I love violent video games. I’ve played all of the GTAs, most of the Modern Warfares, and more than a few hack n’ slash RPGs. I’ve never been bothered by blood and guts. But when it comes to the boundaries of good taste and quality, there's a line.
Originally, I thought the release of Hatred by Destructive Creations was a joke. If only.
The game has hit the news this week after being pulled from the popular online store Steam, before being reinstated (specifically, this is all happened on the store's Greenlight section, where the games it decides to release are voted on by users). As a staunch believer in the free market, I know I have to accept this. But I wish I didn't have to.
In Hatred, the central character is committed to a "genocidal crusade". As the trailer shows, this includes going out into the street and violently killing as many innocent people as possible. You can see it for yourself here:
Defending themselves, Destructive has said that the game is all about railing against political correctness, recalling the industry’s days as a rebellious and socially subversive medium. That might sound like quite an artistic statement to make, but the game is solely about murdering innocent people for no reason — so in my view that makes Destructive nothing more than trolls.
In the trailer, Hatred's protagonist petulantly narrates his indictments against the noncombatants of the world. Then, after he shoots cops, pleading women, and anything he can lay his hands on, a bland ripoff of the Doom logo flashes onto the screen.
Despite all the hype now surrounding the game, there are no major gameplay innovations here. What's more, the graphics look awful — not what I’d call an exciting take on the Unreal Engine, the software system which has produced landmark games such as Deus Ex, Unreal Tournament, Bioshock and Mass Effect.
Of course, no-one has to embrace political correctness. But given that Destructive has chosen to parrot American mass shootings in such a tacky way, I doubt they have the intellect to empathise with anyone at all, let alone with society's stance on what is and isn't acceptable.
Also, I’m not saying I only play games for the story, but Destructive could have at least made an effort to provide a narrative that didn't solely hinge upon a predictable and boring, misanthropic murderer. Instead, they treated us to a schlocky take on a troubling topic.
Top 10 horror video games
Top 10 horror video games
1/10 Lone Survivor
A cryptic, creepy gem from the mind of indie developer Jasper Byrne, Lone Survivor’s unique pixelated 2D graphics added new life (and death) to the survival horror despite its obvious debts to the psychological trauma of the Silent Hill games and David Lynch’s mundane-turned-abnormal aesthetic. Fourth wall-breaks, obtusely bizarre dream sequences and an odd side quest involving a cat all give Lone Survivor its own distinct identity while also paying tribute to its genre forerunners.
That spider. Do I need to say anything else? Limbo’s oppressive world of death traps and despair takes cues from the cold artistry of German Expressionism and the fragile bleakness of shadow puppetry to create a viciously unforgiving platformer in the vein of Another World. Watching the bright white eyes of the big-domed child protagonist quietly go out after yet another untimely demise is a chilling experience. Also… that spider.
You have to feel sorry for Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro. In creating a teaser for the upcoming Silent Hills they accidentally produced one of the most legitimately terrifying experiences in any entertainment medium and in the process an impossibly hard act to follow. P.T. (short for ‘playable teaser’) is a cyclical journey through an everyday suburban household that gradually descends into the realms of sheer, unadulterated terror. Ignore the radio and trust me, you do not want to look behind you.
4/10 Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
A forgotten classic on Nintendo’s unfavorably remembered GameCube, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is a time-travelling, character-hopping nightmare where your worst enemy is your own mind. As the Nintendo-patented ‘sanity meter’ lowers with each enemy encounter you’re subjected to a variety of unsettling consequences ranging from bleeding walls, inexplicable whispers, walking upside down and the game’s most notoriously devilish trick of the mind: a fake blue screen of death.
5/10 Resident Evil
Widely accredited with popularising survival horror in 1996, Resident Evil’s stringent ammo supply, pre-rendered haunted mansion and shambling hordes of undead set the blueprint for an entire genre for almost a decade. Despite its legacy it was the 2002 GameCube remake (set to be rereleased in HD in early 2015) that graciously redacted the original’s preposterously cheesy dialogue and in doing so captured the purest essence of survival horror. Capcom’s classic franchise was arguably never better than on its influential debut.
6/10 Amnesia: The Dark Descent
While not the most accomplished game on this list, Amnesia: The Dark Descent is easily the scariest. While the hallucination mechanics and basic stealth add to the fear factor, Amnesia’s finest quality is its chilling atmosphere and the palpable sense of anxiety that comes from defenselessly progressing through its murky castle halls. Made by the creators of the equally frightening Penumbra series, Amnesia’s most valuable resource is light which offers only a brief respite from the deadly monstrosities that lurk in the dark. Not for those with a weak disposition for things that go bump (and then kill you) in the night.
7/10 System Shock 2
Before BioShock’s pelagic city of Rapture there was the cold, mechanical Von Braun starship. Auteur developer Ken Levine’s cyberpunk RPG/FPS hybrid System Shock 2, first released on PC in 1999, laid the foundation for BioShock’s world of splicers, plasmids and failed utopian ideals with its legendarily haunting depiction of a malevolent rogue AI overseeing the spread of a rampant virus. With weapons that break under duress and a severe difficulty curve, System Shock 2 isn’t for the faint hearted, but its aging mechanics shouldn’t dissuade those who haven’t endured SHODAN’s wrath and been witness to the game’s notoriously devilish plot twist.
8/10 The Last of Us
As well as being home to one of the finest videogame stories ever told, The Last of Us is also a nerve-shredding survival horror triumph. Joel and Ellie’s devastatingly emotional trials are heightened by the total desperation of the crumbling post-apocalyptic world around them. With survival horror staples like a lack of resources and fraught stealth combined with a logical, real-time crafting system, the game delicately balances its terse combat with enough breathing space for narrative exploration. Whether it’s the sinister scavenger Bill or the audible cracking of a nearby Clicker, The Last of Us is an absolute modern horror classic.
9/10 Silent Hill 2
A horror game is often defined by its location and the misty town of Silent Hill is the definitive horror destination. While its predecessor laid the groundwork for Team Silent’s distinctive brand of ambient psychological horror, Silent Hill 2 is the series’ unquestionable high point as the subconscious guilt of protagonist James Sunderland manifests itself as a cavalcade of emotional turmoil made flesh. While the iconic Pyramid Head grabs most of the attention in his debut outing, it is James’ own unsettled mind that gives the foggy streets of Silent Hill 2 such a disquieting edge.
10/10 Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4 re-defined the genre it had initially helped establish. With the narrow corridors and fixed camera angles replaced with a third-person viewpoint that became an industry standard, Resident Evil 4 set the standard for survival horror in the last decade by boldly swapping out the familiar moaning undead for hordes of swift, deranged foes named ‘Ganados’. Leon Kennedy’s journey through rural villages, gothic castles, dilapidated laboratories, arcane churches, molten furnaces, beast-infested lakes and abandoned mineshafts mixed action-packed set pieces with a series of memorable boss battles. With the terrifying Regenerators and the chainsaw-wielding Dr. Salvador creating enough tension to offset the game’s silly, but enjoyable B-movie plot, Resident Evil 4 expertly blends thrills with chills to create the ultimate horror experience in gaming to date.
So, as you might expect, when Steam decided to pull the game, I thought, “Good for them. They shouldn’t have to sell this crap.” The backlash was instantaneous. “They’re demolishing our freedom of speech!” said the fans, who demanded that Steam return the game to Greenlight post haste.
I smiled at this, because that’s not how the free market works. Were this a government censoring or banning the game, I’d be quick to side with Destructive. Using the law to abridge freedom of speech is wrong, but retailers are not the government. No matter how popular Steam may be, they don’t have to put up with Destructive's crap.
However, their rotten, adolescent power fantasy has now returned to Steam, where its fans eagerly await its release. So I have to eat my words - if that's how the free market works, then so be it. Destructive's fans came together as a group to put the title back into the marketplace, and made a compelling enough financial case to Steam. Good job.
But I still hate it. I loathe the fact that there’s a market for such games, but I can’t stop it, and I admit that. The whole scenario has taught me a lot about the Steam community in the last couple of days. Maybe it isn’t the place for me after all.
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