HITMAN‘s new mission, The Gilded Cage, sees Agent 47 travelling to Marrakesh, Morocco, to carry out a double contract on the two power-players in an ongoing diplomatic crisis and imminent military coup. It’s essentially the Tehran embassy debacle with a messy paramilitary conspiracy tacked on for good measure.
Marrakesh is a bit of a mixed bag. The scenario is pretty novel and involved, and the opportunities it facilitates make for some of the best set-pieces in the current build of the game. Passing through consulate security as a news team’s cameraman or exploiting evacuation protocols to end up in your target’s armed escort is clever, creative and thrilling. However, these eclectic opportunities can sometimes be too obvious. When NPC’s are telling me where to find the master key for half the map, you know that the handholding has gone too far.
Most of the map just feels like padding. The market, the bazaar and the winding back streets have little to no use. In my first run, I went from the school, to the consulate, and left the way I’d come in. I didn’t even step foot in the market until my third or fourth run through, and that was just to see it.
It doesn’t help that the map is also the least visually appealing of the three episodes thus far. It’s drab and pallid, and the textures on buildings and NPCs are bad enough to look unrendered, even when they are. This is a real shame, and such a missed opportunity. The lamp market at the back of the map gives you a taste of the kind of exotic musk IO could have gone for. Instead, it’s anemic, plain, open and blocky, which makes its aesthetic mistakes all the more glaring. Sun-washed doesn’t mean desaturated. It also doesn’t help that Marrakesh is the follow-up to the absolutely stunning and insanely detailed Sapienza.
Marrakesh differs from Paris and Sapienza in more complicated ways, too. Whereas the first two episodes had a sense of momentum and of forging a path deeper into the heart of the place or event, Marrakesh is dichotomous. The Swiss consulate is clean and glossy, busy and secure. Zaydan’s hideout, however, is like a bombed out Middle-Eastern warzone; sandy, decrepit, stockpiled with guns and ammunition, surrounded by armored vehicles and patrolled by varyingly indolent troops, something else that facilitates some pretty hilarious and morbidly creative kills. At first, I thought that this was a problem. Tonally, the transition from glassy consulate to abandoned school seemed off and disjointed. But then I kind of got the point- that the wealth of the political class is built on poverty and ruin, and that men like Strandberg see an occupied schoolyard as an opportunity, rather than a tragedy. All three of the game’s current maps have used location to parallel the themes of their hits and the stories behind them, and I think to great effect. This is certainly shaping up to be the franchise’s most political and critical entry yet, and props to IO for that. It’s so great to see a franchise develop and mature over time. I suppose they realized that it’s 2016, and that Christmas-strippers and sex-nuns don’t fly anymore. Female spies and scientists? Much better.
This progression is undermined, however, by cringe-worthy VO whitewashing- the kind of cockney redux that Unity‘s Parisians were lambasted for. How am I supposed to buy your Morocco when your Moroccans can’t even give me a convincing asalaam alikum? It’s racist and it’s lazy, it’s insulting to the fanbase, and it completely kills player immersion. They didn’t even have to go full Arabic; just give me some accents! They managed the Swedes at the consulate just fine, so what happened with the Moroccans? Giving a megaphone-wielding Moroccan political dissident a voice from the bleachy heart of white America completely undercuts any weight that the fictional protests could have had. It’s offensive, and it’s unnecessary. Cut it out IO; if I can beat your game I can handle a fucking accent.
+ Creative assassination opportunities…
– …that can sometimes be too obvious.
+ Novel setting and scenario…
– …that IO unfortunately don’t pull off.
– Low res textures and ugly NPCs
– Lazy and offensive VO whitewashing