EH-OHH! A game review? Remember when I did these regularly???? Darn, oh well. Anywho, after a few years over wanting this badboi I saw it in some PS4 sale and could’nae resist getting my greasy grabbers on it.
One of the biggest games to burst out of the indie scene, Hotline Miami, first released on PC in 2012, kicked down the doors (pun intended) and merged genres in one of gore-filled, technicolour clusterf*ck, and I mean that in the nicest possible way. The frantic, top-down gameplay helped the game stick out and, coupled with the 80s-inspired aesthetic and punishing difficulty, helped it reach both infamy and critical acclaim, earning itself a bounty of Game Of The Year awards. But, that’s just the opinions of respected game critics, and we all know they don’t know shit (Journey has 92 on Metacritic) and that I, a 16 year-old indie bitch, am much more qualified to review this stuff, and that I will, godammit.
The story ‘ere was good one, admittedly, even if I didn’t really pay any attention to it (this review is lookin’ good alreaday). Taking place in 1989 Miami, you play as Jacket, an unnamed who completes various ‘tasks’ given to him over voicemail from a mysterious voice. These tasks usually end up with you making your way through maze-like buildings, wiping out the Russian Mafia in all sorts of bloody ways. Throughout the game, you are confronted with your violent actions by three cryptic, animal-masked visions.
While I thought the plot was at the same time straightforward and entertaining enough, some of the writing, especially in the aforementioned visions, were a bit smartarse-y, and kinda obnoxious. Moreover, I would’ve liked there to have been a bit more of that 80s charm, especially from a game that wears its influences so obviously on its sleeve.
One of the big drawing points for Hotline Miami, for me, was the gorious, frantic top-down shoot ’em up gameplay, giving the game a retro vibe befitting of its setting and graphic style. I wasn’t disappointing in this respect, with the game delivering on the fast-paced in spades. Before I go further, let’s get one thing straight: Hotline Miami is hard. It is difficult. If don’t like a challenge, this ain’t the game for you, and there is nothing wrong with that. I’ll admit, there are a good few times where this game is too difficult that it becomes more of a chore than a joy. That being said, if you can roll with the multiple curveballs, including AI variation, thrown at you, this is also a rewarding game.
As I said, this game is fast. One hit kills are prevalent and the enemies range from hard to HOLY-MOTHER-JESUS-WHERE-DID-HE-EVEN-COME-FROM????? Due to this, you will die hundreds of times (or at least I did) before you finally get into a rhythm and you make a bit of progress; stretching the seemingly puny 15 stages into what feels like a lifetime. The top-down perspective is also quite a throw-off, especially for gamers like me who don’t have much experience with it. That being said, when you do overcome all the challenges to finish a mission, you really feel like you earned it, and I can only praise the game for that. It’s a sense of rewarding that comes very rare in the modern gaming scene.
In all other aspects, Hotline Miami remains a battery of the senses. The 16-bit graphics come in every single colour turned to 11, with red turned to 12 as you spread brain matter on the walls like margarine. If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you’ll know of my affinity for the more bombastic colour schemes, it’s one of the reasons I’m gay for the 80s (or straight, depending on what gender you personify your decades into), and the game translates it here brilliantly, going hand-in-hand with the absolutely cracking soundtrack.
*Also, a nice little touch, if completely irrelevant, the colour of the light on the back of ya PS4 controller changes throughout each level in corrolation with the colours on screen. I liked it.
The synth-heavy, 80s-infused, neo-psychadelic soundtrack, with contributions from artists like Sun Araw and M|O|O|N (I’m not even gonna pretend to know who they are) fits the feel of the game perfectly while also having a lot of modern elements. It stays interesting enough to make a real contribution to the whole atmosphere but has enough ambience to keep from being distracting, and ended up being a really nice touch overall.
Overall, Hotline Miami was a tricky character, but a great one at that. A trippy but intense atmosphere, frantic gameplay and bundles of unique features balanced out some niggling difficult issues and story mis-steps. While I wouldn’t hold it as highly as some, I can say that, if you can stomach both stress and violence, and have a wide variety of profanity to launch at your TV, then Hotline Miami is a really fun time.
Lots of hugs, kisses and lacerations