Hitman: Absolution has been in the works for a long time, so long that the its predecessors are now considered retro. The series it’s born of is fondly remembered, but the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia can cause problems. Truth is the Hitman games were always exploitive, as violent and dumb as a Mickey Spillane novel. Its cerebral, improvisational challenges were sophisticated but that didn’t change the fact that you were still a murderer working for a secret order spouting absurd dialogue. The pre-E3 2012 trailer for Absolution that showed Agent 47 gunning down a squad of lingerie-wearing nun soldiers wasn’t a new low for the series. It was the same old low.
The only thing different is the audience, whose outrage over that trailer’s brazen misogyny has actually spurred developer IO Interactive to change the content of its game. Speaking with Eurogamer at Gamescom 2012, director Tore Blystad said that the level that trailer was based on had to be altered in the wake of this spring’s controversy.
“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.”
Know your sexy nun before you fight her, player!
Blystad explained that he was surprised by people’s reaction to the game. “The game is inspired by Grindhouse-style movies, so for us the trailer was a natural way to deal with that subject matter,” said the director, “We’ve been trying to find out, y’know, how could we not see this happening? If we knew it would get such a negative reaction we would have done it in a different way.”
He shouldn’t have to though. There is room in video games for the exploitive, for the grindhouse. There’s room for dirty subjects, just like there is in books, movies, music, painting, literally every form of human expression. Hitman is a grindhouse game, and that’s just fine.
Hitman: Absolution though is coming out at a time when the people of the world are, after thirty years, sick and tired of 99 percent of all video games being grindhouse games. They’re almost all exploitive, all exaggeratedly male. There’s just not enough balance.
Changing the sexy nuns won’t help IO Interactive because sexy nuns aren’t the problem. The problem is that the majority of big-budget video games are made for 15-year-old white boys and are built around their tastes. It just so happens that Blystad’s game was the right target at the right time for the audience’s ire.