A first, and to be honest probably a rare, indie game review! I barely have enough time to play new AAA games currently, let alone play smaller indie ones, as good a some may be. Anyway, I saw this and its sequel (which I’ll get to later, I’m sure) on sale for just a couple of pounds on the PS Store and as it had been in the back of my head for a while I went ahead and brought them! Hotline Miami is a top down shooter, with a good sense of humour and a fun and quick play style, so let’s have a look!
A regular day at the office!
Hotline Miami started off released on the PC, as so many do nowadays. It was released on the platform in October 2012, then later ported to the PS3/Vita in June 2013, then the PS4 in August 2014.
It started off life as a prototype called “Super Carnage”, a small unreleased game by Swedish teen Jonatan Söderström, who eventually used it a basis for this game when he began collaborating with artist Dennis Wedin.
Safe to say that’s a lot of dead cops… and a lot of points!
Hotline Miami is played from the top-down perspective, using the twin sticks (or the mouse originally, I guess… but this is a PS4 review, so… twin sticks!) to aim and move in 360 degrees. You use melee weapons and guns you either find laying around or take off of the bodies of your victims, and stealth is a potential key tool in your planning, with melee weapons being quiet, while guns with draw the attention of any baddies in the nearby area. In fact I found myself very rarely using the guns at all, a quick rush into a room or corridor and clunking someone over the head seemed to get better results more often.
Before each stage you chose to put an animal-themed mask on, a collection of which you build up during the game, and (with the exception of the default mask) each one has a benefit or handicap, like starting with a knife, or enemies hit by doors are instantly killed. Each stage is quite small, and sometimes broken into bits, meaning when you die (and you’ll die a lot, you don’t have a health bar, your character is killed just as easily as your opponents) you’re never far away when you restart the level, which you can do instantly. It leads to a very satisfying “learn by making mistakes” method of play. You can also do special “executions” using the many melee weapons on guards who are laying on the floor.
The enemy AI is decent, they’ll run towards sounds and immediately kill you (if they have a gun, I mean IMMEDIATLEY) as soon as they spot you. There are regular goons, but also dogs, classic gaming staple “fat guy who has a lot more health for some reason”, and a couple of boss fights. You’re graded at the end of each chapter, and your score points are used to unlock new weapons that can randomly spawn in levels, and new masks to wear.
Graphics and Sound:
The boss is defeated, in painless fashion no doubt.
The graphics are 2D, and are well stylised. The sprites are more detailed than, say, the original GTA, and the gore, both on bodies and on the surroundings, are unpleasantly graphic. It’s a pleasing art-style.
The soundtrack is very 80s synth, very bassy and electronic. Some tracks were so … “vwoom-vwoom” that I had to turn my soundbar’s subwoofer down a notch or two. Sound-effects are good as well, and there is no voice acting, as you’d imagine given the smaller nature of the game’s development.
It’s pretty basic. You play as a nameless protagonist who wakes up in his flat in 1989 Miami and receives messages on his answering machine that direct him to a location where there are people to kill (normally Russian mobsters). Then you go and do it! As you progress through the story the game becomes more surreal, and the people behind the phone messages become more of a key plot point. After the credits roll there are a few bonus levels with a new protagonist who gets the same kind of messages, but is less inclined to follow them…
The guy with the shotgun has somehow not noticed the bloody corpse of his buddy just down the hall…
I had a blast with Hotline Miami. The quick-fire levels and the instant respawn made this perfect to just throw on for an hour here and there and get a good fix of exaggerated violence. I’ll admit once I’d played the story (and the couple of bonus unlockable levels after you’ve done the story mode) I haven’t really gone back to it… plus I have Hotline Miami 2 ready to download at the later date, so I’m unlikely to play it again, but it still deserves its reputation as a cult hit. It’s small, but it’s a great fun.