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Hotline Miami

" D O   Y O U    L I K E    H U R T I N G    O T H E R    P E O P L E ? "

 

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Hotline Miami is one of the hottest indie games out there, created by Dennaton, a two-man team of Swedes, along with a small group of musicians lending their creative touch to set the beautifully brutal atmosphere to the game. Set in the neon-soaked streets of 1989 Miami, it not only calls back to the decade of decadence, but also to the simpler days of gaming, with its tasteful pixelated art style and challenging gameplay.

 

You start the game as an enigmatic, silent, and unnamed protagonist, known only by his most defining feature; Jacket. After learning the key points on how to murder people from a homeless man, (and then summarily murdering him afterwards,) the game takes a surreal turn. You walk in on a group of three people, sitting in chairs, wearing animal masks, all the while flies are buzzing around pixelated filth. One is hospitable, one is hostile, and the last one, who wears the same outfit as Jacket, with a cruel-looking rooster mask, coldly questions your psyche, and whether you're currently residing in a false construct of your imagination, or reality.

 

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After this bizarre cutscene, you find yourself in an average looking apartment, directed towards picking up your phone. Before (almost) every level in the game, you will be picking up this phone, and given an address, with cryptic messages ranging from babysitting to housekeeping; all with a certain address. From there, all you can do is hop in your silver DeLorean.

 

Where the game excels in style, it certainly needs substance, and Hotline Miami's combat delivers. The game makes a point to give you tips in between loading screens about how to stay alive and rack up more points while doing so. Outside of the initial doorway to wherever the mysterious Hotline has sent you, a menu pops up with a series of different animal masks, more of which are unlocked based on your progression through the game, and the amount of points you acquire throughout the levels. Each mask is uniquely named, and gives you a different ability, or allows you to start with a certain weapon without having to pick one up in the building you're about to enter.

 

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After donning the mask, you're free of activating prompted events or going where the game tells you; you are free to do some real damage. Your goal is to clear each building you arrive at of Russian mobsters, taking out the commie trash and putting it where it belongs; six feet under. Along with masks, you also unlock weapons that will either be laying around the level, or wielded by the mobsters. Should you knock one of your enemies out, whatever weapon you have can be used in a gruesome execution... some of my favorites include shattering a glass bottle, which then gets impaled through your foe's face, along with pouring a pot filled with scalding hot water all over a downed enemy, causing their sprite to turn pink and squirm around before dying.
 

With a wide variety of weaponry combined with empowering executions, you would think that you're some unstoppable badass. This is far from true. If you have the right mask, you might be able to get hit once without immediately dying; otherwise, every bullet, bat, or steel pipe that these mobsters hit you with will send you back to the entrance of the floor you started on. This can get tedious depending on the placement of the enemies and which path you can take, but with enough effort and patience there's a way to get through it, even in the extremely difficult boss battles that occasionally show up. After procedurally killing everyone in the building, a dark, brooding droning plays in the background, contrasted to the catchy beats that play when you actually have people to slaughter. The game prompts you to return to your car, and you get the final score of how well you did, represented in a letter grade, and a playstyle, such as "Combo Trainee" or "Executioner." A relaxing track plays as you review your grades, along with what weapons or masks you've unlocked.

 

In between these stressful stages, you get a small break, and get to visit your favorite pizza place, VHS store, and bar... each conspicuously ran by the same bearded man, who is extremely friendly, and gives you everything for free.

 

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As the game continues, the scenes get more and more surreal and dreamlike in between your murder sprees, and while on the surface it seems to glorify cold-blooded killing and reward you for it, the tone just gets darker and darker, and through clever symbolism and thematic execution, you may find yourself questioning whether you should be enjoying all this horrible murder and violence you're committing. However, if you're looking for a coherent story given to you straight forward, Hotline Miami does not deliver in this regard. There is something going on behind the scenes, and you can piece together some of the puzzle (literally) to find out more about the plot, but in the end it still remains pretty cryptic.

 

Where the game shines so gloriously though, is the music. Not all of it is geared towards that "retro vibe" that other games have tried to accomplish; the tracks set the mood of different parts of the game, intentionally repetitive in some stages, but complex in others. Some tracks are a little too simple and tend to get a bit overdone with the repeated beats, but others capture the action movie tone, and jump-starts the ultraviolence.

 

 

Many have called this a "glorified flash game," however, the effort put into the smooth, fast-paced gameplay, along with the sheer wealth of moods that the trippy arcade-styled graphics and bumping synth music bring to the table, makes Hotline Miami stand apart from other games, perhaps even big budget titles that often fail to meet expectations or hype.

 

In conclusion, I give Hotline Miami a

9/10

+ Glorious visuals and music

+ Fluid and challenging combat

+ Interesting thematic tone set through gritty dialogue and violence

- Story is a bit jumbled in favor of surrealism

- Some of the music gets a little too repetitive in some stages

- Unforgiving boss fights

Tucker933 likes this

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