Hitman Director Says Controversial Trailer Wasn't Supposed To Be Sexist

The director of upcoming stealth game Hitman: Absolution says the team didn't mean to cause controversy with their most recent trailer, which features protagonist Agent 47 slaughtering his way through a squad of scantily dressed nuns.

In fact, he says the ensuing internet firestorm took them all by surprise.

"[The controversy] was a big surprise to us," Hitman: Absolution director Tore Blystad told me at E3 last week. "[The trailer] was not meant to be offensive at all."

When publisher Square Enix released the "Attack of the Saints" trailer two weeks ago, people immediately took to blogs and Twitter to condemn it, saying it perpetuates sexist and offensive ideas. Our own Mark Serrels wrote: "If this is what works, if this is what genuinely sells video games, I just don't want any part of it."

Blystad seemed genuinely surprised at the outcry when I asked him his thoughts on the trailer. He said it was meant to be "outlandish", much like Absolution and previous games in the Hitman series.

"It was never supposed to be offensive in that way," he said. "The Hitman games always come from this kind of cartoony, dark universe... This is no different from those."

According to Blystad, the trailer is based on a level in the game. The nuns in the trailer comprise a group of assassins called the Saints who work for Agent 47's former company. Now they're after him.

"It's one of the more extreme scenes in the game," he said. "It's kinda grindhouse-ish, kind of... it's almost like an interlude within the game... OK, you have the normal story playing out and you have sometimes throughout the game you have these kind of odd moments where we're kind of throwing something really unexpected at the players... This is something really different from everything else we've shown.

"It wasn't supposed to be a sexist trailer."


    I don't understand what the problem with the trailer was.

    I don't remember people complaining about the likes of Bayonetta.

      Bayonetta's sexuality was her character. She didn't do it to please any man, she used it as a way of empowerment. Her character was completely female and would not work as a male at all. These nun assassins are dressed slutty for precisely no reason at all. It doesn't make any sense why they are dressed like that.

        And how do you know these nuns aren't doing that for the exact same reason? All you've seen is the same trailer above?!

        Bayonetta is a great example of double-standards on this topic. I also don't remember hearing anyone kicking up a stick about what Saints Row III had their characters doing? That was fun!

        For anyone who's played the Hitman games before, the kind of stuff in the trailer isn't anything new. Agent 47's been lurking through BDSM nightclubs and Playboy Bunny Mansions since the beginning.

          what I'm getting at, is that the world Agent 47 lives in. It's no suprise that there are a bunch of assassin's like this. He lives in a world defined by the exploitation film genre world.

          Were you all feeling just as disgusted with the Japanese assassin in Kill Bill because she dressed up like a school girl?

          Bayonetta is a different ball game. You know exactly what you're getting when you get into that game. She is an over the top character in an over the top world. She was based on female sketches of models from the 50's, which were designed by females. There's a reason why a lot of girl gamers find power behind Bayonetta and not say, Rachel from Ninja Gaiden.
          Again Saints Row 3 was an over the top game, but even then I don't recall anything too bad in that one.
          I have played the Hitman games, and there was nothing like the trailer in the other 4. Yes there were prostitutes and a brothel, and they were dressed appropriately for those locations. There was also a seductress assassin dressed really skimpy, because she was trying to seduce 47. It made sense in that context.
          I don't see any of these Nuns trying to seduce 47, they've got freaking bazooka's and heavy machine guns. They are wearing high heels for a tactical ambush, and you're telling me this makes sense? Hitman was never a grindhouse movie, I have no idea where this has come from.
          It's a silly perspective to go "well if these nuns can't be dressed slutty, NO ONE CAN!" It was out of place in every single way.

            If the nuns were the protagonists of this game, then you would claim their dress code was some sort of personal empowerment by their own accord. They have just as little reason to dress the way they do as Bayonetta does. The only difference is, they aren't the baddasses in this game. So your reasoning is flawed.

            Secondly, this like most other games are fictional, thus featuring a stylised world that does not need to absolutely adhere to the rules of reality. If games like Bayonetta choose to be a bit more wacky in their worlds, more flamboyant in their displays of sexuality than Hitman than more power to them, but Hitman does NOT need to step into the level of complete fantasy or incredulousness in order to give their characters the same flair.

            You can make a female Saints Row III character COMPLETELY NAKED, and somehow this is worse? And no, being "over the top" does not justify pornographic displays.

            You're just angry because the nuns were killed coldly, brutally, and happen to be women.

        AngeredCatfish - truly what you are saying is ripe with contradictions and double standards. it is ok from your point of view to have overt sexuality and exploit female beauty when it is done by women themselves (thus, allowing them to be empowered by their physical attributes)...but if the men are the ones behind it...then it is merely exploitation?? this sort of evil thinking is exactly why we have a society obsessed and addicted to pornography and hedonism. whether a woman is doing the exploiting herself and using it to her advantage...or whether a man is the one pulling all the strings - regardless, it is still a form of exploitation; it is still a form of objectification; it is still a way in which lusts and primal impulses become empowered; it is still "slutty" as you state, regardless of which side of the coin we're talking about here. and to a young boy or girl (who obviously shouldn't be playing these games in the first place...but will end up coming across it since their parents and role models have allowed and permitted it) the psychological effects are largely the same...whether you are controlling tomb raider or bayonetta (as the protagonist)...or your fighting these sorts of nuns (as antagonists).

    Wait, people didn't like the trailer because it was sexist and not just terrible in itself? If they had been men instead of women everything would have been OK?

      I reckon the trailer was just all around terrible. Wearing latex bodysuits into combat? 47 getting into a brawl and shootout? The saints discarding their disguises before they even make visual contact with 47? The whole thing was stupid and didn't feel like Hitman at all.

      Thats the problem - try and find me example of scantily dressed assassins. Now try and find me another 500. Thats why its sexist. Its a cliche based on a gender definition that if a woman does something she better do it as hot as possible.

      Is this the only example in gaming: no. Can we produce better advertising: yes.

    It's just people flinching at the blasphemy and trying to disguise their Christian nature by claiming they're offended by something else about the trailer. You know, seeing as admitting something offends your faith these days automatically gets you a slap in the face and dick up your ass.

      I'm a pretty hard core atheist with a fairly broad notion sexuality. I.still thought it was a lousy sexist ad.

        But why?

    Clearly the people complaining about this don't know much about exploitation cinema history.

      You know what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like this - Ol' Jack Burton always says, 'What the hell'

    I saw no problem with the trailer. It amped me up for the new game.

    I saw it as outlandish, myself. And in a similar tradition to the sex stuff around Saints Row 3. Stylishly made too.

    I think there's definitely a conversation to be had about sexism in the games industry but we're all a bit hair trigger on it.

      The thing is, (ignoring the sexism stuff), I've never felt the previous games to be "outlandish". Or "cartoony" as Blystad says. It was always more grounded towards reality. Also what Slek said above.

        That's my opinion too. Past hitman games had strip clubs and prostitutes but they were never portrayed in such a overly obvious manner, nor (to the best of my memory) were they ever the targets...

      Same. "Grindhouse" was what I was thinking when I saw it. Like I said in TAY I thought it was a stylistic thing.

    It's sexists to say the trailer was sexist. Stop being so sexist.

    Nothing wrong with it at all. Meant to be silly over the top.

    Honestly I'm inclined to believe them, plenty of the examples of sexism we see are not the result of malice but ignorance instead. It doesn't make this kind of thing ok, but it is better than someone actively trying to promote sexism.

    For the people wondering what the problem with the trailer was, ask yourself this: If you're a woman, a proficient assassin out to kill another famed assassin, which would you do? A. Disguise yourself as a nun, or B. don a skimpy latex outfit with massive heels.

    If you've ever played the Hitman games (or know how hard it is to walk in heels that large) you'd almost certainly choose A, it gives you a chance to get close to your target without being recognised. The only reason to choose B is to look sexy before you get beaten to a pulp.

      I think B is the reason everyone's a bit mad. And yeah of course they didn't go into with with sexist intentions, it's an unfortunate side-effect of what some people call "male privilege."

      As men, no matter how hard we try, we have no idea how women feel in society and will never truly have their perspectives, and vice versa. So when we're in charge we may simply do/make something we think is cool/hot and bam, now it's sexist. We then have the gut-wrenching job of trying to be 'sure' about risqué developments.

      The only way to slowly fix this is simply to involve more women in the development and marketing process, which is made difficult because the very effect of these things is to turn women away. If we ever reach a future where the balance is struck I hope we can still have trailers like this but instead have the developers say, "That's exactly the point, we approached it with attitudes from both genders and this is the style/impact we want."

        You've nailed it here.

        I've found that while I've enjoyed the little parts of Hitman games I've played in the past, this trailer does not make me want to buy the game. Part of that is because of the blatant sexualisation and objectification of the ladies in the trailer - it's offputting. Most of that is because killing a bunch of said ladies appeals even less to me. *shrug* I think I would have found it wayyy less offputting if they took off the habits to reveal them all in full body catsuits, Black Widow style. That's still sexy, but it seems way more practical for the situation...

          Your argument precludes the use of sensual stylisation in fictional worlds. In fact, your main concern was not being able to stomach the fact that these women were wearing religious clothing, saying sporting of the habits disturbed you more than the latex outfits. How may I ask, does it make it less blatantly sexual if they were wearing Catsuits ala Black Widow? You do realise that Black Widow represents everything you claim to hate about this trailer save for the fact that she isn't portrayed as a villain or gets killed in the movies.

          Did IO Interactive do this because sex sells? Yes. Does that make it sexist? NO. The women were portrayed as villains in the trailer, because for whatever reason, the team liked the idea of sexy female assassins (is THAT wrong? NO). The hit squad was hunting Agent 47, not the other way around. They were not portrayed as weak or helpless. They even got a few good shots at 47, knocking him down and slashing his back. He triumphs over them because he is the MAIN CHARACTER (honestly what else did you expect?)

          My point is, being sexy (no matter how impractical it may be to assassination) is by itself not grounds for sexism; same goes for the violence. After all, they were the aggressors. Sexism requires acts that are discriminatory toward a certain sex.

      You only need to get close if you're the stealth brand of assassin. These girls brought a freakin rocket launcher to the party, I don't think stealth had anything to do with it. Thus, they don't need to get close at all, and can dress however they please.

        That's a good point. Stealth wasn't their modus operandi, and nor was tact. Many women choose to dress "skimpy" - it's not a cause of the male world it's a reaction to feminism. Remember that.

        That opens a whole other can of worms - if they werent dressed for stealth, why weren't they in combat gear?

          While I agree, a nun's habit is still makes an effective disguise from very far away than does combat gear.

          Why would they need to?
          Why does 47 ALWAYS wear a black suit and red tie for EVERY SINGLE MISSION? Is he trying to get recognised? Why couldn't he dress more appropriate to the location BEFORE arriving? The answer is, because it doesn't matter. It's not important. The Saints weren't falling over in the trailer because of inappropriate clothing, they handled themselves well, but were ultimately bested by 47.

          At this point some people may be wondering, "but if the Saints were wearing combat gear, couldn't they possibly have taken him down or at least done better than they did? The answer to that, is no, they wouldn't have. Why? Because 47 is the MAIN CHARACTER, and he'll survive every deadly encounter for the rest of his life so long as he is relevant to the gaming industry.

    I think the last few weeks, particularly after that article on here about "rape culture" it's become a fad topic. I read another article somewhere else else where a guy said he was "sickened" and was "trembling with anger" after seeing this trailer. Stuff like that just makes me wonder how that guy could even function leaving his house, turning on the TV or being a gamer if this trailer offended him. To say that it is about, let alone promotes, rape, or violence against women (specifically) is just outlandish and a wild goose chase. I'm not sure why they are vilifying this trailer in the way they have, but all I can conclude is that "rape culture" is a new fad sparked but a few terrible articles in the last few weeks.

    As I said somewhere else, a lot of racially sensitive people, as well as people who have a fear of paedophilia do more harm than good when they are constantly putting subjects into the light they fear so much. If I see a guy and that's all he is, and I commit some action against him, and you say "was it because he was black?" - nope, it was because of who he is, not the colour of his skin. I've never thought about children sexually, but when someone brings up paedophilia I look at kids to try and see what a paedophile might see, if for no other reason than to try and understand... of course nothing ever happens and I don't see anything, butit must be a strange world for these heros of children, and the equal oppourtunists of the world, to see everything as a matter of skin colour and sexuality. What a sad world they must live in, and if this trailer made you "sick" or "tremble" then, as I've said elsewhere, see a therapist instead of playing video games, because my world of entertainment and life is not as dark as yours.

      Dude you might have just gone off track slightly. Not surprising since the rape article showed up about the same time as these women-image ones.

      The trailer is said to offend sexist sensibilities and with a lot of women and men embarrassed about how it show inaccurate and immature with little female frame-of-mind. That's what the issue is here. Whoever was 'sick and trembling' about this one I'd say are a bit reading into it too much.

    No doubt,a random, you're over of those people who needles others all the time and is then genuinely surprised when they snap.

      You shouldn't post from your iPhone. :P

    At the end of the day, "the saints" could just as easily be habit wearing nuns with Ak-47s. They didn't have to be sexualised in high heels and tight leather.
    I have no problem with 47 killing a bunch of assassins dressed as nuns. the clothing and sex of the enemy doesn't matter. But it's when those nuns are sexualised (in a very non practical way) that has me calling bullshit.
    I didn't really enjoy the trailer, but I understand the link to the story, and the history behind "the saints" so fingers crossed the game turns out ok.

      "but I understand the link to the story, and the history behind “the saints” "

      But this matters most. Context is always key. They could have been not sexy but still with nuns' outfits and that would cause: a) less aggravating enemies (as in what would make you hate them more, nuns attacking you or nuns attacking you in style?) and b) trivialisation of religious imagery with no divergent attitudes and imagery.

    You know, the very fact that they didn't see it as a problem is pretty indicative of how ingrained this shit is in videogame culture.

      Don't blame video game culture, this type of thing has been around for years in other mediums, as i referenced previously, "nunsploitation".

      So basically you're saying that you need to be offended?

        snacuum: not sure if that question is directed towards me or not, if so, it confuses me slightly.
        Personally, i find the content of the trailers is unoffensive but i am not saying i like it, i find it cliche. See Lindsay Lohan in Machete for example, to me the asassin nun it's just an exploitation theme. I see nothing to find offensive. It's so comical anyway, who cares.


    It's a fricking computer game.

    I would bet a million bucks that if those nuns were actually MEN, dressed up in clothes that barely covered their hoses, there would be no talk of this nature at all. Feminists = gamers outnumber you so let this one go. Religious people = you shouldn't be watching this in the first place. That's gotta be a sin or something. Gamers who think the trailer misses the point about the hitman series = where's the computer game franchise you created???

      You would never find a trailer with men in extremely sexualised outfits being killed in a sexy way. If there were, there would be just as much outrage, but equally as much surprise. It is not something I have ever seen, because even when depictions of men are sexy, they are always still powerful.

      It's not so much the violence that is the problem, or the childish sexualisation on its own, although that is another can of worms together. It is the intersection of the two. It is showing violence against women in a sensationalised and sexy way, when domestic violence and rape is an absolute epidemic.

        There was nothing really sexy about the way those women were killed. It seemed pretty brutal to me.

    Personally, I thought the trailer was mostly stupid but for different reasons. What I don't get, however, is the sheer amount of venom the trailer has created. I'm not going try too hard to come up with any answers but I do have a lot of questions. If this were a film, would this be labelled horribly sexist or sexploitationist homage? Because that's all I see. All I see is someone who thought it'd be fun to pretend the Hitman world was more like a grindhouse comic than reality. Exactly, what is wrong with that? If we're THIS outraged with the trailer then what else to we get to burn at the stake? Should we go and hang Tarantino, Rodriguez or Eli Roth? Should we tell them they're sexist? Should we take away comic books with scantily-clad heroes and villians because we don't like it? Of course, all of this is subjective and strangely the biggest complaint I see here is that "it doesn't make sense".


    The entirety of Metal Gear Solid makes no sense but no one complains about the moaning, writhing female bosses in MGS4. People say Hitman was always "more realistic" but yet AGAIN, subjective. So, now that it's less realistic it's all about context? You can have torture porn if it's in context because it's in a brothel yet supervillian BDSM nuns is totally wrong? What if, WHAT IF... The context has changed? What if... now Hitman has entered the realm of hyper-reality? What if... Hitman now sees itself as a dark, comic book universe where villains and heroes treat themselves to themes and costumes? Now is it in context?

    I honestly don't see how anyone can shy away from the fact that it's clearly a grindhouse-era inspired piece and the question I ask is: What exactly is wrong with that? Is it that video game advertising is somehow a greater evil because it has to cater to 15 year old boys? That you don't think people will understand it as heightened reality and/or homage? Because I don't see how it's reasonable to hold different mediums of entertainment and art to different standards because of the perceived audience.

    I'm not saying sexism is ok in any way but I VERY CLEARLY saw this as an homage piece without ever reading anything else of it before I watched it. To me, all the condemnation seems (strangely) regressive in terms of our acceptance of video games as an artistic medium. I'm completely for the notion than sexist advertising is bad but I honestly don't see it here. If a studio wants to express their story and pay homage to the sexploitation era then exactly HOW do we come to call them sexist for almost satirizing it? More importantly, isn't it more our place as proponents of video games as an artistic medium to question thoughtfully and perhaps suppress (even a little) or knee-jerk reactions?

      A logical and rational response that doesn't delve into speculation. Brilliant.
      People want videogames to be recognised as art, and yet they condemn those who seek to build their games the way they like.

    Ban it ban it now.
    We can not have anything that remotely makes any person on this planet feel uneasy.
    We need to censor everything, wrap up kids in bubble wrap, no contact with any people to avoid any harassment accusations .

    Honestly what the hell is going on ?
    How it this even remotely sexist?
    These polygon female figures were going to kill Agent 47, what would you do?
    Would you not kill them first, before they killed you?

    If there was a male assassin among the nuns and if Agent 47 didn't kill him yes then that could be considered sexist.

    It truly is amazing what makes people outraged these days, governments try to introduce carbon tax and remove freedoms without much fuss, but some crap like this and it's an outrage.


      Look what you did Robert. The people listened and now kids can't high 5 each other =(

    Most of you are missing the point. why do the women need to be sexualised and genderised like this in the first place? People keep arguing "yeah but yeah but what would you do if a group of women dressed like this were coming to kill you???"... that's the point, this was a development decision made by male developers targeting teenage males. It's sad that most media these days needs to objectify women like this to hook an audience. It does exactly what can be seen in this discussion, it gives people an excuse to say the women deserved it. Obviously you can argue that they're assassins out to get 47, of course they deserved it. But you have to be mindful of the fact that as a result of them being blatantly sexualised, you can see how it is possible that this trailer could perpetuate sexism. More importantly than context, people need to be aware of how objectifying a select group of people can be harmful when creating any sort of media.

      Because if you don't put in a few girls somewhere it's sexist. Haven't you seen that girl's video blog? Apparently Lego is sexist because there aren't enough representations of females. Lego. At the end of the day, these marketers are damned if they do and damned if they don't. What's funny is that most marketers are females, they know that sex sells and they love using it as a tool.

    very blasphemous. the director can say what he want - but i think he knew exactly what he was doing (including this sort of response...which is what they wanted whilst pretending otherwise)

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