NFSW Warning: This blog includes violent visuals and themes as well as colorful language.
Hatred is not a good game. Released in 2015, Hatred garnered a lot of controversy for its extreme violence, even getting a rare “Adults Only” rating from the ESRB. Despite all of the controversy, the game was forgotten about shortly afterwards when reviews started to come out criticizing the game’s tedious and basic gameplay.
While a game like this is certainly shocking, I did not find its trajectory surprising. Entertainment that tries too hard to be controversial for controversy’s sake usually end up being mediocre, and this game is no different. I find the whole situation somewhat funny, because seeing entertainment like this pick up so much discussion and intrigue for how extreme it could be only for it to not even be worth the discussion in the first place is a rather unique way of being a disappointing game. These were my thoughts on the game when it came out (and they still hold true to this day), and it was these thoughts that actively made me not want to play the game. So I, like many, forgot about the game’s existence as it quickly faded into obscurity.
So why am I talking about it now? I recently watched a video on Youtube showcasing first-person viewpoint mods for non first-person games. All of the games showcased in the video are third-person shooters with one exception: Hatred. Hatred is a top-down isometric twin-stick shooter, so going from that to first-person is a huge leap I found fascinating. So, I thought I would explore this mod in the hopes of looking into the differences and intimacy of playing in the two perspectives. To do that, however, would mean playing through this game twice: once normally and once with the mod on. So that’s what I did, but I found more than I expected.
So what is Hatred exactly? Like I said, it is a top-down isometric twin-stick shooter. What makes this game so controversial is who the targets are: civilians. Basically, the entire game is about committing mass murder for no reason other than just hating people. In terms of the combat and gameplay overall, none of it is mind-blowing, but there are a few things around the edges that are unique to this game compared to other twin-stick shooters. The biggest difference here is how you heal. Instead of finding health packs or auto-healing, you get health from executing half-dead people. The game also has a mostly black-and-white color palette with a few colors here-and-there similar to Sin City, and the environments are partially destructible.
This is essentially the entirety of this game.
One of the biggest questions that came to mind while playing this game is what differentiates the violence of this game from others. One could argue that while this game is undoubtedly violent, there are many other games that are equally violent too but aren’t seen as controversial. One could also argue that the only real difference between the people you shoot in this game and the people you shoot in, say, a military shooter is a uniform and the “good guys” telling you who to shoot. While I think these arguments bring up a compelling point about violence in other shooters (a topic I’m sure you can find fully explored elsewhere), I believe there is a clear distinction with the violence in this game. Watching civilians scream or beg for their lives as they bleed to death and slowly crawl away from you is the difference. Walking over a large pile of people, some dead and some not, and executing them one-by-one with close-up shots and various forms of executions is the difference. Systematically killing everyone in the level because civilians in this game are either health or the objective while saying one-liners like “Sometimes I think I kill them too fast” or “Can you hear your guardian angel crying? I can” is the difference. Hatred both requires and relishes in violence against the helpless; and even if the difference is just a skin change on a character model and a weapon in their hand, this game makes sure to widen that difference as much as possible. I don’t know if this game is trying to shine a spotlight on the violent nature of modern video games or is just a boundary pusher, but it doesn’t work as the former because criticizing violence while almost taking an enjoyment of it is a case where the content invalidates the messaging, and it doesn’t work as the latter because other games like Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2’s “No Russian” level have already pushed that boundary.
While you would think this gratuitous violence would weigh heavily on me and would leave me feeling forced to play this game more than enjoying it, I found another, stronger reason for reviling this game: its gameplay. Maybe this speaks to how desensitized I have come to violence in video games (which I guess is an inadvertent way of getting the messaging across), but I found the gameplay in this game to be more distracting than the violence. This game is about killing people, but it’s also all you do. Sure, you can say you do the same thing in shooter games, but this game takes that literally. The main objective in most of the levels is to just kill an x amount of people, and a majority of the side missions are just kill people in a certain location. To be fair, I don’t know what else could be changed in a game like this that would spice up this formula, but this doesn’t stop the game from being repetitive and boring. On top of all this, the game feels unnaturally hard. In some of the later levels, the game will spawn groups of SWAT or military members near you, and it doesn’t take much for them to surround you and drain your health. Maybe I’m finally having my games-journalists-suck-at-games moment (that is if I consider myself a games journalist), but dying too many times means restarting the whole level, and at some point I had to drop the difficulty just to get through it. Even though this game only takes a few hours to complete, I had to force myself to continue playing because of its dull combat.
I have a lot of negativity for this game (which is fitting for a game called Hatred), but not all of it is bad. It’s weird to talk about the good elements of this game, as I almost feel like I have to say “admittedly” in front of everything to not sound like I am defending the game because of its screwed-up nature, but I digress. For one, I actually quite like the game’s color palette. Having the occasional color seep into this game gives it a unique look, and I think having a normal color palette would make this game even more forgettable and bland. Explosions in this game are surprisingly brilliant, and the game’s destructible environments play well to that. The execution mechanic is an interesting way of handing out health instead of traditional health packs, even though it doesn’t make sense. Finally, at the end of the day, the combat is at least functional. There are a few instances where the angle of the camera can screw with things (like not shooting down a staircase or shooting through windows), but all of it at least works.
There are some pretty good-looking explosions in this game.
Eventually, I reached the end of the game, where I was treated to a credits cutscene of the main character committing various forms of murder while the developer’s names display over items in the cutscene and heavy metal plays. Outside of the main campaign, there is a wave-based survival mode with a few maps, a few characters, and a leveling system, but I didn’t spend much time in it because I wanted to focus on the campaign. So I downloaded the mod and got to playing through the game a second time.
The only thing I wanted to change was the perspective, but the FPS mod I found for the game directed me to another mod that I used instead: Hatred 1.666. This mod is huge, adding a ton of changes large and small. Choice between first-person, third-person, and normal top-down perspective, colorization, two new levels that replace the last two levels of the normal game, and much more. This mod is a complete overhaul of the game, and I find the massive amount of significant changes really impressive. This is one of the biggest mods I have ever played in terms of content and changes to the base game, so I was almost excited to jump in and see what was different this time around.
The question I had going into this whole experience was if the perspective change made any difference. The short answer is yes. The first-person perspective gives much more intimacy to the violence and a different feeling overall. The game went from feeling like I was playing an arcade shooter to feeling like I was playing Grand Theft Auto in first-person both because of the strange nature of their new perspectives and because of a greater level of immersion into the environment. More than that, this change made me feel more accountable for my actions. I am now seeing these groups of people being mowed down and crawling away from me while begging for life up-close, and those eyes watching these people are now my eyes. In the normal game, the camera allowed me to say “While I am controlling this character, I am at least not him because I am looking at him from up above,” but that’s not the case anymore. There is no character there I could blame anymore; there was just me, with a gun in my hand and bodies at my feet. This is especially the case with executions. This mod adds in a few new camera angles for executions, but the most notable executions are the ones done in first person. In this perspective, I could clearly see a victim’s frightened eyes staring right at me, asking why I was doing this to him or her. These victims aren’t staring at some crazy dude who hates humanity; they are staring at me, and it is me slitting their throats. This feeling of brutality and intimacy was also especially true in one of the levels where I drove a SWAT truck to a train station and mowed down people with a mounted machine gun. While I was killing these civilians, I specifically recalled the beginning of Modern Warfare 2’s infamous level where they exit the elevator and started mowing civilians down with somewhat similar weapons. The violence in this game feels much more brutal and intimate in the first-person perspective, and I think this game should’ve been in this perspective from the beginning to capitalize on that feeling.
This isn’t his violence anymore. This is my violence.
The perspective change made a difference on the violence, but it also made a big difference in how I experienced the game’s environments. In first-person, I found the areas much easier to navigate. I don’t know if it’s because of the perspective change, the fact that I wasn’t experiencing the game in an isometric view, or a mixture of the two, but I found it much easier to get around. I also began to really appreciate the environments and how much detail went into them. Buildings aren’t just empty squares but structures with layouts and interior decorations, police cars trying to create a barrier or catch up to me look more intimidating, and more. On top of all that, destruction to the environment looks great up-close, and explosions somehow look even better. Hatred did a good job on environmental detail, but playing it in first-person really allowed me to appreciate that work.
The normal game ended up fumbling its controversial nature with dull gameplay for me, so what about this mod? For how big of a change it is, I found the combat to work surprisingly well. I was expecting only horizontal aiming and super stiff controls, but this game has vertical aiming and even the ability to aim-down-sights. Sure, there are some issues here-and-there like a better view of the low-resolution backgrounds that wrap around the levels and seeing the ends of your floating arms, but if I went into this mod completely blind, I would’ve guessed this was a first-person shooter in alpha and not a mod to a twin-stick shooter. In terms of the difficulty, I actually found the game to be easier to my surprise. Going into first-person means losing the ability to see all around the character and see cops around the corners of buildings, but it also means gaining the ability to look all the way down streets as well as have more precise aiming instead of just shooting in a direction and hoping bullets land. On top of that, this perspective fixed some of the issues I had playing normally like shooting down stairs, through windows and debris, and so on. I did play on the mod’s easiest mode (called ‘Journalist Mode,’ which I guess is fitting), but I felt like I could’ve easily bumped up the difficulty. Overall, I had more fun playing in first-person, but it wasn’t enough to hide the game’s repetitive gameplay.
Seeing their deaths in first-person feels more personal and brutal, but it’s still the same tedious gameplay.
Like I said earlier, this mod is way more than just a change in perspective, even though that is what I primarily wanted to focus on. This game is fully colorized, but it looks natural sometimes and like a colorization of an old film at other times. The tutorial now involves executing a naked woman and going on 8chan. There are also a lot of smaller changes like slowly healing inside bathrooms and even changing around the content shown on the TVs in-game. The biggest change to this game, however, are the last two levels. Instead of the military level and the power plant level, there is instead a prison level and a final level that takes place in a town similar to the first level.
While you can dissect both this mod and the normal game and find political themes, it’s these two new levels that are the most overtly political. I am not a fan of talking about politics in my writing because I like my content to be a “break from politics,” but I also can’t not talk about these last two levels. Could this be considered a weak stance on my end for not dissecting this game’s politics? Maybe, but that’s just not my style. So I’ll just present my experience with these last two levels and let you form your own opinions from there.
The prison level, called “Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself,” requires killing 400 prisoners, and a lot of them are still stuck behind bars. Unlike the people in the normal levels that can run away, these prisoners are stuck in a small cell with nothing to hide behind, giving this feeling of shooting fish in a barrel. It’s weird to think that giving a person a chance to run somehow makes a difference, but I digress. Much like the game itself, however, the level soon became boring because of how tedious the task at-hand was. The next level, titled “Rockshield,” takes place in an unassuming neighborhood similar to the first level and requires all side missions to be completed instead of just giving a kill count to achieve. The six side quests to complete are ‘Ravage the Supermarket,’ ‘Kill Cyanosis, the Homofa**ot Judas Forum Moderator,’ ‘Purge the Restaurant,’ ‘Cleanse the Gay-Club,’ ‘Smoke the Crack Fiends at the Abandoned House,’ and ‘Save the Church from the Liberals, Gayers, Feminists, and Antifas.’ Once all of those tasks are completed, a second part of the level unlocks, which involves shooting up a school and includes children NPCs with their own audio. After shooting up the school, the game ends with a news coverage lower third saying the total kill count (mine being 2,329 dead), a cutscene in a funeral, and the same credits cutscene from the main game except the developer’s names are replaced with various political messages. If you didn’t think the main game pushed the boundary hard enough, then this mod is sure to deliver.
A school shooting game was banned on Steam, but you can still get this mod on Steam Workshop. I’m not calling for this to be banned, but I do think it brings up a compelling point about the ways games and mods are treated in terms of controversy.
Hatred 1.666 is a fascinating mod because of how much it changes and how intimate its violence feels compared to the normal game, but it’s a mod and a game I would not recommend playing. More than controversial politics and gratuitous violence, this game just isn’t that fun to play, even in first-person. I understand if this blog piqued your interest and left you wanting to experience this intimacy, but just know you have to play Hatred to experience it.