Hitman: Absolution

Hitman Absolution game director apologises for controversial trailer

Chris Thursten at

Hitman Tease

As reported by IGN, Hitman Absolution game director Tore Blystad has apologised for the controversy caused by the Attack of the Saints trailer, which featured Agent 47 brutally killing a group of assassins dressed - as Tom put it at the time - as BDSM nuns.

"We're sorry that we offended people" Blystad told journalists at E3. "That was truly not the intention of the trailer."

"We've been reading as much as we could of the articles and responses" Blystad continued. "We were surprised that it turned into such a huge topic. Something similar happened with our Sniper Challenge pre-order bonus. We just wanted to make something cool, it wasn't the intention to stir up anything."

Blystad then went on to explain that the nuns are enemies from the game - assassins from The Agency - and that the trailer was designed to show off a scenario that players will encounter in Hitman: Absolution.

"It's a level from the game called Attack of the Saints, and this trailer I guess you could say represents one possible outcome. As you know with Hitman games, you can go about it any way you want."

Aside from the hard-to-watch spectacle of a group of hypersexualised women being killed in slow motion, many commenters also pointed out that ultraviolence on this scale isn't something that has ever been associated with the Agent 47 character. Blystad said that this is symptomatic of the broader problem of presenting an open-ended game in trailer-friendly form.

"The problem with showing off a Hitman game in a trailer is because there are many different ways to play, you're only ever showing off one of any number of potential scenarios."

This doesn't necessarily answer the complaint that, as with many pre-rendered game trailers, the video chooses its angles and action beats very carefully and presents them with a fluidity and focus that the game itself can't hope to match. Deciding to promote Agent 47 as an action hero is one thing, but in Blystad's explanation there are a few missing steps between that decision and a trailer that features a close up of a fetish nun's nose being broken.

Seeking to justify the content itself, Blystad made reference to the series' history as well as the team's influences.

"The religious themes have been there from the very beginning, along with outlandish party scenes. And there are a lot of movie influences in Hitman Absolution, like Tarantino and Rodriguez. The grindhouse theme is something that we're using throughout the game. It tends more towards sixties exploitation movies."

In making this connection, Blystad deflects complaints about the trailer's portrayal of women onto pop culture in general. This needlessly complicates the issue, ignores the marketing angle, and discourages debate. Fact is, Hitman: Absolution isn't a documentary about sixties pulp cinema, and the decision to place controversial imagery at the front and centre of a promotional campaign is just as exploitative now as it was then - no matter how culturally aware it claims to be. The broadly dreadful depiction of women in games is made up of lots of individual bad decisions, many of them unwitting. But there's still a deliberate choice being made, and one that speaks volumes about who developers and publishers believe their audience to be.

That's what I think, anyway. What about you, readers? Is IO's explanation enough to swing popular opinion? Or do you have an entirely different take on the trailer? Let us know in the comments.