Author Topic: [Video Game] Hotline Miami  (Read 1342 times)

MiniVanMan

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[Video Game] Hotline Miami
« on: May 03, 2013, 08:22:48 PM »
I'm not really sold on the whole "indie retro" craze in gaming. For the most part it seems like game developers aren't doing a whole lot more than simply attempting to cash in on nostalgia by creating games that look, sound and play like the types of games most adult gamers of today grew up with, albeit with modern twists.

There are some real gems among them, however... Hotline Miami, in my opinion, stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Hotline Miami is played in a top-down perspective reminiscent of the original Grand Theft Auto with a decidedly 80's theme. Everything from the original synth music to the neon color palette screams 1980's.

It's a very simple game. Here's a building full of dudes, your task is to go in and apply a liberal dose of death to every living thing that isn't you. The catch is that you must possess lightning quick reflexes, or you'll die. That's no joke - slip up even once and you MIGHT get lucky and have a chance to retreat, but most likely you'll be shot and killed before you even have a chance to process what just transpired.

Yes, Hotline Miami is an insanely difficult game in which a single teeny tiny little bullet kills you, and the enemies have instant reaction times and perfect accuracy. If you see a guy with a gun in another room, you enter that room and shoot the very instant you have a clear line on him. If you don't, you'll die. You will not survive an encounter with two or more armed dudes, you must take them out one at a time, or shoot them all as you run past (even in those cases, you must react instantly).

The controls are straight forward. Use WSAD to navigate, mouse to aim, left click to attack and right click for secondary attack/interaction. Space bar is essentially your grapple key which allows you to take human shields (good fucking luck buddy) or stomp an incapacitated yet still living bad dude's head to mush.

The one key you need to become very familiar with is the R key. R stands for Reload. Not for reloading your gun, but for reloading the game, because you will die a lot. A LOT. That's OK, though, because reloading is instantaneous and the levels are small enough that the trial and error nature of the game feels more like puzzle solving than punishment for failure.

For example:

You enter a building and knock out the first guy by hitting him with the door, then quickly run over to him and stomp his face in before he gets up. You grab his dropped baseball bat and run into a bathroom. Two quick swings and the two bad guys inside are dead before they can react. Another guy passes through the hallway so you step out and throw the bat at him, which knocks him down, then you pick up his dropped gun and shoot him the moment he stands up, at which point another bad guy hears the shot and comes out from another door behind you and kills you.

Reload.

You knock down the first guy and stomp his face. Into the bathroom, smash, smash, two guys dead. This time you knock the hallway guy down with the door, then smash his face with your boot, then kill the charging guard dog with the bat, then you proceed to the next room, run inside and before you can skull the bad guy sitting on the couch, you're shot through the window you didn't notice.

Reload.

You knock down the first guy and stomp his face. Wait for the hallway guy, kill him. Run into the bathroom and kill the two inside. Run the opposite direction from before and kill the guy who shot you through the window. Run back outside and get your neck torn out by the guard dog you forgot about.

Reload.

Yes, there are those moments when a death feels cheap or unfair, but a solid 98% of the time you'll admit to yourself that you died because you screwed up.

You CAN play it slowly and methodically, but the game is designed for you to go balls to the wall. The AI is bad in such a way that you can get a big gun, fire a bullet to alert half the building to your location, then cap them all one at a time as they blindly run around the corner you're hiding behind. This doesn't work in ALL levels, but unfortunately it is a cheap tactic that can be used - however, given the extreme difficulty of some levels, you'll feel no shame in using any cheap tactic you can come up with. And you shouldn't, because the game gets just as cheap, at times.

The boss battles are a good example.

In one level, I was leaving the building after killing everyone inside and suddenly a van crashes through the door and runs me over. How in the hell was I supposed to react to that? Reload. I run to the side, only when the van stops, a guy throws a molotov cocktail at me and kills me. How in the hell was I supposed to expect that? Reload. This time i keep moving, only I get gunned down buy the guys who climb out of the van. Ok, fucking game, NOW this trial and error thing is getting to be bullshit.

All of the boss battles are like that. You don't know what to expect until you've played out every scenario. There is one specific order of doing things in each of the boss battles, and if you don't have the timing and order correct, you will die.

BUT, aside from that, the rest of the game is very addicting.

Story wise, it's quite interesting up until the "Epilogue" chapters, which I won't spoil here, but I'll say that if you've seen the movie Drive with Ryan Gossling, then you'll have no trouble drawing comparisons, even if the main characters motivations are different. And you should draw comparisons, the game's creators openly admitted to drawing inspiration from that movie.

The game is extremely violent. Even with the 16 bit graphics (or whatever), kills are often very gruesome. Especially the one where you throw a pot of boiling water on a guy and his face melts off. And remember, this is all from a top-down perspective, so for things to be that gruesome, we're talking some really sick stuff.

Every mission begins with the sound track cranking out some bass pumping tunes. You start by choosing a mask to wear during your massacre, all of which (except the default) give you some sort of "perk", like being able to kill people just by hitting them with doors, faster movement, or being able to kill with any thrown item, among many others. Since the game rewards you for recklessness, you'll find that most of the time you're running through a level reacting solely on adrenaline fueled reflexes and balls the size of watermelons. It's a workout, completing a level... yet, when that last man is killed, the music cuts out, and you're forced to retrace your steps back to the main entrance, walking back through all of the blood and bodies and carnage you created.

It's like coming down off of a high, I suppose... and it's a very somber, melancholic feeling.

It starts to make you wonder just WHY all of these people need to die such horrible deaths... and that's a theme the game explores, though the "big reveal" in the Epilogue squanders what could have been a very profound statement in the same vein as the "Would you kindly" speech in Bioshock.

Anyway, this game is definitely worth checking out. It feels dark, dirty, grimy... very grind house, very sleazy. Even with the retro graphics you can almost smell the smoke in the air and feel your shoes sticking to the floor from the spilled alcohol. The game is very much a guilty pleasure as you should totally not enjoy massacring a building full of people, even if they ARE totally bad dudes... but you do. And you continue to play until it's all over. And you never question why... but you'd be ashamed to answer if someone asked.

8/10