Hotline Miami takes place in an 1980s underground Miami where bizarre messages on your answering machine seem to be urging you to commit terrible acts of violence. The game features over 20 multi-screen levels with 35 unique weapons and 25 game-altering masks to collect in what seems to be one of the darkest and most unusual independent games on the scene.
In Hotline Miami you have to perfect your technique and your reflexes in order to eliminate everything organic that will appear on your screen. You can do this in multiple ways either using your fists, knives, guns, silent guns, shotguns, baseball bats, brick walls, and masks, a type of unlockable item. Each mask is based on an animal and will grant the player a skill or buff to give them advantage in combat in the shape of faster executions, more guns, the ability to survive two bullets and much more.
Levels in Hotline Miami are designed like little puzzle games, with NPCs on patrol, requiring a lot of memorization and the perfect execution. The bad thing is that even though enemies always start each stage in the same location, their AI varies slightly, causing them to occasionally move unpredictably and making it difficult to plan a perfect approach. This combined with the fact that your character is not stronger from his enemies, and doesn’t handle more damage, means that you will die more than often and once you’re dead, you need only press the R key button to reset at the beginning. What you should keep in mind though that gunshots will attract the attention of nearby enemies, who quickly arrive to investigate, doors can also be used to knock over enemies, while there are some walls that you can shoot through.
You will frequently play one floor 20 or 30 times before you finally reach a checkpoint, but thankfully this rarely feels cruel. When you die, there is no one to blame but your own poor execution as it takes only one moment of carelessness to start one level from the beginning.You’ll be trying one idea, failing, and then refining that idea a few times until you have that glorious satisfaction of overcoming all the odds against you.
When you finally successfully complete a level, the game ranks your performance, giving you more points and thus unlocking masks and weapons. Aiming for a top score is a great excuse to replay levels. You can also have fun returning to older chapters with your newly unlocked masks and their resulting perks.
You can play Hotline Miami either with keyboard and mouse or with a controller. Whatever you choose you won’t get disappointed as controls are very tight compelling the extremely fast gameplay. If it was one complaint this would be the instability of some enemies’ AI. There are times when enemies can take you down with a single shot and times that they are standing still or bumping onto walls. However for such drug-fueled gameplay these reactions don’t seem to be so much out-of-place.
Completing the game will take you around 4 to 5 hours,but more playthroughs are encouraged in order to uncover most of Hotline Miami secrets and its alternative ending.
Hotline Miami is a game that will test your skills but first and foremost your nerves and your tolerance with violence. It’s amazing how Dennaton managed to make 16 bit graphics look so sadistic. The game has no morality and doesn’t make a single attempt to hide it.
Levels are fun to play no matter how many times you die. You can die upwards of 50 times, yet just kept resetting to play. With gameplay this tight, flowing between stealth and combat with split-second tactical choices reinforced through trial-and-error, it’s hard to want to walk away. Sure its is difficult like old games, but not unfair like old, bad games.
Hotline Miami is the perfect example of indie done right. It is also a breath of fresh air and a hugely enjoyable game deserving of high praise. If you thought that GTA was the pinnacle of video game violence then you ain’t seen nothing yet. You can get Hotline Miami from Steam, GOG, Gamersgate, and Getgames.