Art and any form of media has always brought controversy, thanks to masses of skeptics who argue that freedom of speech has the power to warp a young and unstable mind to commit horrendous acts of brutality for the sake of it. Games are no exception, and have been one of the most common targets. Yet, for many years things have been peaceful — games have been given a break for the most part. The world has better things to worry about than what a game could do the imagination (which is nothing). But then there are games which don’t just push the envelope, but rather curb stomp it into a bloody mess. Is Hatred one of those games? Or rather, an overrated mess that tries too hard to be bad?
Hatred immerses players into the uneasy role of a nameless trench coat wearing psychopath, who is pretty angry at everything in existence. He is the extremist outcast who society deems undesirable, with his cheesy and bizarre monologues of hatred for mankind. So you won’t be shocked to discover that his life goals include mass murder and raining anarchy on civilization.
It’s an unsettling concept for many, but one with gameplay that’s not been seen before. Grand Theft Auto and Postal offer you the chance to rampage through populated areas, committing nightmarish acts of brutally, and laughing in the face of death. But at the same time, they both offer the player the choice to do so or not, and can indeed be played peacefully in many respects. Hatred subtracts the freedom of choice, and instead forces players to partake in horrendous crimes.
It’s a bold statement of a game, and the developers are keen to produce something for entertainment’s sake — even if it’s considered tasteless. Yet, I can’t decide what the game wants to be. I feel like the game is meant to be a satirical dig (or at least wants to be, I don’t know) at modern society, but miss fires on its extreme and grounded nature. I feel it’s an exercise in freedom of speech, and also an attempt to show people that most games aren’t straight up murder simulators. Not like Hatred at all.
Hatred is a twin stick shooter where players will control “The Crusader” in an unholy mission to cause carnage and destruction. The game world is observed from a top down/ isometric view, as though you were God looking down at this poor sap’s conquest. Everything is beautifully bathed in black and white, with a grimy atmosphere looming about. Overall, Hatred’s experience boils down to roaming a large open area in New York, and taking out as many innocents and police as possible. This includes obtaining numerous destructive weapons that will help in the mass murder, and completing a host of objectives that represent a problem with society (in the crusader’s eyes), such as blowing up a coffee shop, burning down a bank, or wasting a party filled with drunken fools. It’s mechanically simple and easy to get into.
Hatred does actually offer a highly detailed and impressive looking game-world, with destructible environments look absolutely stunning when in action. The high level of detail for the particle effects feel genuinely organic and are joy to look at. There is a huge amount of freedom in the game, giving players the option to take on objectives as they please. You can shoot, drive vehicles, and create massive chain reactions that decimate whole areas. The gameplay does get quite repetitive, however, as the game progresses in one single direction; never bringing in new elements or challenges to escalate the risk. Yet, there are a host of side objectives that pop up as you progress. These mostly involve killing people, but others include destroying vaults of money — But again, this doesn’t help Hatred break away from its repetitive manner.
One major problem I had with the game was its relentlessly difficulty, even on easy mode. Hatred is brutal in nature and with no checkpoints, it’s even worse. It’s extremely punishing, and for no good reason. Often it feels as though the game is cheating with cars that feel like crap to drive and explode with little damage taken. There is also another problem with NPCs firing at you from off screen. This has been reduced in a patch, but still there are odd moments where this happens. Another problem with the game involved certain core mechanics; one being the way health works. In order to regain health, you need to execute fallen NPCs, as there are no health packs to pick up. A neat idea, but one which is flawed due to it’s relentless difficulty and overwhelming number NPCs on and off screen. This mechanic would have been used well for filling up a meter and releasing a more powerful attack when filled.
There are respawn points, earned by completing certain objectives. But even these can get a little tiresome on the player progression. Many of side objectives themselves are too tough, and could waste these vital respawns. It’s unbalanced, especially when the protagonist is supposed to be bad ass and immortal.
I like to think there was a point here, and satire may not be it. The game could have offered a narrative on mental illness, and allowed players to call a therapist at the beginning. Maybe involve something like a “talking” cat, or involve you killing gangbangers and greedy bankers. But maybe the game is just thoughtless, with no real meaning other than to be ugly for the sake of it. It’s not a low point for gaming, as it offers some great visuals and somewhat entertaining action if you’re in a sick kind of mood.
Hatred is not the most pleasant experience, and it’s definitely not a game for people who can’t distinguish fantasy from reality. Not a good game in terms of dynamic gameplay, or making sense, and it often feels rather dull and overhyped. My advice, don’t be bothered by this, it’s not harmful nor is it that good. But, it’s a good way to vent our some anger as opposed to actually going on a mass killing spree.