Review: Hatred – I Don’t Hate This Game, But I Don’t Love It Either
Hatred was announced a while ago, “welcomed” by massive controversy and criticism of its theme. Today we’ll put that in a corner, as it’s simply way too subjective to be remotely relevant to the game’s quality, and we’ll see how Hatred holds up purely as a game.
Hatred puts the player in the heavy boots, trench coat and greasy unkempt hair of a psycho that decides to step out of his house fully armed and cause a veritable trail of carnage. This is pretty much all there’s to the story.
Given the times, it’s not necessarily an unrealistic premise and it definitely holds some interesting narrative potential.
Unfortunately that potential is not realized, and the story is fully bare-bones. It completely misses the chance for some character progression and introspection which would have added value to the narrative and game in general.
I would pretty much say that Hatred has the same level of storytelling of Super Mario. Replace Mario with the unnamed psycho, the goombas with relatively harmless civilians, the less harmless enemies with a few variations of cops, SWAT and soldiers, remove Peach (who is pretty useless anyway) and you have pretty much the same narrative depth, which is close to zero.
On the other hand the visuals are really fetching, especially considering that they come from an indie team at their first game. Great visuals aren’t exactly what you expect from this kind of product, but the title delivers in spades.
While the 3D models and textures are nothing to call home over, the black and white look with colored accents for explosions, fire, blood and neon signs really sets the perfect mood while hiding the flaws and rough edges, creating an overall effect that is definitely easy on the eyes.
While this is more due to art direction than to technical wizardry, it doesn’t really matter. The final result is that the game looks great.
To make the visual package richer, we can add some exceptionally good explosion and destruction effects, and my personal favorite: a lovely simulation of the air moved by explosions that interacts with the protagonist’s clothes and hair in a way that makes him almost look cool (which is a feat in itself).
Sound effects are pretty average, often sliding towards the monotonous. That’s especially true for the psycho’s voice, which isn’t bad per se, but says the same lines so many times during gameplay that you’ll end up hating him, even because said lines are often especially cheesy. Considering that he’s pretty much the only one talking, a bit more variation here and there wouldn’t have hurt.
But let’s move to the real meat: gameplay. We need to get something out of the way: get rid of that controller right this moment. The stick sensitivity is so badly calibrated and the button mapping is so cumbersome (the same button for executions and switching weapons? Really?) that I’m tempted to give in to the overall theme of the game and use a few rather crude swearwords here. I’ll leave them to your imagination.
If the controller was the only option, the final score of this review would be a 4 or less, and feel free to consider it so if you don’t like to play this kind of game with keyboard and mouse. I understand that we’re talking about a PC exclusive game, so some focus on PC’s classic control scheme is to be expected, but we’re also talking about a twin stick shooter. Twin. Stick.
Now that we’ve thrown that controller out of the window (and possibly hit a neighbor in the head) the game becomes a whole lot more fun when played with your keyboard and mouse combo.
We finally have good control of our aim, and won’t switch weapons accidentally while trying to perform an execution, turning Hatred into a pretty competent action game. Levels are varied and interesting to explore, and most of the weapons are enjoyable and effective.
The kick option is maybe a little overpowered. Kick someone in the face once besides the well armored SWAT and soldiers, and they’ll be on the ground begging for mercy and waiting for an execution, meaning that most of the time you don’t really need to use your guns at all.
Executions are the only way to regain energy (you can also grab some body armor, but it’s pretty rare and will be depleted fast). You get someone on the ground begging for mercy, proceed to mercilessly finish them, and get some of your life back. It’s pretty much as realistic as vampirism, but this isn’t exactly the most realistic game out there, so it’s definitely an acceptable mechanic.
It worked in Warhammer 40:000: Space Marine and it works here just as well.
I can definitely praise the choice of not having the execution cutscenes trigger every single time, and our friendly neighborhood psycho will often just shoot his victim in the head without further ado.
Yet those clips, while quite varied and generally well made, still play too often, interrupting the action way too much. By the end of the game, they’ll be a whole lot less enjoyable (if you enjoy seeing people stabbed, shot at point blank range, or stomped in the skull to begin with).
AI is hit and miss. Most enforcers of the law will come at you quite mindlessly, without enacting any kind of real teamwork or tactics. In the train station level you get to drive a SWAT van with machine gun on top. I’ve literally seen a large group of soldier line up and coming in to be slaughtered one by one.
On the other hand, I definitely appreciated the fact that civilians don’t always remain harmless. When you kill a cop, there’s a good chance that a civilian will muster some courage, pick up the cop’s gun and shoot you in the back. This forces the player to keep moving and maintain situational awareness at all times, no matter if there isn’t any police nearby.
The way death is handled might also be cause of frustration to some (while others will possibly appreciate the old-style challenge). Each time you complete an objective, you’ll gain a respawn, which is basically a “life” for the duration of that level.
When you get killed, you use one of those respawns. If you don’t have any, you have to restart the level from scratch. I found this annoying, mostly because levels are pretty long. Getting killed towards the end may definitely make you waste close to half a hour of progression, but again, your mileage may vary.
Ultimately, we’re looking at a $20 game that pretty much matches its monetary worth.
It’s a pretty competent action game with really great visuals, but marred by quite a few flaws. If you don’t like playing with keyboard and mouse, then steer clear, but if you don’t mind putting your controller aside, and you enjoy the genre, it can be worth quite a few hours of your time.
I didn’t hate Hatred, but I didn’t really love it either. Yet, it’s a pretty promising debut for a new indie team.