Ah Agent 47, How I’ve Missed Thee…

The feeling of nostalgia was overwhelming as I popped the disc into the PS3 and waited for the latest update to load and install on Hitman Absolution. I loved the old Hitman with his bald pate complete with bar code and his cold blooded bad-ass killing instinct not to mention his sense of humour.

Who else would think of dressing up like a clown to infiltrate a party to get closer to his next victim (Blood Money), or dressing up as a Priest to take out the baddies in a Catholic Orphanage (Absolution).

Agent 47, that’s who.

Although in our minds (and actions) it is we who are really Agent 47; looking sharp and cool in the black suit with white shirt and red tie combo that makes up his professional attire complete with black leather “shooting gloves” and patent leather shoes. Forget Altair and Ezio and the other “new boys” on the block. Agent 47 was the original assassin and still is.

Now don’t get me wrong. I loved the Assassin’s Creed verse from its maiden voyage with the egotistical Altair who gets busted down to the assassin’s equivalent of a buck private. His journey back up and slow realization that someone wasn’t telling the truth still interests me and is the best of the franchise, in my opinion.

But Agent 47 with his “genetically manufactured” assassination skill which goes to prove that great contract killers are not just born, they are also made, has never bored me. Frustrated yes, but never bored. The times that I got frustrated with him was when I had repeatedly failed to stealthily kill the target and I was either killed or had to run for my life and try all over again. Of course when that happened, the thought of stealth went right out the window and I generally would “go Genghis Kahn” on everyone in sight and initiate a blood bath that old Genghis would have envied.

Frustrations aside, with my own limitations never that of Agent 47’s, the games are addictive and challenging in a way that other game’s just can’t replicate.

Looking at the Hitman franchise I chuckle when I remember how angry I would get at having to completely redo a mission because I’d been spotted or killed an innocent bystander. Absolution does not have that problem as you can save at “set” points in the game. So, yes, you still have to re-do some of the mission but not all of it; unless, of course, you want to.

The only problem I’ve had so far is that when I crouch, I can’t “un-crouch.” So you wind up crouch walking through crowds of people who do notice. I had an npc say, “Look at the hunchback.” Another told me to stand up and “stop acting like a child.” So far so irritating, but I cannot find a reference anyplace else where this problem is mentioned. So until I find a solution I’ll continue to have 47 hunched over after that first crouch.

*And before you say anything, yes I have pressed the O again and it changes nothing. He still crouches and looks bloody ridiculous. It must be some sort of glitch.*

I do have to say about the graphics at this point. As quickly as I could “get into” the old PS2 verse of Hitman, it did have a few issues with graphics. A lot of the PS2 games did. But you could ignore that because of the ease of immersing yourself into the role of 47. But the “last gen” graphics could give you a jolt now and again.

Not so Absolution. The colours and graphics are stunning. The textures are great and the overall appearance of the game’s set pieces look impressive. There have been no moments where I’ve been thrown out of the game because of a graphics let down. The game play itself is not difficult although, as I’ve said before, I am not the world’s expert at stealth. In fact despite the crouching problem, I’m doing pretty well. I still have moments where I get just that little bit too annoyed and rather than do a Genghis Kahn, I’ll do a Clyde Barrow and just start shooting.

When the opening cut scenes finished on the new game, slipping back into the world of Agent 47 felt as easy as slipping into an old pair of comfy sneakers (or patent leather shoes). I immediately found myself looking at the verse through familiar eyes. The world of stealth has not changed. You have a new “instinct” gauge that can be used to tell you where the enemies are and what path you should be taking. A little like Assassin Creed‘s eagle vision except that this gauge can run out of instinct and leave you blind.

I won’t talk about any of the games particulars, i.e. plot. But I will say it’s a good one, folks, it’s a good one. I will also say that 47 has learned a few new tricks, like how to kill with a screw driver, throwing a knife and an almost balletic way of using a fire axe to dispose of enemies. Just to list a few of these new kill skills. I’m sure he’s picked up a few other new ones since the last time we met but I haven’t encountered them yet.

The voice acting is top-notch. They’ve taken a page out of Naughty Dog‘s book and let the actors actually act with each other. No separate sound booths here with an actor reading his lines into dead air. They interact and even get to wear the motion capture suits a la Naughty Dog. It helps. There are some pretty big names attached to the project. Powers Boothe, Vivica A. FoxKeith Carradine, Traci Lords (ex porn star) and of course David Bateson is back providing the voice for Agent 47.

So apart from the continuing problem of crouching (or conversely not being able to stand up straight) I am loving this blast from the past with all its new trappings. It even looks as though the young girl that Agent 47 is trying to protect might be a new improved female version of him. It does sort of make me wonder is there will soon be a “Hitgirl” (and not Chloe Moritz from Kick Ass either). I am not that far into the game yet, I’m now competing with a pig-tailed brown haired version of Daisy Duke on a shooting range and not doing fantastically well. Of course, my aim is always a little off when I’m target shooting at two in the morning.

I did not realize how much I missed old baldy until I started playing Absolution. I suppose I could have gone back at anytime and played the old favourites, Blood Money or Contracts, but there never seemed to be the time. What with new games coming out and my tendency to replay all of the three Naughty Dog Drake games, I just couldn’t take the time.

But playing the long awaited “sequel” to Hitman, I’m sorry I wasn’t more faithful. Still, it has not taken me any time at all to get back into the swing of the Hitman verse and to fight off all the bad guys and terminate the targets. I’ve had to fight the compulsion to wear adult diapers and have my food given to me via a drip so I can play uninterrupted.

I also have to fight the urge to react badly to people who interrupt my game play for whatever the reason.

Why are Glitchy Games the New Norm?

You cannot refer to yourself as a “gamer” if you don’t know about the multitude of glitches in Skyrim.  Just check out the video below (courtesy of Household Gamer on YouTube) for an example of just a very small amount of glitches that are in this game.

Skyrim has an enormous amount of glitches in its verse. A lot of gamers react quite huffily when this is pointed out. “Well, it’s a huge game man, what do you expect?” I answer, “No glitches.”

In an age where the average expenditure for a AAA title video game is in the region of 50 to 60 pounds sterling (or the dollar/monetary unit of where you live) or more, I expect no glitches…at all.

Back in the day, glitches were unheard of. PS1/PS2 and the old Xbox were practically glitch free. The games were a lot cheaper and yes the graphics not nearly so spectacular. I will also mention that the technology wasn’t as advanced.

Why then, in this advanced technology, enhanced graphics and expensive game arena are most games filled with glitches. More importantly, why are gamers accepting this as the norm? Have we gotten that complacent? That easily pleased? Does a fast paced action packed game with a sandbox world mean that glitches are now acceptable?

I don’t get it.

Incredible floating dead soldier.

At the end of every video game ever made there is an incredibly long list of credits. If you can manage to sit through this infinite scroll of participants who contributed to the game you will see Quality Assurance and Quality Checks et al. I don’t think so. If you Quality Assurance guys were really doing your job, the glitches would be gone. You are all fired.

The problem seems to be that the games industry is placing a huge emphasis on deadlines. Since the industry discovered that they are scraping in loads more coin than the movie industry, they’ve moved their goalposts. It appears that the new target of all main stream games companies is the, “Let’s get hands on those controllers, guys and gals. Players equal profits.

This new adherence to unrealistic deadlines is allowing these technological problems to steadily increase in the gaming world. And it’s not just glitches that are affecting these AAA games.

Remember the rage and fury of Mass Effect fans when the debacle of Mass Effect 3 ending appeared? Because their original ending of the game had been leaked and their deadline was fast approaching (in about 2 weeks time if I remember correctly) they wrote an unsatisfactory ending –not by the original writing team, I hasten to add– and wound up deviating wildly from their first ending.

The result was a mish-mash of an ending that departed from the entire premise of the Mass Effect series. Which was of course that, “Your decisions mould the ending of the game.” All this came about because apparently their new partner (EA games) demanded that they meet the now ridiculous deadline.

I honestly think that the new target of money making versus making great re-playable games and meeting unrealistic deadlines is ultimately going to cost the games industry money.

Hardcore gamers, who are the same guys who started playing when they were in short pants, have gotten older and (surprise!) are still hardcore gamers. The average playing age is creeping up. And I’ve got news for you game company guys, the older you get the less likely you are to be easily satisfied by shoddy products.

Oh no. This doesn’t throw me out of the game at all! Half Life 2 glitch.

There is nothing more annoying, or as likely to throw you out of the moment, than an irritating glitch in a game. Assassin’s Creed has had plenty of, “There’s a guards head and shoulders sticking up through the roof,” moments. These moments (which appear in a disturbing amount of games) are amusing at first. Then just irritating.

Sure I get excited about a new game coming out. I’m beside myself at the moment waiting for the new Hitman.

But as excited as I am about the new Hitman: Absolution, there are a few other games I also can’t wait to get my hands on. And this is where the money thing comes in. I’ve already set aside a few games to trade in for Hitman and Black Ops 2 (don’t judge!) if any more come out like…BioShock Infinite. I’m screwed. Too much expenditure for my tiny budget.

This is my point, I suppose, I don’t mind paying my hard earned pennies for a great, highly anticipated game. But I do begrudge paying for a glitch-filled, highly anticipated game. I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling either.

So games companies take note. I think you’re going to find a lot of “hard-core” gamers aren’t going to be happy with being sold sub-standard goods. We might just start asking for our money back.

Glitch (video game)
Glitch (video game) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)