Shooting away of a human skull has never been so fun. Beating people to death with golf clubs has hardly ever felt more satisfying. Hotline Miami is destined to become one of those initially indie titles, which later came to define the mainstream gaming industry. Mighty doses of adrenaline and endorphines delivered by the game into our bloodstream, cultural associations with the old GTA titles and early Tarantino films, and, of course, a thick topping of the 1980-s nostalgia: that's only an incomplete list of reasons to try this fiendishly game.
To start reading this article, please make sure you loudspeakers or headphones are on and press the Play button on the Soundcloud widget below. What you must be hearing now is the Hotline Miami soundtrack, the best one I have heard in years. I strongly recommend you to read the article only to this music, otherwise about 50% of its effect gets lost.
The basic mechanics of the game are as simple and straightforward as a hillbilly's language. You come in and kill everyone. The view is top down. The difficulty level is high. One hit is usually enough to bring down your enemy. Unfortunately, one hit is enough to bring you down too. Don't hope for a jolly Manhunt-like massacre: walking through the game will require possessing at least rudiments of the tactical thinking and, more importantly, tons of luck.
The game story first seems to be even more unsophisticated, but in the upshot, it turns out to be way more complex and bewildering than any other major title this year. Your character lives in Miami of the 1980-s; not the real one but rather that Miami we think people lived in back then: drugs, violence, and neon, neon, neon. This dude is a looney, wearing animal rubber masks, driving a gull-wing car, and killing people on a wholesale basis. Apart from that, he doesn't seem to be leading a life rich in events, except that now and again he receives weird calls from strangers who tell him a new address he needs to „visit“. That's basically it.
Now, you might wonder why on earth would everybody call the game good? Well, because it's good. Boiling the mechanics down to the very basic level has brought back into the game what we all have been missing in the big AAA gaming titles for so long. Hotline Miami is a game you play and not a game playing you. Just compare it with Spec Ops: The Line, a big multi-million project delving into researching the very nature of violence and bloodlust in humans. Put side by side with Hotline Miami, the AAA story by Yager Development and 2K Games looks shallow. It lacks deep insights into how the violence works in video games and the way it unfolds in the real world. When playing Hotline Miami, you'll get lots of them if you keep your eyes open. They are not served you on a silver platter and chewed over for you by a caring developer. The two Swedish guys who developed Hotline Miami are anything else but caring developers. Just to prove the point: Hotline Miami is their most conventional and sane game so far.
The fragmentary character of the story and its unpretentious gameplay join in a tight knot of fun and eureka moments when you send the brain of another pixelized villain to a flight onto the next wall. Paradoxically, the game doesn't feel like glorifying the violence or glamorizing the vice as the GTA titles did. At some point, you even feel like you're on the verge of vomiting, just as your character after one of his murders. Nevertheless, this purgatory of Hotline Miami does have a point as it eventually brings you catharsis and you quit it a better and kinder person than you were before. If it's not the ultimate reason why we play video games, then I'm sorry for you.
Picture Credit: Dennaton Games, Josh Flaherty, joystiq.com