Hotline Miami has been catching the eye of many indie fanatics for the last few months, from what we have seen it looks like a marriage of Grand Theft Auto 2 and Smash TV. I think… The thing about Hotline Miami is that it has borrowed pieces of other games here of there, creating an amalgamation that really brings something quite different to the table.
Behind the wanton violence and visceral carnage that is Hotline Miami, there is actually some semblance of a story. I say it like that because I have beaten the whole game a few times and I don’t know what the hell is going on. You play as an atypical nameless and faceless protagonist that receives mysterious calls to run ‘errands’. 95% of these errands result in mass murder by using what items are lying around or dropped by dispatched guards. The story itself plays out like a Chuck Palahnuik novel, with nothing being as it seems and levels of madness slowly appearing to overtake you. There are some serious plot twists and even an ‘epilogue’ campaign at the end of the game. Even after beating the game and getting both endings, I am still scratching my head. In fact, there is a moment in the epilogue that just… well… is this even a thing?
Gameplay in Hotline Miami initially makes you think that the game should played as more of a stealth title, hiding and striking when the moment is right. The thing is, Hotline Miami doesn’t want you to play that way, it wants to see you become a whirling dervish of violent death that has no regard for it’s surroundings or subtlety. You actually get better scores at the end of levels for specifically playing with reckless abandon and once you grow used to it, you will actually start to enjoy it. While the control scheme works perfectly for all of this, I was a little surprised to discover that the game did not support anything but the mouse/keyboard combo. The whole concept fits the idea of using a controller, perhaps it will be something that we will see down the road. Enemy AI also came off as a little inconsistent. Some times I could fire a weapon and alert most of the floor, everyone would come running to meet their eventual doom. Other times I’d get some response from other enemies on the floor while the closest guy to me just continued to stand there. A interesting feature to the games are the masks you can wear. Each mask is like an old school cheat, augmenting gameplay in a way that can either make things easier, handicap your play or cause odd things to happen. You find a mask in almost every level, plus new ones are unlocked through getting high scores.
The retrofied graphics are interesting at best and distracting at worst. With the tacky 80′s color schemes and the generic look of every enemy you encounter, you will often times lose track of victims. This wouldn’t be a major issue if it wasn’t for the fact that you take a single hit before dying. The biggest issue I encountered was with enemies simply blending in with their surroundings or when standing among the dead bodies during an attempted massacre. The game’s distinct 80′s feel is reflected in everything, the crudely drawn character portraits and bright environments are almost satirical when you are able to sit back and survey the carnage you created. All in all, the graphics fit the game well but are actually one of the weakest features within the whole game.
In contrast, Hotline Miami’s strongest feature had to be it’s soundtrack. The predominantly electronic drums’n'bass soundtrack with a techno feel really make the game so much better. I’d go as far as saying that the soundtrack sets the mood even more than the game’s graphics and environments do. In the level ‘Assault’, I really felt like I was controlling a character who had a death wish and no longer cared who or what got in their way. The music always seemed to make sure I was on my toes yet ready to move from one room to the next and the sound effects were absolutely great. There is a part of the game where a bomb detonates and the explosion plus audio distortion really caught me off guard. All in all, there really wasn’t anything I could say bad about anything in the game as far as audio was concerned.
While a pretty solid and enjoyable title, Hotline Miami seemed to have a seedy underside as well. When I first started the game, I was notified of several errors. While looking up solutions, the game decided it wanted to start on it’s own. Even though I chose to enable Steam at the start, I was never notified of any achievements I had unlocked or anything within the Steam client. I had a few game-breaking glitches as well, one time I was bludgeoning some unfortunate pixel-guy’s head in when his buddy shotgunned me from across the room. Instead of the ‘You are dead’ prompt, the game continued as usual and my character disappeared, forcing me to leave the entire level and restart at the very beginning. Another was where melee weapons would lock up, keeping me stuck in a swinging stance. I also learned of a small glitch (or feature, you decide) where you can rush an enemy with a gun and stand so close that you actually avoid their gun shots, yet they are perfectly susceptible to blunt force trauma. That glitch made a few scenarios a little easier than they should have been and I actually felt like I exploited something each time it happened. Everything about the game isn’t bad though, the major glitches still happened few and far between and even though the campaign was short, I still had a ton of fun with it.
Hotline Miami may not be an exercise in perfection but it is a great example of a relatively fresh idea that is executed well enough to make a good game. You will find yourself revisiting levels to beat the game 100% and you’ll be happy to do so. Hotline Miami is a game that scratches that itch to just let lose and destroy everything, yet still allowing you to use your brain just enough to keep you engaged. Hotline is a brain-smashingly good time, one that I’d buy for a dollar.. or $9.99.
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- Incredibly quick gameplay
- Brutally graphic combat is incredibly satisfying
- THE SOUNDTRACK IS AMAZING!
- There are quite a few glitches in bugs in the launch version
- AI is inconsistent at best
- Repetitive enemies and maps
A copy of this game was provided for review purposes.