Note: I haven’t played this since January 30th, 2016, so I don’t have all my details straight. I’m sure you’ll understand why if you read the following.
This is going to be a short review for one main reason: more than any other game I’ve ever played, including Enter the Gungeon, Ninja Gaiden and more, I had difficulty playing Hatred. I was only able to complete the first level. Honestly, I almost couldn’t complete the tutorial. At this point you may be realizing that I’m not talking about the difficulty level of the game. No, I’m talking about how hard it is for me to actually sit there and play the game.
I started the tutorial and things seemed… okay. I got used to using the weapons, I wandered around my “house,” and things were fine- until I reached the part where you learn how you get health back. I was faced with a man tied up and drugged in my house, and the tutorial, in order to advance, made me execute him. This was pretty messed up, but I figured, “well, okay, better not ever need health, then?” And so, I did the dirty, dirty deed, and moved on past the tutorial.
I can’t remember whether the introductory video was before or after the tutorial, but let’s pretend it was after. The main character loads all sorts of weapons and nasties into his coat, all the while giving a speech about what he’s going to go out there and do. After he finishes, well, by golly, you go out there and do it. It was at this point that I became somewhat confused.
I stepped outside my house and I was just standing on a street, armed to the teeth and watching the people go by. They went by faster, and a lot louder once they noticed that I was packing some serious heat. In the spirit of Grand Theft Auto days of yore, I took a few shots, and, well, took out a civilian or two. The game seemed to note this with a certain measure of glee.
“Okay, well, game’s given me an objective, I suppose. Time to move on out and see what the game’s all about.” I headed out from the house and my confusion continued. “Well, uh, I’m supposed to, uh, what am I supposed to do? Is this an open world thing, like GTA?” In GTA, at least, you have a main, relatively “sane” objective in some fashion or another. I wandered, listening to the screams of folks run by, and seeing them scatter when I entered their houses. “Odd. I do believe I’m offended.”
After some confused wandering, I found a police station. At this point, I noticed a new objective, which was along the lines of “Cleanse the Police Station.” “Uh, okay, I mean, I can do that, I guess?” I felt pretty bad about it, honestly. And this cost me, as I took quite a bit of damage wandering through the rooms. So I had to execute people.
This was pretty horrifying. A+ to the developer for capturing just how insanely wrong it is to straight up murder people in cold blood. I was quite uncomfortable. I was running through a police station, killing everyone, because a little blob of text in the corner told me to. Is this what happens to unfortunate folks with mental illness? I hope not. I really do.
So, hooray, mission accomplished? I emptied the building of living people. But the mission wasn’t over. I was still meandering through the town. It was about then that I noticed the older objective, and the numbers that went lower every time I killed someone. I had to eradicate the entire town.
This… this was bothering me a bit. I spent the next few minutes wandering through the town, entering house parties through the garage, hearing people scream as I dropped molotovs and slit people’s throats to make sure I didn’t die on my mission of death. Finally, I tracked down the last “survivor,” and made sure that moniker didn’t fit them anymore. I think at this point I had to steal a car, or something, and after a short driving sequence in which I probably killed even more people, I (my character, really) fled into the sewer.
This was the breaking point for me. I figured, “okay, I did it, I beat the first stage, I’ve proven that I’ve played it, I’ve gotta call it here.” The next cutscene really sealed it for me, though. I’m lurking in the sewer, guns ready, as the small town’s equivalent of a SWAT team is called into the sewer. Here are six or seven brave, armored and well trained police, working together to stop one murderous psychopath. I can’t call my character the hero. I want him to lose. It’s bad enough I just shot up an entire town, but here come people risking their lives to stop me, and it’s my job to shoot them dead.
Nope. Not gonna do it. No, sir. That’s as far as I could bear to play. I’ve played games like Grand Theft Auto before, and I’ve been on one of those rampages where you drive around and run over as many pedestrians as you can, provoking and attacking the police until the military comes to put you down (or you magically lose them by getting your car painted, which works even though stealing another car doesn’t), but that never affected me as much as this game did. Perhaps it’s because GTA was more cartoony. I’ve played all sorts of violent shooters and games and the like, God of War had me slaughter many enemies who were clearly weaker than I, Max Payne saw me slaying gangsters and all kinds of folks, but nothing hit me like this game did. In most of these games, you’re up against people who are objectively, if not subjectively, evil, and your character has a reason to do what they’re doing. In GTA, sure, you’re just going crazy-pants and running around, but that was never the focus of the game.
In most shooters, you’re facing well trained and well equipped enemies who seek to cause you harm, even if you don’t deserve it. Look at Half-Life! Gordon Freeman kills soldiers all the time, but they menace you for reasons beyond your control, you’re just trying to survive. In Halo, it’s a war between you and the Covenant, and you’re all just soldiers fighting for your masters. In this game, unless it’s explained later on that all these people are pod people and you’re the last real human, so far as I can tell, you’re just a person who decided that everyone else needed to die. That’s not a reason I can really get behind for mass-murdering an entire town, and honestly, I don’t think there is a valid reason for mass-murdering an entire town. Good news for Megaton, I suppose.
One other thing about this game that really got me was how sad and pitiful the enemies were when you were fighting / killing / executing them. They scream. They beg for their lives. It was incredibly uncomfortable dealing with this. The main character even slits some throats, a concept which makes me uncomfortable even typing about. It was very emotionally difficult to get through.
I’m not saying that this is a bad game. Honestly, the 35 minutes I put into it are nowhere near enough to make any sort of verdict. If the developer sought to make an incredibly disturbing game, to show the horrors of what we consider “fun,” then this was a resounding success. It’s possible it could just be a playground of murder and mayhem, and anything that keeps it fake and not real is fine with me. Is this game a social statement? I purposefully read and heard nothing about the game before I played, specifically to keep myself from having any outside opinions affect mine. I could check now, but I’m fine believing that this game is a statement on violence in our society and how horrifying it can be. Or it’s just a playground of destruction. Interpret how you please, eh?
If I have to give a rating to this game to call this a review (which it really isn’t), I’ll give it an uncomfortable guilty feeling while constantly looking over your shoulder to make sure no one is watching you do this out of guilt.