Hotline Miami Review

Hotline-Miami-VitaI didn’t like it.  Yep, that sure is a fine way to begin a review, but at least it is effective, though a bit misleading.  But I’ll not dawdle, seeing as how I have lotsa games to review now that I have a PC.  Alternatively, I could just edit my Jet Set Radio Review, because my issues are rather similar.  But I wrote that in September of 2012, and I’ve revised stuff newer than that.

Hotline Miami Review
Release Date: 23/10/2012
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Mac OS X, Linux, PS3, PS Vita
Developer: Dennaton Games
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Rig: AMD FX-8320, 8GB of RAM, Radeon HD 7770, Windows 7 64-bit

Hotline Miami is one of those games that keeps the story rather loose and open to interpretation, at least as far as I can tell.  You’re a man only identified as unique by his appearance and desire to place animal masks over his face.  And one day he receives a mysterious phone call that he perceives as a hit after going on a sort of drug based hallucination where men wearing the animal masks he dons speak to him.  Yes, my grip on whatever is going on is a bit faulty, even after skimming over external plot details, but that’s not to say that the narrative did not captivate and intrigue me.

Although, it was greatly helped by the visuals and music that pained a surreal version of 1989 Miami.  Represented by visuals that are somewhere between a Turbografx 16 and a dosage of LSD that leaves everything outside of the few buildings the game takes place in as a series of fluctuation neon colors.  In fact, the spritework deserves special mention for being quite bold and distinct, with its often ugly characters, and attention to detail in the overhead scenery.  Alongside brutal instances of ultraviolence as the main character goes about on killing sprees, littered with intricate acts of murder packed in the game.  With the constant scan lines sealing the deal.hotline-miami4

While the synth heavy score captures the sense of bizarre held by everything else, and brings it to a new level.  It inspires a sense of dissonance and illness by itself, feeling unsettling as individual tracks but encapsulating in what is likely one of my favorite game soundtracks in quite a while.  Paired with the clear indicators of psychosis by the main character, it carries a sense of justified wrongness all on its own.

However, as I said in the beginning, I have issues with Hotline Miami, and I should now clarify that I don’t like it as a game, which is a pretty big issue.  The ultimate objective is to go into a building and wipe out all the weapon carrying men on each floor.  Utilizing everything from doors, to bricks, to uzis, to baseball bats to bludgeon enemies.  In theory it is a very fast paced strategy heavy game of perverted fun as you go through chapters racking up as many points as possible.  My main issues is that, well, I think the game is a bit too much of an asshole to anyone playing it.  Or in simpler terms, it is too hard.hotlinemiami_ss7

Now, complaining about difficulty is a tricky thing that you need to justify before opening your mouth, and the game does avoid the cardinal sin of a game where you die a lot, but making the transition back into the game almost instantaneous.  Let me begin my claim by saying that you die in one hit.  Bat, shotgun, or just a stay machinegun bullet, you’re down.  The same could be said for nearly every enemy though, as anything above a punch to the ground will take the endless men in white suits out no problem.

Unfortunately, the said men in white suits are very quick to react.  They will rush at you as fast as your slippery feet can take you, and it just takes one quick hit to bring either of you down.  The only difference is that you have more options, and they have up to twenty mates ready to run whenever they hear a gunshot, or at least in theory.  There were many instances where I was just confused as to how the enemies were programmed.hotline_miami_new_screenshot_02

Perhaps I’m just not supposed to recognize AI patterns when planning something out for the fortieth bloody time, but there are many random elements thrown in for things as broad as whether or not they will notice their friend who was ten feet away falling dead due to a shotgun blast to the back of his head.  Well, assuming I actually was able to hit him without needing to lock on in what amounts to a twin stick shooter.

Yet, even after unsurprisingly realizing that I am more comfortable with a controller, and can’t use WASD to move for crap, a superb amount of twitch reflex was demanded, but I couldn’t meet the requirements if my sore index finger and pitiful time score were any indicator.  Yes, the game oddly includes a form of ranking system represented by grades, though I’m baffled as to why.  The game employs enough stress in just being beaten, so asking the player to go through not very descriptive channels to get an A+ just seems odd.  Though, I’d say that, “Hotline Miami is probably the hardest game I begrudgingly beat.”  So I’m likely in the minority.hotline-miami_2_ss_l_120704110022

To me, Hotline Miami is one of those Style Over Substance cases.  Maybe I just am too crap at actually playing it, but I couldn’t help but feel relieved that I never had to go through a floor after clearing it once.  It is a lovely interpretation of a mentally screwy serial killer,and should be noted for a laundry list of things, yet I feel like I would’ve enjoyed it more if I weren’t playing it.

Good! (12/20)
A solid title that may be lacking in an infinite amount of different ways, or just a few big and difficult to ignore issues.  Varies based on the title, but still worth giving it a go overall!

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