off a number of people.
Developers IO Interactive said they were surprised by the reaction to the trailer but it was based on a level in the game that they were now going to beef up to provide the Saints with more character. In fact, the quote is:
“The Saints trailer is based on a level within the game. One way to go about that level is to in all guns blazing but of course, it’s not the smartest way. We learned from the trailer that we really needed to give these characters some context and some back story,” said Blystad, “We’re working within the game—within that level—to build these characters up before you meet them. That way you know what you’re getting and you aren’t put off by them.”
(Sidenote 1: This controversy didn’t hurt Hitman: Absolution’s sales at all, with this game shifting 3.6m units worldwide… although publisher Square Enix wanted closer to 5m units shifted.)
(Sidenote 2: The trailer wasn’t even Hitman: Absolution’s most offensive promotional activity – that went to the Facebook app where you could put a ‘hit’ out on people for their “small tits” or “tiny penis”, among other things. Square Enix pulled the app and apologised for it pretty quickly after that launched.)
So, having played and finished Hitman: Absolution, was the controversy worth the attention given what the game really released with? Did the Saints get more character in-game?
I have to say that the reaction to the controversy changed nothing, because the Saints remain eye candy for Agent 47 to murder. They appear in a short cutscene when called in to deal with Agent 47 where they murder a tied-up man, then are the targets in the Attack of the Saints level (although seven Saints rather than eight), and that’s it. They aren’t any more difficult to take out than other opponents and their ‘special outfits’ serve no real purpose other than to make them look ridiculous next to the numerous fully dressed men in protective jackets who are supporting the field operation.
Here’s a playthrough of the Attack of the Saints level:
Do you see any character being given to the Saints? Would you be able to tell any of the Saints apart (outside of the single African-American Saint) in-game if they weren’t named targets?
There’s a few lines given to the Saints being effectively damaged women of all stereotypes that have been bought together and trained so as to “focus their rage” into special forces unit, but that’s about it. The end result remains Agent 47 killing sexy nuns who are (futilely) armed with big guns.
One extra trailer does exist about the Saints, but it is out of game and not something that would have been widely seen. It’s a recap on the Saint’s background and amusingly includes (if you stop to read the text of a letter) a query about why the Saints are dressed up in latex if they are meant to disguised as nuns. The unsaid response seems to be, “I dunno – we let all our murder squads pick their own outfits”.
However, the trailer still is very clear that despite the Saints’ alleged exceptional murder skills, Agent 47 still takes them out. So there are two trailers, released before the game, indicating that the Saints don’t pose an iota of real threat to Agent 47.
The big issue here isn’t that Agent 47 was killing women, it that he was killing women dressed up to be sexually appealing when they certainly didn’t need to be. Yes, they’ve got big guns, but the battle stilettos and tightest of tight clothes more than offset that.
The Saints are meant to be a special forces team, so at the very least combat boots and body armour – rather than high heels, stockings and talcum powder – should be a standard outfit. Plus there is nothing that the Saints do to show that they are any different from the garden variety minions you fight on any other level – compare that with Sanchez, who knocks out Agent 47 once and can be (depending on your approach in his level) a mini-boss one-on-one melee fight. In comparison, the Saints fire an RPG into a building and then wait around for Agent 47 to kill them.
On top of which their nun disguises would draw more attention than hide them – nuns in full habits are uncommon enough in most places, but sexy nuns? In latex? Unless you go to a particularly permissive Catholic congregation that’s held at an S&M club, those clothes won’t pass unnoticed. Given Hitman: Absolution’s focus on being in the ‘right’ disguise, it ends up being a violation of the game’s own logic.
My conclusion at the end of this is that the Saints trailer presented the Saints almost exactly as they appear in-game. Agent 47 can’t kill them all in-game the same way that he does in that trailer because 1) the Saints are never presented to the player all in one area, 2) Hitman: Absolution requires the player to be a lot more stealthy if they want to be successful in-game and 3) the trailer is a much more of a loving ode to rapid-fire wetwork than the game allows, but the role of the Saints remains exactly the same:
Look sexy in the cut scene, appear falsely competent and rapidly die at Agent 47’s hands.
If the Saints had their characters “beefed up” before Hitman: Absolution’s launch, I can only imagine how uni-dimensional they must have been before. Although IO Interactive said they were working on improving the Saints, the end product doesn’t bear much difference to the promotion that irritated a lot of people to start with.