Published on July 2nd, 2013 | by Mitch Concannon
Hot Top Down Madness | Hotline Miami Review
Summary: If you are thinking you will enjoy the game after all the hype, then I advise you to pick it up. Have fun now, thank me later.
The whole top down perspective view has never been a popular game type in my mind. So I was skeptical when I heard that this is how I will be playing my way through Hotline Miami. I leave my feelings at the door and go into all my reviews with an open mind, and even if I didn’t, I’d still see myself falling in love just as quick as I did with Hotline Miami. There is great depth and feel in the game, even though you could blow through if you have enough skill. Most games try to get creative with their story, but no Hotline Miami. The game’s hook is the “I know I can do that mission quicker and better” feeling you get.
You’re not going to get the deepest narrative in a game with Hotline Miami, instead the game is truly based on mastering your skill and going for better scores. However, don’t expect the game’s narrative to be a throwaway. Hotline Miami‘s plot is interesting, despite it just being there to progresses the gameplay. The story does dwell on your subconscious, and along with its incredible soundtrack, which is like nothing you have ever heard before. Add in the fact that those two elements were why many of my friends went out of there way to get this game adds an extra layer of icing on the cake.
In Hotline Miami you are an unnamed silent character that is trying to regain their memory. The game opens with you talking to 3 men, all wearing animal masks…and get used to seeing a lot of these masks in the game, because you wear one going into every mission. The strangers are try to get you to remember them, and at the end of each encounter they leave you with some advice for you to ponder until your next meeting. Honestly, I didn’t ever ponder, I just went and created havoc and forgot everything once I stepped outside of the car.
Hotline Miami takes place in…wait for it… Miami during the ’80s. Each mission has you take on rooms of thugs, which don’t pose much of a threat in the beginning, but further into the game will have you laughing by how quickly they can kill you. These deaths never felt cheap. I understood what my mistakes were, which were mainly tied down to trying to beat my friends’ leaderboard scores.
You have a wide variety of weapons to choose from and more will be unlocked over time as you progress and as you gain better scores in missions. Also, you will unlock more masks that add buffs, such as starting with a knife in each level or running faster. Guns are beneficial, but can cause heartache since there noise will catch the attention of guards in range to your location. Bats, knives, and swords are close encounter weapons which can be thrown to knock over enemies and can take out guys silently, but big groups can be overwhelming.
Gameplay is Hotline Miami‘s strongest mechanic. It’s nothing overly complicated, but it does what every game should do, and that is to be fun to play over and over again. Even after dying over a 1000 times across 14 chapters I never got bored with it or overly annoyed, because I knew I wasn’t fast enough or I set myself up wrong.
The game is not going to set any new standards due to the fact it looks like a SNES game, but to appreciate the style it is trying recreate and recognize it looks gorgeous. We are in a generation where to get ahead you need to look and play the part. Hotline Miami believes that it doesn’t have to set a bar, so it focuses more on the fine art detail of games of the past and recreates what gamers from an older generation had experienced with a nostalgic tone, along with a fine sense of appreciation and care.
If it’s not the gameplay that wins you over, it will be the sound design, mainly the soundtrack. In all my years of gaming I have never been so taken aback by a choice music for a game. In its retro way it just conveys waves of emotion that tingle through you and set the tone from start to finish in Hotline Miami. The soundtrack is nicely paced and ramps you up for encounters that even though you could be stuck in the same room for 10 to 30 minutes, you never stop and say “God, I’m getting sick of this music.”
The soundtrack keeps you calm in a way, which is good, considering the amount of times you will end up dying when trying to get a grade A+. Also, the music fits the setting perfectly. Personally, I have never been to Miami, but watching as much TV as I did growing up and playing games like this years ago, I believe the game perfectly captures the Miami feel through its art and sound.
Hotline Miami is so approachable you won’t ever need to look up a guide to learn how to play. The intro level takes you through using fists for fighting, as well as close range and long distance weapons. The tutorial does this so quickly that you will feel like you have been playing the game for 2 hours after the first 10 minutes. It is very easy to lose track of time as the game sucks you in so much, if you have a girlfriend prepared for her to get angry with you for being late for bringing her to the pictures.
Hotline Miami is an outstanding game and feels right at home on, PC, Ps3 or Vita. The majority of my time playing the game was on the Vita, which has a little added bonus to use the touch screen to see further in the game. Some would say that would be a disadvantage, but I was more impressed by the fact that I was playing a great game on my favorite handheld device. Also leaderboards add more fun when competing with friends. Pick up Hotline Miami the first chance you get.