Review for Hunt Down the Freeman
Over the years I have played many Half-Life 2 Mods. When Desura was a thing, it contained a large and (then) updated list of great mods that could be installed from its interface. Some of these labors of love went on to be stand alone games such as Dear Esther
, Black Mesa
, Garry’s Mod
, and No More Room In Hell
. They stood out with a pedigree that gave them a distinction of worth, of excellence, of stature.
Hunt Down the Freeman is not one of those mods.Hounded by a myriad of baggage before its release, HDTF was plagued with accusations of asset theft, and a notoriously horrible demo. Despite there being no weight to the claims of theft in the released game, followed up by explanations and purchases to prove license, people continued to dog pile on the game. The demo is still available if you look, but considering the apparently horrible state it was in, I’m not sure why you would want to.
I went into the game with a clean slate, not exploring the theft, the demo, or even reviews before I started. I wanted to give the game its due, and a chance to shine and prove the naysaying rabble wrong.
(Apparently, it rains underwater in the Half-Life Universe)
And hoooboy, are they not wrong.
If I excused the crashes, broken textures, moronic AI, unmapped keys, and the lack of a simple tutorial (now fixed with a 1.9GB patch), I would still be left with a poorly designed, and thoroughly busted game. The level construction is amateur to be kind, enemy difficulty ranges from a joke to impossible with no warning, and the friendly AI requires you to hold its hand to do the most basic of things – when it’s not annoying the hell out of you.
Your team will repeat the same lines, over and over. In one scene, I shot every member in the head just to get them to shut up so I could navigate the level in peace. In another, a teammate will laugh and giggle coyly when you get unavoidably close to him, asking you to stop tickling and cut it out.
Unfortunately, he was bulletproof.
No indication where to go, or even when, make HDTF mostly a guessing game. Early on you are expected to help comrades in a fight with the enemy. Plenty of respawning ammo, and a torrent of bad guys keeps you in the fight until you realize they never stop – you can spend all day fighting the same horde. Instead you are expected to know to run up the street and down a random alley to progress to the next level. No indication, say from one of the dozen men you are fighting with perhaps – just guess.Another great example would be later, when you come to an impasse. A bus lies in the street blocking your only path, with claymore mines just strewn around casually. I could find no way to use the claymores at all, much less a reason for them to be there. Instead, I had to climb my way up on top of a vehicle via seemingly unconventional methods, jump across to a canvas awning, onto a tiny ledge of a building, and creep around to get over the fallen bus.
I felt like I was breaking the game to advance here, like I glitched my way through because I couldn’t figure out how to progress. The top of the ledge wasn’t even textured, further emphasizing I was doing it wrong. And that’s not even mentioning the gaping hole in the architecture that I could fall out of the map with.
(A way out, I can finally escape this damned game!)
There is a modicum of variation here, it even shows some promise. An escort level, a vehicle level – complete with turret, a fight on top of a speeding train, a tense holdout on a not-so-speeding cargo ship, and vastly different locations. It’s clear somebody has some imagination – just no design talent.
The aforementioned patch clears up some of the issues I came across. The truck I was escorting could now navigate obstacles in its path instead of waiting for me to drive them out of the way. The cargo ship now had containers on it to fight around instead of being completely empty (Framerate is still inexplicably low though). The new tutorial explains the prone mechanism, but I couldn’t get the parkour element to work at all. Not that it mattered, there was no indication it even existed before the update. Various other small touches were applied, but this game is still barely in an alpha state.
At best, this should have been a free mod. Asking $25 for this is robbery, even if they release the ‘finished’ game as promised. It will take a year to hammer this mess into something playable, and my bet is that it never happens due to the poor release state. The negative reviews and press will bury this game so far into the mud that Morlocks will be the only ones who know of its existence, and the devs will bail long before it even becomes serviceable without cheating.Yes, cheating is currently required.
Due to the poor design, you will need to reset the ‘AI disabled’ bug that has plagued source engine mods for years. It requires you to enable cheats, so you can reset the AI and move forward in the game. It’s a random occurrence, the game may play fine until you load a save – then BAM.
Another thing you will want on your side is a walkthrough – yes, you will need it, trust me. Unless you plan on ‘no clipping’ entire levels, you will never divine what to do without one. Get on top of a building to cover a military truck (full of armed men) with a sniper rifle as it refuses to move forward until you kill every headcrab in its path. What about that wasn’t obvious?
There is also an unmapped holster key. Why would you need one in a shooter with no reason to put your gun away you ask? For one occasion where you shimmy up a pipe, you need to holster your weapon and jump onto it. Using the pipe does nothing, having a weapon in your hand will cause you to bounce off, not jumping also produces no effect. So intuitive, right?
(My nemesis, a water pipe.)
There is so much broken in this game, it’s just quicker to talk about what works.
One of the most hated parts of the game, the cutscenes, are some of the best designed (minus the scars on the main character’s face – they’re contrived trash). The opening scene is a montage of your character’s background; It’s concise, well thought out, well designed (minus the damn scars), and even competently animated. I really thought I was in for something good when I first watched it. Oddly enough, the trailer from the game’s page that shows Gordon Freeman kicking your ♥♥♥♥♥ with a crowbar has been replaced – even after the patch. He now wears a helmet so that you can’t see his face.
(Gordon is too ashamed to show himself, and I can’t blame him.)Does he return at some point? Do we get to see how this all fits in to the Half Life mythos? I couldn’t tell you, I’m not sure how the game ends. I hate giving up but I’m stuck repeating a level in an effort to make the AI work correctly so I can continue. As a principle, I refuse to resort to (real) cheats in order to finish a game I’m reviewing. If your game won’t let me finish, then your game isn’t finished, and saying it is validates every bad comment coming your way.