The Hitman series has been all around the world – Europe, Africa, Australia, other continents – but it’s taken eighteen years to reach our dusky shores. So how accurately does Hitman 2 capture Hawke’s Bay? Sam Brooks investigates.
There are scant few games that are set in New Zealand. It’s basically just Jonah Lomu’s Rugby, which is ‘set in New Zealand’ like Lord of the Rings is set in New Zealand – it might be our grass, but it sure ain’t representative of our field.
So when I read that Hitman 2 would be including a level set in our very own Hawke’s Bay, I was as excited as any kinda-sorta-patriot would be. How would the Danish developers IO Interactive represent our homeland? How would they capture the rugged Kiwiana that contributes so much to our national identity? Most importantly, how would they capture our unique wheels-on-loose-gravel accent?
Reader, I have the answers for you.
In the reality we occupy, Hawke’s Bay is known for its rolling hills, its large vineyards and its fine wines that keep middle New Zealand placated in front of their screens every night before they turn out the lights, close their eyes, and wait for dawn to come. It also has a lot of radio stations, and according to the bastion of fact-checked knowledge that is Wikipedia, it annually plays host to an event known as The Mission Concert, a gig that Phil Collins will be playing next year.
Phil Collins is nowhere to be seen in Hitman 2.
In the reality that Hitman 2 occupies, this is Hawke’s Bay. You can see mountains in the distance, but they aren’t rolling. There’s nary a vineyard to be spotted, and barely a bottle of wine. There’s just a foreboding mansion.
The first mission of Hitman 2, the barely punnily named ‘Nightcall’, is the tutorial level of the game. It’s the one that teaches you, the player, how to kill as Agent 47, the professional killer who has been doing it for eighteen years. You have to murder Alma Reynaud, a terrorist who… terrorises people. That information, however, is not pertinent to the question at hand, which is: How authentically New Zealand is this mission?
And the answer is, not very much! It does get around the significant hurdle of ‘representing New Zealand’ by not setting it anywhere where you might encounter actual New Zealanders, or have to engage with any of our nation’s fine culture. It’s literally just a mansion on a beach.
I asked my colleagues, who are serious journalists with important stories they could be working on rather than fielding this question, if this looked like a Hawke’s Bay beach. The general response was, and I quote, “Yeah? It just looks like a beach in New Zealand.”
You’ve passed the first test, Hitman 2.
But then I got to wondering – how legit was this mansion? Was it an authentic New Zealand mansion?
I did some hunting, by which I mean, screenshotting.
No self-respecting mansion-owner would let the tundra come that close to their outdoor furniture. Nor would they let their help leave their outdoor furniture out. Strike one, Hitman 2.
A two-car garage? In a mansion? In this economy? No way. Strike two, Hitman 2. (I can’t speak to the murders, but I’m going to make an educated assumption that most Hawke’s Bay mansions don’t have bodies lying around in their garages.)
Those are just some fugly ass chairs. Strike three for those, Hitman 2.
Taste, or lack thereof, knows no borders. Strike one billion, Hitman 2.
I was getting nowhere. I have no experience of Hawke’s Bay mansions – what would I know? I’ve barely even been in an Auckland mansion, which, by Auckland standards, is a two bedroom apartment with a balcony you can look out but not even stand on.
In order to maintain my journalistic integrity regarding this investigation, I made an enquiry to a real estate agent as to whether this was an authentic representation of a Hawke’s Bay mansion. Also, I wanted to know how much it would cost, because if I’m ever looking to get out of the concrete swamp that is Auckland, then a mansion in Hawke’s Bay isn’t a terrible offer.
Our brief exchange follows, after I emailed him multiple screenshots of the mansion and its locales:
Hi, [name redacted to protect the innocent]! Based on what I’ve sent you, how much do you think this mansion would cost?
Going on the information you’ve given me and that one image I would say that the property would be worth close to $9.5 million.
What about if a brutal multiple homicide was to occur?
If a brutal multiple homicide was to occur I imagine most buyers would consider demolishing the house, which would drop it down to just land value, which would be $5m.
Does anything else about the house seem off to you?
New Zealand wouldn’t give consent to build a house that new so close to the coastline on the sand. And that swimming pool appears to be below sea level.
Also that decor has not been put together by a New Zealand interior designer.
That house is way too glam for the Hawke’s Bay, but whatevs.
The real estate agent then sent me the following image to display what a Hawke’s Bay mansion actually looks like:
It’s like if Pumpkin Patch had a one night stand with Town and Country. Hitman 2 may not have had the correct idea of what a mansion in the Hawke’s Bay should look like, but they had the right idea.
That ‘kia ora’ is said by no New Zealander, my friend. Even the most bigoted New Zealander, who would never dream of tapping ‘alt’ to use a macron, doesn’t say kia ora like this.
You are frauds, IO Interactive, and I have unveiled you. This is not the New Zealand I know* and love. This is pure tomfoolery, and I won’t have it. Shame upon you. Shame.
*I have never actually been to Hawke’s Bay.
Hitman 2 is available now on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC. It’s really fun!
Subscribe to Rec Room a weekly newsletter delivering The Spinoff’s latest videos, podcasts and other recommendations straight to your inbox.