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Hotline Miami Review

 
Hotline Miami Review image
Hotline Miami Review image
Hotline Miami Review image

 
At a Glance...
 

Formats: PC
 
Genre:
 
Year:
 
Publisher:
 
Developer:
 
Final Score
8.0
8/ 10


User Rating
no ratings yet

 

We liked?


Brutal and raw gameplay
Stunning Soundtrack
Scuzzy atmosphere and tone

Not so much?


Short campaign
Some bugs and glitches
Enemies can get stuck in walls.


Final Fiendish Findings?

When you mix together the gameplay, the graphics, the soundtrack and the storyline, Hotline Miami stands out as one of the surprise hits of the year. It’s the combination of these elements that makes for such a compelling body of work and a strong argument, much like Minecraft, as to why graphics simply do not matter when it comes to the manufacture of a game. To be able to deliver so much atmosphere with so little takes some doing and Hotline Miami shows that modern expectations can be retrofitted into games that we thought had gone the same way as our old Commodore and Spectrum machines.

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Posted November 25, 2012 by

 
Full Fiendish Findings...
 
 

Retro games aren’t exactly something I go out of my way to play these days. Despite being a hardcore Commodore 64 owner back in the day. So Hotline Miami was an unusual purchase for me, but one that I’m grateful for making. It is a title that is cuttingly raw in its delivery, with graphics purposely left old school and brutal, and a storyline that’s ripped straight from a video nasty 80s flick.

But contrast these with some very intelligent game play mechanics and a pitch perfect difficulty balancing that most of the big name developers struggle to get right, and you have a game that charms as much as it disgusts.

The nub of Hotline Miami’s success boils down to the difficulty. On getting killed very promptly twice in the opening level you soon realise that this game is delivering a significant challenge to the usual forgiving run and gun/duck and cover tactics of modern day games. Overcoming these challenges boils down to stress testing your environment to a series of different strategies to see which process works best against the level and enemy layout. Some enemies need to be dealt with quietly and quickly, others may only be resolved by going loud with machine guns. Death is brutal and quick, but re-spawning and jumping back into the action is even quicker. You’ll start back at the beginning of the level each time, but after a while the net result of this is a blisteringly fast and devastating run through where you feel like an insane action hero chewing his way through the enemy troops.

The repetition may sound like a turn off to some, but the fluidity in which you can progress through levels means that you enjoy the opportunity to perfect and hone your strategy.

Hotline Miami Review image

Much has been made of the gore and violence in this otherwise old school top down shoot ‘em up, but that’s not where the real grit comes from. It’s delivered through the 80s video nasty storyline and scuzzy atmosphere. The world you inhabit is squalid and strangely isolated despite the NPC characters that are dotted throughout the game. Your character, suffering from some form of psychosis, keeps receiving answering machine messages which inform him of targets that he must eliminate. It’s clear very early on that the game pitches the storyline firmly in the David Cronenburg category of madness and uncertainty. As you progress through the game, things become even more obscure and difficult to follow before the game seemingly comes to a close with a satisfactory resolution. Except it doesn’t.

We’ll say no more than that, except that whilst the story isn’t the strongest one ever written, it hinges together the unsettling insanity and gritty tone that pervades the game. Atmosphere is another strong point with Hotline Miami, not since Rockstar’s Manhunt have I felt somewhat uncomfortable with the level of violence you get to dole out in a game. Where Manhunt draws out the tension by making you commit your acts in a slow and considered waltz, Hotline Miami asks you to kick through doors and hack people to death in a bloody ballet.

Games that give weight to the act of murder are few and far between, so desensitised have we become to ultra-violence in the media, that it’s quite rewarding to play through a game where taking down opponents feels like a tangible act and not just the press of a few buttons.

Hotline Miami Review image

Hotline Miami’s soundtrack may well go down as my soundtrack of the year. The tracks feature guttural electro beats and psychedelic swirling synths that, depending on the track, can deepen the sense of unease and paranoia or drive you forward to commit your wholesale slaughter. Much like the graphics of the game, the music has an archaic low fidelity feel that perfectly matches the tone of the Hotline Miami world. There are plans to release the soundtrack and when they do it’ll be on regular rotation on my Spotify playlist (you can currently listen to the entire soundtrack on Soundcloud)

Longevity is an interesting point to raise. You can blitz through this title in a weekend quite comfortably, but you’ll sweat and curse in trying to do so, often having to commit some serious time to the completion of a few of the more challenging levels. Even straight after my first playthrough I didn’t feel compelled to switch back to another game in my library, and whenever I had a spare five minutes, I would head straight over to the PC to fire it up.

Hotline Miami Review image

I’ve tried to think of what is wrong with Hotline Miami but outside of the speed in which it can be completed I struggle. So basic is the premise and so bare are the promises that complaining of the odd glitch here or the somewhat erratic enemy behaviour there seems slightly churlish. This game doesn’t scream “indie” as much as it screams “bedroom developer”. As a result Hotline Miami may have a few bugs and issues with how the enemies react, but these are largely drowned out in a frenetic wave of flowing gameplay and finger bruising challenges.

When you mix together the gameplay, the graphics, the soundtrack and the storyline, Hotline Miami stands out as one of the surprise hits of the year. It’s the combination of these elements that makes for such a compelling body of work and a strong argument, much like Minecraft, as to why graphics simply do not matter when it comes to the manufacture of a game. To be able to deliver so much atmosphere with so little takes some doing and Hotline Miami shows that modern expectations can be retrofitted into games that we thought had gone the same way as our old Commodore and Spectrum machines.


Adam

 
Playing games since I'd developed enough motor functions to hold a joystick. From Commodore 64 all the way through to the latest gen. Favourite games to play are FPS games and anything with a deep and compelling story and a world that draws you in. I also enjoy writing, film making and playing bass in whatever band will have me :)