Hitman 3 Is The Latest Game To Acknowledge Covid-19

carl ingram in hitman 3
Carl Ingram in Hitman 3.
Screenshot: IO Interactive / Kotaku

Agent 47 isn’t the deadliest force of nature in Hitman 3. Covid-19 is. Yes, IO Interactive’s murdery sandbox is the latest video game to acknowledge the pandemic that has infected nearly 100 million people, killed more than 2 million, and upended life as we know it.

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In the game’s first level, the Dubai-set “On Top of the World,” one of your targets, Carl Ingram, may say a line indicating that he’s very clearly not happy to be there. “I bet the people with coronavirus get more tranquility than this,” he says.

Okay, for one thing, what a flip, rude remark.

But let’s also take a second to acknowledge the wide-ranging implications of this remark. The people in Hitman 3 don’t exactly follow the guidelines recommended by basically every official public health expert on the planet. “On Top of the World” takes place during a function held at a sumptuous supertall with several bars, a sea of high-top tables, and an entire freakin’ art exhibit. A later level, “Apex Predator,” sends Agent 47 to a rave on the outskirts of Berlin.

hitman 3 berlin dance floor
Hitman 3's Berlin-based level is the spitting image of a super-spreader event.
Screenshot: IO Interactive / Kotaku

In both stages, you won’t see a single mask. No one practices social distancing. People huddle in tight circles and shimmy up to bars without a care in the world. They cram into tight spaces, shoulder-to-shoulder. Do these people not read the news? Are they all vaccinated? Given how the rollout is proceeding—or not—in the real world, the latter seems unlikely.

Hitman 3 isn’t the only game in which covid-19 exists in-universe. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla features a string of emails between the meta-character, Layla Hassan, and a worried family member. “I don’t have Covid, no,” Layla writes. “And I’m well isolated.” You can see this correspondence by interacting with the in-game laptop when you’re outside of the animus.

Last fall’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 doesn’t explicitly mention covid-19, but a series of environmental cues in the “School” stage mention working toward a “new normal,” parades for frontline workers, and the difficulties that come with working from home. There’s also a wish for good health and safety. Again, no explicit callout, but that messaging sounds a whole lot like the messaging surrounding covid-19.

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Hitman 3 isn’t the first game to acknowledge covid-19. I doubt it will be the last.

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Staff Writer, Kotaku

DISCUSSION

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Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare Jokes!)

I’ve been wrestling with this as a Sci-Fi writer, personally.

So much of speculative or even non-speculative fiction has to grapple with pre-covid representations of the world or post-covid representations of the world.

All the jokes about “the before times” are losing their humor as they become just that, “Pre-Covid.

I’m interested to see what we collectively end up with as the linguistic marker for the difference between 2019 and everything after.

As for our art and the narratives we tell, how creators grapple with that shift is also super interesting.

Interesting write up,  Ari, thanks for the thinking material!