Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform: PC, Mac
UK Price (as reviewed): £6.99 Incl. VAT
US Price (as reviewed): $9.99 Excl. Tax
Hotline Miami is an action game. You play it from a top-down perspective, controlling your aim with the mouse and your movement with the keyboard, like the tank-games of old. Unusually for a tank-game though the focus is more on melee weapons than guns, with the silence of a sword proving more useful to your nameless assassin as he storms across 1980s Miami.
Unfortunately though the focus on melee weapons conspires to make Hotline Miami an uneven game overall, especially since some aspects of it are at odds with each other. The top-down viewpoint is meant to give you a strategic view so you can plan ahead, for example – but that’s undermined by unpredictable enemies who’ll very occasionally veer off their standard patrol routes.
Hotline’s saving grace though is that it doesn’t punish you for dying – you just respawn at the start of the level and charge forth once more. An unfair death is therefore little more than a fleeting frustration and, though these annoyances can stack up, Hotline retains enough charm to be worthwhile on the whole. Seven out of ten.
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Hotline Miami is a work of art. You play first as one, then as another masked assassin, both of whom are swept up in events beyond their control but are really just window dressing for a wider point; that you’re playing yourself. And you’re a mass-murderer.
‘Do you like hurting people?’ asks one of your possibly-maybe delusions in an opening cutscene and the answer doesn’t even need to be said. You’re playing the game, aren’t you?
The usual route for games which make this point is to bombard you with guilt about your brutality, as Spec Ops: The Line did. Hotline’s too subtle and ingenious for this though and instead pushes your broken reflection back at you – that of a blood-covered man with a chicken’s head. You’re a monster and it’s in presenting this so slowly and delicately that Hotline Miami proves it’s brilliance. Ten out of ten.
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Hotline Miami is disgusting. It’s literally one of the most unpleasant experiences you could typically be expected to pay for and, while the gratuitous gore contributes to that impression, it’s not the whole story. The game actually goes out of it’s way to be sickening, with flashing lights framing every one of the tiny, punishing levels and a camera that constantly rocks in opposition to your movements. It feels gross even before you get to the awful brutality which characterises your every interaction.
Then, as if that weren’t enough, there’s the nonsense story which glorifies the worst excesses and paranoia of the 1980s in a baffling fusion that’s part Scarface, part Jacob’s Ladder. The final minutes see the developers attempt a last minute rush to assemble meaning from the madness, but it’s for nought. This is murder-porn, plain and simple.
As with most similar games, such as Manhunt, Hotline Miami seems to justify itself as some sort of art or social commentary, but don’t be fooled. There’s only a crass, meaningless spectacle on offer here – one that’s deplorable on every level and a worrying sign for videogames as a whole. One out of ten.