Also available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Android, Windows, OSX, and Linux
Hotline Miami is a game that I'd been meaning to play for a long time - I downloaded it on my PlayStation 3 years ago and never got around to playing more than a few levels - but had just never made the time for. In this week leading up to the Switch's launch, I figured it was as good a time as any to bash some skulls in while wearing a chicken mask. I had imported a copy of the disc release from Japan a while back (it also included a download code for Hotline Miami 2, but since it's a NTSC-J code and I have an NTSC-U PS4, that didn't do me any good. Plus it was used and idk if the code was still good), so I threw it in the PlayStation yesterday morning and started seeing how far I could get.
One of the first things one should notice - from the box art if nothing else - is that this game is absolutely dripping with style. It's like a cross between a slasher flick and an action movie left to soak in liquefied 1980s for about a week. Everything from the use of vibrant and diverse colors to the groovy af soundtrack to the character design and dialogue just scream stereotypical 1980s, and there's absolutely nothing bad about any of that. The soundtrack especially is a true treat. You're really doing yourself a disservice if you're not playing this with some kind of a sound system. Screw headphones, man; you want a sound bar and subwoofer if not a full surround sound system for this one. It's not THE best soundtrack I've ever heard in a video game, but it's definitely in my top 5.
After the style, the next thing one is apt to notice is the gratuitous gore in this game. The basic premise of the game is that you're getting mysterious messages left on your answer machine that tell you go to somewhere and kill a bunch of Russians in brutal fashions. Sometimes you just shoot them if that's the weapon you have on hand, and unless you're using a shotgun, that's relatively minimally gory. Sometimes you have a lead pipe and crack their skulls open. That's going to leave some blood and bits. If you're unarmed, you can punch them down and then sit on them, taking their skulls and bashing them into the floor repeatedly until they splatter like a watermelon. That's a good stuff; it's like popping a water balloon. This is definitely not a game you're going to want to play near your children, parents, or anyone even remotely faint of heart. At least it uses a pixel art style, so it's not quite as gory as Mortal Kombat, Sniper Elite, or No More Heroes.
In all seriousness, though, this game gets pretty heavy with the subject material, and I'm not just talking about the violence. In one of the early missions, you find a clearly abused and raped young woman in the back of a Russian mob hideout. As the game progresses and things start to seem more and more dreamlike, you talk to men who have been shot in the head, men who are missing eyes, your murdered best friend/guy who hooks you up with pizza and VHS rentals. You're forced into dimly lit rooms with masked people asking you uncomfortable questions that make you question what is real and what isn't. It quickly turns from mindless killfest into a legitimate psychological experience that really makes you begin to question what you're doing and why.
The game's difficulty is one of the things that I think is the most well done. Hotline Miami is very tough, but it's very fair. With the exception of the fat black guys, you die just as easily as your enemies, and careful planning is usually required to pass each stage, but it's only a matter of finding what that "right" strategy is and implementing it rather than some ridiculous luck based bullshit or a insanely difficult skills that must be mastered. It's the kind of game that you WILL get through with enough patience and willingness to keep trying again and again.
Hotline Miami isn't a revolutionary game, but what it does, it does very well. The narrative can be a bit obtuse at first, but like a good drama, the piece slowly being to click together. Once those piece do start to fall, you discover that what you once thought to be mindless killing is actually a story of a man held captive by threats from a powerful organized crime syndicate, a deep web of corruption, and the torment of one's own conscience at the things one was forced to do. It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, and there are going to be those who think I'm ridiculously overanalyzing the game's plot, but I thoroughly enjoyed the game in all regards - gameplay, visual presentation, soundtrack, narrative, the whole nine yards. I definitely recommend this one, and it's available on a number of platforms (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Steam, and Android).
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.