Hitman: Absolution is a game about assassinating people in public spaces. The E3 demo puts players in control of Agent 47 in a bustling Chinatown quarter surrounded by hundreds of people, all potential witnesses to his crime. Paradoxically, in the moments before the violent outbreak, no one cares that 47 is there. He’s just another urban obstacle standing in the way of an overworked city dweller’s trip home.
The brief mission recalls an an essay on American Psycho, in which Blake Butler recounted how everyone in the story is essentially ignoring its psychopathic protagonist.
This isn’t necessarily a murderous man, or even a nihilist of sorts, completely blank, but instead he is somebody who wants. His wants might be based on front end with the flanking references to superficial crap, as shown in the incessant descriptions of what everyone is wearing by their brands, and the wish for impressing others with such and impressing himself with gaining more; but really it is in the way he is continually shunted off from conversation, saying things that no one hears, no matter how plainly stated, the continually being referred to by the wrong name, the back and forth trading of lovers like items, etc. Though Bateman may play ball, and clearly is central to this lifestyle, there is something in the current of him that tells you this isn’t where he wished to be, not really; that even as he spouts the same junk as any other, and with even more fervent dedication pursues those items that others idolize, there is something in here that is, almost against his will, becoming derailed.
There is a sad parallel of this experience in Absolution. When Agent 47 wanders out in the midst of great crowds no one sees him, no one hears him, and all of his thoughts are warped by the mandate to kill, the one act that finally makes him visible. And when he is visible people realize that he is evil and deserves to be killed. And so he is attacked in return by packs of angry men in uniforms who are bearing arms. And the crowds run from these monsters screaming in horror.
Like American Psycho the brief demo connects those moments of brooding in ignominy to the terrifying outbreaks of violence and fatalistic knowledge that, while being ignored might be awful, the things required to stand out of the crowd are even worse. The only way out is to go through with the assassination, but the only way through the assassination is to become a monster. That experience makes Hitman: Absolution‘s demo one of the most powerful experiences on show at E3.