We cannot begin to address the Campaign Mode Overview without first acknowledging that the Hitman game series has always been about the story, and the tight focus and care that has been taken from title to title to embed the common thread that drove the many different plots, all of which made their way back to Agent 47 eventually, whether in his roles as Subject 47, or briefly as Mister 47 after his departure from the Lab in the period during which he was, for all practical purposes, a free citizen before he took up his professional position as an Agent for the ICA.
Depending upon just where you came into the stories – which title was your first that is – you may well have a slightly different view of Agent 47 than the next gamer, but the one common denominator that you should have taken away from the games is that the man who began the journey in Codename 47 is by no stretch of the imagination the man who has arrived at the start of the story in Absolution – a story that finally separates 47 from his profession in a meaningful way, and that provides the player, for the first time, a glimpse of the man behind the number and his now maturing sense of personal morality.
Before we move away from that subject there is another point that needs to be explored: the effect of the development of personal morality on 47.
As the protagonist of these five stories, 47 is really the focus; what he does for a living and who he does it for notwithstanding, the games are really about him, not about the ICA or the antagonists, or how we judge the idea of justice that each of the stories illustrates. And while many of the changes were subtle, from game to game, so subtle in fact that they are easy to miss, all that one must do in order to truly appreciate the changes in the man is to play Codename 47 again, and then play Blood Money - the difference between the Agent 47 then and the Agent 47 now is startling.
Before he began to form his own world view and his personal sense of morality, it is clear that 47 chose to suppress his feelings and make his decisions and his actions about the job. He placed an emphasis upon doing the best job that he could, operating within the parameters of the assignment, and by doing that he separated the emotional issues that could have caused him to pause or make a mistake at a crucial moment, and so racked up an impressive record of successes for which the Agency held him in the highest esteem.
The Official Agent 47 Intro Montage
What the Agency did not see – and what the player should have – was that as the stories progressed the matter of personal morality and the need to question some of the decisions that were being made slowly emerged into the conscious mind of Agent 47, transforming him into less a killing machine, and more an individual. This is far more significant a change than you might think, largely because when he was designed and programmed before Ort-Meyer thrust him onto the ICA stage, none of that was part of the formula!
The Agent 47 we now play is not the Agent 47 who we played at the beginning of this journey. If we look at it strictly from a practical view, Agent 47 is broken. If we look at it from a personal view, we might conclude that Agent 47 has finally started to repair himself, at least with respect to the psychology of being human, which one can make a pretty convincing case that he was not quite human at the start of this long and violent road.
Ultimately the thing to remember as you begin the Campaign Mode of the game is that this is more than simply the resolution of the many different story elements – oh, it is that for sure – or the wrapping up and addressing of unanswered questions, though it does a fair bit of that as well, but it is also the critical juncture at which 47 stops acting and begins reacting. That is the most profound aspect of this entry in the series, and perhaps the most overlooked by the gamers who have reviewed it.
As you embark upon this newest – and closing – adventure, it will probably help you immensely to bear in mind that what you are seeing is, if not a phoenix rising from the ashes, than at the very least the emergence of a hero from the shell that has traditionally been labeled the anti-hero, and that is cause to celebrate, because it suggests that the titles that follow in the series have the potential for much deeper and more meaningful play.
The story mode (Campaign) in Hitman: Absolution brings us the return of the cold and calculating Agent 47 that we know and like, but also provides a venue change that builds into the process the question of right and wrong, which is a struggle that we have never had to address before. Of course if that is the intentions of the developers that is all well and good, but even so it does not prevent you from playing 47 however you like, and that is really the point and the strength here. Whether or not you choose to acknowledge the changes that have taken place in the character as you play through the story here, and whether or not you temper your play with mercy, which it seems 47 is more likely to do, in the end you are about to embark upon an important chapter in the saga, and while everything has changed, in the final analysis, nothing has changed.
You are still Agent 47. You are still the Hitman. You are still delivering instant karma to people who very very badly need it.