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Destructive Creations' first trailer for their isometric PC shooter Hatred is getting a lot of attention. It seems the studio managed to do something I didn't think possible in 2014: make video game violence shocking again.
In Hatred, the player is a disturbed man driven to mass murder in New York State. Players kill civilians and police alike in seven levels.
"My name is not important. What is important is what I'm going to do," states the main character in the trailer. "I just fuckin' hate this world. And the human worms feasting on its corpse. My whole life is just cold, bitter hatred. And I always wanted to die violently. This is the time of vengeance and no life is worth saving. And I will put in the grave as many as I can. It's time for me to kill. And it's time for me to die. My genocide crusade begins here."
The gameplay footage shows him shooting up innocent people in homes, a park and a library. The trailer is filled with close-up executions. He puts a gun in a businesswoman's mouth and pulls the trigger. He stabs a cop repeatedly in the stomach. In the next scene, he pins a man to the ground and blasts his head off with a shotgun blast.
What's shocking about the trailer besides the realistic violence is how earnest it is. There are other games out there that are just as violent, if not more. They have some kind of diluting agent, though. GTA 5, for example, is full of parody and slapstick humor. The pixelated graphics and satire of Hotline Miami make its gore and ultraviolence bit more palatable. Hatred, at least in the context of this trailer, is nothing but the slaughter of innocent people. Maybe there's more to the game than that but nothing in this first impression suggests that.
The developers expected a negative reaction to the trailer. Their Facebook page asks fans to "Spread it on the web! Share it! Bring it everywhere and let the haters hate!" On Hatred's website, they describe the game as a sort of response to political correctness.
"These days, when a lot of games are heading to be polite, colorful, politically correct and trying to be some kind of higher art, rather than just an entertainment – we wanted to create something against trends. Something different, something that could give the player a pure, gaming pleasure. Here comes our game, which takes no prisoners and makes no excuses. We say ‘yes, it is a game about killing people’ and the only reason of the antagonist doing that sick stuff is his deep-rooted hatred. Player has to ask himself what can push any human being to mass-murder."
If their goal was to provoke a negative reaction, they succeeded. The YouTube video and Twitter are both filled with disapproval. It's not just consumers expressing disapproval though. Epic Games, creators of the Unreal Engine 4 powering the game, has asked Destructive Creations to remove their company's logo from the trailer.
"Epic Games isn't involved in this project," the company said in a statement. "Unreal Engine 4 is available to the general public for use 'for any lawful purpose,' and we explicitly don't exert any sort of creative control or censorship over projects. However, the video is using the trademarked Unreal Engine 4 logo without permission from Epic, and we've asked for the removal of our logo from all marketing associated with this product."
There's an upside to Destructive's approach, though. By bringing moral outrage down on their game, they also attracted some defenders. People love arguing about A) whether something is offensive, and B) whether it's possible for something to be too offensive. The developers of Hatred have managed to make this debate now focus on their game.
Getting attention for a newly announced indie game isn't an easy thing to do. Whether the attention on Hatred actually translates into genuine interest in the game remains to be seen, though. Destructive Creations needs to show that their project's more than just controversy for the sake of controversy.