It’s 1989, you’ve just thrown your leather jacket on, you can hear the thudding bass beats of one of Jasper Byrne’s hit tracks pulsating through your single pane window, coming from the nightclub two doors down. You grab a beer, drop your body onto the sofa; used tissues containing certain bodily fluids… fly upwards from the force. You lie there with blood spatter covering part of your face and most of your T-Shirt. The phone is showing no messages, but you know damn well that come morning, that thing will be lit up red with a message, and tomorrow will be the same thing all over again. This is Hotline Miami.
Psychedelic, action packed, combo-gasm, finger crunching, gore-fest. Those words and more describe Dennaton Games’ popular top-down shoot ’em up that looks like it came straight out of an arcade machine from the years when my granddad could drive without a seatbelt.
Every day starts in the apartment of the silent main character, who quite clearly works as a hired killer: it’s clear because he wakes up every morning to a phone call from anonymous callers disguising a contract with what sounds like a casual job or favour. You then head out, go and kill, then after you’ve done the job you go to random shops that you frequent, and the story slowly starts becoming surreal.
I won’t ruin it, but basically, you kill people, visions occur of three masked characters, you save a hooker, you get put into a coma, and seek revenge, everything is surreal, neon, and psychedelic.
What I really want to talk about is the gameplay. Normally, and personally, top down games aren’t my thing, but Hotline Miami is a game I can quite easily get on board with, and that’s because it’s so captivating, so lethal and unforgiving, and it makes you flip the bird to your monitor.
Forget surviving a crap load of bullets, in Hotline Miami, if you mess up, you’re dead; one shot is all it takes for both yourself and the enemies. (Except the bosses and fat blokes) I like that, I like how brutal the game is with you. I revel in the fact that you can instantly re-spawn the second you die, meaning you can either try another method, or keep trying the same method and keep re-spawning until it works instantaneously. I sometimes find myself doing the latter and it never working, I just end up looking like I’m stuck in a loop.
The AI is sort of random, so planning some missions won’t work. Sometimes it’s a case of just flying where the wind takes you, be it stealthily or causing absolute, fast-paced carnage. I favour the latter. If you get seen, or fire a gunshot, you alert the rest of the enemies and they all rush down to smash, or shoot you.
The soundtrack features a load of punchy, digital retro themed tracks from artists such as, M|O|O|N, Jasper Byrne, Perturbator, and Scattle. Don’t worry if you don’t recognise those names, I didn’t either until I played this game and fell in love with the OST. It’s gripping, never gets repetitive, even when the dying becomes repetitive, somehow, the music keeps you going.
You aren’t without traits and aids in the game as each level allows you to choose a mask, and each comes with its own handicap. Some feature being able to kill enemies by opening a door, another allows being hit once, and one even lets dogs ignore you.
I freaking love the game. It’s perfect for losing yourself in its trippy, far out world, it’s a game of constant, ferocious death combos, and it’s soundtrack is one to turn up and make those ear-drums pound! Although, be warned, it’s very gory, it’s very repetitive, and it may even induce anger issues. For the price, it’s a fantastic grab.