I recently put out a call on Social Gadget’s Facebook page looking for contributors, whether it be in the from of guest posts, or tips on stories the SG community would like to be covered. The response was far greater than I expected with a fair few people getting back to me wanting to write about quite an eclectic range of things!
Ok, so in the interests of full disclosure I did spend five minutes before I started writing this article looking for nun puns [why wouldn't you!?]. It was my light hearted way of easing into the current hot button topic of whether IO Interactive have over stepped the mark with their latest pre-E3 trailer for Hitman: Absolution, “Attack of the Saints”.
It depicts the enigmatic Agent 47 patching himself up in a rundown motel before being cornered by a posse of gun toting assassin nuns in pvc/rubber cat suits. He then inexplicably pops up behind them and dispatches them with ruthless efficiency (now that I’ve written it down I’ve realised just how daft it sounds). The video is a spectacular display of CGI, it is brutal and visceral and I can’t deny that it’s an engaging trailer. It is exactly the kind of device developers use to catch our eye and make us exclaim, “OMGWTFBBQ!? That’s awesome!” Two things continue to baffle me about this trailer however: why the nuns, guys? And just what in the Sam Hill is going on here?
It has elicited some fairly robust responses from games journalists and commentators. Keza MacDonalds’ IGN piece chewed up and spat out the trailer, condemning it as nothing but tasteless, misogynistic violence-porn. Charlie Brooker took to twitter, roundly condemning the trailer as being aimed at “base, clueless imbeciles” and it had “set the games industry back 27 years”. Of course, Brooker being Brooker there were a few more choice words thrown in there for good measure.
Their two main objections being that the violence against women aspect is thrown in purely for shock value and sexualises it to a degree that becomes uncomfortable; as a result, we are being talked down to by the marketers. This was supposed to be a sophisticated, albeit brutal game. Why the Serious Sam/Duke Nukem-esque pandering of bums and boobs? The video games industry has come on in such leaps and bounds it is now talked of as a rival to the film industry in competing for our time and money, worth some £2.5billion to our economy. The industry has become more high-tech and impressive over time so we should have matured as an audience and grown alongside it. The people that started playing video games when they were an experiment are now in their 30’s. What makes this trailer so jarring to many is the marketers clearly think we are all still horny, adolescent boys, and with the judicial application of explosions, guns, blood and tits, us and our hard earned cash are easily parted…
I haven’t seen the same criticism of similar sexual images in other video games though. Vampire Bloodlines, Bayonetta [above], Harley Quinn in the Batman games [Arkham series] , were all pretty provocative. It is hard to argue that the Lara Croft series of games were so successful for their innovative level design and graphics and the fact that the main protagonist was a powerful, gun-toting female in skimpy shorts had nothing to do with it. Maybe it’s less sexist because Lara Croft was dishing out the violence and wasn’t the subject of it? Certainly the film industry continues to sell a great many films with the combination of violent and sexual images. Kill Bill, Death Proof, and Sucker Punch to name just a few. The violence meted out to the prostitute gang in Sin City was of a comparable ilk to this trailer, and they were similarly attired in leather and rubber, although the context of their situation was much clearer (they were effectively unionised, right?!)
Perhaps it is the lack of context that makes this trailer just a bit, well, dumb? Hitman previously had great advertising form, particularly the series of magazine ads that include “Beautifully Executed” showing a glamorous woman sprawled on a bed. It takes a moment to clock the neat little bullet hole in her forehead and it’s a clever motif that shows the meticulous nature of pulling off a perfect assassination in the game. It is worth pointing out to those that haven’t played Hitman that it is a dark world that 47 exists in. His previous targets have included drug kingpins, people traffickers, high profile paedophile diplomats, weapons engineers and Middle Eastern Sheiks. He has tracked them down to S&M parties in meat packing factories, crushed them under a chandelier at the opera or locked them in a sauna. The Attack of the Saints trailer bares only a passing resemblance to how a Hitman game plays. You can run and gun your way through the level, but that really isn’t the point or 47s’ style. I like to stroll leisurely out of the front door at the end of the mission, adjusting my tie as if nothing had happened and I had nothing to do with the corpse I had left behind. It is possible that the scene depicted never actually appears in the game. I will feel even more pandered to if this trailer ends up being nothing more than a cynical exercise in shock marketing and collecting internet clicks. The zombie game Dead Island ran with an ad showing the final desperate moments of a family trapped in their hotel by a rampaging Undead horde. Beautifully crafted, cleverly edited and with an affectingly sad ending, it delivered a much watched and much hyped award winning video from design group Axis Animation, but it bore little context or resemblance to the disappointing final product.
The Hitman: Absolution trailer is a well made trailer, but it is just ludicrous. It’s cool, but it doesn’t sell or represent the game well. Plus those nuns made a real dumb kill team! They didn’t cover their arcs or send anyone around the back. There is absolutely no reason why they are dressed that way either, apart from to display some gratuitous T&A. If I had been sent to kill the most deadly silent assassin I would be there in full body armour, not rocking up in my speedos’ that’s for sure.
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