Don’t let the dismembered bodies and scattered brains fool you, Hotline Miami more puzzle game than senseless top-down gorefest. While yes your hands will end up bloodier than a medieval butcher, your mind is the real thing being tested right now, not your reflexes.
Stab-puzzler is my genre for Hotline Miami. Although a high level of coordination is required at times the majority of the game can be treated as a trial and error puzzle game. The first time you enter a room you may get shot at by a shotgun wielding Russian off-screen so next time you throw your weapon at him and smash his brains out against the ground in a brutal execution. Each death is a learning experience, you learn something new about the level, you strategise, you adapt your ‘run N’ gun’ approach for a more stealthy option. When you are finally ready to take on that room of enemies and you are throwing knives at crushing skulls with split second precision, the whole thing is over in the blink of an eye I found myself taking a step back and just realising how good that felt.
In the earlier levels it was more a case of slashing a guy before he slashed you. Gun toting baddies were scarce and positioned for easy take downs with melee however every level is a significant jump in difficulty, introducing new mechanics like glass walls and the vicious dogs. Although the game is hard it is never unfair because all of your deaths are entirely your fault. The AI is deliberately stupid and will respond the same every time meaning if this time you got clubbed round the head with a pipe it’s because you didn’t swing first or missed your throw. There’s no ‘Cheesiness’ like X-Com Original mode or Dark Souls, if you die it’s on you buddy.
There are no hints. No obvious route to take through the mission. The game knows you are going to die a lot so you are actually rewarded at the end of the game depending on variation of paths you took after you got brained. You must get from A to B but the route you take is entirely your choice except instead of A being a place A is people not dead, B is errebody dead and the route is how you kill them all. The aforementioned rewards come in the form of a score based on numerous things like speed, brutality and variation and if this score is high enough a new weapon or a mask which bring with them certain perks like the ability to see further or have insta-kill fists (A personal favourite)
The story is deliberately minimal in terms of dialogue and any sort of explanation but there is so much hidden depth that I felt like I was analysing poetry again. The moment you think you have a grip on what your purpose is it would throw you a curveball that knocks you on your ass again.
Why are the people at the start all wearing masks?
Why am I wearing a mask?
Why is a grocery store owner making me kill people?
Why is this grocery store owner also the operator of seemingly all the shops in the area?
Why did that body just disappear?
All I knew while I was playing was nothing is as it seems and this soundtrack is the shit.
I would feel bad if all I talked about when it came to audio was “Is the shit” so I’ll elaborate.
I’m not sure if the game would be anywhere near as good as it is without the 80’s trance/electro soundtrack that just pulls you into this LSD tripped nightmare and won’t let go. The meaty combat sounds combined with the entrancing retro music combined with the swirling backdrop that pulsates read when a kill is made provides an addictive feedback system that rewards for the continual killing of enemies. It’s only when you have killed everyone in the map that the music stops and the world stops flashing red when you realise quite what you have done as you are forced to walk through the swathes of dead back you your car. I didn’t feel remorse, these guys are the bad guys (probably), it was just a sense of… “Oh shit I did that?”
The throwback to arcade machines with a highscore and combo system caters to a gamer that loves a reflex challenge but the story aspects also cater to the gamer who wants to be morally challenged. Similar to avant-garde poetry Hotline Miami It’s not going to explain itself because then you aren’t worth the time and at times this gives it a pretentious air like so many cult classics.
It’s condensed, it’s brutal, it’s like life… Probably I’m 18.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.
Hotline Miami Review,