Where’s the magic gone in gaming? The fan reaction to Final Fantasy XV

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How could anyone not find that a marvel to look at?

After the amazing new trailer for Final Fantasy XV debuted at Tokyo Game Show, I decided to go and have a look at comments of numerous gaming sites to see how excited people were. Although most people were praising the trailer, there were a fair few people who urgently pushed the Majesty of the trailer to one side in order to wave their negative views of the series about. RPG fanatics were up in arms simply because the characters weren’t standing still waiting for the player to click attack. The seamless combat, the open world, the interesting characters, the colossal monsters, the flawless visuals, the stunning music, the diverse range of emotions, it all meant nothing for some people simply because the combat was not turn based. Is that what Final Fantasy represents? Is this amazing series, closely approaching it’s 30 year anniversary, only known for it’s turn based gameplay?

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A powerful logo that tells you all you need to know about Final Fantasy

See, that’s something that I simply cannot agree with; Final Fantasy is a series that represents something so much for me. Final fantasy, at it’s most basic, has always been about a romance story for me. My first real turning point in gaming was seeing Squall and Rinoa dancing together in Final Fantasy VIII and watching their relationship develop over four discs and sixty hours of story. Final Fantasy VII hit me hard after watching a charming relationship develop between Cloud and Aerith, only to be cut down through a single moment that has cemented itself as one of the most iconic death scenes ever. That same game then gave me hope when Cloud and Tifa rekindled a childhood romance that’s as deep, touching and flawed as any other relationship in the series. Final Fantasy IX saw Zidane and Garnet fall in love with a storyline, similar to Lady and The Tramp, that ends with one of the most heartfelt embraces I’ve ever seen in gaming. In fact, Final Fantasy IX is full of amazing romances, there’s Steiner and Beatrix’s blossoming love amongst war and sworn royal duty; Freya’s heartbreak and hope as her longtime love, Sir Fratley loses his memory but begins to show signs of falling in love with her all over again; and then Eiko who is forced to accept Zidane’s feelings for Garnet as she develops a crush on the charming bandit. Final Fantasy X sees the epic romance between Tidus and Yuna that sees them both defy time and death in order to be together after falling head over heels for another. Final Fantasy IV has conflicted Knights Cecil and Kain vying for the same woman, Rosa, in a love triangle that still remains as important now as it was in 1994. Then Final Fantasy VI has the endearing relationship that blooms between Locke and Celes, which is represented by Locke’s bandana; a memento that actually keeps Celes from taking her own life at a critical point in the story.

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This could prove to be a powerful and heartbreaking romance

One of the main reasons that Final Fantasy hasn’t impacted me as much since Final Fantasy X is mainly due to the story not having the same kind of emotion that was present in those early romances listed. Final Fantasy XII shunned most emotion to make way for the world driven and political tale, whilst XIII had characters that just weren’t as likeable as they could have been. Snow and Serah’s relationship didn’t impress me much due to the backstory for them doing most the talking instead of actual emotional storyelling. What has struck me as most important about Final Fantasy XV is the love story that the game will be telling between Noctis and Stella who, due to their warring nations, are forced to fight each other despite how strongly they feel for one another. It’s almost like an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet except with much bigger swords and spikier hair.

It isn’t just romance though, Final Fantasy is a series about adventure that sees all kinds of relationships form amongst a wide array of different plotlines, whether they be serious, heartbreaking, lighthearted, comedic or just downright bizarre. Final Fantasy XV looks to be recapturing some of the variety that was sorely missing in the last few titles, just listen to the conversations that are shown in the trailer which range from serious to lighthearted. If you don’t feel any emotion as Noctis looks up at the moon standing proudly in the sky, with the main theme of the series playing elegantly in the background, then there’s no hope for you as a fan of the series.

Sadly, it won’t be enough for some fans though, simply due to the fact it’s not a traditional RPG. If that’s all Final fantasy means to you then I really feel as if the magic of the series’ story and characters have been lost on you. That’s not the only example though, there are many recent games that it seems people just can’t help but be negative about.

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This cast is apparently disappointing to some people

The new Super Smash Bros has recently revealed it’s full roster of characters, with a total number of a whopping 51 combatants. How could anyone possibly complain about a cast of characters this big in a fighting game? Blame Dark Pit and Dr Mario, two clone characters who have forced the game dead to some people. These two characters have ruined a game that contains Wii Fit Trainer and her bonkers set of attacks; Rosalina, who brings along the adorable Luma for a unique set of tag team moves; Bowser Jr, who has seven completely different skins based on each Koopaling; as well Pacman and Megaman, who join Mario and Sonic to form the four biggest icons in gaming. That isn’t enough for some gamers though; comments made include “Who’s Shulk”, Why has Mario got so many representatives”, “Why isn’t the game faster”? To put it simply, some gamers are never happy with the final product and want to have a negative reaction, even if the game looks great. Even the critically acclaimed darlings The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto V couldn’t come out of last gen unscathed despite being hailed as two of the finest pieces of art ever.

So why are gamers are so negative? Gaming is much more varied than films and books in terms of ways to play which means fanboyism has reared it’s ugly head. You don’t see DVD and Blu Ray fans arguing over their player of choice, yet gamers argue over franchises and consoles as if their life depended on it. Nintendo gets the most hate for this unfortunately with a large consensus being that their childish games are churned out every year with hardly any updates, even though it’s usually only a single game per each franchise that sees a release each console cycle (that are always critically acclaimed). Sony get a lot of hate for making gaming too serious, but we’d obviously have to ignore their exclusive games like Littlebigplanet, Tearaway, Disgaea, Ratchet and Clank and Singstar. Finally, Microsoft are only known for their online shooter games that have ruined gaming, even though they have the Fable series, Sunset overdrive, Project Spark, Killer Instinct and Kinect.

I remember back to when I was a child playing on my first SNES console, and then a couple of years later starting up my first Playstation 1 along with a copy of Final Fantasy VIII. I didn’t care about why each game was one each console, I didn’t care about how each game played or other people’s opinions; I simply gave each game a chance and went in with a wide eyed sense of anticipation and wonder. Thankfully, I still have that magic even today. I’m willing to give any game a chance and if I don’t like it, then at least I can say I tried to experience what other people might hold it in high regard. Gaming is still as special and magical to me today as it was 16 years ago, and I can’t wait to forge new memories and experiences with no preconceptions holding me back.

 

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Gorgeous new Final Fantasy XV trailer says to wait just a little longer

The leaked news of a Final Fantasy XV demo turned out to be true after being officially announced at Tokyo Game Show this morning. Alongside the demo announcement was the news that Tetsuya Nomura has finished his work as director of the game and is now moving his focus to Kingdom Hearts 3. More exciting though was the reveal of a brand new trailer that highlights just how ambitious in scope XV is proving to be.

After the more high octane taster shown at E3 last year, this trailer showed a vastly different angle to the game with a surprising roadtrip aspect that seems to focus on Noctis, Ignis, Gladiolus and Prompto. Some striking imagery was shown including the main boys dodging a colossal monster in their car, visually stunning country vistas as well as sprawling cities, and finally the return of the world map which has been missing since Final Fantasy XIII.

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The battles look fluid and varied enough to keep the hack and slash approach from getting repetitive

In terms of gameplay it still looks as action packed as ever; Noctis can form combos by using different weapons or even through the use of his own teammates. The trailer also showed that players will be able to traverse the world map through the use of a car, something not seen in the series since Final Fantasy VIII. A wealth of areas were shown such as barren wastelands, countryside fields, goblin infested caves and a sparkling coastline lit by the night sky. It also seems that much of the story will be told during the actual gameplay as opposed to the lengthy cinematic cutscenes that Final Fantasy is known for. This trailer has actually managed to rid me of the only worry I had for the game, which was that it might get repetitive in terms of combat. With so many varied aspects such as driving, fighting, exploring and conversing, it seems like the game will be able to sustain the usual lengthy Final Fantasy experience with some thrilling new ideas.

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It seems as though XV will have a great mixture of character building amongst the battles

The story seemed to take a step back from the political nature of the last trailer to focus on the more brotherly bond between the main four men. The fifth member, Cor Leonis, who was shown in the last trailer was, strangely, not shown here but it’s possible that Square Enix wanted to focus just on these characters for now. Stella, Noctis’ love interest, was shown with a new look but there’s still now word on whether she’ll be playable yet. Finally, a new name was mentioned in the form of a female character called Luna who could be the mysterious black haired character teased in the character lineup previously. Apart from that, this trailer belonged to Noctis and his three friends who it seems are fighting their way across the country whilst taking in the magnificent sights and sounds.

This was an amazing trailer that really managed to showcase just how ambitious and different this particular title is going to be compared to the rest of the series. It’s a brand new universe that radically blows the expectations of the series away, but considering how troubled the series has been over the past few years this could be the shot in the arm it needs. The future of the franchise hinges on this game but it definitely seems as if it’s got the chops of proving just how exciting, adventurous and varied Final Fantasy can once again be.

Final Fantasy XV demo coming early next year

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From left to right: Type-0 protagonist, Ace; Final Fantasy XV lead, Noctis

The eagerly awaited Final Fantasy XV, formerly known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII, will be receiving a demo next year according to Game Informer. The demo will, apparently, be contained on a voucher that will be included with Final Fantasy Type-0 HD for PS4 and Xbox One which is set to be released on March 17th for North America, March 19th for Japan, and March 20th for European markets. The article has since been pulled from Game Informer which indicates this could be much more than a rumour considering Tokyo Game Show starts tomorrow. The demo which is known as “Episode Duscae” will depict some of the early sections of the game but with some altered progression that will be more suited to the demo than the final game.

Final Fantasy XV was first unveiled in 2006 under the title, Final Fantasy Versus XIII, which was to be released exclusively for the Playstation 3 alongside it’s sister titles Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Agito XIII which were to make up a series called the Fabula Nova Crystallis. However, Versus XIII faced a laboured cycle that saw the release of Final Fantasy XIII, as well as two sequels centred around Lightning. Agito XIII was also renamed to Type-0 and saw an exclusive Japanese release for the Playstation Portable; Western audiences will be getting their first taste of the war epic in the remastered HD edition for next generation consoles.

Final Fantasy Versus XIII was finally re-revealed at E3 2013 under the new flagship title Final Fantasy XV for Playstation and Xbox One. The action packed trailer depicts a combat system that seems to abandon the slow paced turn based system of the series in favour of a more a stylish approach. The game centres around a prince called Noctis and his country, Lucis, which has access the final mystical crystal left in the modern world setting. Lucis is attacked by an invading country called Niflheim though which sets Noctis and his friends on a journey to retrieve the crystal and seek revenge.

As the main character, Noctis, is able to wield numerous different weapons and spells whilst also having the ability to teleport around the battlefield. The other playable characters include Gladiolus, a muscular man who is able to wield large swords as well as use his fists to fight; Ignis, a calculating man who wields light weapons as well as unique magic attacks; Prompto, a gun wielding playboy who has the unique ability to actually target enemies with pinpoint precision; and Cor, an older member of Noctis’ group who has served Notctis’ family for years. The main heroine of the game is a women called Stella who Noctis is forced to fight against despite his feelings towards her, implying the game will have strong elements of Romeo and Juliet.

More information should be released over the coming days at the Tokyo Game Show, hopefully alongside a new trailer as well. Regardless, it’s nice to finally have some new information about the constantly elusive game. Will you be buying Final Fantasy Type-0 just for the demo of XV or have you been looking forward to the game anyway since it’s PSP release?

Earthbound Review

EarthBound-Ness-in-OnettAfter having recently rediscovered my love of Ness in Super Smash Bros, it got me thinking back to last year when I first got to play this classic SNES game courtesy of a virtual console release on the Wii U. Published by Nintendo and written by Shigesato Itoi, Earthbound is the cult classic second title in the Mother series and, sadly, the only one to be released outside of Japan. It’s a whimsical tale of adventure that deftly manages to blend a colourful world with some surprisingly dark themes that will keep you thinking long after the credits have rolled.

Set in the world of Eagleland, Earthbound is still very unique due to it being set in a modern and realistic world. Instead of caves and dungeons, you’ll be traversing maze-like convenience stores and banks. This isn’t to say that Earthbound does not have any fantastical elements, but the way they are handled are unique and often comically postmodern in nature. Players take control of a young boy called Ness who is awoken one night by the sound of a meteor that has crashed nearby. Upon inspecting the meteor, Ness finds a talking bee called Buzz Buzz who tells him of a terrible future in which a tyrannical alien called Giygas reigns. Ness, armed with an ability called PSI, is tasked with changing this apocalyptic future and sets out on a journey which sees him encountering other children who with similar abilities.

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It’s amazing how this set of sprites has more personality than most modern videogame characters

Earthbound only gets weirder as the story progresses, with each quirky town inhabiting wonderfully witty characters and numerous bonkers quests. Each area is a treasure trove of the weird and wonderful; there’s Onett, Ness’ hometown which has been overrun by a street gang called the Sharks; Threed, a rundown city that has a serious problems with the ghosts and ghouls that have taken up residence; and then there’s Fourside, a New York inspired metropolis that houses an illusory neon world called Moonside. You’ll fight cults, save the love interest, cross swamps and deserts, pursue your abominable next door neighbor and journey towards one of the darkest final boss battles in gaming history. To delve any further would ruin the beauty of Earthbound, simply because one of the game’s biggest strengths lies in the moment of euphoria when you piece together all of the eccentric mysteries that reside in each town.

Graphically and musically, Earthbound still holds up extremely well. The sprites have an exuberant sense of personality with a pastel colour pallet that gives everything a clean and solid look. Characters are expressive and extremely likeable whilst enemies vary between cute, weird and menacing. Battles also take place in a unique psychedelic background that suits the weird and colourful nature of the game impeccably. Similarly, the music of Earthbound holds up just as well, with a lot of futuristic beeps and bloops interwoven throughout each song. The soothing music gives off a strong sense of hope and wonder, towns are given an almost childish tone to them through the hilarious music associated with shops and hotels, and then dangerous moments really ramp up the tension with some disconcerting ambient sounds. Don’t even get me started on the amazing piece of music that plays once you reach each “Your Sanctuary” location, it’s simply beautiful. Battles vary in music depending on the opponent but every piece suits each enemy perfectly; aliens are given futuristic sounding themes whilst feral dogs are given a more innocent and zany piece of music. The sheer amount of musical content of the game helps to combat the usual tiring sounds of RPG’s, which skilfully manage to keep the soundtrack unique and fresh even in this day and age.

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Every battle takes place in an all consuming psychedelic background

In terms of gameplay, Earthbound is a very much a typical RPG, but instead of swords and staves you’ll be wielding baseball bats and toy guns. Magic is also replaced by an ability called PSI which is split into various categories such as assist PSI, which can be used to cure status ailments or erecting shields; offense PSI, abilities mainly used by heroine Paula which have the ability to devastate enemies; and recover PSI, typical healing spells that are mostly used by Ness and, the unfortunately named prince, Poo. Jeff is a very different party member to the rest as he cannot use any PSI spells, but he does have access to some powerful items, as well as the handy ability to craft other special items that can be used in battle. Something unique that the game does is the introduction of a rolling HP counter, an addition that brings a surprising dynamic to battles when on the verge of death. Even if the character has been dealt a fatal blow, recovery items and PSI can be used to save that character from death before the counter rolls down to zero.

Outside of battle, enemies can be approached before hand meaning you have some kind of input into how the start of the battle will unfold. Surprising enemies beforehand will give your team the first strike whilst allowing enemies to get the drop on you result in them getting the first wave of attacks. There’s even the handy little ability to defeat enemies on the spot should your characters levels be of a much higher number than your enemies. It also brings a few unique ideas such as the ability to call your father to save, as well as a bank account that has more money put into it as you beat more monsters; this money can then be retrieved from numerous cash machines scattered around the world.

Other than that, you’ll move about like typical in the genre, you’ll speak to town citizens for information, go shopping for weapons and items, and most likely get lost when trying to fathom where your next destination. That brings me onto the only negative of the game; Earthbound can be too obscure for its own good which makes progression a sometimes difficult affair. This is only made more frustrating by the slow pace of movement and counterintuitive menu system that requires a few too many clicks before speaking, swapping items and saving. Earthbound’s weird objectives and clunky menu might prove to be more taxing than the bosses of the game, but as long as you persevere and look for every clue, you’ll no doubt find a solution after a while.

Earthbound is a delightfully weird game that has a variety of interesting and dark themes lying under it’s childishly colourful surface. You start the game with a simple request that leads to a journey like no other, ending with a nightmarish last boss that will stay engraved in your mind forever. It’s a game about growing up, facing the hardships of life and making friends that will stand by your side to the very end. Even today it’s presentation, story and music are like no other in the medium and it’s a damn shame that the series is still as obscure as it is. To put it simply, if you have a Wii U then this game is a must have and a serious system seller for the ailing console. Earthbound is an unforgettable experience that will take any adult player back to the wonder of being a child; it’s a world where any meaningless thing has the capability of being an amazing and colourful adventure.

Even though obscurity and a slow pace slightly hinder Earthbound, this is a game packed with so many amazing ideas that it’s hard not to flow with the madness. It’s an experience that still remains unparalleled in any art form; not bad for a little RPG made 20 years ago.

Score: 9/10

 

Claire Redfield will be fighting evil in Resi Revelations 2

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It has been revealed in a series of info and images that Claire Redfield, sister to series protagonist Chris, will be making her playable return in the sequel to Resident Evil Revelations. Gamesmaster magazine’s November issue has disclosed that Revelations 2 will see two playable characters in the form of Claire Redfield, who will be bringing back her combat skills from previous Resident Evil titles, and a new character called Moira, daughter of the iconic Barry Burton. Hopefully Moira will be making her father proud with some bad voice acting and cringy one liners.

Other information has also revealed that  the two heroines are abducted and left to fend for themselves on an abandoned island detention facility that houses some new kind of zombies to the series. The new enemies to the game are called afflicted which, despite having a zombie like appearance, are much faster and considerably more brutal. Combat will also be carrying on the more atmospheric nature of the original Revelations, whilst adding some new unknown features that have been said to set this title apart from the rest of the series.

After seeing so much of Chris and Leon in the series, it’s nice to finally see some of Resident Evil’s other characters having their chance in the spotlight. Hopefully we’ll get the opportunity to see whatever happened to Rebecca and Billy since we last saw them fighting for their lives back in the Gamecube days. Actual gameplay footage for the sequel should be shown at the Tokyo Game Show in a few weeks, but these details should keep the series’ fans happy until then.

So are you happy about the new information or would you have preferred some other characters and more traditional gameplay instead?

 

 

 

Sony’s Pre-Tokyo Game Show brings some great announcements

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Here’s the face you’ll be seeing a lot of in Persona 5

For the past few years, Sony has held it’s own small pre-TGS conference before taking the larger platform at the Tokyo Game Show. This is usually just to announce a few smaller games and frivolous additions such as new console colours, but this year’s pre-TGS show brought some exceedingly more exciting game reveals that should help to boost the ailing Playstation 4’s sales  in Japan.

One game that’s had a lot of RPG enthusiasts talking upon it’s intriguing reveal was Persona 5, which is part of the increasingly popular Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series of games that combines elements of dungeon crawling and dating simulators. Atlus finally showed some animated footage of game which depicts the main character making his way through an urban setting, much like the Iwatodai setting of Persona 3. The end of the trailer also revealed that the game will be coming for Playstation 4 as well as Playstation 3 in 2015. No gameplay was shown but the actual main Tokyo Game show may expand upon today’s tease of the highly anticipated game.

Capcom finally put the rumors and leaks to rest by announcing Resident Evil Revelations 2 with a creepy live action trailer that appears to be show zombies instead of the aquatic creatures of the last game. It was also revealed that Chris and Jill will not be returning as the main characters of the game and will instead be substituted by some new fresh faces to the series. The game will be coming to be Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC in 2015, although it’s surprising that the game will not be coming to Nintendo platforms considering the 3DS origins of the first Revelations game.

Sony ended their conference on the announcement of a new Dragon Quest game, Dragon Quest: Heroes, being helmed by Omega Force who are known for their work on the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors series. Not much was revealed about the game other than the fact it will be much more action orientated than the usual traditional RPG battle system the series is renowned for. This marks the return of the Dragon Quest  series to Playstation platforms since the Nintendo exclusives Dragon Quest IX and X. The game will release in 2015 exclusively to Playstation 3 and 4.

Sony also announced a few other games such as Disgaea 5 which will be exclusive to the Playstation 4, and a new YS game that will be coming to Playstation 4 and Vita. A new title for the Danganronpa series was revealed entitled Zettai Zetsubou Shoujo: Dangan-Ronpa–Another Episode, as well as a new Phantasy Star game called Phantasy Star Nova. Luminous Arc Infinity and Way of the Samurai were also shown for the Vita. Bloodborne, the brutal “From Software” game, was also finally given a February 5th 2015 Japanese release date, whilst The Order: 1886 was given a new gameplay trailer.

All in all, this was a great little conference that highlighted Sony’s commitment to all three of it’s current consoles, in Japan at least. Some big name exclusives were shown and announced today, whilst some were teased for the actual Tokyo Game Show conference in two weeks time. The playstation 4 hasn’t been selling nearly as well in Japan compared to Western territories but some of these announcements should help to entice some more sales for the next gen platform.

 

 

 

 

Hotline Miami Review

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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.

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Dozens of massacred bodies becomes a typical sight as you complete each level

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.

Score: 8/10