Disclaimer before I begin full on. I didn’t finish the game. I got through about 2 or 3 levels (at least past the marina) and then got bored. I watched the ending on YouTube. That is my experience with the game, about 2 hours or so of time. I didn’t buy the game, I played a friend’s copy via Steam Family Share system. They got it through selling CS:GO crates on the Steam Market. Also, I would like to talk about the controversy full on at some point, but for now I want to give my 2-3 hour impression of the game.
So, Hatred dropped on Steam full on and official yesterday, much to the happiness of those espousing “free speech” notions. Me, being a consumer and lover of the video game medium, decided to get my hands on a copy of the game to see if it was all that. I think I can describe the whole ordeal as a “big hoopla over nothing.” Hatred, as it currently stands and will probably be for a while, is all bark and no bite. A lot of big talk for something of very little substance. For all the talk of the importance of this game existing and fighting some people did to get this game onto the Steam Store and push it to the top seller spot for a few hours, it really is nothing more than a flash in the pan and will fade away only to be remembered by the few fans it has garnered.
“Then stop talking about it and giving them attention!” No. I have a passion for my hobby, and that includes me discussing and adding to conversations about disliked material. Even if I was to not talk about the game, its supporters would still spread it far and wide like some sort of holy grail, buying copies for friends or shouting from the mountain tops any potential sales or news of it. My being silent on the subject does not instantly erase it from existence. I would like to share a few thoughts on my short playtime with the game.
Let’s get the small stuff out of the way first – Things Hatred does that I like (yes, even the shittiest games have those small silver linings). The filters and art style is very well done. It is reminiscent of Sin City, and draws player attention to specific events and details (police officers inbound, explosive canisters, explosions and fire, etc.) It gives the game world a very dark yet eye catching style. That and it manages to make the game recognizable from a distance. I could sit across the room from the game and be able to recognize it based off of that.
There is also some impressive tech behind the game. Unoptimized to be truthful, but no less impressive. The destruction physics, use of fire, and the color filters makes every explosion as impactful as the last. I have always been a fan of games that make every explosion not just something you hear, but also something you feel. Likewise, outside of a few moments that cause me to scratch my head, AI is handled well. The crowds scatter and run away from the shooting, they manage to be as chaotic and panicked as one could expect.
Controls are ok. The shooting is a little hard to control in the middle of a heated firefight, and the isometric perspective mixed with things like the aiming system makes it hard to really judge shots or make sense of really chaotic moments. Sometimes I would be taking cover and getting shot from someone off screen, and had trouble locating them beyond their red dot on the minimap (which does not differentiate between armed attacker and unarmed bystander, making it harder in the chaos and confusion to pick out targets).
Ok, the praise of the few things the game does right is over. The question now is if the game is any good? No.
First off, the plot from what I had seen is nonexistent. From their website they stated the game would have the player ask himself what pushes any human being to mass-murder. The game, from the few bits I played, never attempted to bring that question forward. Never does it give the player much pause to even consider “is this wrong?” Instead, it invites the player to revel in the idea of being a mass murderer, and continues to up the ante for the player in scenarios finally culminating in the detonation of a nuclear reactor. I’ve had to eat crow on this considering at the game’s announcement when everyone was up in arms or in unquestioning support of the game, I sat back and said, “Wait, we haven’t seen much outside of a 2 minute trailer. There could be more we aren’t seeing.” I figured the game might try to do something subversive, or even deconstruct ideas of ultra-violent shooters. It doesn’t. It tries to play it straight, while attempting to cover its ass with some of the dialogue and moments being purely cheesy and almost to the level of self-parody. The game brings nothing to the table in this department.
Now, pure gameplay without plot is normally fine, but then we have to turn to the question of how the gameplay is. Not good. I already mentioned my thoughts on the controls, but a little side note on vehicles. They are fucking impossible to control and make it almost not worth the effort of getting in one. Huffing it on foot is the best way to go. That said, the gameplay leaves much to be desired. There have been parallels drawn to Postal 1, Hotline Miami, and other similar games that revel in players committing mass murder. For the first time since Postal 1, I wasn’t thrilled or entertained at all. Frankly, I was bored. The game does not have much variety. Almost every mission is “kill civilians and police” with side objectives that are little more than “kill a lot of people in this area” or “destroy this property.” For a game that is supposed to be pure gameplay, reveling in its purity, it has very little to show for it. I think I got bored after the first 10 minutes of killing civilians (what little rush it did bring), and none of it was all that shocking. You regenerate your health by doing “executions” on downed NPCs, but those neither shocked nor delighted me. In terms of the game being “non-linear” it is not really that either. Every level is a small set of side objectives and a main objective of slaughter. There are no alternative avenues of approach. No way to do anything other than kill or be killed. Holy hell, even Postal 2 for all of its gruesome and shock at least had options for a pacifist run (and you can beat Postal 2’s base game without killing a single person). Hatred’s gameplay is like its color filters, very monotonous with brief moments of color.
Was it worth all the controversy? No. Frankly, while the context of the violence is important to factor into why it has the AO rating and gathered all the uproar, the game itself is rather tame. One or two executions aside, most of the violence lacks impact (which may factor into a conversation on desensitization), and the game never really gave me anything. I felt no disgust, entertainment, or anything towards this game, which is a very rare thing to happen. I felt complete apathy and boredom. The game itself is painfully mediocre, and a lot of the buildup for the game was a mix of the supporters of “free speech” and the devs feeding into that mindset with this idea that they were being “censored”, or that games are too “politically correct”. So, if Destructive Creations’ goal was to create a game that wasn’t “higher art”, they succeeded. If they wanted to create a game that was just entertainment, they failed.
On one final note, going back to the impressive tech, I really wish they could have put their skills towards something really enjoyable. As I have said to others, the destruction and physics, alongside the color filters, makes me wish they could have done a game were the player was either a disaster response unit, or some sort of disaster relief. Maybe a firefighter trying to control or minimize damage while rescuing and saving civilians, or even a rescue crew in the middle of a volcanic eruption or severe flood. Something that could really put all of the tech they demonstrated here to good use. We had The Ignition Factor on SNES, and a few other rare games here and there that dealt with that subject matter, but not much has come from that recently.