I'm not quite sure how to describe Hotline Miami. When trying to label it, "Action Game" feels like an understatement. I think lead developer Jonatan Söderström puts it best when he calls the game a "top down f*ck'em up". The game combines elements of predatory stealth, extremely fast paced melee and gun based combat, and over the top violence into something that constantly feels fresh and tense. Hotline Miami is truly one of the most bizarre, intriguing and insanely fun games I have ever played.
Set in an alternate version of 1980s Miami, the story centers around an unnamed, mask-wearing hitman who is frequently contacted by strange voices on his answering machine telling him to go and complete seemingly normal odd jobs at certain locations (fix the plumbing, deliver a pizza, fumigate an apartment etc). But upon arrival, he instead commits extremely bloody and intense acts of violence against the mafia goons inside. After clearing out the building and leaving the bloodstained murder scene, your hitman leaves in his car and goes to collect what seems to be the pay from a variety of people. Simple enough? Think again. On top of all of this, your character has to deal with manic, strange hallucinations of people in terrifying animal masks harassing him by giving him cryptic messages. Hotline Miami's abstract and surreal plot is something very special indeed. Although it may seem vague, confusing and completely mental at times, Hotline Miami's storyline is truly gripping and well thought out, with just enough room for each player’s interpretation.
If I say yes will you let me go?
Before every mission, you get to choose one of many unlockable animal masks to wear while you commit your insane rampage of death and destruction. These masks give you special perks such as running faster, having access to more guns, faster executions and more. Once inside the location, Hotline Miami is a brutally difficult game which requires fast reflexes, precision aiming and careful planning. The goal of each level is to take out every man in the room, which sounds simple, but is complicated by the fact that it only takes one bullet from an enemy's gun or one blow from a melee weapon to kill you. In order to survive in Hotline Miami's brutal combat you have to think quickly and strategically; enemies can be knocked out by doors, get a knife or lead pipe to the face, have their skulls kicked in, stabbed from behind, be dismembered by samurai swords and much more. Guns are noisy, unreliable and can attract lots of attention very quickly, but if used correctly and in the right situation they can be the difference between your bloodied corpse on the carpet or those of 20 mafia thugs.
Uhhhh...I didn't do it...
It's like my eyes and ears are on cocaine!
Hotline Miami has an unmistakable audio and visual style that's like nothing else. The graphics are intentionally retro but also quite detailed and "realistic". On top of the pixel art style is a strange layer of fuzzy static which adds to the game's hallucinogenic feeling. Understandably this strange filter may not be to everyone's liking, but I personally did not have a problem with it, feeling like it added to the games atmosphere. The visuals may not seem like much at first, but when the bloodied bodies of 15 mafia men are left in a shot up apartment, littered with broken glass and blood splattered across the carpet, you'll come to appreciate Hotline Miami's visual style, even if you do feel like a maniac. This is a feeling you will actually quickly get used to. The game's electronic soundtrack is very reminiscent of the excellent movie Drive, this is by no means a bad thing. The music is very calm and psychedelic in some places, while being booming and intense in others.
Woaaaah! The colours man!
Hotline Miami is not a perfect game. The control settings can't be rebound to your liking and there's a strange lack of graphics settings. The game can also be quite buggy; in my first play through I got about 4 or 5 error messages that could easily be dismissed but it was still quite annoying. Hotline Miami feels like it's all over far too quickly, even if its roughly five hour length perfectly suits its gameplay and story. It's simply a game that I couldn't put down and blasted my way towards the ending credits in an enjoyable marathon play through. But with DLC on the way its length will only increase from here.
Hotline Miami is an intensely fun and unforgettable roller coaster of a game and one of the most enjoyable things I have played all year. Have fun, but don't forgot to feel bad for brutally killing a room full of Russian gangsters...and enjoying it.