Hatred Review: At least it made people think
Well, here it is. The game that kicked the hornet's nest. I know I've been waiting for this one for a long time. The other day I wrote a reaction article to Totalbiscuit's WTF video, and this morning I got to play it myself. I expect that most of you reading this will already know what Hatred is, but in case you don't I'll give you a quick sum-up:
You play as a long-haired freak in a trenchcoat. He hates everything. You go out and kill innocent people in a variety of settings. When the cops show up, you kill them. When the SWAT show up, you kill them too. When soldiers show up--you guessed it--you do your best to perforate those guys as well. You shoot people, stab them, set them on fire, blow them up with grenades. But mostly shoot them.
That seems like a hard formula to mess up. But I assure you, ladies and gentlemen, they most certainly did.
Even with everything on rock-bottom settings, the game ran like ass.
Bit of disclosure here: I played this on a Toshiba A10 Quad-core laptop. It is by no means a gaming rig. Bear this in mind when you read the next part.
Knowing that this was a game running on Unreal 4, I immediately set everything to low. I don't have a FPS counter, but I'd take a safe bet that it was well below 30 at the best of times.
I would normally just blame my machine for this, but during Totalbiscuit's impressions video, even on his famously monstrous rig, the game would not go above 30 FPS no matter what he did to it. So, yes, there are optimization issues. But I can forgive that on Day 1.
But it's worse than that:
My game was so broken that I couldn't finish the first level. Why? Because whenever I reached a low health state, the game would freeze. Then it would play a few frames. Then freeze again. Repeat until I died, helpless to do anything about it. Tweaking settings didn't fix it, going to Windowed mode didn't fix it, moving away from the area didn't fix it. I had restart the level and turn down the difficulty to Easy to get anywhere, and at about my fourth attempt to beat the level my game froze again and I decided enough was enough.
I was only able to clock in 58 minutes according to Steam. I'm sorry, but it was the best I could do with the game in this state. I would have played more if I could.
It's a shame, because even at low settings, the game actually looks alright. It's got this Sin City-style black and white and shades of red that I really dig. It makes the game feel dark and bleak and empty, as it should. The destruction was very impressive. Loved the fire effects especially. There was nothing quite like tossing a grenade into a garage and watching it all go up in flames.
You run around and shoot people. There aren't many frills on this one.
You execute not-quite-dead people to regain health. You get a crouch button, but no real cover system outside of that. You have a sprint button that's supposed to allow vaulting over low objects and jumping through windows, but is actually really janky and unreliable.
As you kill people, cops show up. Keep killing until the level is over.
This might have been entertaining for a while if the AI didn't suck so hard. A fair number of the bystanders don't even run away in the right direction. Some will run away, some will slowly jog to the left or right, and a bunch of them will even drunkenly wander towards you. I've had more fun mowing my front lawn.
The reaction forces aren't much better. There was a moment a remember after I slaughtered a house full of unsuspecting partiers when I heard the sirens coming. I took cover by a window and saw three cop cars pull up to the street outside. In that brief moment, I felt how I always imagined a spree killer would feel: cornered like a rat, nowhere to run, about to go out in a bitter blaze of glory.
Imagine my disappointment when one by one the cops marched right through the front door, where I blasted them with my shotgun like ducks at a carnival. They didn't have the brains to simply hang back behind their cars and fire, like a real police response might have done.
The terrible AI is the core reason this game has failed. At no point did I ever feel like I was killing a human being. Not once. Pretty significant failing when that's the ENTIRE POINT of the game. Any opportunity to set traps and ambushes, to feel like a hunter of men, is utterly wasted when your prey comes to you like a bunch of zombies. Even if my computer could play this game perfectly, it would get old really, really fast.
Our nameless trenchcoat 'hero' hates everyone and wants to kill everything.
That means that in order for the player to connect with the guy, at least one of two things has to happen: one, we also have to hate everyone and two, killing has to be satisfying. Well, I don't share this guy's worldview, and killing a bunch of mindless robots who can't hide or defend themselves is not fun. There goes all your player immersion.
As ran around killing these barely sentient sheep that this game calls people, I tried to determine what kind of effect the designers where trying to impress on the player. If it was to unleash the murderous psychopath that lurks in every human heart, as Santa Monica's God of War intended, it failed to do that because it lacked satisfying means of killing. If it was to make me questions my own motivations for why I enjoy hurting people in games, as Dennaton's Hotline Miami did, it failed because the action was neither abstract nor shocking enough to make me think.
If it was to make me feel guilt and regret for taking human lives, as Spec Ops: the Line did, it failed because no one felt human. My victims were only cheap puppets. Killing my empathy for human beings would have been great if it were intentional, most violent games I play do that anyway, and unlike Hatred, they manage to be fun.
I'm feeling some hate, alright.
I hate the terrible AI. I hate the lousy performance. I hate the failure to engage, entice, or excite me. It's $20 dollars on Steam for dull, pointless, and broken schlock.
If you want violent games that treat their violence in thoughtful, meaningful, and fun ways, check out any of the three superior games I mentioned above who did it right. Don't bother with this one unless you're really, really curious.
I wanted this game to succeed. I really did.
I mentioned this in my reaction article before and I'll say it again: I believed that this game would be groundbreaking statement about video game violence, a thought-provoking experiment in turning people into, for a moment, a mass-murdering monster. I loved all the talk and debate that sprung up around it.
Like any fine piece of art, Hatred made people think; people were talking about free speech and censorship, rights of the developer and consumer, societies of violence and the development of empathy, you name it. Destructive Creations was brilliant for letting the media do all the advertising for them, and while friends of mine were disgusted that this game was being made. I was ecstatic. I wanted to see how a game this deliciously controversial would turn out.
This is why it infuriates me that they would build up this pretense of being some edgy, no apologies studio that didn't back down or compromise for anybody, then give us...this. After all that, this piece of crap is all we get? Really?
They got my $20, but my respect for these guys is pretty much gone. It was all nothing but a bunch of hot air.