Catharsis (n) ku-thaa-sis
From the Greek meaning “purging” or “cleansing” – refers to the restoration or renewal of emotions by relieving tensions often through art, such as music.
You know, when I’m feeling a little tense and need to unwind, I like to bust open something like Left 4 Dead or Brutal Doom for some violent release. I can take several anguishes out on zombie hordes or pixilated hell beasts without the finger wagging from authoritative figures or animal rights groups.
Those who say violent video games turn people into violent criminals have obviously never experienced the feeling of tension washing away from your very core with every exploded head or mowed down imp. It’s like an orgy for my WASD keys, only without the smoking afterwards.
Okay, maybe a little smoke.
That cathartic feeling one gets from video game violence was the least I was hoping for from Destructive Creations’ first foray into PC gaming: Hatred.
From this young Polish team comes the misanthropic neo-noir tale of murder and…well…hatred, I suppose. The game opens with the vitriolic wailing of the story’s anti-hero, who – it honestly goes without saying – has had enough of the human population.
Assigning himself as the executioner, he loads up his weapon and walks out of his front door ready to deliver justice through the veil of an aesthetic that would make Frank Miller put his lawyer on speed dial.
Hatred is essentially an isometric serial killer simulator. If you instantly thought of Running With Scissors’ Postal, then you already know pretty much everything there is to know about Destructive Creations’ attempt at shocking the gaming world. The story doesn’t go beyond the character’s desire to massacre town-loads of bystanders and hostile police officers. It’s gung-ho all the way.
The developers themselves insist that players not take Hatred seriously. It is – after all – just a game. I agree with this statement, but it’s difficult to hold a candle to such a sentiment when there is absolutely no hint of satire or irony present. I couldn’t quite pinpoint the moment where it was obvious the game was actually a subtle jab at some finer points in our society or an over-the-top pastiche of the films of Quentin Tarantino or classic noir.
The black and white visuals make an attempt at adding a certain edge to it. Maybe amidst the carnage, Destructive Creations had a moment to pause and think about the repercussions of showing realistically coloured blood in a game about homicide. A pointless idea really, seeing as the game was already due for media slamming the moment the marketing department poured their breakfast cereal.
The moody look actually hinders gameplay throughout, particularly during some of the more chaotic sequences. During frantic shootouts, it can be difficult to ascertain which direction you’re facing, which victims are just out of reach and even which one is you in the throng of flailing residents.
And the controls. Ack! Gah! Fuck me in the teeth with a hammer, the goddamn controls! I honestly don’t know if other isometric games have this problem, but the control system in Hatred is terrible at worst and passable at best.
WASD keys are for movement while the mouse is maintained for your usual point-and-shoot. The problem is that because the mouse isn’t used to steer your character, it’s easy to lose sight of your crosshair, finding yourself with your back to your targets and having to use the keys to manoeuvre yourself.
While the game looks quite nice and is pretty well detailed for an isometric title, it does feel a little too detailed. The design seems to have had a more first-person mode in-mind, which is evidenced during the execution sequences. As victims squirm on the floor in agony, you can approach them and press Q to finish them off in various fashions.
The game will often cut to a close-up of your character as he shuffles loose a person’s mortal coil in bloody fashion by shooting them out of their misery, knifing them in the head or even – if you can believe it – squishing their skull under his heavy boot. Executions in this fashion resemble some of the sequences in Manhunt, in which the angle changes and we are treated to a close shot of the gruesome death.
The protagonist (antagonist?) is a bland husk sporting a black (we assume) leather jacket, long hair and a pissed off look that suggests someone accidentally sprinkled grated onions onto his cornflakes that morning. Maybe that’s where all his anger derives from. Who’s to say?
I suppose it’s good that he doesn’t have much of a personality. It’s not as if Destructive Creations intended its audience to somehow empathize or even identify with the character. A silent protagonist would have perhaps made the game more sinister, but it was decided that giving him dialogue was the way to go.
His lines are 100% pure and uncut with the most vitriolic bile this side of a goth teenager’s spoken word tapes. With cheesy one-liners about humans being pathetic and how much pleasure he derives from watching people die, Hatred turns the character almost into a preacher, chastising his congregation before sending them to meet their maker.
There wasn’t even any real sense of catharsis. A game that allows you to gun down hundreds of people in a hate-fuelled act of self righteousness should leave the player feeling utterly relieved, perhaps even fulfilled as some dark fantasy is played out in the safety of one’s own home. But it actually becomes a bit of a drag part way through.
Aside from the fact that the game seems to struggle with its framerate even on a decent system (I found myself having to drop the settings down way below what I would normally have even the most graphically intense games on), Hatred is the kind of game that calls to us from the darkest corners of our mind. However, when it jumps out at us, we’re just left shrugging and going, “Yeah? And?”
This review is based on a PC copy of the game that was provided to us.
With an unimaginative outset, a try-too-hard look and controls that are almost unbearable, not even the most hardened tabloid newspaper should get offended by Hatred.