Hotline Miami (PC) [Steam Version] -- REVIEW
2012-11-15 6:42 PM PST
Hotline Miami (PC) [Steam Version]

Bienvenidos A (Hotline) Miami - Background, Story & Gameplay
Hotline Miami is a surreal, 80's inspired, blood-soaked and ultra-violent, top-down action game from Dennaton Games. Dennaton Games is an Independent company from Sweden composed of mostly two guys: Jonatan Söderström & Dennis Wedin. Their vision is an uncompromising awesome, strange, bizarre, and absolutely brutal affair. Take stealth games like the Hitman series; lots of action games; over-the-top violence and a killer soundtrack reminiscent of the movie Drive; a surreal story and style reminiscent of something David Lynch might create; and throw that all into a blender - though, that only describes part of what Hotline Miami really is. The lead character - he gets a phone call, is told where to go, and he wears a mask and basically slaughters a bunch of enemies at that location - often slaughtering enemies in some very seedy locations and often having to do with a corrupt underworld of crime and other unsettling things to strike chords and nerves with the player. I won't drift far into spoiler-territory here, so I'll leave it like that - just as the game seems to leave the player into often coming up with their own conclusions as to what this surreal game's story is actually really about.

This game is down-right brutal and violent, where every death results in something grotesque happening. Stomp an enemy's face in while they are down; smash their face in with a baseball bat; or shoot an enemy point-blank in the head to leave their head in pieces - and that's just for starters here. Blood splatters all over the place like there's no tomorrow, as well. Because of the top-down camera angle, strategy elements come into play - you might want to come up with a strategy on how to attack enemies, a room, and each area before you even perform these brutal acts of violence. There are many approaches to this game - you can go in with a stealthy approach. You can go right in, attacking enemies with melee weapons. You can play stealthy and sneak your through the level. You can mix and match all of these styles, as well. Variety is heavily rewarded, as well. The more combos you string together of quick and different kills, the more points you rack up. You methodically plan out your attacks ahead of time...and then rush in with a surge of adrenaline and let the color red fill-up the monitor. All of this, it can result in victory...or, more likely, death. Often, this all results in death. When you die, you return back to the start of the floor you died on, normally...or to the start of a boss fight, when you actually run into a boss fight. You will die numerous times, letting "ooh's", "aah's", yells, and screams fill the air - often of frustration; of awe; of accomplishment; of astonishment; or of joy; maybe even a few of those simultaneously; or maybe a few of these emotions one after another. The game is extremely rewarding, once you accomplish a level - b/c you will finally complete the level after dying numerous times and feel a sense of accomplish. After, you will be rewarded by racking up points and the game will grade you (from a low of F to a high of A) for each level you. After finishing a level, you can always come back and select a level you have unlocked, so you can try to rack up another high score; and/or try another approach to finishing the level. After you finish a level, depending on your score and grade - you will unlock new weapons and new Masks. Each Mask has their own special power-up, which you can select from wear when taking a level on - so you can slaughter your enemies. Since the game's latest patch, you can play the game with a gamepad or the keyboard/mouse - it's up to you. I played the game with the gamepad and it played absolutely fantastic with it.

Old-School, Retro Graphics
This game looks like it could've been developed in the late 80's and early 90's. Do not expect this to be a Triple-A title with the newest and greatest of graphics technology like TXAA, Tessellation and Ambient Occlusion. The game even has a fixed low-resolution, in its current state. It would've been nice if this game supported higher or better resolutions (like 1920x1080), since the game does look very pixelated. Though, this pixelation also makes sense, given the game is very inspired by those retro-games of the 80's and 90's...and plus, this is a 2D sprite-based game. This game has this hazy and blurry effect that goes on in the game as well, to take you on this brutal psychedelic and psychotic acid trip, loaded with more wanton violence than you can shake a stick at...and can swing a baseball bat at, for that matter. The game runs solid, for the most part - but it might stutter a little bit here and there, when a lot if happening on-screen. This is not every often, thankfully. Because this game is as awesome as is it, this is a very minor complaint.

A Sexy & Slick Stellar Soundtrack
Here's a link to the Soundtrack, which is streaming online from Digital Devolver:

If my words don't convince you how amazing this soundtrack is and you do not own this game yet, just give a listen to the soundtrack yourself from the above-said link and let the music speak for itself. Just absorb the sounds and landscapes the music sonically and musically paint. The music is stellar, with sexy and slick 80's and early 90's sounding synths, electronica, club-bangers, rave-inspired themes, and bass-thumping anthems. Not only is the music fantastic, but the way it is tied into the game is also outstanding - it's pretty much integral to the game and its experience. If you loved the movie Drive and its killer score, you definitely know how important the score was for that movie - and you're going to absolutely love Hotline Miami's soundtrack. Jasper Byrne, M.O.O.N., Coconuts, Sun Araw, El Huervo, Scattle, Elliott Berlin, Eirik Suhrke, & Perturbator are some of the outstanding contributors to one of the most memorable gaming soundtracks I've heard grace my eardrums in recent memory. When I think of recent great soundtracks for games, I think of the licensed soundtrack & Womb Music's score of Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines; Arcanum's unique soundtrack; and of course Bastion's trippy and off-kilter soundtrack. There's no doubt in mind here - Hotline Miami most definitely belongs in this discussion.

Conclusion...Or Is There One?
Your mileage may vary wildly on how long it takes you to finish the game, depending on how well or poorly you play the game - I've heard others say from 3-6 hours or more. After taking me around 11 hours to finish the game's Main Story Chapters; The Bonus Chapters; and the recently released Bonus Level (Highball) - this game is not just a Candidate for one of the Best Indie Games Of The Year, but also is one of the best Games Of The Year (2012). At even the usual full price of $10 (when it's not on sale), this game is an absolute steal. At $10 on Steam, GOG, and other digital download stores - this is, without question, an absolute no-brainer. Hearing the game's soundtrack itself would be worth the price-tag alone; nevermind that the game alone is worth more than the $10 price-tag. Hotline Miami is a call worth picking up during the night, so put a Mask on, and be prepared get lost into this surreal insanity...and to wherever it might actually take you.

Grade: A
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