I still remember when this game was announced. I was in class and having a lecture in Scandinavian history when a friend sent me a video. Being obviously the best student ever, I took a small break and checked the video thinking: “Oh, a new game? Sounds dandy!” I was in for a wake-up call as it was uncomfortable. The amount of negative reception the trailer got was understandable, with even Extra Credits doing a video about violence in video games because of this game. Am I then a terrible person for saying that I was interested in the idea behind this game and whether it was actually good?
I thought to myself that Hatred was distasteful, but it does bring up the question of how far creativity can go. Also, when you think about it, despite it not being accurately the same, we do have other games like Postal 2 providing the possibility to do terrible things, right? However, none of these were really shocking to me, especially due to what other terrible things are available on the internet. What was shocking, was just how much this controversy died of right as the game got released. Really, I did not hear a single thing word about Hatred after its release, except for one reviewer who found the game okay. After choosing between giving this and No Man’s Sky a shot, I got some good advice from my supreme overlord Casper, and decided to check out how much I will hate this game.
Like a broody child
It is really hard to gain anything from this opening that has a lasting appeal, but a man who is too full of himself to even give a proper introduction or even a name, sets out on his own mission to eradicate this world and die violently in the process. It is a minimal setup and there is barely a plot here, so you’d think that the story is not a focus here. However, his desires for his bloodbath is constantly brought up and repetitive, so it is hard to not let this slide.
Although it might not care to provide a deep plot, Hatred definitely wants to create a tone with its writing, character and the overall journey. However, nothing comes of as intriguing or insightful, making this just awfully dull. First off, the character is any cliché, dark-metal, violent antagonist you have ever met. He has no clear personality other than wanting to kill and see destruction and torture being done by his own hands. Sure, we all have aggression in ourselves and, at times, we react on them, but his “crusade” is sorely lacking any reasoning from past or present events, or even clear ideals. Because of this, the dark and grim tone the game goes for is hard to take seriously, even though the actions you do perform in-game can be incredibly uncomfortable and realistic.
Then Hatred could have been a parody, right? A terrible antagonist with nothing interesting of him to speak of, on a mission that is simply terrible both in action and reason, then maybe this game wants to create a statement or just be dumb? I was considering this, as the writing is simply horrendous. There are dumb monologues delivered by this nameless prick, with some being even cringeworthy. They try to make the quotes he utters too dark with some just being silly, so maybe this was intentional? One that had me laughing for a solid minute just because of how silly it sounded coming from his dark voice was: “I fucking hate politics. But more than that, I hate politicians.” He is even a guest character in Postal Redux and referred to as “Not Important”, since he states so in the opening of his game “my name is not important”.
However, the game thrives on this harsh imagery and goes out of its way with its style to make it all feel uncomfortable, instead of a parody or being symbolic. It is clear that Hatred just wants to be tasteless and indulge in all that is terrible. By all means, if you want to be just that without much else to offer, that is one thing, and many other games had similar opportunities. However, Hatred can’t even do this right when it is its sole focus, as it doesn’t go all out with it. While I am not condoning this, Hatred does not go far with its violence, as you only kill other grown-ups. If you are going to be tasteless, if you have to be controversial and challenge freedom of speech, go all the way. Hatred can’t even do this properly, making it feel unfinished.
Story score: 2/10
You wanna know what is really offensive about this title?
So what is Hatred outside of its controversial setup? Well, it is a simple twin-stick shooter. Our antagonist can run, crouch, hold 3 different firearms, throw grenades, aim, dodge, kick, and execute people. It is a simple setup and could be decent on its own. Your goal for every mission is to either kill a certain amount of people or get to a specific destination. None of the missions are creative as you will be either shooting at civilians or cops, or just run towards a specific spot in a narrow or open area. The citizens can pick up guns on the ground and attempt to attack you, but they die too quickly for this to become noticeable.
Though the civilians are easy to deal with, the cops and especially the Swat team are not. This is due to a bunch of problems, however. Firstly, the cops and swat come in hordes and will shoot you down quickly. The fact that you will have to reload your gun multiple times as some even wear armor, makes it easy for them to take you down quickly. Because of this, you will be a sitting duck, either covering from the side and camp, or simply crouch to avoid shots until they come to you. Yes, there is a dodge-button, but it is useless as it is slow, short and hard to maneuver around with.
Running and gunning is also out of the question, as the antagonist is heavy and hard to move around quickly. While he can auto-jump over obstacles and through objects like windows when running, he can just as easily get stuck at the dumbest scenery, like boxes. This is also due to how everything blends in together due to the artstyle and how dark it all is. Combine this with an isometric view that can hide objects out of view, it makes for a frustrating game. Yes, there is the hatred-vision for seeing enemies and guns around, but I never had to use it, as it still could not show what object hindered me to go further.
At least there is a variety in firearms, like accurate pistols, shotguns that covers a wide range, assault-rifle for quick shots, and a devastating flamethrower to name a few. However, these weapons are severely unbalanced and do not support any good playstyle. In fact, I stuck with mainly the assault-rifle and similar guns, just so I was sure I could stunlock the enemies and would not have to reload multiple times in a row, making the diversity in weapons meaningless. This is a shame, as you can change out the firearms with what you find, and I do like the idea of having to choose your loadout on skills or availability.
However, even the shooting is not satisfying as there are terrible problems here as well. Aiming down the site throws you off and basically makes you only see further in a direction, you can’t aim at higher or lower altitudes despite that the enemies can, you will be a sitting duck due to the dodging being worthless, and the level-design does not create creative planning for the shoot-outs. I suppose I should talk about this, as you will be either on an incredibly linear pathway like a train or in the sewers, or out in the open like a town or suburban neighborhood. Neither conveys any interesting setups, as you will usually have to find a hiding-spot and camp. What I did enjoy though, was the destructible environment. Houses can have walls destroyed for some easy escape or entrance, throwing grenades is satisfying for more carnage with decent variety in types, and you are always pointed in the direction you are supposed to go towards, thanks to a helpful compass.
Sadly, these don’t help much in the variety as it is always the same objectives with nothing changing. There are side-objectives, but they are just as lackluster and almost required for finishing a level quickly. These also act as save points and extra lives. That is right, these are your extra lives and while the linear level has checkpoints, the open ones does not. With each checkpoint, you only get one more life. Die with no more lives and it is back to the beginning. Since some levels can take over 20 minutes to finish, it makes for a frustrating game to get through, especially since the bombardment of enemies, is just a poor way to provide difficulty without creativity or testing your skills. What is even worse, is that some respawn-points can also be filled with swat-teams, making it just add insult to injury when you die within 2 seconds from respawning. It does make me wonder why there is even a suicide-button.
In total, Hatred has 7 missions and is beatable in 2-3 hours. It tries to be this hardcore game, without anything worthwhile with the exception of one thing other than the destructible environment. Besides the swat-jackets you can find hidden around in each area, there are no ways to heal yourself with items. Instead, you will have to perform executions on a downed enemy or a stunned one from your kicks in order to get some health back. This is an interesting risk vs reward system, as you will have to get up-close to your enemies in order to gain health, and is surprisingly well thought out.
Outside of this, there are just tons of issues. I could go on with how the difficulties are lackluster in options, with even missing normal-mode for the sake of being edgy, how the “are you drunk” option is just dumb to unlock, how driving a car is like skating on ice, and even more flaws. However, the bottom line is that Hatred is just repetitive, charges plenty of enemies towards you to make itself seem hard, and has only a minor smart element. It is just frustrating and dull.
Gameplay Score: 1.5/10
Sure is a dark game
I actually really love the style Hatred goes for visually. Everything is black and white, with only colors being provided from the heat of fire, destruction, or the red blood gushing from your victims. It is an effective way to highlight the carnage visually and while the darkness can obstruct the visuals, it is an effective way to set the mood. The annihilation from explosions, light from gunshots, and of course the amount of people running, is impressive. Unreal 4 is really an amazing engine.
The variety in locations is still lackluster though, since while you will have some variety within it like traveling through a moving train and shoot through a city, many areas blend together quickly due to lack of color or memorable setpieces. It was properly done to create familiar locations and make this feel realistic, but a more diverse setup would have been welcome for actually remembering where you caused chaos. This also extends to the executions, as while they are brutal, they are not imaginative and becomes lackluster. These are supposed to be in for the shock-value and, while uncomfortable, there is an art to killing as we have seen in other titles before. I wish they could have gone further with this as the killing is such a main focus. Also as a side-note, our genocidal brooder has wonderful hair, but the animations for it is awful and unnatural.
The sound-effects are brilliant though. The explosions, every gun, and cars ramming into buildings, all pack wonderful punch, signifying the danger that you are causing. It is incredibly effective, and the screams of innocent people running, or hearing police on the speaker or radio, highlights the uncomfortable vibe the game goes for. Our antagonist’s voice is grunchy and dark, which is fitting and well done, despite what he is saying being unimportant.
This is all made stronger by the soundtrack by Adam Skorupa, who you might know from Shadow Warrior(2013) and, of all things, The Witcher. He brings a fantastic, dark electronic score, filled with bass, guitar, and uncomfortable tones that try to find lighter tunes in all the dark instruments overplaying it. It is a symbolic and incredibly effective soundtrack, that shows this was made by someone with a talent for creating an atmosphere. It is also at a constant pace, providing great tension to the action with all its dark and electronic instruments.
Presentation score: 7/10
I would rather die
So what happens when you beat the game on the hardest difficulty? Well, you unlock God mode where you have infinite ammo, but bollocks to this. It does not make it worth to play through the campaign again due to the reasons stated above. The survival mode could have been a decent idea, but due to how repetitive every aspect becomes and almost as frustrating as the main game, it is hard to ever find a reason to go back.
Extra score: 1/10
After being so negative, it might sound odd, but I wish this was a good game. I wish it dared more, had more planning, more quality ideas behind it, and actually became something worthwhile. To a certain degree, it could have been. I have actually seen plenty of solid mods that fixes many of the mechanical issues with Hatred, such as a color-mode and even changing it from isometric view to TPS.
However, if I have to add mods to make it better, than fuck that. THAT you can do with any game and I paid for this product, which should make it into a fun game to begin with, NOT a base-product. If you are going out of your way to mod, Hatred might be a decent time for you. However, as of the base game, it is littered with flaws and only has its presentation, in the end, to go by. Not even the controversial aspects are well done here.