Sunday, February 3, 2013

. . . Agent 47

Regular readers of the gaming side of my writing will be aware that I recently completed the Unofficial Walkthrough / Guide for game play in the title Hitman: Absolution, which is the much anticipated and long overdue next game in the Hitman video game series, but is also oh so much more than just that.

I say "oh so much more" for very good reason, because when you read between the lines and if you are even just a little familiar with that game series you will be aware that Absolution is not only the 5th game in the main series, but also presents the wrapping up of basically all of the plot, story, and sub-plot elements for the previous four titles in the series, being intended to provide a measure of closure for series fans as well as serve a more practical function: providing the tabula rasa that is required when a studio is about to embark upon a new and previously un-hinted-at massive change of focus.

In a nutshell, the Hitman series began with a pair of games that revealed in violent detail the origins of the character after which the series is named -- The Hitman who is a legend in both the underground organized crime community and the world-wide law enforcement communities, being widely considered to be if not an outright myth, then very likely a catch-all character who has been given false credit for the perfectly executed actions, contracts, and hits of a dozen or more different men, with the end result being what most experts in both communities consider to be a fraudulent and undeserved reputation for a man who probably does not exist at best, or the outright theft of many of the most spectacular hits of the past decade being wrapped like a mantle of reputation by a third-rate mechanic with no right to that glory at worse.

The truth of the matter is not the middle-ground rationalization that is often the case in such creations, because the truth is that every one of the legitimate stories is just that -- and most of the widely embellished stories based upon unsubstantiated rumor are also true and factually laid at the feet of the man who was responsible: the ghost figure known far and wide as The Hitman, and more intimately by the shadowy entity that serves as the broker for his special talents, The International Contract Agency (ICA) as Agent 47, the true identity for that ghost.

The Tragedy of Agent 47

With all good stories there is often a bit of tragedy and poetic origins behind the story, that foundation often being lost in the noise of the events or, more likely, never being known or shared precisely because the man who it is about chooses not to share it.  Such is the case with Agent 47, who has no real name; the product of genetic engineering in a secret lab in eastern Europe, 47 lacks even the comfort of some certainty that somewhere, somewhen, there was a man and a woman whose love or relationship spawned him.  Obviously not, since the only thing that 47 can legitimately write on a Mother's day card is "My Mother was a Test Tube" and on a Father's Day card, "My Father was a scalpel."

Starting with that lack of biological bonding, the legend that is Agent 47 cannot even lay claim to the origins of many a fictional and historical hero, since he was not born in a dark corner of the world and then raised in an orphanage, but rather was born in a well-lit lab having been created by the selective culling of organic material from a single female who provided an egg that was initially stripped of all of its genetic details, intended to serve exclusively as the foundation of organics that is required to create a human being, but as a neutral foundation, offering that human no traits or other biological links with the donor.

All of the traits, and in particular what was considered to be the important traits, such as physical capabilities, mental acuity, a lack of moral compass, and a willingness to use violence as a tool to attain the ends that he is programed to attain -- the entire exercise in leveraging the bleeding edge of genetic science was oriented towards a single goal: create the perfect killing machine in the form of a chameleon of a man whose entire focus was the art of the hit.

All of this was accomplished by a defrocked physician and scientist named Ort-Meyer, who it should be noted, used his own genetic materials as the underlying focus for the mental portions of the design for Agent 47.  In the end, while there were literally hundreds of failed efforts, the success with Agent 47 -- who is if you have missed the point that I have been hammering home all along a clone -- was not simply a lucky stroke, nor was his ending up in the employ of the ICA, but all of it, including the rather bloody exit by which he parted company with Ort-Meyer, was the results of carefully engineered and executed plans created by Ort-Meyer.  

Oh, there were a few bumps in the road, and it is pretty clear that Ort-Meyer was not expecting his creation to systematically assassinate every one of the men who contributed to his genetics -- including Ort-Meyer -- but that is material for another article, for another time.

You now have a pretty clear grasp of who Agent 47 was at the start of his career as the ICA's star hitman and special field operator.  It goes without saying that the first almost 30 years of his life were spent in a densely packed series of special training, and his perfect record of contract assassinations for the ICA speak to the success of those efforts, but there is on additional factoid that you need to know about Agent 47: much of the underlying cause for his success as a hitman is thought to be the result of the fact that he was intentionally created with an extra (47th) chromosome.

The 47th Chromosome

If it seems that I am writing about Agent 47 as if he were an old friend, the reason for that is really because in a way that is precisely what he is.  Well, if not an old friend than by all means a lengthy acquaintance with whom a great many adventures have been shared.  In fact that is the point of this piece, because I have just embarked upon the replaying of many of those early adventures in the form of the just-released new game compilation that has been called the Hitman HD Collection (a trilogy consisting of Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, Hitman: Contracts, and Hitman: Blood Money).

I will very soon be reviewing each game in the collection over at The Cape Cod Time's Game On review section, where I recently reviewed both Hitman: Absolution, and the new and related mini-game called Hitman: Sniper Challenge that was created as partly a promotional vehicle for Absolution, and those reviews have fomented the to-be-expected sense of nostalgia that one tends to reserve for events of a personal nature that while not really shared with others, still tend to have had a rather formative impact on you.

In the case of Agent 47 that impact was to instill in the gamer in me a decided respect for the stealth approach that can be used when playing shooter titles (whether they are intended to be stealth-based or not) and the result has been an interesting effect on my game play style.  It would be fair to say that the experience of playing as Agent 47 has had a lasting and interesting impact upon my general outlook and attitude when it comes to combat shooters in general, and the civilian mob/OC shooter in particular.

When a medical type speaks of the 47th Chromosome (normally humans have just 46) there is a very good chance that the conversation is about the disease known as Down's Syndrome -- largely due to the fact that the existence of that extra chromosome is thought to be the cause.  What you may not hear -- it is pretty unlikely -- is that the presence of a 47th chromosome does not necessarily always result in retardation or Down's Syndrome.  In fact there have been a very few isolated cases in which the extra chromosome actually served to enhance the human who possessed it rather than damage them.  Sadly that enhancement tended to be accompanied by some other undesirable side-effect, like the person lacking any moral sense or being inclined towards a career as a serial killer...

Of course those negatives did not prevent certain countries with strong military feelings to underwrite experimentation in the area of genetic science, with an eye towards creating super-soldiers by installing that extra chromosome.  The idea was, obviously, that they would experiment with it until they caught a breakthrough that allowed for a better understanding of how it does what it does, and how to get it to do desirable things.

Forget for the moment that to do this it was necessary to experiment on human beings, and forget for the moment that there are international treaties whose basic function is to prevent that sort of thing....  It happened anyway.  Hell, so does cloning, but nobody talks about that, do they?

It is rumored that the US has completed a long series of cloning experiments, and may be the second most knowledgeable nation when it comes to understanding how the process of cloning works.  You did note that I said "second" right?  The first would be Russia, or more accurately the former Soviet Union, who it is reliably reported had tremendous successes with developing a reliable system for cloning to the point that they could not only clone desirable organs with an eye towards transplants to extend life for individuals who were judged worthy of the great expenses involved, but the former Red State could also just as easily clone entire humans.  

It is even rumored that the ex-Soviet cloning programs uncovered interesting data about genetic memory, a subject that previously was spoken of in only the most basic and speculative of terms.  Today it seems that there is a wider acceptance that in addition to passing on trait-based data that is used as part of the blueprint for making a new human during the normal reproductive process, the mother also passes on a large amount of what is called foundation memory -- why hot is dangerous, the large collection of instinctual reactions to biological and animal threats, and a bunch of other low-level emotion-based reactionary types of information.

Basically the memory that is being passed on is not really memory as such, but skills, or perhaps more accurately reaction-based data, but also -- and this is where it gets interesting -- muscle memory.

It has long been thought that when one or both parents are gifted with expert skill in something like playing a musical instrument, any children that they have might also enjoy an easier process for the acquisition of similar skills.  While the Russians have not fully mapped out the genetic areas that are involved in this process, this exchange of mother-memory if you will, they were able to succeed in isolating and passing on the music part of it.  There is a rumor that they also have successfully mapped out some of the physical skills areas, including the sorts that are of interest to athletes who desire to compete at the Olympic level...

Can you imagine a generation of clones of Alexander Popov,  Anna Kournikova, or even Evgeny Plushenko?  I bet the Russians can...

While I am not sure that the folks over at IO were completely unaware of those programs, it does make for interesting speculation and an amusing notion that they were more than just a little aware of them.

Either way, when I get to the point of writing the game reviews for the new HD Trilogy you should consider yourself invited and encouraged not only to read them, but to play the games.  While they are not fully remastered (that is to say they have not been redone, but rather have been converted to run on the new platforms and in HD quality) they do offer you a chance to step back in time and experience these games in much the same way that we did a decade ago, and that is certainly worth the cost of admission...

I have to go now, there are contracts to be completed...

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