Developer: Dennaton Games Publisher: Devolver Digital Genre: 2D Top-Down Action Release Date: 23.10.2012 Official Site: www.hotlinemiami.com
At first, playing Hotline Miami feels like eating a greasy hamburger. It's fast and messy and you know it's bad for you... but you like it. In the moment it satisfies some deep carnivorous urge but it leaves you feeling unclean afterward, as if some of its filth has rubbed off on you. After a while you start to realize that there is more to it than that. It has real depth in terms of gameplay and atmosphere as well as what it has to say about games and the people who play them. That is what keeps you going and why this is a game worth playing.
Hotline Miami puts you in control of a hit man of questionable mental health in 1980s Miami. Your jobs are given to you through cryptic messages left on an answering machine in your apartment. Before starting each job you must don a mask. You are given a choice from a selection of animal masks that you unlock throughout the game. Each one provides some bonus but it isn't always clear what that is. Each mask has a name and a short, sometimes cryptic description of what it does. Things like Aubrey the pig, "More Guns", or Rasmus the owl, "An Eye for Secrets". Others are more obvious like Peter the unicorn, "Quiet Gunshots".
These jobs generally involve entering a building filled to the brim with armed guards, some on patrol, some just watching TV, and wasting every last one of them. From your top-down perspective you can see into nearby rooms, giving you an advantage over them but death comes fast and often nonetheless. Gunshots will alert guards in nearby rooms who come running in, guns blazing, so melee weapons are often favorable if you are fast enough. Punching a guard or kicking open a door with one on the other side will knock them down but to keep them from getting back up, you must perform a brutal execution maneuver. One shot is enough to take down most guards but the same is true of you, creating the same kind of tension that you feel in a good stealth game. The game handles death incredibly well, instantly respawning you at the start of the mission without even resetting the music. Most of these missions are pretty challenging and require several attempts but the quickfire respawn makes it addictive rather than frustrating.
Even though it looks like a stealth game from some angles, the nature of most missions is such that there is very little opportunity to sneak through undetected which may turn some people off. What may start out as an attempt to quietly pacify a room often turns into you being backed into a corner, wildly unloading your shotgun in hopes of staying alive and completely destroying any chance of subtlety. It seldom gives you time to stop and plan your next move and when it does, those plans usually go wrong. It forces you to react quickly be messy about things and I love that.
Mechanically, Hotline Miami doesn't do anything terribly novel. It feels like playing some kind of cross between GTA 1 and Hitman. It executes these mechanics perfectly though, the controls are easily grasped and they quickly melt into the background. You feel like a badass in no time, kicking down doors and throwing knives into people's faces like you've been doing it for years. This allows the setting and the atmosphere to take center stage. The visuals and music are amazing, placing you in what feels like an 80s gangster movie by David Lynch. The narrative is delivered through small vignettes scattered in between mission which tell you just enough to let you know that something is going on but little enough so that you have to draw your own conclusions.
The place where I feel Hotline Miami falls somewhat short is in the boss battles scattered throughout. They often don't follow the rules the rest of the game sets, rendering your usual methods useless and forcing you to discover some gimmick and execute it perfectly, often multiple times, in order to continue. They tend to be frustrating rather than challenging, which I don't feel is true of the rest of the game. Even so, I feel these battles do add some character to the game and I like them aesthetically.
Ultimately, Hotline Miami delivers a visceral yet thoughtful experience that really stuck with me. If you are looking for something to take your mind off things, to kick back and relax with, you might want to give this game a pass. If you want a serious challenge, an incredibly pure aesthetic experience or something to make you think, this game is well worth your time and money.
We liked Challenging, and Fast Paces Levels, Amazing Visuals and Music.