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