Royal Radius Entertainment (studio)
24 February 2018 (released)
26 March 2018
So there’s been quite a bit of conversation regarding this indie expansion of the beloved franchise (which is not developed by Valve). An independent developer has taken the helm to deliver an interesting story, taking a different perception of our beloved, voiceless hero Gordon Freeman. Now we’ve seen high quality remakes and expansions with the likes of Black Mesa, Blue Shift and Opposing Force, but now we get something more personal with Hunt Down the Freeman.
Now I did see a lot of flak for this game and the overwhelming negativity for this game before I played it. The developer has released an update to ensure the build of the game your now playing is theirs. Does this mean the game is much better, rendering a tighter more engaging experience?
Yeah, you guys might want to sit down for this.
The story of Hunt Down the Freeman places us into the shoes of Sgt Mitchell, a Black-Ops specialist who’s been caught up in the Black Mesa incident. However things only get worse when you realise your unit is dead and you bump into the antagonist of the story, Gordon Freeman *Dramatic Music*. Freeman in a rather psychotic moment decides to bash your face in and leave you for dead, which seems unfitting yet plausible at the same time. Awaking a few hours later in a hospital, Sgt Mitchell promises vengeance on the Freeman for leaving him with a few scars on his sexy, chiselled face.
I like the idea that we take on the role of someone who views Gordon Freeman as the bad guy but we’ve already been there. There are plenty of reasons already to like Freeman and dislike him. I mean he came into work late, ruined a fellow collage’s lunch and started an alien invasion within his first week of the job. Oh Gordon! Plus he’s killed a ton of people, yet he’s done so with reason and it always seems justified because others are trying to kill him. So this brutal killing spree with a crowbar just seems very out of place and attacking Mitchell so ruthlessly makes it even more so. Plus, the solider in the original Half-Life were douche bags anyway.
Besides from this, the only main reason Mitchell has to kill Freeman and swear vengeance is because Gordon Freeman “f***ed up his face”. Wow, that’s a stretch right?
There is an interesting concept here with players battling through the 7 Hour War which has not been seen before. Plus we play as a new character with a journey that spans through the events of Half-Life ½ while hunting down the “Freeman”. However there are plenty of redundant plot points in the narrative and characters that leave little impact on the story overall. Not to mention that aside from Mitchell’s voice actor doing his best, the rest of the cast are underwhelming or just poor at delivering dialogue. With the already lame script, the deliveries of lines don’t sound great either and with some of the audio quality sounding like it was recorded on a phone.
So the story is not the strongest aspect to this Indie expansion, which leaves us with the gameplay. Honesty this feels like a bizarre mash up of Half Life and Call of Duty with scripted moments and gunplay which would be fine if they weren’t tedious or broken.
Mitchell will be able to carry a selection of guns from your standard pistols, machine guns, rifles and heavy weaponry. The guns handle fairly well and it’s nice to play an FPS were you can carry more than two guns. Yet the selection of enemies is unimaginative with plenty of reskinned NPCs or standard enemies made a little bigger. But fighting the Head-Crab zombies with a sawn off is kind of cool. There are some good ideas for set pieces including a segment where you have to dodge the attacks of a Strider on a busy street or a segment were you have to blast your way through a forest filled with zombies. However there are numerous problems that hold these section back from being enjoyable.
If this game had better level design and less technical problems then it would be half decent. Case in point the two examples above, the Walker segment is a pain to begin with as it’s scripted for a truck to explode and give you access to the street. There’s a glitch that stops this from happening and you’ll need to use a no clip cheat to progress past this point. Then you realise that the layout for the street is pretty redundant as you can just avoid nearly all the fire by sprinting up the right side of the street through a clear path. So the threat and lateral element to this segment are wiped out completely. The forest segment is just a pain with the lighting being abysmal and enemies constantly respawning with little resources in the area make it just a chore.
There are a few moments like this and others which are poorly constructed and just plain confusing. There’s another moment in a subway station where someone has placed an obscene amount of claymores on the floor between you and the exit. I get that this is a nod back to Half Life’s segment with the warehouse filled with laser trip mines and fair enough it’s a neat idea. Yet there’s a very bizarre logic to this moment as you can avoid a number of claymores but walking past of them some sets off an explosion. Not to mention there are still some issues with the physics but nothing as bad prior to the patch.
I’d say Hunt Down the Freeman either makes it dull and easy or just infuriatingly difficult, with a lack of check points of lack of resources to add insult to injury. You could be walking through piece of cake and out of nowhere you could be ambushed by a dozen heavy enemies in a small space or have 30 head crabs just needlessly roam the area you’re in.
But the main reason for this anger and pain is due to again those pesky technical issues which affect everything from the game play events to controls. The amount of times I had to crouch-jump to get through a door that was slightly blocked off was beyond annoying. Having to hit invisible walls, have enemies take a ridiculous amount of bullets to kill or vice-versa and having the lighting black out character models for no reason.
This is a tough game to like and I can see why so people just hate it. I do feel that developers were genuine in developing an interesting tale of what we see as good and evil, with elements of what we loved with Half-Life with newer ones to make it more modern. Yet this is just a very generic FPS with some awful technical issues and gameplay that’s lacking substance. This could be a decent game if the development had taken it’s time to had more meat to this carcass.