So you've been playing Dishonored and drooling over Assassin's Creed III and now you want to be an assassin. We thought this might happen. Thankfully, if there's one thing we've picked up from years of playing video games, it's how to be effective killing machines, and now we're passing that knowledge to you.
We can't be sure any of this will work in the real world, but if you're eager to learn the tricks of the virtual trade, here are the top lessons we've learned from video game hitmen...
But first, a disclaimer
GamesRadar does not endorse actual hitmen, assassins, or guns for hire; nor does it support assassin leagues, brotherhoods, federations, cabals, cults, or hobby groups. This article is intended solely as make-believe, and neither it nor the website should be considered a reliable source of assassin knowledge or skills. Seriously, we once hit a duck on the highway and couldn't sleep for days.
Got it? Good. Now back to the pretend murdering...
Leave no body behind
Visible bodies are a big no-no on the job. For an enemy, nothing screams Call for backup! louder than finding a co-worker suffocated to death in the break room. That said, unless you're one of these hippie pacifists, body disposal is an inevitable part of the gig. Fortunately, video games have shown us that the human body can be stuffed, folded, bent, or otherwise crammed unceremoniously into a wide variety of containers to keep them out of sight and (hopefully) out of mind. Hitman has its dumpsters, Assassin's Creed has its haystacks, and even Dishonored had a few dark alleys for Corvo to stash his victims. Granted, hiding bodies takes time and decent upper body strength, but as decades of stealth titles have demonstrated, it's easy to hide the stiffs if you're willing to get creative.
And then, you could always put them to better use...
Use distractions to your advantage
When dealing with a close proximity kill, a well timed knock, strategically placed body, or expertly aimed gas grenade can be the difference between getting caught and gaining the upper hand. As we've learned from chucking homemade bombs in Assassin's Creed: Revelations, deploying holographic decoys in Borderlands 2, or tossing sonic batarangs in Batman: Arkham City, distractions on the field are critical for controlling enemy movements. Need to eliminate a henchman? Whistle a little diddy and snap his neck when he comes around to check out the noise. Looking to throw your attackers off your scent? Lay down a smoke screen to get them off your tail.
There's a reason virtually every stealth game provides a way to lead guards and henchman astray. Distractions are an essential part of an assassin's repertoire; not only to get out of sticky situations, but to dwindle your target's entourage without drawing attention..
Disguises are a hitman's best friend
Every assassin worth their salt understands the value of a good disguise. You think Violette Summer enjoyed wearing a Nazi uniform in Velvet Assassin? You think Khan got a kick out of acting like a mime in Broken Sword? How about Ezio Auditore? We're sure he'd much rather stick with his robes than prance around as a lute player. The difference between amateur hitmen and veteran hitmen is that the pros know how to change appearances on the fly, and use their new skins to trick foes and access places in which they'd otherwise stick out like a sore thumb. Forgot to pack a costume? Feel free to find a henchman your size and take it from their cold, dead hands. Don't worry, they knew what they were signing up for.
Don't skimp on the intel
When it comes to wet work, it pays to be informed. You don't necessarily need to know where your target shops for pet food, but understanding who they are, where they work, and what makes them tick can be invaluable information on the field. Series like Deus Ex, Splinter Cell, and Hitman place a huge emphasis on gathering intel on targets because understanding background info and learning the environment can assist in the finding unknown weaknesses, exploits, or shortcuts. True, not every assassin has access to a team of experts on the other end of an earpiece a la Metal Gear, and it does take certain genes to access historical data in the Animus. That said, investing a little time in Googling your target or following them around for a spell can expose vulnerabilities and deadly opportunities that would have otherwise gone overlooked. Lesson being: do your homework. It could save your life.
Always plan ahead
What good is sneaking in the shadows if you're bumping into chairs? What's the point of infiltrating the enemy base if you can't scale the first guard tower? Short of possessing MacGyver-like skills, video games have taught us we need to have a comprehensive selection of gadgets at the ready for any problem that our wits, strength, and smooth talking can't overcome. From night vision goggles to grappling hooks and hidden blades to poisoned rice cakes, video games have taught us that the smart assassin is one who knows how to pack for any circumstance and/or steal the tools they need from the field. Go ahead and try to work empty-handed - it's your anonymous funeral.
Know your tech
Not all of us are futuristic cyborg assassins augmented with the tech to hack computers, doors, and security cameras at a glance. For one, that kind of technology is ridiculously expensive and--more importantly--it doesn't exist. So until such time when the world of Deus Ex becomes real, you'd do well to take a cue from the likes of modern day hitmen like Agent 47 and Sam Fisher, and brush up on your electronic infiltration skills.
Blending in is good for business
When there are no dark corners or cardboard boxes to be found, sometimes hiding in plain sight is an assassin's most useful skill. Both the Assassin's Creed and Hitman series have shaped entire missions around this concept alone, forcing players to take on the characteristics of surrounding NPCs in order to trail their target at close range and go in for the surprise kill. Thanks to this virtual training, we've learned how to stay mobile by becoming part of the crowd, surfacing from the masses at the perfect moment to lay the final blow before ducking back into the throng and making our escape. You may argue that not all hits takes place in crowded markets or rock concerts, but when they do, you'd do well to be prepared.
Consider the direct approach
When time is of the essence, you can't afford to be crawling through vents or setting up Rube Goldberg-like kills. As games like Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row have so eloquently demonstrated, sometimes the direct kill is the most effective way to cross a target off your hitlist, be it a rocket launcher to the face on a crowded street, an Apache helicopter strike, or a daytime chainsaw massacre. No More Heroes' Travis Touchdown is another example of an assassin who knows the value of a fast (and often brutal) kill. Where other killers prefer to slip in unseen, Travis takes the bull in a china shop approach to his assignments, kicking down the front door and slaughtering everyone who stands between him and his payday. Lesson being: it's ok to make a scene once in a while, provided you get the job done right the first time and you're also good at making an exit.
A little style goes a long way
If you want to thrive as an assassin in today's tough job market, you'll need to convince employers you're more than a cookie-cutter hitman. Developing a unique style is a sure bet for repeat business, and as video games have shown us, there's plenty of ways to stand out in a crowd (while, of course, still hiding within it). Professional killers like Travis Touchdown, Deadpool, and Raiden are all shining examples of hitmen who handle their contracts with a certain je ne sais quoi; often preferring to leave a lasting impression on their awe-struck witnesses, rather than be forgotten in a crowd. Your hook could be a certain look, a la Travis' punk rock style; a trademark weapon like Ezio D'Auditore's hidden blades; or a unique personality like the seven Smiths of Killer7. Whatever calling card you choose, make it your own and make it memorable...
...but try to stay out of the spotlight
There's a reason wannabee assassins in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim had to jump through hoops to score an interview with the Dark Brotherhood; or why Ra's al Ghul's League of Shadows preferred to hide beneath the streets of Arkham City. It's because stabbing people in public and/or opening up an Assassin'sRUs shop in the middle of town is the quickest way to get shut down by authorities or taken out by the opposition. So while Travis Touchdown and his United Assassins Association colleagues might get away with making a scene, their methods are the exception rather than the rule. In most cases, assassin leagues meet in secret, and their members do everything in their power to take attention away from their trade. You don't see The Bourne Conspiracy's Jason Bourne doing TV endorsements, nor Dragon Age's Tallis and Zevran setting up an assassin's booth at the Kirkwall market. As the majority of virtual contract killers have taught us, it's always wisest to check your ego at the door and stay out of the spotlight.
Never get attached
An effective assassin is a lonely assassin. If we've learned anything from saving Corvo Attano's beloved Empress, Ezio's lover, or Snake's girlfriend(s), it's that, in time, personal relationships always become a bargaining tool for the bad guys. You can try all your might to keep home life and work separate, but at the very least you're going to eventually have to deal with a kidnapping, home invasion, or both. As such, veteran assassins understand the importance of cutting ties and practicing restraint when it comes to forming close, interpersonal relationships. That's not to say you have to be a cold, meatbag-hating assassin droid like Star Wars' HK-47 or Golgo-13 if you want to be good at your job, just that ... well, actually that's exactly what we're saying. Mocking inquiry: you didn't really think you could have your cake and eat it to, did you?
Become a ninja (if you aren't one already)
If you're already a Ninja (or a Ninja in training) you can go ahead and forget about everything we've written. Ninja's don't need lessons on becoming assassins, because they're already perfect killing machines by virtue of being a ninja. The video game world is full of examples including Ayame and Rikimaru (Tenchu), Raiden (Metal Gear), Shadow Yamoto (Eternal Champions), Yoshimitsu (Tekken), Shinobi (Shinobi), Zer0 (Borderlands 2). Want more? How about Sub-Zero (Mortal Kombat), Ryu Hayabusa (Ninja Gaiden), Vega (Street Fighter), Kunoichi (Samurai Warriors), that sword from Fruit Ninja ... we could do this all day. Becoming a ninja isn't easy, but it's a first class ticket to Awesomeville, population: you.
Love thy sniper rifle
Or bow. Or long-ranged pistol. Or pretty much any weapon that allows you to linger back and pick your marks off from a distance. Mass Effect's Thane had his M-98 widow, Dragon Age II's Tallis had go-to trust bow, Ghost Trick's Tengo had his beloved rifle, and Team Fortress 2's Sniper relied on... well, you get the point. The most deadly of virtual killers always have a long-range weapon to whip out when the trusty trip-wire-to-the-neck strategy just isn't doable. Thanks to this, video games have taught us that part of being a deadly assassin means investing in something we can shoot from afar. That, or archery lessons.