– Reasonably fun dual-stick shooter
– Art aesthetic reminds me of early-isometric era PC games, like Fallout
– Black and white color scheme (with explosions being in color) is striking
– Character’s one-liner’s are so bad, it has to be intentional
– Made me feel edgier than I did playing Doom in secret back when I was a kid
– Shooting controls are fairly lackluster
– Black and white makes it hard to differentiate objects in the environment
– The same button for executions (aka healing) is the same as swap weapons. Why.
– Very hard, with a minimal continues
– Short, especially for retailing at $20
– Subject matter and its “extreme edginess” will certainly turn off a few people
I don’t know whether to praise or condemn Destructive Creations (makers of Hatred), but I will say this: like Scott Cawthon of Five Night’s at Freddy’s fame, they know the state of the current gaming climate.
Hatred is a game about a mass-murderer. There is no beating around the bush here, no subtext or anything like you might have with Grand Theft Auto (or all the Call of Duty games for that matter): Hatred is about a dude in a trenchcoat wandering around town gunning down everybody he sees. If you are already grimacing, then this probably isn’t the game for you. Because apparently it also wasn’t the game for a lot of people, especially game journalists.
Due to its obviously controversial subject matter, Hatred got lampooned by a large number of blog style gaming websites. For a while there was nothing but a stream of posts about how repulsive the game was, how it should be banned, and so on. This was only exacerbated when the game not only got an AO rating (which the ESRB usually reserves for hentai games), but Twitch outright banned it, and it was temporarily pulled from Steam Greenlight despite being Greenlight within 24 hours (it was later returned). Like I said, Destructive Creations knew the state of game journalism. Like Scott used YouTubers as free press, these guys kept pushing the “edginess” of their game out there and sat back as the game marketed itself. On it’s release (at the rather inflated price of $20) it became the best-selling game on Steam.
So all that aside…is the game actually, I dunno, any good? Is it a cess-pool of evil and filth and should be banned from society? Or is it really just mediocre and would have probably been ignored if people hadn’t made a big stink about it?
Read on to find out (though you can probably guess where my money is).
There isn’t much in terms of story to Hatred. Much like Postal and it’s titular “Postal Guy,” “Hatred Guy” is an angry trenchcoat wearing, dreadlocks donning crazy person. After a tutorial that could have been replaced with the game saying “it’s a dual stick shooter,” you leave your house and just start shooting people. While this is going on, they scream and run and beg for mercy (which you can’t give them, as the objective is literally “Kill all the civilians”), and Hatred Guy mouths off some absurdly stupid one-liners. Honestly, I kind of chuckled at the one-liners, which probably makes me an awful person. But him saying things like, “Where’s your guardian angel? Oh wait, I killed him.” is such an absurd attempt at being EDGY that I can’t help but chuckle.
To be honest, I was secretly hoping that this whole game was gonna pull the rug out from under everybody who criticized it and end up being some sort of elaborate critique of game violence. Seriously, I was really hoping for it. Considering how ridiculous the entire thing was, I was waiting for the Spec-Ops: The Line moment where the game became self aware of its atrocities and critiqued me, the player, for continuing to engage in them. Honestly, as some sort of meta-analysis of gaming violence and outrage (especially seeing as this is literally the sort of “school-shooting simulators” Jack Thomson was warning us about back when he attacked Grand Theft Auto 3 in the early 2000s) it really could have done something brilliant.
It doesn’t, in case you were wondering. It’s just some vain, B-movie attempt at EDGE.
Gameplay itself is dated, as in “the indie scene finally got over dual-stick shooters like three years ago.” Essentially, it plays like Alien Shooter or Zombie Shooter (both better dual-stick shooters where you murder tons of stuff in gory violence and for great stress relief, but lacking EDGE) but set to the idea of Postal. You can have three weapons and three grenade types at any given time, and can switch them on the fly. You also find new ones as you run around. Weapons have surprisingly small clips, so you’ll have to reload frequently and play somewhat strategically if you’re going to survive. Shotguns, in particular, suck really bad because not only do they have next to no range and do trash damage, reloading them takes exceptionally long. You also have very limited ammo, as it is only dropped by the police (and they can be hard to take down), so the game advises you to use handgun ammo on civilians (or just kick them and execute them) and save the heavy artillery for those who can actually fight back.
On that note, civilians are essentially just walking health potions. The only way to gain life is to “execute” fallen enemies, which is done by putting them in a wounded state (either by shooting them or kicking them) and pressing Y. You then get one of several canned charming executions, usually involving the person begging for their lives as you gun them down. It sounds shocking (and it arguably is), but context is important here, because most shooter games also have similar execution animations (complete with begging) as part of their systems. I’m not making a statement one way or another, just tossing out facts.
You also have a plethora of side-missions, which actually end up being part of the main objective for each area. Completing the side missions gives you respawn points (of which there is a very limited number) should you fall in battle. Fall and not have any respawns and you’re done, game over, but luckily there’s a stage select so you don’t have to start the whole game from the beginning.
There are lots of problem here, though, and I don’t mean just the content matter. Hatred‘s dual-stick controls feel sloppy all around. Normal aiming puts a reticule only a short distance from you, and the option for a longer-distance zoom (with the left trigger pressed in) makes the camera sloppy and somehow harder to aim (despite giving you a laser sight). I found myself gravitating towards a “spray and pray” style, meaning using the handgun was more of a chore than fun. Keep in mind: I love dual-stick shooters, and consider myself pretty good at them (I got all the achievements in Geometry Wars 2, so there’s that). The controls just felt overtly stiff, and the aiming straight up bad. A little auto-aim probably wouldn’t have hurt. That or some sort of visual indication when dealing with height/obstacles blocking your vision.
Another big problem is the difficulty. Hatred feels unnecessarily punishing, both in delivering you ammo to continue fighting, to recovering life, to its archaic checkpoint system. I managed to beat the game on Easy only failing once or twice, but on Normal it proved a considerably harder challenge. On the harder difficulties it turns into a game of hide and seek with the cops, praying a weak enemy is close enough for you to execute and get health. It isn’t particularly fun, nor stress relief, which is what I envisioned this game being when I first took an interest in it.
The pervasive control problems continue throughout the game. The button for execute (Y on a controller) is the same as “Change Weapon,” and since executions are necessary (and hard to see if they’re in the right state due to the homogeneous black and white graphics) I often found myself changing weapons instead of executing, or ending an execution with the wrong gun equipped. It can also be hard to see objectives and where to go, though the mini-map does provide a little bit of help in that regard. All in all, what should have been a fun stress-relief orgy of violence is instead a clunky, mildly frustrating mess. At least I get to hear Hatred Guy’s stupid quips while “crashing” a party.
Graphically, Hatred is as mixed a bag as its gameplay and controls. I actually found the black and white visual aesthetic striking (also giving the game more EDGE), with only certain things (red barrels, explosions, blood, police lights) providing a splash of color on the bleak world. If I were going to actually analyze this game, I’d praise them for having the world appear mundane in the eyes of the protagonist until he’s doing something awful (blowing up stuff, killing people, etc. are the only actions that have color in them), but honestly they probably didn’t think that far ahead when making the game. But, to be fair, it does do some really cool stuff with shadows, particularly in the mandatory sewer level. Also the explosions (and the destructible environments) look pretty rad. I like the 2000s-era Fallout style of isometric visuals they went with.
The color scheme does have a lot of issues, however, especially in darker areas (which is…like everywhere, but especially the sewers). Since it’s all gray, it can be extremely difficult to see enemies in the dark against the also-gray backgrounds. This got me killed several times, where I was being shot at but couldn’t quite spot the enemies in the darkness. Yes, I could click in the right stick for a quick scan, but you try clicking the right stick while also aiming with it, moving with the left stick, zooming with the left trigger, and firing with the right. It’s bloody controller Twister, and considering how inconstant the aiming is anyway it probably wouldn’t have worked out regardless.
Music and sound is…there. The music is generally uninteresting, and the voice work mostly consists of people screaming and Hatred Guy saying stupid stuff. I’ll say it’s all just mediocre and leave it at that, because I can’t think of anything else to say.
Lastly, I’ll mention that (since this is a PC only game), Hatred stutters from time to time, even with a souped-up rig like mine. I imagine that’s just poor optimization, but those load times? Really?
In closing, I’ll address the obvious elephant in the room: how I felt about Hatred‘s content matter. Honestly? I did feel a little like a horrible person the first few minutes I played through it. But the game’s so blatant attempt at EDGINESS actually became kind of endearing after a while. Is Hatred‘s subject matter all sort of screwed up? Yeah, kind of. I mean, video games as an industry often feel built around violence, and the fact that a game like this just cuts any pretense of giving that violence justifiable context and essentially is a school shooting/murder simulator is weirdly…I don’t know, honest? Is it damaging the industry by existing and should be condemned? Nah, and honestly the uproar given to it was predictable and probably not justified. But even so, a game is only as good as its actual gameplay and mechanics, and Hatred just falls short on so many levels.
To me, this is fairly synonymous to me playing Doom as a child. My parents outright banned it in the house, and even banned me playing it at friends’ houses. I’d have to sneak over to the right friends at the right time in order to play the game, talking about it in hushed tones when we’d meet and hope our parents didn’t hear about how we blew demons away in bloody viscera. Both were EDGY at the time, and both caused a lot of uproar, but honestly I don’t see anything wrong with something like this existing. If anything, it could prove that games, even mainstream ones, have no limits in the content they’ll dare to tread on. I’m just really annoyed they didn’t pull the rug out during the final act and do something clever with it.
The game released at $20, which is kind of absurd considering both its length (only a few hours, if that), mediocre controls, and general repetitiveness of the gameplay. If you still have some interest in it, I’d say you could at least sate your curiosity at a lower price tag (say, $5 or less or in a bundle), but honestly there are much better dual-stick indie shooters out there.
Plus then you won’t cut yourself on the EDGE!!!!!
Two out of five stars.