Much like the 2d top down shooters of yesteryear, Hotline Miami imposes itself in a blaze of 80’s style glory. Undeniably old school and proud of it, the good folks over at Dennation Games have brought the 80’s cult violence back, complete with soundtrack and surreal storylines, can it hold it’s own as a new release?
If character relationship is a biggie for you, then be forewarned, you won’t find much here. ‘Jacket’ as the community have come to know him as at least, is your protagonist. The premise of the game involves listening to cryptic answer machine messages, arriving at the target destination and slaughtering everyone inside. How you go about it, is the inevitable draw. There are often multiple enemies to engage, all as weak as each other, get hit once however, and it’s game over for you too. Baddies can be dispatched via various means, a stealthy approach often works wonders but is slow in pace, whereas a guns blazing form might clear the level in seconds but could result in many more retries and potentially a lower score.
Controls are pretty much standard affair, aim with one stick, gad about with the other, a lock on button is available, but I found manual aim a little less sticky. Combined with guns, of which you can only hold what’s in the magazine, ranged attacks can also be be performed with certain melee weapons. Of course, flinging what is essentially your only attacking weapon across the map only for it to fall harmlessly against a wall is going to do you no favours.
Weapons are plentiful to stumble across and seem randomly selected per spawn, so usually the best approach is to have an open mind regarding each combat situation. Enemies tend to either patiently patrol their route or sit in one place until disturbed. When disturbed however, they can and will bum rush you to death! Instantly homing in on the player should you get caught bashing a door open unnecessarily. Luckily, re-spawning is almost instant and lets you play in a more freeing manner. It can occasionally come down to trial and error at times but if you aren’t playing for the highest achievable score, that shouldn’t be an issue.
Presentation is handled with the deft hands of nostalgia in mind. The top down shooter has of course been replicated before, but usually incorporating modern mechanics, this is more of a back to basics approach complete with tricky lines of sight, very low health and manual…well everything! There are two variables up to the player to make it a little less punishing, the first, is upon completing each level, you unlock a mask to equip along with a subtle hint to whether it’s an advantageous effect or not. The other relies on levelling up as you unlock more weapons that can potentially spawn in the game.
Initially Hotline comes across as a short game taking just a few hours to complete, the real longevity lies within how much effort you want to put in to attain the highest ranks. No mean feat by any standard! Interestingly, for a PSN title, a full trophy list is also present, platinum and all.
Graphically stylised to represent the famed arcade machines of some decades back, the colour palette is garish, the music entrancing and the plot, headache inducing. Hotline Miami epitomises the once golden era and transfers it beautifully to the current generation.
Reviewed on PS3, also available on PS Vita and PC.