Hotline Miami

To begin with I should probably retell about how I came across Hotline Miami. I was pretty broke, as a student such as myself often is, but then the Great Overlord Gabe Newell saw it fit to bless Steam users with the annual Steam Summer Sale. A bonanza of bargains of varying quality. I like the Steam Sales particularly because it gives me a chance to pick up the ‘Flavour of the Month’ indie game for usually under a couple of pounds. Last snatch was The Binding of Isaac, a great little title that I thoroughly enjoyed playing. Although I didn’t get too far, something I intend to eventually fix. However, in the Summer of 2013, that is this Summer, this title was Hotline Miami. A trippy and violent retro flashback to the 80s, a decade that I was not born during so of course I know nothing about, but I’ve been assured it’s accurate…

To begin with, as usual, the visuals come up for discussion. Being an indie game Hotline Miami doesn’t even the graphical ‘quality’ to think about such words as ‘high definition’. The graphics to me looked very ’16-bit’ and were very stylised, again as indie games often are.  However, this isn’t bad in any way. Some gorgeous pixel art exists and most of it is from games from the ’16-bit’ era. Games like Super Mario World, Chrono Trigger, Link’s Awakening and the SNES Final Fantasy games have graphics that have only matured like a fine cheese. Hotline Miami taps into this and the game looks nice. The thing that jumps out about the graphical style is the colour. The colour is vivid and intense and wonderful and fits wonderfully to the hectic, murderous, drug fueled rampage that comprises the game’s story. Truly a visual style that is appropriate and pleasant, a combination any game should strive for.

Since I mentioned the game’s story, I guess that should be discussed next. I’ve heard it said that this game’s story is not to be taken too seriously and that the aim of the developers was to prove that story is not required for a good game. But I’ll try and give a plot summary anyway. You play as ‘Jacket’, who is a man, with a jacket. He wakes up and there are messages on his answering machine telling him, in a series of heavy euphemisms, to murder hundreds of members of a Russian gang. During the respites in Jacket’s blood spattered rampage he is accosted by characters wearing the masks that Jacket himself wears on his sprees and grill him on various aspects of his new found life. The questions helpfully voice the players own wonders about what the shit is going on.  You follow Jacket’s efforts to uncover what the hell is going on and murder hundreds of people gleefully along the way. Meanwhile these is a couple of prologue chapters that reveal a little more but there is a lot of aspects, such as ‘what the fuck was going on?’ and ‘did any of that actually happen?’ and ‘seriously what was going on?’. So yeah, the plot isn’t that important.

Meanwhile, what is important is the gameplay and the gameplay is very good. You control Jacket from a top down perspective and you go around killing hundreds of enemies with a satisfying varieties of melee weapons and guns.  The controls are simple and effective. I feel like it’s best played with Keyboard and Mouse for the record, it feels more natural and allows for quick changes of the way Jacket faces. The satisfying crunching noise of crowbar hitting face, the graphic death animations and the small penalty for death (press R to Retry) will have any player eager to jump back in to the face-crushing, Russian-slaughtering action. Really, there’s not an awful lot to say. I can tell you that you will try levels multiple times, it’s all about finding the correct timings and order in tactics with which to slaughter anyone who stands in your way. The aforementioned masks add some pleasing variety as well, each mask with a different bonus that vary from having your unarmed attacks be lethal to having the entire level dimly lit, reducing enemies’ cone of vision. More than anything the masks add tonnes of replay value to a game that already has loads of replay value simply through the virtue of being incredibly fun.

Hotline Miami has, overall, not a lot to talk about. It’s very simple but in doing so is awesome. I have often harked on about how simplicity is often a merit to games, allowing the player to be quickly involved and to immersed more easily. That isn’t to say that games that are complex are bad, in many ways a complex game is better by rewarding players for putting more time and effort into the game meaning that the player feels more rewarded upon the games’ completion. Having said all this, the visceral, bloody simplicity of Hotline Miami goes a long way. The game is simple to play and relatively difficult to master. Some areas of the game can be challenging and the feeling that you get when you run through a house smashing the shit out of a platoon of Russian gangsters has few rivals. I would rank Hotline Miami as a must get if you can. I was lucky and got it on sale, but the game is still pretty cheap even off sale and certainly less than the typical AAA game that is being constantly peddled these days. Hotline Miami is simple, fun and more importantly it sets an example for the future. People in the games’ industry need to see that these types of small titles are much better for the consumer than the constant excretion of the same bloated entrances to the same old series again and again. Hotline Miami is the cure to that disease.

Hotline Miami is a fun game that you should all buy. I liked it at least, I hope you will.

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