Developed by Dennaton Games
Published by Devolver Digital
Played on: PS3, PS Vita/PSTV
Also available on: PS4, Microsoft Windows, Linux, MAC OS, and Android
It’s 1989 in Miami, and your enjoying the relaxing heat and the sounds of the ocean. You get a call from a mysterious number, telling you to deliver cookies to an unknown address. You get in your car, and drive over. You pull up to the address which happens to be filled with members of the Russian mob. You get out of your car and don a rubber rooster mask, before entering the building and smashing everyone’s head in with your bare hands and the help of a lead pipe. Once the job is done, you get back into your car and drive home, with the massacre you just committed seeming like a dream, you give no thought to it. The calls keep coming, and you have no choice but to answer them. You have strange dreams about walking into stores, where a disheveled looking man talks to you about your crimes. Yet you are unaware of what he speaks of. The days get longer and the missions more dangerous, but you have no choice but to do as they say, even if it means losing your own life.
Hotline Miami is an over the top, violent, top down shooter, that mixes elements of pure action and stealth. The game has 15 chapters following the main character, known as jacket guy, with four epilogue chapters starring a different character, known as the biker. The goal of each level is to kill everyone inside of a building without dying. This is done by using a variety of weapons, both melee and firearms, to dispatch the Russian mobsters that lurk on each floor. At the beginning of each level, the player will choose a mask to wear. Each mask has a different ability, such as starting out with a knife or being able to take one bullet before dying. Every mask can be used on any level, with each serving a certain playstyle.
With the game having a top down perspective, it can mix together action and stealth perfectly, as the player can see into other rooms without the enemy seeing them. This creates a dual approach on how to take the level. Since the game showers you with a multitude of ways to splatter your adversaries brains across the walls, the player can use melee weapons to silently take the mobsters out, moving quickly and sticking to the walls to avoid detection, or can pick up an assault rifle and open fire on the gangsters, creating confusion and disorder among the enemy. This keeps the player on their toes though, as those they are hunting can use the same tactics.
Sometimes though, the game will force you to work with a certain style of gameplay to complete the level, as the level may only give the player guns or melee weapons. But this also keeps the player ready, as they need to be able to use every weapon in the game.
The game does a great job of forcing the player to be creative in how they kill enemies. Instead of always defaulting to the assault rifle, there were times I had to use melee weapons to not alert other guards to my presence. But at the same time, the game is so fast paced that if I get caught with a melee weapon by a mobster with a gun, I need to get the hell out of dodge and find my own gun, or quickly maneuver myself to knock the guy out and take his gun.
The game has a scoring system that is determined based on the actions the player took within the level. It judges the player based on how fast they completed the level, how long they kept a kill streak going, and how they killed the mobsters, with melee weapons rewarding more points. The scoring system doesn’t have that much of an effect on the gameplay other than unlocking new weapons and masks.
Enemies have a certain diversity to them, with the AI being mostly predictable with the guards walking around in different patterns. But there were many times when the AI would wander off pattern, forcing me to rethink the new plan I had hatched after dying.
Speaking of which, you will die a lot in this game. The game offers few checkpoints, if any, with the enemies being able to kill you in one strike of a baseball bat to the head, or one bullet to the chest. This requires the player to look ahead, and plan what they’ll do next to avoid death. While the enemies die just as quickly as the player, there are more of them. Some levels have over twenty guards to eliminate. But the game does a good job of balancing this out, giving the player large spaces to roam about and plan. The AI only sends a few guards to investigate gunfire and other disturbances, as not to overwhelm the player and lock them in an inescapable loop of death. The game makes death very reasonable and fair. I never felt that I died because of a glitch or cheap AI. And death is rewarded to a certain extent, as the player learns what to do next time and how to obtain the highest score possible, with the game even telling the player that in one of the loading screen tips.
To be honest, there isn’t much else to the game other than that. It does remain very fun though. But let me move onto the story. The story is incredibly vague, never revealing much of anything, even when the game ends. Much of it is up to player interpretation, which has lead to some interesting theories online. I really did like the mysterious vibe to everything. And think that it adds to the game’s cult status.
If I had to recommend this game on any platform, it would have to be the Vita, specifically the handheld version. Dennaton added two bonus levels and some cool features to the game using the Vita’s touchscreen. They added an ability that allows the player to tap enemies to lock onto them, and move the map around by dragging their finger across the screen to look ahead. This addresses one of the games few issues: the lock-on system. In the home console version of the game, the player has to click R2 to look ahead, and the game only locks onto the person the player is facing, rather than locking on to the closest enemy. This led to a lot of unnecessary deaths for me on the PS3 version, because if a mobster was right next to me, I would click the lock-on button, only for the lock on mechanism to tag an enemy behind a wall, or who is farther away from me. But other than this, the game is almost free of issues.
After beating the main game, the epilogue is unlocked. The epilogue is made up of four missions that act as a a sort of prequel. The player will take control of a new character, known as biker guy. The gimmick of these levels is that biker guy cannot pick up weapons. He starts out with three knives that he can use to stab enemies or be thrown to take out enemies. This makes the player act really carefully about how they go about killing their adversaries, now that they have to get in close for the kill and can’t fall back on picking up an assault rifle to kill everyone in an entire room. And while this epilogue doesn’t explain much of anything about the main game, other than a boss battle and few smaller details, the epilogue chapters do add quite a bit to the game, even if they are some of the shortest levels.
In conclusion, Hotline Miami is a fast-paced and fun game. I absolutely love the gameplay, no matter how many times I died. The epilogue levels are also great, with lots of extra gameplay components added to keep the game interesting. And the best platform to play on is the Vita, with the game having touch integration and two extra levels to add to all the gory fun. I can recommend this game as an immediate buy, especially for those who want something to go on the go.
I am giving Hotline Miami a 9 out of 10
Excellent AI and level design
An alluring story with lots of room for interpretation
Lock-on system on console is inaccurate
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