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In Now Playing articles PC Gamer writers talk about the game currently dominating their spare time. Today Lorna Reid goes to the opera in Hitman: Blood Money.
Throwing myself down an opulent corridor in a hail of bullets, dressed as a painter, was not how I pictured my return to Hitman: Blood Money. As I stumble down a flight of stairs, still holding a bloody hammer, I m forced to concede that picking a lock in plain view of a guard wasn t a good idea. Nor was using the hammer in the undignified kerfuffle that followed.
In light of the new game s release, and with its Paris Showstopper shredding me, I decided to return to arguably the Hitman series crowning glory. And I just had to pick the Paris Opera House, didn t I?
Feet that had been so used to the layout of the grand building suddenly falter in the labyrinth of passages. Where the hell am I? Why is there inadequate signage? In the event of a fire, this place would be an outrageous death trap. The irony.
I m too busy getting worked up about Parisian health and safety standards to pay attention to where I m going, and get stuck in a door that opens inwards rather than outwards. I m turned into a bullet sponge. Again. My time in the Opera House is a three-act farce, more lethal to my self-esteem than I am to my two targets.
As my former prowess with the game fails to materialise I keep going back for more, working towards an ending where my targets, not me, get carted off in body-bags. This time I decide to stay out of trouble hah by engineering an accident, and set off to sabotage the winch for the chandelier, tucked away at the top of the opera house. One little problem... I can t find it. I only have to go up. How hard can that be? Staggeringly, it seems. I yank open doors, alarm guards, barge into the ladies dressing room and retreat amid a shower of screams. I pick locks and swear at staircases that go the wrong way. Fate and a shitty sense of direction conspire against me and I end up accidentally killing someone in a toilet before being gunned down by guards.
Restarting, and this time attempting to be a smart arse, I disguise myself as an actor, complete with a fake World War I pistol. I appear on stage as an executioner, hitting my mark beautifully. Then, in an unforgivable bit of overacting, I accidentally shoot my target a second time. My cover s blown. Shots erupt around me, I stumble off stage, and, in the ensuing chaos, inadvertently discover the door I d previously spent an age searching for. Feeling a Basil Fawltyesque meltdown coming on, I rattle up flights of steps to the roof space of the auditorium and find myself near the bloody winch room. There s no time to whip anything with a Silverballer because, in my frustrated rage, I slip off a gantry and die an ignoble death on the stairwell below.
As an assassin and an actor I ve failed. Worst of all, I died wearing an embarrassing moustache.
Despite the curtains closing on yet another of Agent 47 s lives, I couldn t help but conclude that Blood Money s sense of fun remains. I may have failed multiple times but I enjoyed it. I also learned that you should never send Frank Spencer to do an Agent s job.
By Lorna Reid
Square Enix has a pretty massive sale on its online store at the moment. In keeping with the spirit of Black Friday, the publisher has discounted a tonne of its back catalogue, but more importantly, you can get discounts on preorders too. More important than either of those, though, is that you can download Hitman 2: Silent Assassin for zero dollars.
Just head over to the website, make an account, 'purchase' Hitman 2: Silent Assassin and then use the code FreeSilentAssassin when you check out. While you're there you can get 10% discounts on preorders for Just Cause 3 and the new Hitman, among other titles.
The game is available until Sunday, November 29.
The first couple minutes of Hitman: Agent 47 are pretty much a video game cutscene, with grainy video and voiceover talking about secret and bad human research. The segment s purpose is to explain, Hey, this is a video game movie, and it s about genetically modified hitmen, and you re just going to have to deal with that. It s cool if you re late to the movie, though, because they explain all this in the clearest terms possible again about halfway through.
But who cares about the story? I watched Hitman: Agent 47 to judge whether or not Agent 47 is a good hitman. A good hitman, at least in the Hitman games, is one who succeeds at killing his targets with as few witnesses as possible, ideally without killing anyone but the targets. Sure, you can go nuts if you want, but stealth is encouraged, so that s the standard I m holding the movie version of Agent 47 to. With that in mind, I've graded his performance in the film's major action scenes. He did badly, as you'll see.
Obviously, reading about every action scene in a movie is going to lead to some spoilers, if you care.
As the movie starts, Agent 47 is out to get some bad guys, and you better believe he s gonna get them. First off, why can no one in the film industry design a UI that anyone would actually use? Agent 47 literally presses a button that says upload virus at one point. Then he tracks the bad guy cars with the Watch Dogs companion app while they all fumble with their infected, also stupid interfaces.
Pretty quickly, it s clear that our friend 47 is doing a bad job. He kills so many dudes he doesn't have to. He even shoots two guys sitting at bad-UI computer terminals and then props them up as if they re still working just so the other bad guys will get mad at them for not responding, discover that they re dead, and then see him emerge from the shadows. That s just rude as hell, and not very sneaky at all. F.
This showdown is set up when the camera pans through the ground, letting the audience know that subways are underground, as Agent 47 chases Zachary Quinto. So, Agent 47 and Zachary Quinto (who I ve decided is a character in the film for simplicity s sake) are fighting in a subway station, on the tracks, and the camera is shaking big time. We know martial arts, they yell into each other s faces at the same time, but they don t really. They just know how to work with direction that obscures the details of a bad fight.
There is a cool bit where Agent 47 almost, but doesn t, get killed by an oncoming train—remember that, from The Matrix?—but as a hitman he does very badly. Everyone in the subway station sees him. He shoots bullets into all kinds of crowds. There s no way he isn t being chased by law enforcement. F.
Next there s a part where Agent 47 walks into a heavily guarded military complex covered with guns. The metal detector and X-ray scanner detect all of these, another thing that happened in The Matrix, but instead of killing all the guards with sick moves, he lets himself get captured so that he can use his sick moves on everyone later. Getting captured is not a good hitman thing to do, even if you plan to escape later, but especially if you plan to escape later by loudly shooting people. F.
This is a prolonged fight involving a jet engine, and it isn t bad. Some dudes even get sucked into the jet engine, which almost approaches the creativity you'd see in an actual Hitman mission. And Agent 47 is a little stealthy here, sneaking up behind people and killing them with stuff he finds lying around, which shows improvisation and stealthiness. Still, he almost dies and is only saved by the villain s fatal flaw: pride. You can t always count on a villain to have a fatal flaw, 47. Sometimes they re just regular guys. D+.
This is the best scene because it stars an Audi RS 7 drifting around the bends of a parking garage and killing the hell out of a bunch of motorcycle jerks chasing it. I guess Agent 47 is driving it, but let's just pretend the Audi is its own character with its own motivation.
I really felt the Audi s pain when it was being shot full of cables from rooftop bad guys, who held it in place with their evil grapples, and then tried to zipline down the cables to kill Agent 47. No one mourns the Audi, but I suppose they don't have time what with bad guys coming from every direction. It turns out, those zipline guys made a bad mistake. They could have just shot at Agent 47 from the relative safety of the rooftops, but instead they get all plugged by his dual handguns while slowly descending. This happens in the middle of the street. Everyone sees it and Agent 47 is not stealthy at all. Also, he picks up Hannah Ware and carries her through streets full of people and no one cares and that's dumb. F.
This is a cool scene, because it involves helicopters and the roof of a skyscraper—you might say that the final gunshot was an exclamation mark—and Hannah Ware finally becomes the badass she secretly was the whole time. It s also the most visually arresting scene, with 47 s white shirt losing its edges against the impossibly white walls of an evil office building, which was the signature technique of one of my favorite American illustrators, Coles Phillips. Meanwhile, most of the rest of the movie oozes with all style of stock art: Bald man uses laptop. Depressed woman s empty pill bottle rolls across the floor. Establishing shot of car.
Anyway, it s fun to look at, but is Agent 47 finally a good hitman here, at the end? No way. He comes up with a convoluted plan to hit his man, sure, but everyone is looking at him like, I know who you are, you are a hitman, and I have seen your face. That s just not good hitman work. F.
Not really. I ve tried not to spoil the details of the plot because the only thing it has going for it is a couple misdirections. Other than that, it s pretty boring. Turns out an emotionless dude with a moderately close head shave is not very exciting to watch any time he s not shooting people.
Zachary Quinto is also boring, and doesn t convince me that he is a tough man, though he tries. Hannah Ware plays the best of the characters, because she s allowed to express feelings with her face, but the story doesn t let her be much more than a human MacGuffin. She appears at the beginning in a movie-ready state: a woman whose only defining qualities are plot points, like Lisbeth Salander if all we knew about her was that she has a dragon tattoo, and that the tattoo is a treasure map.
And that d all be fine if Agent 47 had James Bond or John Wick or The Raid levels of style and choreography, but it only timidly approaches those films to ask if it can borrow some of their stuff, and then breaks their stuff. Daniel Craig s contemplative rooftop swim in Skyfall, for instance, said a little about his headspace, and was a damn cool establishing scene. In this movie, Ware takes a nighttime dip in a hotel pool for no reason. I guess she s swimming because she s… upset… about the hitman?
Meanwhile, even with John Wick's David Leitch on staff, the action is good but never exceptional. Hitman is so concerned with making sure its characters look badass that it s often cut like a trailer, obscuring the greater form of the fights, and the complete windup and follow-through of each movement. The Matrix, on the other hand, shows us the full breadth of every dumb flip, kick, punch, block, and grimace in that subway scene. It s silly, and not really convincing, but it's still a wonder to watch all that continuous action and reaction. In Equilibrium, Christian Bale looks super dumb doing gunkata forms, but he doesn t give a crap, and not giving a crap is what makes him so cool. There's no attempt to obscure his choreography, allowing the action to be unreal and goofy and way more fun to watch.
There is some cool action choreography in Hitman, for sure, and I spotted not one but two helicopters in it, but that s all it has to offer. Helicopters, a good car chase, and a bit of good gunplay. Otherwise, the sentimental bits are entirely inert, the plot consists of cutscenes I'd skip in a game, and rather than being cool and effortlessly badass, Agent 47 seems like a self-conscious Bond impersonator. Check it out, guys, I just got out of this big fight, and what do I do? I just casually adjust my sleeve. Is that cool? It was cool when Bond did it but is it cool when I do it? Ah, it's cool, yep. I'm cool.
I love Hitman: Blood Money. It's a game that gives you the freedom to come up with your own plan, it provides real satisfaction when your plan goes off without a hitch, and perhaps most importantly, it can turn into a mad, deliriously fun scramble when your plan completely falls apart. As Phil pointed out earlier, you can now relive some of that fun in this series of Hitman-inspired Arma 3 scenarios by modder Helios.
There are a number of missions to choose from and many will feel immediately familiar to Hitman players. A father and son are hosting a gathering at a heavily guarded manor, and you've got to take both of them out separately. There's a opera being performed, and your target is one of the singers. A drug lord is throwing a party, and you're there to clip him, along with the guest of honor, if possible, while ducking members of his gang.
A lot of Agent 47's standard tricks are incorporated. You can steal people's clothing and wear it yourself, allowing you access to restricted areas, though the guards in the mod are pretty quick to sniff you out if walk too close to them, even disguised. You have a poison syringe you can use to quickly and quietly snuff one of your targets if you don't want to risk a shot with a silenced pistol. There are also things like weapons drops and uniform crates shown on your map, if you can manage to slip away and remain unnoticed until you reach them. And, of course, you can hide bodies.
Most importantly, these are freeform missions. Kill your target however you want, then escape to an extraction point. You start out in a safe area, usually filled with other, less-murderous guests, which gives you time to look around for your targets (they're marked by name on your screen), scope out the surrounding area and position of the guards, and find some way to slip away without causing too much suspicion. You may be able to switch off the power, giving you some additional stealth during night missions.
As you can probably guess, blowing your cover doesn't quite lead to the madcap chases and fights you're used to in Hitman, because Arma 3 is much less forgiving in terms of bullets tearing into flesh. There won't be a long, frantic gunfight that slowly spins Agent 47 to the ground in slow motion. Get spotted and you'll get shot, get shot and your mission is most likely over right then and there.
As difficult as they are, it's still a lot of fun to play these missions inside Arma 3, and they've been recreated very faithfully. Even as bad as I am at both Hitman and Arma 3, I did manage to take out my target in the opera mission and escape to the extraction zone, though it took more than a few tries.
Best of all, you can play these missions co-op with a friend. You can subscribe individually to these missions on the Steam workshop, and you'll find them listed in the 'Scenarios' section when you launch the game.
In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, stealthing around ships. We don't know why all the best stealth levels are set on boats, but they are.
Due to the popularity of military shooters, the ship level has become clich . It's the genre's lava level. Inevitably, it has a TV Tropes page.
I don't care. I love them. Specifically, I love them in stealth games, where they act as a setting, rather than a set piece. That bit where you're running through a semi-cinematic disaster movie, an invisible trigger sending the next wave of flooding water crashing through a door? I'm not a fan, thanks Tomb Raider. Scripting robs the setting of that sense of separation from the outside world; the idea of a small, confined, claustrophobic space with no escape and no backup. Not just for me, but for them—the guards.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution's Missing Link DLC opens on a ship, and it's one my favourite sections of the game. There is a very functional design philosophy to a big floating boat that sits at odds with the game's stylised futurism. In the open cities and sprawling office complexes, Deus Ex could lace its environments with high-tech design. The ship is just a ship. The scale is different—narrower, more linear. It's filled with plain, metallic walls. The doors are bulky slabs of mass. It feels solid. Real.
See also: the original Deus Ex, or Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. These levels stand apart as standalone vignettes contained with the overall flow of their respective campaigns.
It's pure coincidence that I'm writing this on the week of Alien: Isolation's release, but it's fitting. That is, to all intents and purposes, a stealth game set on a ship. But it occupies a different mental space than what I'm talking about here. In many ways it's the opposite. The film Alien is about a crew trapped in an inescapable place with a unstoppable killer. It is a film about being hunted. But take the opening Tanker chapter of Metal Gear Solid 2—it flips the concept. Your enemies are the ones trapped in an inescapable space, and you are the unstoppable killer.
I was about 17 when the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo came out. It was around the same time I was discovering horror films. The demo—containing the first section of the Tanker prologue—felt like a powerful, cathartic inversion to the stories I was watching. It manifested as a fascination with toying with the guards. First, I'd shoot out their radio, disabling communication with the ship at large. Then, I'd move. Give them a glimpse that something is out there. Finally I'd strike.
I should probably point out that I'm not a psychopathic monster. Games can, to the outsider, be horrifying. My repeated MGS2 playthroughs probably looked like sadistic torture sessions—another young mind corrupted by violence and giant seafaring transport vehicles. That's not the case—if anything, the experience felt more like I was directing a movie. None of it was real, so what story can I tell? How about a story where the monster wins.
In Hitman: Blood Money, the monster is even more insidious. He hides in plain sight.
In Hitman: Blood Money, the monster is even more insidious. He hides in plain sight. Here, 47 is essentially the Thing—another film based on horror in a remote environment. In the Death on the Mississippi level you discover members of different social strata scattered throughout compartments of the ship including workers, revelers, and, of course, your intended victims. With care, you can move through them all, a powerful subversive presence that, if you're playing as intended, passes unseen. I always play stealth games as perfectly as possible, often reloading if the fantasy of hunting through these spaces is broken.
The ultimate example is Coloratura, the winner of last year's Interactive Fiction competition. In it, you're a literal monster—pulled from the deep and tasked with finding your way home. The monster's actions are initially obfuscated by its alien thought patterns, but eventually, as you work out what you're doing, you'll realise the effect that you're having on the ship's human inhabitants. And then you'll keep doing it anyway.
To an extent you can pull this off in any remote setting. But there's something about the sea that makes the concept so irresistible. In every direction is a vast and inhospitable ocean, and I'm the most deadly thing on it.