Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Humor and Realism Don't Mix

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 11 Dec 2012 12:00
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Gaming humor? Pff. Easiest thing in the world. Probably why there're so many bloody webcomics on the subject. All you have to do is find ways in which videogame logic differs from the way reality works, point at it, then wait for the accolades. Where is Niko Bellic storing all those guns he's carrying around? Does he have Tardis pockets? Is he stuffing them all up his todger? L, O, and furthermore, L.

A fairly common target for this treatment is Hitman. I don't think there's a single gaming webcomic that hasn't pointed out the hilarious reality fart that Hitman routinely features. The one in which non-player characters totally accept your presence just because you're wearing the local uniform, even if there's only one or two people around there who usually wear that uniform and they don't look like a huge frowny man with a barcode where his hair's supposed to be. Har, har, har, derision. Hitman will never be able to show its face around here again after this mockery cuts like a scalpel. So much for trying to be grim and realistic in this videogame where you can strangle people while dressed as a giant parrot.

And the best thing about this school of humor is that there are so many big laughs everywhere you look. Oh no, I've been shot fifty times but now I've picked up a first aid kit and am perfectly alright. How does that work, did I put band-aids over the bullet holes? Splint my shattered bones with the little travel bottles of TCP? The game should have stopped immediately while my character spent several months in intensive care. And while we're on the subject, whoever heard of getting to reload your life from a point before you got killed? What a silly concept. The console should delete your save and fire the disk out of the drive so hard it slices cleanly through your neck. And it's not just videogames. Real battles aren't the slightest bit like chess. The opposing armies don't take turns and bishops do not resemble tiny wooden circumcised willies. Arf arf arf.

Hitman's usual reality fart is wafting slightly differently in Hitman Absolution, and I've seen quite a few posts and reviews complaining about it. How it used to work is that there are disguises, and they're allowed in some areas but not in others, full stop. No one gets suspicious as long as 47 stays in the designated area and doesn't murder anything in full view. But now there's been a subtle change to that: characters are now also suspicious of you if you're wearing the same outfit as them, since presumably they know best who should and who shouldn't be wearing it.

This creates unlikely scenarios, true. In the very first mission you're in a mansion crawling with guards, so wearing the same suit as the guards makes sneaking around difficult. But there's one chef who also has the run of the place, and having his outfit on ensures that the guards don't look at you twice. Even though, there being only one chef, everyone should know what he looks like, while someone in the same uniform one sees everywhere should realistically have an easier time blending in.

So no, it doesn't make sense in the context. Have your big laugh, ha ha ha. But the thing is, it does make perfect sense as a game mechanic. The more inconspicuous the outfit, the more enemies you can nonchalantly walk past without alarm, the easier the game gets, so to balance that out, the best disguises have to be harder to acquire. They have to be rare, and the people wearing them have to be rare. You shouldn't be able to get precisely the same results from a disguise that can be acquired from pretty much anywhere, say from the guards the place is fucking crawling with.

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