Hotline Miami Review
Something deeper is hidden within this super violent top down shooter
The video game industry is often frowned upon for its glorification of violence. Many of the bigger titles revolve around bringing death to your enemies. It is often shallow and mindless and usually comes without consequence. If you were to take developer Dennaton’s new game Hotline Miami at face value, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is just another game which adds to the indiscriminate death of other games. As you play though, subconsciously at first, you begin to feel that the game is making you think about what you are doing, at least a little bit.
High speed and hyper violence are on the agenda for most of the game. Despite the basic pixelated graphics, this is one of the most gory games you will play this year. You play as someone who seems to be a hired hitman, and the game takes place in Miami in the 80s. At the start of each level you wake up in your apartment and head to your answering machine. Each message contains a location, and then you simply go to your car and murder everyone there in gruesome fashion. It is a top down action game, with melee combat, shooting and a simple stealth system thrown in. You can pick up weapons off the ground and swing them, shoot them or throw them. Guns make noise however, and will bring everyone within earshot running to your location. Therefore I often found myself trying to complete much of the level quietly, using melee kills and staying out of sight, before finally blowing my cover and going in all guns blazing. You won’t attract attention as long as you stay hidden. If you smash through a door with someone standing behind it, you will knock them down, buying you a few extra precious seconds to clean up the rest of the room. The stealth is not sophisticated, but it is easy to use.
The AI is dumb and predictable, so you can use this to your advantage. This seems to be the point though, as even a tip on the loading screen points this out. They either stand still, or follow set paths. As you enter each new location, it almost becomes a puzzle game, as you look around the nearby rooms trying to figure out the most efficient way to kill all the guards. More often than not, your best laid plans will result in your death, but another tip on the loading screen points out that you should not be afraid to die. When the action starts, it is usually over in a few seconds, if that, because just about everyone can be killed in one hit, and that includes you. The scene afterwards looks like something out of a massacre movie, with body parts littered around and blood sprayed across the room.
You will die a lot when playing through Hotline Miami, but it is never frustrating, as the levels are short, and you instantly respawn. The few exceptions to this are in the boss encounters, where you have to watch a short cutscene each time you die. Hopefully with each death you will learn something, so the next time you try it it won’t be you lying on the floor with your guts spilling out. When you reload, the enemies will be in the same locations, and follow the same patterns. The game is certainly hard, as you will almost certainly not be able to complete a level on the first attempt. However I never found myself stuck for too long. Sometimes it is worth trying a different tactic if what you are currently doing is not working. You control the action using the keyboard to move, and the mouse to aim. Occasionally it feels a little inaccurate, sometimes resulting in an unnecessary death. However the quick turnaround time means that this does not really become a problem.