A game based on the Half-Life universe has been released to extremely negative reviews and storm of fan fury. We try to untangle the drama
There’s a Match on Steam Known as Hunt Down The Freeman, Published on February 23 by Programmer Royal Rudius Entertainment. It’s bound to create some double-takes for anyone surfing the Steam store as it has got Gordon Freeman’s image stuck directly on it. This isn’t some free Half-Life mod: it had been created using a license for the Source engine, and it is being marketed for approximately $25 (with a discount before March 2).
If you go to its shop page you will instantly notice a couple hundred extremely negative Steam reviews. Dig into the talks page and you will find more than just complaints of glitches and bugs, but also scores of accusations that the developers are using assets from other mods and games without permission. You’ll also see a peculiar explanation from the developers who say the release was hurried in response to harassment from Half-Life lovers –as well as a claim that the version of this match that has been released isn’t the version that was initially intended.
Hunt Down the Freeman had a troubled start–a couple of years ago its Indiegogo campaign raised exactly $12 from a single backer–and that it’s been published (or any variant of it has, anyhow ), the trouble persists. On the way, it is managed to violate a hell of a whole lot of people off.
I talked with the developers of Hunt Down The Freeman to try to unravel the drama.
Did the founders of HDTF use assets from other mods without permission?
This appears to be the reason for a lot of complaints from the discussion, but in accordance with the programmers, including game manager Berkan Denizyaran, who I talked to on the telephone, and a member of Royal Rudius Entertainment, who answered a few questions through email: no, there are no stolen assets in the match. An early demo of this HDTF did use assets from different mods, I was told, but they had been used as placeholders during development. The developers say these placeholder resources aren’t present in the final product.
The Steam forums have been filled with posts from users assessing a variety of textures and assets to those from other games and mods, also it can be a small nebulous process hoping to confirm their accuracy, what version of the game they are from, and if these resources are actually taken from different mods or games. However, a member of this Group of one of those mods in question, Holymac out of Firearms: origin, published in the Steam forums that the group had looked into it and didn’t see some of the work Used
Our art team decided that upon a casual expression of the content published with the demo,” wrote Holymac,”and assets that the HDTF team provided voluntarily, it appears no theft of intellectual property has happened.”
I sent a follow-up email into the Firearms: Source team to inquire if they’d done any more investigation since January, and got a response from job coordinator Vincent Micelo, stating:”The origin content in question was scrutinized by a number of our group members and they agree that it is original content. We have no further statements.”
The developers of Hunt Down The Freeman also point out that simply because an advantage appears familiar, doesn’t mean it’s been stolen. In an email to PC Gamer, Gabe, who identifies himself as Head of PR for Royal Rudius Entertainment, writes:
“People have discovered assets that they stated were stolen, but we’ve given them the origin we purchased it from, like the US soldiers in our match, they’re out of TurboSquid, a website where you are able to purchase models and utilize them for commercial purposes. Another example would be a shot-up automobile from S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was found within our match and paraded as definitive proof that we were stealing. It took me three minutes to find the car, and it was in one of L4D2’s DLC records, of that we have consent to use.”
I have also sent an email to the Black Mesa development group –a few of the designs and textures in HDTF are stated by a few forums posters to be obtained from Black Mesa without consent –although I haven’t got a response yet.
Is it as broken and buggy as Steam reviews state?
Well, yes. I am able to confirm this complaint. I played about 30 minutes of Hunt Down The Freeman this week and I ran into a number of bugs, which brings us to the programmer’s claim that the incorrect version of the match was finally released:
We kind of failed on the document organization,” Denizyaran told me about the phone, “and the individual who was supposed to launch the final version, released an old version of the game. And right now we’re basically collecting all of the files, the final versions of all, which is… it is a fairly big game.”
“On the afternoon of this release, it was a big shock for all of us once we saw the game on streams and realizing it was not the match that we had on our end,” Gabe said in his email.
I can’t say if their the developer’s claim that an old version of Hunt For The Freeman was unintentionally released is true, all I can say is that exactly what I played surely doesn’t feel like a completed game.
Apart out of fleas, what’s the game?
This is kind of the sticking point for mewhile I haven’t played , what I’ve played hasn’t been great, and it is not really something which bug fixes or visual improvements alone will alter
I was initially impressed with the cutscenes, especially the cinematic opening sequence, in which scenes from the principal character’s traumatic life have been blended together as he grows from a child to an adult, joins the army, and boats outside during the Black Mesa crisis from Half-Life (such as a couple nice cameos from G-Man). Afterwards moments, however, feel as a shift in tone, consistency, and quality. More to the point, between these scenes are a set of largely unimpressive FPS levels. And again, the high quality and consistency varies from 1 level to another.
It starts (rather suddenly ) with a brief level in which you battle a few zombies and headcrabs as your personality tries to find his squad inside the Black Mesa complex. On the tiny starter levels I became missing over once, with no real indication of where I was intended to go. There are not any on-screen prompts regarding exactly what your character can do–I discovered, eventually, that I could go likely and also cling to walls.
After these few tiny levels, I finally wound up in a huge outdoor firefight involving individual soldiers and some sort of alien enemies that progress from three instructions. I joined the fray, grabbing a gun and firing at the slowly encroaching aliens. I murdered a couple and kept battling, but finally I realized they were never likely to prevent spawning. From the gif below you can see a clip of the street fight, and I have about seven more minutes of recorded which are basically identical.
Finally, I just picked a direction and hurried down the street beyond the enemies, wound up stuck in a loading screen that took over a minute to fix, and then arrived in another dull degree of city streets filled with much more aliens (and several Source Engine Error icons). I kept running before, for some reason, the display gradually went black, although I could still hear as well as fire my gun, and that I could still find the UI. I waited in the dark for about a minute, then eventually quit.
In a nutshell, what I played with feels like an unfinished mod project with basic level design. I was told a re-release of the finished game could happen Monday, March 5, therefore that I intend to revisit the match following the update and see how it appears, and what exactly has changed. Bug fixes would surely be welcome, but I don’t believe a glitch-free experience would compensate for the general grade of the FPS levels I played. If a sizable group of seasoned developers worked on HDTF, as I was told, it’s definitely not clear in what I have seen up to now.
If Valve is done making Half-Life games, which sounds pretty likely now, then if we welcome passionate lovers picking up the flashlight? I do like the concept of HDTF and how it views Freeman not as an unlikely hero but as a crowbar-wielding serial killer, that makes sense from the perspective of a confused soldier just wanting to do his job. Different takes on familiar source material can be jarring (hearing G-Man with a new voice in HDTF certainly was) but it’s not a terrible thing. Except when,y’understand, it’s bad.
It is natural that fans of Half-Life are protective of the show, and any game associated with the characters and universe we care about will face extra scrutiny. This will especially be true when a certified Half-Life game includes Gordon Freeman, G-Man, along with other characters so reluctantly, and even more so when the game being sold seems to be a bad one.
That doesn’t excuse the numerous abusive forum posts I’ve seen aimed at the programmers, however, the negative reviews and complaints are totally understandable considering the state of this game. We’ll see whether any of these reviews become more positive after the game has been upgraded on Monday.