Sex, death, and chicken suits. The world of Hitman: Blood Money is a warped one. Immorality fits itself as a miasma over a backdrop of Playboy parties and redneck nuptials populated by plastic caricatures. Relative to these peculiar creatures, all Botox and biceps, the titular Hitman himself is a bastion of monk-like sensibilities. Mr 47 is smartly-dressed, quiet, meditative and… well alright, slightly murderous. But let’s not turn against him just yet – because to all those depraved automatons who do nothing but fester and fuck around him, he offers salvation.
What makes Hitman: Blood Money quite so fascinating is its success in carrying a thoroughly perverted twist on the Christ-myth, transposing Christlike mercy for meditatively violent atonement. Writing on the often flawed and lazy inclusions of Christ allegories in video games in his essay How The Walking Dead Solved Videogames’ Christ Figure Problem, Richard Clark notes that, “those Christlike ideals [of self-sacrifice] are represented in maybe the last five to ten minutes of [Mass Effect, Halo, etc.], and the player doesn’t interact with these scenes as much as they watch them.” Blood Money’s success lies specifically in its marriage of violence and allegory, combatting that ever-troublesome ludonarrative dissonance.
The – admittedly rather silly - Hitman mythos finds its foundations in specific cornerstones of Catholic dogma. In particular, the concepts of immaculate conception and Christ’s atonement are granted a newly-perverse depiction within the series’ fiction. Instead of being born in a barn beneath the stars, to a mother free of both original and personal sin, 47 is bred from the spare DNA of five master criminals in a petri dish, under the Earth in a filthy basement lab. Blood Money may be the most openly allegorical of the five games in the series, but the idea that 47 is essentially Jesus Gone Wrong has been there from the start. 47 must then be to Christ an inverse or opposite – the ultimate evil twin, right?
Well, not quite – relativity is important. Specifically, it’s important to consider the type of world that exists even outside of the concentrated evil of 47′s own origin: men’s veins bulge at the the forearm in an effort to escape their bodies; women’s breasts are bigger and perkier than Brian Blessed after a shot of espresso. Sexuality in particular is key to Blood Money’s debauched and ugly world. Sexual encounters themselves occur in three particular ways: affairs, strippers, and general perving. That’s as close as 47′s world can come to love or romance – even a recognisably human sense of lust. It’s sexuality laid claim to by Silicone Valley, and every stolen glance of it reeks of a mechanised boredom.
47′s is an immoral world then, though perhaps not even that. “Immorality” comes with a connotation of intent, yet Blood Money’s denizens come across as demented cattle: unconsciously fucking and fighting themselves into oblivion. Targets themselves are the kings and queens of this world: übersinners to the last, each of them denotes yet another child abuser, drug baron or Neo-Nazi. If there’s one thing that’s clear, it’s that such a world cannot give birth to a messianic saviour imbued with virtue – at least not without soiling them immediately after. 47′s nature is a construct compounded by the world around him, the only atonement he can offer to it’s people as their messiah is a final admonishment: death.
It’s here in the actual act of playing that Blood Money rescues itself from Clark’s second, and most important, criticism: the absence of player interaction in the fulfilment of allegory. As Clark notes, whilst time spent in combat as Commander Shepard and Master Chief hammers home the extent of their soldering, it says almost nothing about their roles as Christ-substitutes. By comparison, Blood Money’s notoriety and mission review systems encourage a sense of restraint with regards to wanton violence. Each death, particularly in missions with fewer, if not singular, targets, commands an order-of-magnitude more weight than two hundred of Halo’s faceless grunts. There is something important about these people in particular, the game says – they are the epicentres of corruption and gluttony.
To demand the death of a specific character is a bold statement for a developer to make. Violence in Mass Effect and Halo may win on volume, but these deaths are at least committed in the name of self-defence; they may be practically impossible to avoid, but at least the objective handed down from on high is mostly one of geographical traversal, an A to B. Blood Money gives you a pigpen, a target, and a wealth of tools. How you get it done is up to you, but one thing is clear: all roads lead to Rome. Violence becomes a catalyst for the allegory, not a bloody filibuster.
It’s ludicrous to pretend that Blood Money is the most in-depth of Christ allegories, but it does show an all-too-rare commitment to marrying its thematic and mechanical content. Whilst Clark may not agree – the overall thrust of his essay lamenting a lack of one-to-one Christ figures, not perverted by schlocky video-game lore – it remains a success of Hitman: Blood Money’s that so peaceful a theme may be manipulated and communicated in a medium whose mainstream is so dominated by wanton, meaningless violence.