Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The New Hitman Trailer is Really ... Something

Forgive them Father, for they have sinned.

It's kind of rare for me to be at a lack for words, but let's face it, the trailer for Hitman: Absolution kind of has that effect on people, often followed by confusion and/or rage. For those that might not have seen the trailer now making its rounds on the Internet, allow me to provide a link. Of course given the content I suppose I should issue a warning that there's gratuitous violence and some skimpy outfits:

The reactions to this trailer for the game, which has Agent 47 taking on a cadre of weaponry toting bondage nun wannabes The Saints has illicted a lot of reactions, some of them positive, some negative, but most just a sort of tired rolling of the eyes and an embittered sigh of "here we go again".

I can't say that I'm intimately familiar with the Hitman series, but from what I've seen in terms of gameplay and what I've read in terms of reviews I'd hardly say that this is extremely out of the ordinary. The series seems known for two things: a rather intense difficulty, and the at times morbid sense of humour and camp, the latter of which this trailer is definitely tapping into.

Some of the complaints are roughly what you'd expect; gratuitous violence against oversexualized women. It's hard to defend the trailer from the accusation that it's violence porn when that label seems pretty accurate and also probably the intent.

Now, I think I need to clarify for a moment here, when I say violence porn I'm talking more regarding the exaltation of violence rather then any sort of erotic content. I know that one of the complains is that The Saints are needlessly oversexed, but really aside from the outfits themselves I wouldn't say The Saints are hypersexualized here. I mean, the outward appearance of sexuality is there, but none of them acted in what I'd consider a "sexy" way of being. They pretty much just showed up, moved in on a building and then got killed.

There is the whole violence against women factor at play here too, but again this isn't like this was a group of defenceless damsels begging for their lives, they were after the protagonist, and he simply met deadly force with deadly force. It might not have been much of a fight really, but I'm not sure whether you'd pin that on if The Saints were inept or if Agent 47 is just that hyper-competent, a fact which the plots of the games often like pointing out in some way or another.

I'll grant you this; this video is the kind of thing that people like our dear friends that rally against video games eat up like candy. To them this exemplifies every video game ever, regardless of actual content. To us though it's just another trailer which is neither that original or really even anything to write home about when you really boil it down. Hitman doesn't represent the full spectrum of video games, nowhere near it, so we shrug, perhaps make an inane comment or two, and then move on.

I think that Penny Arcade's Tycho sums it up best in his little piece on it:

"The cinematic ambitions of the Hitman games have always been prominently displayed on (or very near to) its sleeve; I watched the video to see what the deal was, and they’re playing around with their subtitle in a pulpy, grindhouse vein.  Robert Rodriguez through and through.  It’s fight choreography, and it may set an “erotic” stage but it quickly - and I mean quickly - gives way to a gruesome, life or death, septum obliterating struggle that might be hot for somebody but I suspect that’s a very specific demographic.  Only a necrophile could be titillated by something like this; by the end, it literally defies the viewer to maintain an erection.  As spank material, it leaves something to be desired; specifically, spank material.
"I think that once a nun produces an RPG from her habit, we have passed through a kind of “veil” critically speaking.  We can certainly talk about it for a long time if you want to.  But she did pull out a rocket launcher, seriously just right out of there.  It came out.  And then people still wanted to talk about this as though it were some kind of haunted obelisk around which an entire medium whirls.
"I don’t understand what it is about the idea of a “medium” that people find so confusing; it’s a conceptual space where works that share certain characteristics may occur.  Nobody is going to approve of the entire continuum.  There’s no shortage of games for the broadest possible audience - there isn’t, and grotesque sums are being made seeking the wide part of the curve.  There are also niches, as in any ecology.  You can certainly find things you don’t like, but those things aren’t anti-matter; when they come into contact with things you do like, there is no hot flash which obliterates both.  This totalizing dialogue, where “everything” and “everyone” is this or that, and here are the teams, and morality is a linear abstraction as opposed to its three dimensional reality is a crock of fucking shit."

To sum all that up: yeah, it's kind of trite, but some people like trite. It's not going to kill you, nor is it even really going to matter unless you let it matter. Either way I suppose that all the fervour is making a case of no press is bad press for the game; probably even got it out there in the view of some people who will now pick it up that otherwise wouldn't have. Whether that was the goal to begin with is something that's beyond me to say. In the end all I can really comment on is that this wasn't the first time something like this happened, and I'm pretty damn sure it won't be the last either.

I'm not saying that this backlash isn't deserved either, just that I can't be a part of it. Perhaps it speaks more to me personally that I'm apathetic towards this more than anything else, but while I understand and indeed can condone some of the complaints regarding this, I can't lodge any myself.

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