Hotline Miami is simultaneously a very easy and very hard game to review, because there is a lot to love about the game and very little to hate. This may sound like a good thing but because the game won me over so convincingly it is a little hard to be objective and take off the tinted lenses for a while.
The game is a top down genre bending game with a mix of stealth, action and pre-planning to make your bloody and violent path from foe to foe without having your own organs spread across the floor. Which will happen. Alot. Combining both melee weapons and fire arms your task is to massacre everyone on the floor and then move on until no one is left alive. I played the steam version with a wired Xbox 360 controller and found the controls extremely tight and accurate.
The game uses a pixel style for its art which seems to be pretty popular at the moment, but it doesn’t really feel like it’s trying to emulate a bygone era or anything along those lines. Outside of that is a very psychedelic blanket background that is constantly shifting colours which provides a great contrast against all the environments and action.
Hotline Miami has a strange yet effective storytelling method, in that it doesn’t really tell you much story at all. Everything plays out during conversations your character (who has no official name but has been fan-dubbed ‘Jacket’ based around his attire) has with 3 masked people in a dirty room. Missions are started with an answering machine message, you jump in your car and so it begins. There is never a definite understanding of whats happening and why all the way up to the end of the game and this for me was amazing. The way that even once the game has done all the explaining it has to do, there are still questions and uncertainties extending even to the timeline and canonical nature of events is really engaging and sticks with you long after you’ve played it through a few times.
The sound in this game is absolutely outstanding, both from an effects and music standpoint. The effects when finishing guys with an execution, for example, are on par with the visuals in demonstrating the brutality of the game. The BGM on the otherhand, which is an array of heavy pumping dance/electro tunes from no less than 8 different artists, would look out of place if you had written the concept on paper but for some reason the music (which is cranked right up loud as default) just seems to push you on hurridly to the next room of victims.
It isn’t all wins for Hotline Miami though, I had a few bugs in my play session but I’ve since been told that is because I had the steamworks enabled and that can cause issues. I had no glitches once I went out and turned that off. As I mentioned earlier though, Hotline Miami doesn’t tell you much of anything, this includes how the ‘variation of kills’ helps your score as well as how your score is rated at the end of each level, it just gives you numbers without any real indicator of how you got them outside of time taken in the level and combo chain. This lack of information also seeps into a puzzle menu on the pause screen. I honestly had no idea what it was or how to work it until I made a quick trip to the internet.
Those aside this game is just an intense splatterfest that will assault your reflexes, fuel your arcade “one more go” desire, have you tearing your hair out, challenge your morals and invariably question the things you thought you knew about everything that came before. Available now for around $10 on PS3, PSVita and of course Steam. Enough reading, now go buy it and if you already have it you’ll be pleased to know there is a sequel on the way.