This week, Yahtzee reviews Hitman 2 and Killer7.
Reviewing Battlefield V hardly seems fair when I blew off Call of Duty: WWII; going back to tired old World War II after having innovatively explored new settings in Modern Warfare and Black Ops was just pathetic, frankly, and Battlefield instantly following suit like a puppy starved of cuddles and Boneos is new levels of pathetic. This is "no one showed up to my Babylon 5-themed birthday party" territory, so bollocks to it; I played Hitman 2 instead this week - not the first Hitman 2; the other Hitman 2 - another series with a blind spot for numbers, which is particularly odd, seeing as the main character is named after one. Agent 47, Baldy McBarcode, continues the story that began with Hitman 1 - not the original Hitman 1; the last one - in which he was in pursuit of an ideological killer and now discovers that continuing the pursuit will uncover hidden truths about his origins. Oh, Christ, not again, Agent 47! How many times is this, now?! You have more sinister hidden truths in your origins than the average supermarket sausage!
It's probably not worth trying to get your head around what continuity may or may not exist in the Hitman series at this point - personally, I stopped keeping track around the time of the rocket-launcher bondage nuns - but even focusing just on the last two games, it's probably not worth getting invested in the plot, because the developers certainly aren't. The plot is relegated to cheap-as-chips between-mission slideshow cutscenes, and only seems to exist to limply sandwich together the usual unconnected collection of elaborate, open-ended, NPC-crowded missions set in glamorous international destinations, which many would argue is all you need, but come on; maybe a pastry case only exists as a sausage delivery system, but it still wouldn't be a sausage roll without it.
Games are always trying to skip to dessert too quickly. You've got to have the talky bits at the start of the Indiana Jones film to put the exciting action scenes into context; you can't just explain the plot in a fucking news ticker at the bottom of the screen. And just like its predecessor, Hitman 2 ends on an unsatisfying cliffhanger. With the massive financial risk inherent to AAA development these days, promising a sequel once is like dangling your baby off a high-rise balcony; promising one twice is like doing the ironing with your free hand.
After all that, Hitman 2 is, rather disappointingly, little more than an expansion pack for Hitman 1, so you might as well just watch the review of that if you want to hear about the gameplay; it's still the stealthy-stealthy, disguisey-disguisey, get-them-alone-and-neck-snappy-snappy definitive Hitman experience. Still the poster boy for Cockup Cascade, where you might as well reload your last save the instant an NPC you couldn't possibly have known about comes in and catches you crouched over an unconscious waiter with your trousers around your ankles. Again, the game will come across as insultingly brief if you don't go along with the intended experience of replaying each mission over and over again to beat all the challenges, like an OCD patient in the Rubik's Cube warehouse. Personally, I don't see the appeal of doing that just for the sake of ticking boxes: "Kill target with gun", "Kill target with drowning", "Kill target with Toilet Duck", "Kill target with the hind legs of a cat".
What I will say about Hitman 2 specifically is that I get a strong sense that the series is blatantly repeating itself; this feeling came on after I got to the mission titled "Another Life", set in an American suburb which, for some reason, reminded me of a mission from Hitman: Blood Money set in an American suburb that was titled "A New Life". How embarrassing for you, IO Interactive; or it would be, if being a AAA developer these days didn't mandate having your shame glands surgically removed, which explains why they're charging full price for an expansion pack and two slightly-sucked Gobstoppers.
Let's talk about another game about assassins, although it's only a game about assassins in the sense that Back to the Future III is about engine maintenance: Killer7, a classic PS2/GameCube-era game recently re-released on Steam, and the game that put the "weird" into "weirdo auteur developer Suda51". "Killer7"? "Suda51"? It really is a numbers festival this week, isn't it? Next, we'll watch 2001, and listen to The B-52's, and consume a very large number of drinks!
Killer7 is sort of a shooter/puzzler/adventure game/choo-choo train simulator where you run back and forth along a fixed track shooting multicolored suicide bombers that resemble gritty, vampiric versions of Morph from The Tony Hart Show. You're an assassin, who's actually seven assassins, who's actually one assassin, different to the first assassin I mentioned, and you're caught in the middle of a complex global plot involving conspiracy, multiple political parties, and a bloke with an afro. To say the developer must have been on acid would be very lazy; you don't get much done on acid besides talk nonsense and stare at the carpet. You might have fun if you play the game on acid, but don't blame me if you end up trying to assassinate Jodie Foster or something.
Killer7 is one of those games that I love, but I'm not sure I'd recommend; take the sort of usual baseline level of weirdness all Japanese games have by virtue of being from a different culture that's been nuked more than the recommended healthy number of times, then add a sort of anarchic post-punk stream of consciousness where even the art style changes from chapter to chapter, and then cut the budget a few times so the developers have to drop every scene that explained what the fuck was going on. But even without understanding what the fuck was going on, there's still enough humanity in the main characters that you feel something for them by the end of their journey, especially the Mexican wrestler who headbutts bullets out of the air; what I felt for him was a strong desire to invite him to my next birthday party.
It's a game you play for the surface spectacle more than the deeper meaning, which is just as well, 'cos as a game, it's kind of shitty. The challenge curve resembles a piece of spaghetti thrown carelessly at a wall, between the incredibly easy puzzles, standard enemies with wildly varying difficulty, and a bunch of obscure boss fight things where you're left in a room with a hostile gunman and a pool cue and a rubber duck and you're just supposed to figure it out. The game does benefit from a PC port; it's all in lovely HD now, crisper than the autumn leaves in Paradise, California, and you can play the first-person combat with mouse and keyboard, which I guess isn't a thing on Suda51's home planet, because all the tutorials still assume you're using a controller, and you have to trial-and-error your way into figuring the keys out. And that, on top of the game already being terrible at explaining certain mechanics, means you'll be more confused than a blind dog in a small room full of assorted buttholes.
And there are other things I wish they'd taken the opportunity to fix, like audio mixing; there's a scene in a burning room right before a boss fight where the boss is saying something, and you'd assume anything a boss tells you in a burning room right before they die has got to be important, but you can't make out what the fuck she's saying over the ambient fire noises. "Ah, maybe that's the point, Yahtz, like that bit in Evangelion where they deliberately mute the dialogue just as Speccy McCuntflaps says something important. Or maybe it's intended as an analogy for modern times, in which important information is drowned out by sensationalist media." Ugh, don't start down that rabbit hole; maybe me kicking you in the bollocks is a metaphor for the neoconservative urban renewal policy.
- Assassin of your heart: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Hey I hear No More Heroes 3 is out early next year I wonder what part of the Switch we will have to simulate masturbation with
- If the transcribers are watching this it's spelled "Speccy McCuntflaps"