In October of last year a trailer was released that shocked gamers and media alike. It was for, what looked like, an absurdly violent twin-stick shooter made by a small polish developer aptly known as Destructive Creations. Its controversy was linked to the game’s core concept: massacre as many civilians as possible. With media attention focused more and more on real acts of terrorism and mass shootings, the game’s presentation of such wanton violence struck a cord. The game’s title, appropriately named Hatred, is only the second game in the history of the ESRB to receive an Adults Only (AO), which in my opinion is based more on the game’s controversy and not necessarily its content. Hatred’s shock-value propelled its popularity to the frontlines of game’s media coverage with sites much larger than us, presenting a number of differing opinions on the content of the game and how it should be perceived.
After clearing the game’s campaign I can say that aside from Hatred’s violence there’s not much here that divides it from the rest of its twin-stick peers. It’s a title that left me feeling a bit uneasy when I started it up but after spending some time with it I found myself losing touch with its “shocking” nature and ultimately finding humor in a one-dimensional protagonist that is nothing more than a death metal stereotype, clearly modeled after the front man of Cannibal Corpse, or Nathan Explosion, the fictional vocalist of Dethklok.
"After clearing the game’s campaign I can say that aside from Hatred’s violence there’s not much here that divides it from the rest of its twin-stick peers."
Those who are familiar with twin-stick shooters and the way they operate will find many of the same rules applying to this title. One stick controls movement, while another controls which direction the player is aiming. You’ll utilize a wide variety of weaponry – flamethrowers, machine guns, assault rifles, pistols, knives, grenades, etc. – to mow down wave after wave of civilians in order to progress. Once you’ve killed enough people in one area law enforcement starts to get involved, beginning with local police forces and increasing in difficulty as armored units begin to arrive.
The difficulty spikes very quickly and I found myself having a lot of trouble using brute force to survive anything more than SWAT teams. Once the National Guard begins to get involved you’ll have to use your wits to outsmart them, especially on harder difficulties. Utilizing your environment, using explosives, and learning when to retreat is the key to continuing your purge successfully and I commend Destructive Creations for implementing this difficulty curve. It puts a pause on the mindless killing and forces players to respond appropriately to as the situation gets more and more out of control.
Unfortunately the complete and utter lack of a competent checkpoint system makes trial and error more of a chore than I would have liked. Completing bonus objectives while cleansing civilians is the only way that players can earn respawn tokens. Once you’ve run out of respawn tokens you’ll have to start the entire level all over again, which can be incredibly frustrating considering the aforementioned difficulty curve.
"One of the best points of Hatred is its physics engine; explosions are a work of art in this game. Walls crumble realistically, debris flies everywhere, and buildings and walls will disintegrate with ease causing players to constantly stay moving in order remain under cover."
Civilians aren’t entirely defenseless either. They’ll wander around picking up weapons left behind by law enforcement, gather in groups, and try their best to bring you down. When they begin to team up with law enforcement this makes them quite formidable, especially when they’re in large numbers. Though this is an interesting feature I would have liked to see them have better overall AI. Civilians are slow to react, and in some cases I found that they would remain standing completely still until I was right on top of them. I would have liked to see them respond a bit more appropriately and grow more frantic as the desperation of their situation grew to its breaking point.
The main character has a life bar featured on the bottom of the screen. When a player gets low you’ll be forced to execute an enemy or civilian in order to gain health back. When players complete executions they’ll be “treated” to a brief video that zooms in on the carnage. This is arguably Hatred’s most violent feature, but the mechanic is sound when it comes to combat. The fact that this is the only way to regain health makes it so that whenever players are in the heat of combat they’ll have to constantly be aware of where they’ll need to run to pull of a quick execution safely in order to regain health and jump back into battle. It adds an overall sense of tension to the combat, and forces players to retreat in to a safer area in order to succeed.
One of the best points of Hatred is its physics engine; explosions are a work of art in this game. Walls crumble realistically, debris flies everywhere, and buildings and walls will disintegrate with ease causing players to constantly stay moving in order remain under cover. Most of the title is captured purely in black and white, but explosions offer highlights of color whenever they erupt placing more emphasis on the kinetic turbulence behind each and every blast. I sincerely hope that this engine is utilized in other titles, because it’s truly awesome watching the environment become reduced to rubble once you’ve had your way with it.
"Instead it ended up being a relatively run-of-the-mill twin-stick shooter coupled with a fantastic physics engine and a forgettable stereotype for a main character."
Controls were a bit hit-or-miss. I used a keyboard and mouse during my Hatred play-through and neglected to try it with a controller. Running, vaulting, and general environment movement is all mapped to the shift key, but I found that it only worked properly a percentage of the time. There were plenty of instances where I wanted to crash through a window and run to safety only to find that the protagonist would only stop and stare at the windowsill as gunfire rained down upon me. Vaulting over environmental hazards and debris also wasn’t reliable and I usually found that the best way to retreat was to run through hallways and hope I didn’t draw too much gunfire.
Hatred’s aiming mechanics reminded me a lot of Hotline Miami 2’s included aiming system. I would find enemies shooting me off-screen quite often and I would have to utilize the aiming system in an effort to pick them off from a distance. Because of Hatred’s inherit isometric view and the fact that a lot of terrain has multiple heights I found it rather hard to pinpoint my gunfire, though when on even ground this mechanic worked perfectly. Hatred’s cover mechanics need work, too. There is no way to snap into and out of cover, and I found myself desperately attempting to crouch to stay out of fire. A proper cover system would have gone a long way towards managing battles and keeping up the pace of combat.
As of right now Hatred is only a single-player experience, but Destructive Creations is waiting to see how well the game sells, judging whether or not they’ll be adding in co-op down the road. That’s a tad disappointing considering a horde-like co-op mode would have extended the life of the title immensely and I would have really enjoyed having that included with the title during launch.
I doubt that Destructive Creations set out to create some sort of poignant murder masterpiece, but given its media attention Hatred had an opportunity to set precedent by dealing with its content in a way that provoked thought or commented on society’s inherit thirst for and fascination with violence. Instead it ended up being a relatively run-of-the-mill twin-stick shooter coupled with a fantastic physics engine and a forgettable stereotype for a main character. If you manage to take the good with the bad and approach Hatred with a mature mentality that doesn’t immediately condemn it for its dark nature there is some of fun to be had here. It certainly wont set the world on fire, no matter how hard it tries, but it’s an interesting, albeit controversial, approach to the standard twin-stick formula.
Review by: Palmer Sturman | Reviewed on: PC