Review Solstice: Hotline Miami

Hotline Miami is such a different beast than any game that’s been released this year. It takes the grit and pace of any previous action game to date and takes out all the fat and crap in between. The game tries to be a much faster installment of the original Grand Theft Auto titles that were entirely in two dimensions, but of course without any driving and a fantastic 80’s vibe thrown in the mix.

Hotline Miami is most likely not a game you’ll enjoy, or stick with. It is however a game you need to try.

It’s take on violence through simple mechanics is extremely fresh and compliments how simple and quick violence in real life can be. Playing this game is like having a seemingly bad dream then waking up feeling like a complete badass.

This is you, those guys are just jealous.

You can only do a number of things in the game but what your enemies and their dogs (such a pain) do determines your decisions and how fast you have to make them. The player’s character can pick up, throw, and use any weapon they find in the game from baseball bats and throwing knives to silenced pistols and shotguns. Wearing different animal masks also affects how everything in the world acts around your abilities – my favorite allows “fast executions.” Executions are any attempt at using your fists to kill an enemy either by punching or while they’re knocked to the ground.

Makes all gunshots silent – this breaks the game completely.

Doors you open will knock enemies over (this is so very important) and throwing weapons at them will cause the same effect. Every little mechanic in the game feels like just another way to beat the level until about half way through the game. Once you reach larger and tougher levels with dogs and windows, enemies will spot you from everywhere around the map and you need to find one (or two) ingenious ways of killing them all. This game, more often than not, ends up with about 20 men dead in a small corridor.

Because of the AI and it’s small list of mechanics you’ll often find yourself playing the game for the tactics and finding out what the game will make you do next. There are of course some enemies that need to be defeated in certain ways, but most grunts are easily dealt with by knocking them to the ground and caving their head in.

How most levels end.

Obviously if you’re not into gore this game isn’t for you, but it teaches a great lesson to the player about violence and how quickly something small can escalate into something troublesome.

The game’s visual style is shocking to say the least. Everything is neon (even the floor sometimes) and the level will tilt when you do, making for some crazy distortion when you first boot up the game. The blood also paints the rooms and dead bodies some how blend into the floor, making you even forget that you’re walking over one of many men in white suits that you’ve murdered.

Even though the art is repetitive, killing so many men that look identical isn’t only a comment on the need to distance yourself from people you’ve wronged, but also of the fashion sense during the 80’s.

Post-mission screen.

The game is of course, most of the time, a relentless blood bath; it does make a very distinct effort throughout the game of giving you a second to step back and reflect on your crimes as the game’s protagonist. Finishing every mission by walking from the top floor of a building and over bloodied corpses you’ve left in your wake is one method of this. Other methods are smaller missions that place you in a situation where you aren’t able to kill anyone, such as picking up a pizza or renting a movie. Going from running through an office building with a machete and going to pick up pizza after is all the contrast you could ask for.

Initially this pacing feels alien to any player but after so much time spent in the game it starts to truly make sense, which is slightly unnerving. The same way that watching three hours of K-Pop (Korean pop music) videos starts to add clarity to their madness.

Still from the game’s trailer. No game play, but distinctly relevant.

The conversations can be completely skipped, but you’ll have to do it one line at a time adding a sort of “yea yea yea” to the way you click on the mouse. I’d say that in any other game this would be an oversight on the designers part. In Hotline Miami though everything feels all too put-together to make the decision of disabling a “skip all” button feel without reason. It feels like it’s meant to be a decision on your own part to ignore what wisdom three men in animal masks have to tell you in a dream (this happens a lot.)

Following the directions of men you don’t truly know if a distinct theme of the game.

Every element of Hotline Miami has two purposes in them, on the surface and below it. The violence is of course the most shallow aspect, but it does serve to give you some deed of your own to reflect on. When you play the game it’s likely that at some point you’ll look back at something you’ve done and blame it on the developer of the game.

The thing to realize is that the game gives you so many points in the game (after every mission) that slows down its pacing and gives you a breather. If at any of these points you decide to stop playing you’ve made a decision about your point of view on violence in games. Whether you play the game at all is a decision but once Hotline Miami has you in its grips your decision to continue playing or not is a much more meaningful one.

Drive - Hotline Miami with less murder and a better looking lead.

Drive – Hotline Miami with less murder and a better looking lead.

If the game wasn’t enthralling enough you’ll notice immediately when booting up the game, and then again a few hours in, that it has an incredible soundtrack. It’s early-80’s dance vibe is strangely perfect for violence and brings out the best in you as you snake your way through the game.

Hotline Miami’s AI (even though it can be buggy) and making the most of out a small list of mechanics makes it a definite standout for 2012. Although all the pieces of it are niche on their own, the game’s designers made excellent use of the story to enhance game play and determine its user base on its own terms.

Even though many people judge it wrong of me to suggest so, everyone and their moms should play this game. Most of you won’t enjoy it but the game teaches a bold lesson that’s not seen enough in any medium in modern society, and it does it in every way that video games are able to.

Both great questions. See if you can answer them.

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Find the game’s soundtrack here. I suggest listening to Hydrogen and Paris first.

The game is found HERE on Steam.

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Find other reviews of this title below:

Gamasutra Review: Why Hotline Miami is an Important Game

Rock, Paper, Shotgun Review: Wot I think: Hotline Miami

Joystiq Review: Hotline Miami Review: Dial M

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