With the recent release of Hotline Miami for the Playstation 4, I thought that now would be the perfect time to review this incredibly twisted tale of revenge, betrayal and violent retribution. Just to note that the game is also available for Windows, Playstation 3 and the Playstation Vita which are all more or less the same in each aspect.
With obvious influences from the 2011 film, Drive, Hotline Miami tells the story of a man known only as “Jacket” who is given assassination missions over his phone. These assassinations form the basis of each playable level which the player must complete a few of per chapter. Each chapter of the game is book-ended by a Lynchian segment in which “Jacket” is confronted by three masked figures who allude to a much more surreal story that the player must attempt to piece together. Tonally, the game is the perfect mixture of noir tropes and characters, surreal imagery and grimy violence, all of which manage to depict a detestably delectable world, not at all dissimilar to that of Frank Miller’s neo noir comic and film series, Sin City.
The top down gameplay is the definition of brutal; nearly anything in each level has the capability to wound or kill your opponents. Doors can be strategically opened to daze enemies, weapons are strewn throughout the area to be used and thrown at the player’s disposal, and some enemies can even be used as shields and bargaining chips to get the upper hand on situations. Players can also choose a particular mask to wear before each level, which all have their own advantages such as making more guns appear or being able to take more than 2 bullets before death. The gameplay moves to a quick beat, with death resulting in an instant reappearance at the start of the area to try again. Death will be an exceedingly frequent affair for the player, but the brisk pace allows you to quickly study areas and evaluate enemy movements. No matter if you approach each level with a carefully formulated plan or a bullish sense of bloody carnage, Hotline Miami will reward the player when the level is completed with points allocated for every violent scenario you could possibly imagine.
The pixelated style adds to the gritty nature of the game, and creates a great deal of irony when considering just how gruesome some of these sights would look with realistic graphics. It also allows the game to use some interesting and startling imagery as the surrealism starts to weave it’s way into the plot. It evokes the sensibilities of when videogames were about dropping coins into an arcade machine and immersing yourself in world of desensitized madness. The music is as top notch as a game like this can be; violent club music rumbles in the background of the bloody encounters; experimental reggae stylishly oozes a sense of grim pleasure and belonging, in the filthy forgotten corners of the city; and a Drive-esqe piece of music adds a great sense of relief and hope when “Jacket” drives home through the sun soaked streets of Miami.
Hotline Miami is full of extra content that will keep you occupied for ages. Levels can be challenged again with new masks and available weapons, and there’s also secrets scattered around for you to find. There’s even a completely different scenario that can be played after the end credits, which helps to evolve the story into new and even more surreal areas. The sheer amount of content and gameplay options keeps Hotline Miami from ever getting too repetitive; a pitfall many indie games have fallen into in the past.
Hotline Miami is a brutal and unforgiving tale of the destruction of both body and mind. The gameplay is quick and fun with a wealth of content that will keep players coming back for more. It may be a little too violent and surreal for some people but there’s a definite method to the madness that will appeal to those who like a stealthy and action approach to their games. With a sequel on the way, now is the best time to experience the sheer insanity that is Hotline Miami.