Hunt Down the Freeman
This is a featured article!
|Hunt Down the Freeman
"'Hunt Down the Freeman is the worst thing ever made by another human being. It's an insult to first-person shooters, it's an insult to Half-Life 2, but most importantly, it's an insult to the Half-Life 2 modding community, unabashedly stealing assets from other more talented people to palm off as its own."
Hunt Down the Freeman is a first-person shooter game developed and published by Royal Rudius Entertainment and released for Microsoft Windows via Steam on February 23, 2018, originally released as a demo on September 7, 2016. It is an unofficial installment in the Half-Life series.
Why It Got Hunt Down
- It had an awful development cycle with 5 delays in a short time span. The developers on the Half-Life subreddit stated that the fifth one was done as a publicity stunt.
- The game also rips off some elements from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, with the further proof being that former series director Hideo Kojima is listed in the credits under "Special Thanks", one of the tracks is even similar to Phantom Pain's "Sins Of The Father" track, and Mitchell with hair has an odd resemblance to young Revolver Ocelot from the same game.
- A weak plot with a very absurd plot twist at the end and awful writing. It tries way too hard to be edgy and serious (and sometimes even funny). The plot is about a HECU Marine named Mitchell Shephard, brother of other HECU Marine Adrian Shephard (the protagonist of the Opposing Force expansion for the original Half-Life game), trying to get revenge on who was believed to be Gordon Freeman, who killed his squad. The twist at the end reveals that it's one of Mitchell's followers (a former Black Ops member named Adam) disguised as Gordon who knocked him out and killed his entire squad.
- The storyline is also filled with plot holes. Here are some notable examples:
- Just after the Seven Hour War, various graffiti tags related to the Resistance can be seen in some places despite the fact that The Resistance cannot organize themselves at lightspeed.
- The G-Man tasks Mitchell to hunt down Gordon, which turns out to be a ploy to orchestrate a setup in order to distract the attention of the Combine from Gordon to Mitchell. This makes zero sense, given the fact that Gordon was a top priority for the Combine and they also had to deal with the upcoming citizen uprising (one of the many aspects that the game seemingly ignores about the Half-Life lore), which was a much more important thing. G-Man's character is also less mysterious than he was in the original games.
- Even though Mitchell is Adrian's brother, Mitchell doesn't even seem to show much concern about him throughout the game. The fact about them being brothers also leaves a bad taste in the fans' mouths because it's obvious parasitism of Adrian's popularity within the community.
- Adam is revealed to be involved in G-Man's ploy, but his reasons for it are never explained nor how he acquired an HEV suit and used it without any prior training. (Adam does make an attempt to explain things to Mitchell, but Mitchell just guns him down.)
- Boston Joe warns Mitchell not to use any firearms due to a gas leak that can blow everything up but goes against zombies with a shotgun himself, something that Mitchell himself pointed out (players can still use weapons normally). This makes the whole gas leak deal absolutely pointless. What is also odd is that these headcrab zombies' designs don't match the location; they are zombified Black Mesa scientists.
- Boris and Mitchell call each other "old friends" even though they only met once 17 years ago, and also despite the fact that Mitchell ruined Boris's life back then.
- Mitchell barely even reacts to Sasha being killed by Adam and doesn't seem to care, as she is never mentioned again.
- Mitchell and Sasha recognize each other despite the fact that they very briefly met each other 17 years earlier, once again.
- In the end, after killing Adam for "f*****g up" his face, Mitchell, for whatever reason, knows about the Borealis and tells everyone on the ship to set a course for it. The ending obviously serves as sequel bait, never mind the fact this is sometime around the initial City 17 Uprising before the Resistance even knew of the Borealis' existence in Half-Life 2: Episode Two.
- Our "villain protagonist", Mitchell Shephard, is an extremely unlikable, whiny, edgy, and selfish jerk. In addition, he has one of the stupidest motivations in video games; his primary motivation for going after Gordon Freeman is not to avenge his marine buddies, for Gordon unintentionally causing the resonance cascade and killing the Nihilanth that led to the occupation of the Earth by the Combine, or attempt to get answers about that what happened to Adrian, but instead for... "f***ing up his face".
- The game features excessive swearing (something that almost every Valve game deliberately avoids, except for some swear words, but they aren't excessive. Barney Calhoun, at one point, near the end of the Follow Freeman chapter in Half-Life 2 says "f**k you", but it is slightly subdued in-game due to structure collapsing) in an attempt to make the game seem more serious and mature, but it fails epically.
- The game itself doesn't understand how the lore of the Half-Life universe works and has several inaccuracies (e.g. Antlions appearing in snow maps despite the fact that they are insectoid aliens and prefer living in warm climates just like their real-life counterparts, and the Immolator, a weapon wielded by the Cremator (an enemy that was cut from Half-Life 2), shoots normal fire instead of the plasma-like substance it shot originally).
- The gameplay is generic, uninspired and full of cheap difficulty as it often pits the player against hordes of enemies with little to no ammo or health pickups.
- Occasionally the enemies' guns consist of a giant ERROR sign (placeholder missing models) that appears over their faces where the guns should be.
- The majority of the assets are stolen; some are bought, and some of them are traced from other Valve properties, and none of them meshes well together. Some of the levels even completely recycle maps from Half-Life 2.
- Many locations like Albuquerque look nothing like their real-life counterparts. They instead look like generic cities or other locations due to the maps being traced from Garry's Mod.
- The level design is downright awful. Many levels are large, open areas that give little direction as to where to go and what to do. Levels also have invisible walls placed oddly and abundantly around them, which can often make them very confusing to navigate.
- The only new "enemies" that appear in a few levels are badly mismashed versions of two cut HL2 enemies (Combine Synth Elite Soldiers and Alien Assassins) that come out as hilariously trashed with them being easily killed and burned without explanation as they die. The Synth Soldiers are basically reskinned and rescaled Combine Soldiers that disintegrate upon death, too.
- The game includes pre-rendered cutscenes and levels that are heavily disjointed from each other, which completely contradict the seamless, immersive designs of the Half-Life games that have been the core signature of the franchise.
- The cutscenes themselves are of rather poor quality, with mediocre animations that look like something out of an amateur Source Filmmaker short on YouTube. Unfortunately, these cutscenes still manage to be the highlight of the game. Worse yet, at launch, some cutscenes wouldn't even trigger at all because they weren't even added to the game or are broken.
- Awful voice acting that ranges from mediocre to horrendous. The game's cast also has a lot of YouTubers in it, but they are not helping much, with the worst offender being the fact that, and we kid you not, Keemstar, of all people (a bigger known YouTuber infamous for sending a lynch mob after an old man he falsely accused of paedophilia, cyberbullying and racial slurs), has a voice acting role in the game as the President of the United States. While Mick "Ricepirate" Lauer (due to him being a professional voice actor) does a passable job as Mitchell Shephard, it has a couple of flaws including being held back by bad voice direction and using a bad discount version of Duke Nukem's voice in the end (including "YOU F***ED UP MY FACE!") While "Rick" (aka Evan Kascinde) did a good job as G-Man due to matching Michael Shapiro's voice and tone in this game, he mispronounces Black Mesa ("Black Messah") on several occasions. Thankfully, the mispronucation of Black Mesa from "Rick" (aka Evan Kascinde) is fixed in the newly released beta build titled "M3SA"
- The laughably awful dialogue that along with the voice acting makes the writing even worse (e.g. "YOU F***ED UP MY FACE!" (which became one of the most mocked lines in the entire game), "Where is Gordon, where's Freeman?!", "Hero, huh? You're talking to a villain, my dear... ", "My mother is dead." etc.).
- The weapon sound design is horrendous. Several examples include the Knife reusing Half-Life 2's crowbar's sounds, the silenced MP5 sounding like a pop gun, and the shotguns sounding unimpactful.
- The mod cost $25 at launch before the developers later reduced the price to $23 and later gave it a 15% discount in an attempt to make the game not look overpriced. It was eventually reduced to $18 by mid-March 2018, and then to the same as Half-Life 2 ($10) at some point later.
- The game advertises itself with a 14-hour playtime, but it can be completed around 4-5 hours if you know where you are supposed to go, manage to get past its bugs/glitches or use cheats.
- The game's size is 60 GB (now under 40GB, even though most Source games are only under 10-20GB), with uncompressed 4K textures, high polygon models, big map files that were also unoptimized, and uncompressed cutscenes taking up most of the disk space, causing the game to crash, have constant FPS drops or make the loading time go up to 1-2 minutes (Most games that have 4K texture packs tend to have them as free optional downloads, as 4K textures tend to take up a significant amount of space).
- Extremely bad graphics, despite using the Source Engine even if it was filled with 4K textures (which in the Source engine case, it would not looking good and causing noisy textures since the way Source handle textures).
- The game was absolutely broken at launch, with it being plagued with bugs, glitches and missing textures/models on some levels.
- The HUD looks very generic at worst, without even making it cool or unique like other mods.
- Speaking of models, many of them look bad and odd. One example besides the new "enemies" and Mitchell is near the end of the first act, which has Colonel Cue, who looks like a teenager with a fake moustache. This mostly stems from the human models being made in Fuse, which causes them to clash with the universe's aesthetic.
- Some new weapons, like the Scorpion SMG and the double-barreled shotgun, look out of place within the Half-Life universe.
- There are some elements of false advertising. For example, various screenshots and the game's trailer clearly show Gordon attacking Mitchell, while in-game it's just Adam in an HEV suit with a helmet, who is believed to be Gordon. In fact, the game has nothing to do with Gordon Freeman, at all. He only appears as a small cameo in one ending (seven of him, in fact) and he's mentioned a few times, but other than those instances, there's literally nothing the game has to do with Gordon at all.
- The game doesn't bother to tell you what to do in missions at all. For example, in one mission, players must get a knife, which is right behind them, and the game gives no hints at all.
- The actual game somehow ended up being even worse than the scrapped version that, while also being of poor quality, had at least some interesting elements (e.g. Gordon actually played an important role in the plot, Mitchell was going to interact with other Half-Life characters like Father Grigori and Eli, and he was somehow able to view the memories of deceased people, which were seemingly supposed to alter his views on things, such as showing Mitchell that Gordon is not as bad as he thinks).
- Some cutscenes are actually good due to Source Filmmaker having some benefits, and nearly strayed the game from being too boring.
- Over time, the game gained a "so bad, it's good" vibe due to the unintentionally funny moments, especially with the awful dialogue.
- The concept of a marine trying to hunt down Gordon Freeman is a pretty good concept, depending on your view. But the problem was because of its laughably horrible execution, due to the reasons mentioned above.
- While the voice acting is awful in general, at least "Rick" (aka Evan Kascinde) did a good job as G-Man due to matching Michael Shapiro's voice and tone in this game (aside from the Black Mesa mispronunciation).
- It spawned several internet memes.
- Some of the map designs are decent enough, especially the Black Mesa level.
- The weapon animations look nice due to the team having an actual animator working on them.
- While still lazily done, it has at least some headcrab zombie variety, unlike the Half-Life 2 games themselves and a majority of mods for them.
- The soundtrack is pretty decent.
- The newly released beta build titled "M3SA", developed by Operation Whiskey Freedom Team, has many improvements and enhancements compared to the release build. It includes environmental, auditory and visual cues on how to access troublesome levels more easily, new pathways to make traversing levels a lot easier than before, more distinct switches to open up doors for easy access, the broken unfixable levels get converted into cutscenes (although it partially adds new plot holes), the stupidly accurate snipers now gone while new walkways are added for easier traversing in the Alaska act and new puzzle mechanics involving weapons are added to the final act while shortening its last stand from 15 minutes to 3 minutes. It also fixed some of the bad voice lines like the mispronunciation of Black Mesa by "Rick" (aka Evan Kascinde).
The game had massive hype during its announcement, but many people were also criticizing the game's demo, noticing the stolen assets and the fact that the story is weak, the voice acting is horrendous, and the gameplay is lacking.
The game was universally panned and received heavy backlash even before release, with the developers being involved in asset flipping and lying to their fanbase. It received a "Mostly Negative" rating with only 23% of the 421 user reviews (as of March 16th, 2018) being positive, while some reviews praised its use of the Source Filmmaker cutscenes, the rest of the reviews lambasted the game due to its unfinished state, the lacking gameplay, bland and forgettable storyline, stereotypical and unlikable characters, traced assets etc.
Gmanlives harshly criticized the game for similar reasons and called it, as quoted, an insult to both Half-Life 2 and its modding community, and recommended everyone avoid buying the game at all costs.
On another note, comparing this "game" to Half-Life: Before, FakeFactory's Cinematic Mod and Half-Life: Prospekt makes three of those games/mods look decent at best.
DX featured it on his Worst Games of the Decade saying that "the story is a 14-year-old fanfiction realized in video game form". He then declared it the worst Indie Game saying, "There has never been a game more telling of Steam's complete apathy towards quality control than HDTF. There are many great Indie games out there, HDTF is not only not one of them. It is undoubtedly the worst of them."
Similar to Darklordjadow1 and DX, ESCalation compared the storyline to a poorly written fanfiction.
Controversy and developer's response to criticism
The developers were involved with several scandals, such as constantly delaying the game as a publicity stunt which ended up annoying fans, the implications that devs approved their game on Steam Greenlight through bots, stealing assets from other developers, and lying about the demo being made by a separate team when it was obvious Royal Rudius developed the demo themselves. Also, the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for the game barely reached its goal, yet the game was still developed anyways. Also, it should be mentioned that the developers try to block any form of criticism, and censor any allegations of stolen assets on their Discord server and Steam group. One of the voice actors, Keemstar, also made a name for himself by harassing and bullying people and sending people to do it, including the aforementioned false paedophilia claims. On February 26th, the developers made a news post on the game's Steam forum,  where they put some blame on the old team and community for "lies and harassment", while using excuses such as "accidentally releasing the old version of the mod".
Following the controversy, Berkan Denizyaran, the game's director, left Royal Radius to join Activision in the Marketing department, then joined Sony following the infamous Activision-Blizzard scandal according to some former developers.
The game was so infamous that it what caused many people to believe that Valve simply made it non-canon just to avoid damaging the entire franchise and release Half-Life: Alyx to make fans forget about Hunt Down the Freeman even existed. One final kick in the nuts is the fan-remake of the original Half-Life called Black Mesa, which received approval from Valve and received critical acclaim from pretty much everyone, making Hunt Down the Freeman even more disonest to the franchise than before.
- The majority of the cast are voiced by several YouTube personalities, most notably Vincent Cyr, Sky Williams, Colossal is Crazy, and the aforementioned Keemstar, RicePirate, Pyrocynical and I Hate Everything.
- As revealed in I Hate Everything's video about his involvement in the game, he explained that he joined the project because he wanted to get more recognition outside of his own channel and because Colossal is Crazy asked him if he wanted to join. I Hate Everything eventually came to regret this decision once he became aware of the game's quality and how the project was managed.
- Bolloxed, a YouTuber known for his playthroughs of Half-Life games/mods, claims that he had donated $50,000 to fund the development of the game and he's defending the game in order to get his money back. Whether it's true or not is still up to debate.
- Know Your Meme's article on Hunt Down The Freeman
- TV Tropes' article