Friday, May 14, 2021

Hitman is the perfect game after a long day

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More and more, after a long day at work, the last thing I want to do is play video games. It’s a trivial problem to have, of course, but playing something like Yakuza: like a dragon (a game I love, mind you), sifting through its hours of cutscenes and long battles, or something like Call of Duty: Cold War Black Ops, with its uninterrupted action, is just too much for my tired brain. Not to mention that I spend 40 hours or more each week talking, writing and thinking about video games. I quite like video games, but sheesh! Enough is enough sometimes.

The opposite of this complaint is that I want Something make. I am a millennial. My brain may be tired, but it also needs almost constant stimulation. The worst thing I can imagine is doing nothing at all – let alone being alone with my thoughts. I am also very sensitive to professional guilt: if I am not familiar with video games, why Game Informant to pay me? I’m sure many of you are asking the same question.

the Hitman Trilogy has become my go-to game for solving all of these problems at once. Admittedly, I was not very interested in Hitman 3 when it came out, but after trying the first level, I changed my melody and beat the whole game in two sessions. I then purchased the Hitman level packs 1 and 2 (one process, it should be noted, is distant opaque than it should be, which initially led me to think that one purchase would get me all levels when in reality it required over $ 100 in three separate purchases) and I worked my way through these. Since last week, all I wanted to do is play Hitman. I was up last night until 2 a.m. playing three consecutive Hitman 2 level in Miami, finishing my run until I reduced it to a few minutes.

Hitman excels in a few key areas. First and foremost, the story is low key. I have no doubt this is very good, and I’m sure many of you will tell me why in the comments, which I won’t read, but I don’t care why I kill who I kill. I just want to do it with as few obstacles as possible. Hitman understands this. When you load up a level there’s a flashy cutscene that lays the foundation for your targets and location, but once you’re on the field the game gets out of your way. Unlike Like A Dragon, where playing means agreeing to read pages of dialogue and watch hours of cutscenes, Hitman trusts you to find your own pleasure in its sandboxes. If you want the story, it’s there. It’s okay, probably, I don’t know. If you want to skip all of that, that’s fine too. You can start playing.

Playing Hitman means interacting with a complex beast. Think of it like the inner workings of a clock – all the disparate pieces move to serve the larger machine. In this case: the hundreds of NPCs, various story missions and information drops, target routes and behaviors, and general rules of a level come together to create a compelling simulation of a nightclub, a Spanish city, etc. Agent 47 isn’t the hero of these sims, swinging around and causing a scene (unless you really want to, you can play your way). It looks more like a virus, moving undetected until it’s time to strike. To do this, of course, means to struggle with the different rules of a level, to learn to behave simultaneously within them and to exploit them as you wish. It can be very intimidating, but it’s never overwhelming. This is an important distinction.

When you start a level in Hitman, your goals are very clear. There is a target (or targets) and sometimes an additional objective that you must complete before exiting the level. How you achieve these goals is up to you. The game will not run out of opportunities, but also, experiment, get weird, level up and see what happens. As a participant in Hitman’s world, you operate at your own pace. Of course, the level goes through its different cycles and there are time sensitive opportunities, but unlike a lot of games, you are not channeled goal after goal without being able to stop and think. In fact, being successful often means taking the time to stop, think about your environment, and act on it. Critical thinking and problem solving are always rewarded in Hitman.

And so, Hitman strikes a remarkable balance between being constantly engaging but never exhausting. The objectives are simple enough that they don’t require a lot of exposure to motivate the player, and the levels are complex enough yet accommodating enough to demand the player’s attention but never bombard them with stimuli. Never stupid but never overwhelming, Hitman is more like a game of Sudoku than a game of basketball. Both require thinking, executing, and problem-solving, but the former gives you time to breathe, assess your surroundings, and move around at your leisure.

So after a long, hard day’s work, I find myself charging Hitman more than anything else. It’s the perfect game to end my day, keep my brain active without ever asking myself too much. Video games can often be exhausting, requiring immense amounts of patience, participation, and most importantly, time. I just refuse to give some games hundreds of hours if they don’t significantly meet that investment. But Hitman respects that investment, giving me new reasons to play every night and never making me feel like my time is wasted.

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