I walk into the room I don’t remember coming into, it’s dark in here and I strain my eyes to see what’s in front of me. I hear them though, chatting amongst themselves. I don’t know who they are or if they summoned me here but I feel like I know them, or that I know of them at the very least. Its so god damn hazy … why can’t I remember anything?! What the hell is going on, I want to scream out but I know somehow that doing so would be a very bad move. I faintly see a gesture and I move forward into the centre of the room. The lights begin to brighten the room slightly and I was not in the slightest bit prepared for what I was about to see… their faces … the heads of animals? They begin to speak to me like they know me? Like they know why I came here and somehow… what exactly it is that I have done? This is either the craziest trip I’ve ever been on, or I’m mixed up in some very, VERY crazy shit and deep down I get the most horrible feeling that it isn’t going to be the former….
Hotline Miami is hard game to sum up for me because despite its simple demeanour this game has a LOT going on inside. Dennaton games must have summoned some form of demon for this game back in 2012 when they released this one on steam with the backing of Devolver Digital. I would love to say that I understood the game on the first try but frankly I missed a lot of tiny things that are really required to fully grasp the experience that is hotline Miami and experience is definitely the word id use for it. It’s like a top down dark souls difficulty, 80s themed, ultra-violent, rainbow six 3 shooter with a story that wouldn’t be out of touch with a really messed up acid trip.
I wish that I could say I fully understood what happened in this game but that would be a glaring lie and for once I don’t feel like that has happened because I’m just dumb. This time I get the impression that dennaton games want that to happen, for you to be left feeling a little bit like you missed something or you didn’t quite grasp it. you start the game being semi interrogated in a room by three individuals who have animal heads in place of real ones and I can’t be sure if they are just wearing them or if they really have animals’ heads for real heads. They start asking you a bunch of questions, one seems really interested to see if you know them, one is rather angry at you for an undisclosed reason and the third guy just seems really judging of what I can only imagine is the series of events that you have set into motion. If you think the game gets easier to follow after this then you would be rather wrong, it actually takes you on a bizarre journey into the surreal and this train is nonstop to the very end of the line. The game doesn’t focus on a sole protagonist though as I had originally though and instead follows the story of ‘Jacket’ and ‘Biker’ as they receive strange and coded phone calls that seem to compel them to murder members of the local Russian mafia, biker gangs and business people in the most violent of manners.
Hotline Miami ditches the bright lights and iron sights of the modern shooter in favour of a far more artsy style and top down too, has been a while since I got a crack at a good top down shooter, the games controls are deceptively simple and an absolute monster to master. With the allowance of weapon wielding and free aiming you’d think that you’d be an unstoppable machine of slaughter but Dennaton saw you holding this card and raised you an aim botting terminator A.I and they will get you with insane ease. Every. Single. Time. the margin for error in any of the games chapters is non-existent and this brings in a great little mechanic that I didn’t expect. You have the ability to hold shift and sort of free view the region around you, allowing you to spot targets in various rooms that were normally out of view and plan your moves accordingly. So the game actually has a moderate degree of strategy attached to it but don’t spend too much time planning your spree because this isn’t hitman and slow and steady is not the name of the game. At the end of every chapter you are granted a score and this comes down to a lot of things and one of them is speed! Points mean prizes kiddies and points are very generously awarded for how fast you can blast through the latest group of Russian mobsters, so you got to be quick on the draw with that view, note who’s there and get about the business of introducing them to their insides. Speaking of points though there are several other aspects that determine how well you score and the biggest of these is variety! Throughout the game you’ll be dealing with two major mechanics that affect this and these are masks and weapons, as you can expect these are VERY numerous and very locked behind an exp wall… it would be no fun to give you the good stuff right off the bat, this isn’t vanquish after all… to start with you’ll get access to the bare basic weapons of bats, crowbars, knives and some small weapons like a pump action shotgun but as you progress you’ll begin to get the ‘Good Stuff’ like a katana, a beer can, ninja stars, a dart, some scissors for a close cut and finally resulting in a silenced pistol which allows you to go absolutely crazy with your Jackson pollock recreations and attract diddly squat attention from the other goons for hire in the next room. With a total of ten weapons unlocked and the exp marker levelling out at around the 800,000 mark you’ll be replaying a few chapter (you’ll want to anyway because it’s addictive as hell) to get those last few weapons. Unfortunately, my personal favourite appearing weapon in the game is not available for use and that’s the crossbow, as much as pistols appear (non silenced ones) you don’t get a crack at those either but I feel the crossbow is a missed opportunity because I played Turok and nailing people to the wall is one of the most strangely rewarding things I have ever done. It’s just ridiculous fun.
On top of weapons we have the masks, now these obviously are the main characters ingenious method of making sure that the Russian mafia and local bikers don’t catch on to whose thinning their ranks with a beer can and an M16 and some gratuitous violence. Each mask offers something unique though except the starter one because starter gear always sucks… that’s just how it goes, if starter gear was good we wouldn’t want the shiny shiny stuff. Like the weapons these are very numerous and total 27 in all (it’s actually 26 for me as I don’t own the PS3 or PS Vita version because people still have version exclusives for reasons that escape me) now these I liked because there was clearly a good laugh involved in the naming and skills of these beauties. For starters, each mask has its own name and they are all named after people, for example you can get the Phil Fish (for those who don’t know he created Fez and then deteriorated into a man child) which allows the game to translate all the dialogue to poorly translated French, others allow better skills in hand to hand combat, weapons, allowing you to see hidden masks and puzzle pieces and almost all are earned through points so when I said points mean prizes I really mean, points mean prizes! 😀 experimenting with these masks is easily the most fun you’ll have this game. Forget what makes it easier, what you want is better hand to hand combat In a chapter where all the bald guys in white suits have assault rifles and are hardwired aim bot tools, this game is like dark souls only I don’t hate this game and It hasn’t cost me a keyboard … yet … this game excels the best when the adversity is stacked against you and it is ALWAYS stacked against you.
The art style is my last point for this because I feel it really needs some attention. Dennaton has opted for not only an 80s setting but an 80s style and the game is VERY reminiscent of old point and click adventures like Dreamweb (now there’s a throwback) it’s heavily pixel based and detail is not something that’s got a lot of attention paid to it, or at least that’s the way that it seems to come across but as you move through levels you begin to appreciate the simplicity of level design and styling. I suppose when you’re kicking in the fourth door in five seconds you aren’t really paying a huge deal of attention to the coffee table in the room or the styling of the wallpaper and its clever, the game is still great to look at though and it really evokes that 1980s style and time that its set in, the palm trees In the chapter end screen are super Miami vice and I love it. I hear that the sequel had some improved and more detailed textures to it but I have yet to see anything other than the trailer (I’m debating playing or id have watched the gameplay trailer >__>)
One of, if not THE best part of this game is the music… if you have seen shows like Miami vice or played games like GTA Liberty City then you know that the music from the 1980 or even that synthetic feel of music from that period can be a great tool for building speed and intensity in a game alongside having an obviously stellar soundtrack. For Hotline Miami Dennaton have chosen that synthetic feel over the music from the actual 1980s and it’s an amazing choice. You already drive a DMC DeLorean and there is neon EVERYWHERE, hell you even have that Miami palm tree feel when the chapter score card rocks so clearly you need the sound of the era to top things off. The lack of lyrics and use of only audio tracks keeps the pace from dipping in the game. The tracks seem to be specially chosen to keep you feeling like you’re in a rush, like it’s a haze that you must just barrel through at an insane pace. Its fast, catchy and works to keep you going head first into rooms hoping that iron bar is going to save you against six armed thugs with assault rifles… here’s a hint guys. It won’t …but the music will compel you to try anyway!
Looking at the game as a whole, singular product this has to be by far the weirdest and most mind-bending game that I have played to date and every inch of that is a good thing. It’s got such an intensity to every part of it. it reminds me a lot of the movie speed with Keanu Reeves because you feel almost compelled to keep going at breakneck speed for the score, the violence, and the sheer insanity of bursting into a bar and wasting twelve guys in the same amount of time that some people can shotgun a beer! The music and audio works so well for the game and what you want to get from it, driving you to go faster in every chapter and find new ways to waste everyone using the most absurd weapons you have at your disposal. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the story or understand what’s going on because I don’t even think you’re meant to, it’s all about the journey and the journey is the most cocaine fuelled Miami vice experience you’ll have to date and for the price of £6.99 it must be one of the best purchases I have ever made. I also hear it has a sequel so we will be getting a bash of that as soon as I get the blood of my bat and figure out how to get this giraffe mask off my face … if you can play this you should, even if its not your usual game this is an experience that I feel all should have and maybe just MAYBE somebody will be able to explain to me what the hell I just played story wise without the use of multiple lore links and some far reaching interpretations 😀 if you have played it let me know what you thought! Did you get it, enjoy it? what do you think 😛