For April, PS Plus Instant Games Collection has been incredibly generous. As well as Sly Cooper and Mercenary Kings, we’ve been treated to the ultra violent Hotline Miami. This game somehow passed the censors, probably due to it’s cartoony, top down, 2D graphics. But amongst the stylistics and sprays of gore is there any substance? Twinstickgaming take a look back at one of indie’s more recent controversial games.
Hotline Miami pays homage to the 80’s in almost every department. Graphically this game is on par with any 16-bit console and certainly wouldn’t have looked out of place on the Sega Mega Drive. The soundtrack is a modernised revamped interpretation of classic dark thumping electro music, which really sets the tone and is arguably one of the best gaming soundtracks out there. Hotline Miami is also clearly influenced by movies such as Drive, every detail is incorporated right down to the jackets or the stone cold crunching violence throughout the entire game.
So what’s Hotline Miami all about? Like most arcade games, the storyline isn’t paramount, you can still play Hotline Miami without really knowing what’s going on, because in all honest it is hard to determine what IS going on. You play an unnamed character who begins to have visions that involve three characters sat in a room, each wearing a animal mask. Richard, the rooster, speaks in riddles of things that have yet to happen, he also poses strange questions to you, which mean very little at the time. A horse faced lady, Don Juan, seems concerned about your health and well being. The third is an Owl named Rasmus, who clearly hates you and doesn’t want you there.
Shortly after the visions, you start receiving phone calls. Each phone call leads to a hit that you have to enforce. You put on a animal mask, head to your car and drive to the given address. Hotline Miami is nothing like Hitman or any stealth game for that matter. The bloodbath that ensues is more about sending a message to all those who cross your path rather than stealthily finding your intended target. The game even promotes killing, not only by awarding you with points for every kill, but you simply aren’t allowed to progress until everyone on the screen is dead. Once everyone has been killed, the music goes silent and you are forced to walk back over all the bodies and blood splattered everywhere. A little reminder of the mayhem you have just caused.
However, if you are expecting a game where you just burst in and shoot everyone to pieces think again. Caution is advised. Hotline is an incredibly punishing game. One shot kills are enough to send you back to the beginning of the level and all the enemies you mowed down have also respawned to thwart you once again. You must hone your skills and choose wisely when to enter a room. Firing guns actually attracts attention. Beating someone to death with your fists maybe more time consuming and leaves you more vulnerable, but it doesn’t alert the masses.
Although, with every death comes more impatience. Several times you’ll clear a small area of the map and yet someone you missed just blows you away. So you say to yourself, “ok do it again just don’t get shot by that dude at the end of the corridor.” BANG same mistake, or sometimes a different one, is made all over again. Hitting ‘X’ to respawn soon becomes second nature.
But it is this relentless nature of the game that makes you throw yourself into it time and time again. With each small progression you aim to get that little bit further, exactly like the games of old, were the emphasis was on replay value and not the length of a storyline campaign.
There are quieter moments to the game where you visit video stores or pizza places, but these mainly serve as a short respite before the bloodshed continues.
As you progress through the game you’ll unlock more animal masks that come with perks such as starting with a knife, being able to move faster or lethal doors. The latter is incredibly useful. Standing in front of a door waiting for a victim to stand in front so you can kick it down is great fun, but ‘lethal doors’ makes this move fatal.
Hotline Miami is a fast, furious, high octane, ultra violent game bathed in 80’s neon noir. Miami is very much a pick up and play game with a huge emphasis on replaying the same parts over and over. Fortunately there are around 13 levels which prevents the game from becoming too tedious.