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Review

Hotline Miami Review

  • Game release: October 23, 2012
  • Reviewed: October 29, 2012
  • PC

Hotline Miami is an intoxicating celebration of violence that will have you pounding the restart button for more.

by

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Hotline Miami is a top-down shooter where you murder everybody you see. You require nothing more than an answering machine message and an address to butcher each and every soul within the game's pixelated, 2D walls. But you're never given a reason for your psychotic actions--the focus is on the joy of murder, and though Hotline Miami can be frustrating at times, its frantic gameplay and slick presentation make for some gloriously satisfying bloodshed.

The game opens with the nameless protagonist standing in a room. And, mysteriously, there are three men wearing animal masks making cryptic comments about your identity and actions. Is this real, or some drug-induced fever dream? You're not given much time to contemplate it. The screen fades to black, and you awake in a filthy apartment in April 1989. A bloodstained shirt lies in the hall as an answering machine light blinks on and off. This is the setup for most of the 19 chapters that make up Hotline Miami. A short message asks you to "clean up" or "visit" a certain address, which is followed by a trip to a building full of supposed criminals that you must slaughter floor by floor.

You move around using the keyboard, while the mouse controls the direction you face and where you shoot. You can expand your viewing radius to spy further into the levels--an important factor, given that even a single distant gunshot can kill you. If you’re trying to be stealthy, you can opt to throw your weapon, allowing you to knock over and disarm an enemy. You can then stand over your downed foe with a tap of the spacebar and several clicks of the mouse will finish them off to brutal and nauseating effect. It's a clever system that lets you react quickly to the twitchy gameplay, which is just as well considering Hotline Miami currently doesn't support a gamepad.

Before the start of each level, you choose from a selection of animal masks, most of which have useful perks. For instance, if you wear the Tony the Tiger mask, you have faster executions, while George the Giraffe allows you to see farther. They're a neat companion to the combat system, which initially sees you taking down enemies with your fists and with a selection of melee weapons that you pick up, such as baseball bats, iron bars, knives, and swords. Enemies die with a single blow, as do you, so not being overrun by a group of bloodthirsty malcontents is key to making it through a level alive. Mixing up the weapons you use and the order in which you move through the rooms is just as important, as is getting into a close position for a brutal takedown. The environment plays its part too. Doors can be used to knock over enemies, while certain walls can be shot through. This variety ensures the action is consistently engaging over the course of the game.

If you choose to go in with guns blazing, there are lots of shotguns, automatic rifles, machine guns, and silenced pistols on offer. Gunshots attract the attention of nearby enemies, who quickly come to investigate the disturbance. And while you often find yourself shooting wide of targets, your enemies have fast trigger fingers and always hit their mark. Despite that, enemy actions are largely dumb and predictable, but this works in the game’s favour, With death always a second away, manipulating and herding baddies into your gunfire is very enjoyable. It may also seem odd that dead bodies often go unnoticed, and they sometimes stand so close to your character that they can't hit him. But the action is so frenetic and entertaining that you barely have time to notice.

One thing is guaranteed: you will die a lot. Thankfully a single button press gets you back into the action quickly, and a checkpoint system ensures you're not starting from the very beginning of a level once you've killed everyone on a floor and have progressed to the next. This encourages you to trust your instincts and play fast, rather than approach each floor methodically. Hotline Miami feels like Super Meat Boy in this respect. You frequently play one floor 20 or 30 times before you finally reach a checkpoint, but it rarely feels cruel. When you die, it's due to your own poor execution, and the run-and-gun action is so downright entertaining that replaying sections is enjoyable.

The few times Hotline Miami does get it wrong, though, are deeply frustrating. For instance, one floor starts with a few lines of dialogue that you must click through. This means that every time you restart the floor, you're forced to click through the same four lines of dialogue before getting to the action. Issues also arise in boss fights where you can't just shoot the boss dead like other enemies. Instead, you die and then respawn back to the start of the fight with little clue as to how to defeat the boss. And once you figure out some of the convoluted attack patterns through trial and error, you feel relief rather than satisfaction.

However, even the roughest parts of Hotline Miami are softened by its outstanding soundtrack and entrancing visuals. The music is a mixture of down-tempo psychedelic grooves and fast-paced electro that feels right at home with the intense visuals. The levels sway and pulsate as your character moves around the environment. Scan lines sweep across the screen while the background flashes matte colours with every kill. Death animations are absolutely brutal, with your character clubbing skulls and bisecting torsos with ease. By the end of each level, the floor is flooded with the blood and detached limbs of your victims.

The entire experience feels like a psychotic cocaine-fueled rampage, an homage to slasher movies and the drug culture of the '80s. And like most cocaine-fueled rampages, it's short-lived but memorable; you can complete Hotline Miami in two to three hours. Each level gives you a point tally and grade, so aiming for a top score is a great excuse to replay levels. You can also have fun returning to older chapters with your newly unlocked masks and their resulting perks.

It's a shame that Hotline Miami suffers from infrequent crashes, but neither these, nor the vague and unsatisfying ending, should stop you from enjoying this wonderful barrage of the senses. Hotline Miami is a discotheque of death that's very hard to walk away from, and a fantastic twitch shooter with a confident sense of style. Many games attempt to use story to explain away the massacre of outrageous numbers of victims. Hotline Miami bathes in the thrill of murder, and cares little about justifying its actions.

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The Good
Responsive controls let you play recklessly
Outstanding soundtrack
Entrancing visual design
Levels are tough but fair
Gloriously violent
The Bad
Boss battles can be frustrating
No gamepad support
8.5
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews
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Long time community member. Creator of video nonsense. Apologies in advance.dannyodwyer.tumblr.com@dannyodwyer

Discussion

31 comments
Pyrosa
Pyrosa

A gamepad is an absolute MUST with this game, otherwise the one-hit melee kills become immediately frustrating -- as in, literally the first two screens with enemies.  (Hit-distance is immediately unclear, so you're forced into a trial-and-error methodology for awhile.)  The soundtrack (and overall style) is incredibly immersive and frankly "cool".

speedfog
speedfog

With the new update it's much much much better. Played it now 3 hours with a gamepad.

Crazed8
Crazed8

I was playing this game and after bashing a guys brain in and leaving him to drown in his own blood as he cried for help I went to use the bathroom and as I was washing my hands I went "man, am I fucked up!"

Frosty192
Frosty192

When this game constantly crashed on my Windows 8 machine I was frantically trying to find a way to fix it. Once that happened, shit hit the fan if you know what I mean haha. Love this game and I will definitely buy the second.

3v1LR0n1N
3v1LR0n1N

I finally got to play this for once and i got instantly addicted... i actually am gonna buy this on ps3/vita even though i can play it on my pc :D

AMCope
AMCope

Addicting as hell.

archelius
archelius

Great game...I JUST LOVE IT...! and the soundtrack gives me goosebumps allover totally amazing! the gameplay is mind wrenching and heart pounding and insanely entertaining!

yusep01
yusep01

the best OST i remember

WithoutGraceXII
WithoutGraceXII

Picked it up for 5 on steam, and it's definitely worth that but not much more. Really short, but good while it lasts.

abcdefgabcdefgz
abcdefgabcdefgz

Theses retro games are getting bad and lazy on graphics give us 16 bit graphics at least. I mean we could have 32 bit symphony of night quality graphics and its still a retro game given all games now are 3d. Also the game needs to be long if the graphics are from days of nintendo the least you can give us is a long game.

dreamerdonkey
dreamerdonkey

This game is totally insane and over rated. I don't know why they give it 8.5. 

leeti
leeti

I wasn't interested in this game at first but I'm glad I played it, it's really great. And what a soundtrack. Everything about it reminds me of the movie Drive, which is more than awesome.

 

But also, I'll admit the way the reviewer glamourized the violence was kinda creepy.

gothemile
gothemile

I can't stop pressing R, the beat drives me and the senseless killings my word. 

chatphon
chatphon

got it from steam-deal worth it every single cent, but im hoping they'll release Level-Editor and mod stuff, and someone may convert this game to a full-gunfight-action ot stealth-base assassination game. 

Rimshot42
Rimshot42

Fantastic game, most fun I've had in a while. Simple, stylish, fast, and fun. The soundtrack will surely go down as one of the best of all time. Also I disagree with the "frustrating boss battles" aspect of the review. I beat all the bosses in far less tries than most of the floors.

HKILLER88888
HKILLER88888

Played it,LOVED it,story was cool,Bloody as hell satisfied my GORY tastes and they should put a zombie mod in it!+being able to reload!if they add RPG aspects like leveling up and having a work shop of weapons like the weapons you open you actually choose one of them  to begin the stage with!also being able to choose your path as a good guy or bad guy with different endings depending on your actions rather than finding the secrets...would make the squeal get a 10!

piedude67
piedude67

no game pad support? i saw my friend play it with a controller. Maybe she was using xpadder...

MuddVader
MuddVader

The best Indie game I've ever had the pleasure of playing. I'm glad I decided to pick it up on the steam sale

Runock
Runock

Not worth the score. I bought it and it is a solid game but cmon an 8.5 for this? it's very repetitive and not as challenging as these reviewers claim.  Maybe a 7-7.5

Alexcmuller
Alexcmuller

why wasnt this nominated for GOTY?

 

Stevenuccj
Stevenuccj

Better than BLOPS 2 and RE6.

 

Nothing better than trolling the trolls.  

outlawst
outlawst

great game,level design is fantastic .

Merciless704
Merciless704

No gamepad support takes away from this game in a MAAAAJOR WAY!!

 

That's my only complaint about it.

k3ck
k3ck

"Outstanding soundtrack" is an understatement.  This may be the best soundtrack in the history of videogames weather it be early 90s Megaman or more recent stuff, it just blows everything way.  Worth the price for the soundtrack alone.  It's that good, no joke.

ILuvGameSpot123
ILuvGameSpot123

@BellyRay ... but it isn't.

1) You can't judge a game by its looks; on top of that, there's a difference between a bad-looking game and a game with a graphical style that doesn't suit your personal preference.

2) The game plays like heaven, so if you neglect this game by its visual style, then be my guest. You don't know what you're missing; this is one of my favorite games of all time.

#Fanboy

robotquest
robotquest

@abcdefgabcdefgz Dude, the game was made by literally two people, and you pay five dollars for it. What the fuck do you want from them?

vault-boy
vault-boy

@Rimshot42 Disagree with you. The bosses where terrible in this otherwise awesome game. The last boss might actually have been the worst boss I have ever seen in a good game before, it was whether you could get lucky or not.

RealFabioSooner
RealFabioSooner

@piedude67 It was patched in later. I'm playing with an Xbox 360 controller and I must say I vastly prefer it. It's easier to move with the stick, it's quicker to look at the next rooms with LB, and way better to lock targets with R3. The downside is general targeting, which is obviously more precise with the mouse as opposed to the right stick. But better lock-on compensates for that.

robotquest
robotquest

@commuter1991 Little shuriken thingies fall down after you kill the girl, throw one, duck behind cover until he reloads, and then throw the next one.

MuddVader
MuddVader

 @Runock Its not a challenge, but its setting and style are what made it best imo.

mrac1234
mrac1234

 @Merciless704 That is outdated info - they added Xbox 360 controller support some time ago. Althrough I have't tested it yet, mouse+keyboard feels good enough for me.

mr_brown82
mr_brown82

 @k3ck i agree... incredible soundtrack.  its like owning and cd you like and having a great game to play it to.

00J
00J

 @Yams1980 Actually the graphics aren't like that on purpose, they are like that because the designers have no money, no budget. The charm is actually in the old school graphics, and the brutality of the violence. Indie designers can't compete with AAA companies with unlimited resources and personnel, so they have to fulfill their desires by making games that do something the big developers don't want to do. Look at the success of Minecraft...  

Succumbus
Succumbus

 @Yams1980 The graphics are like that on purpose. The game is creating a theme using old-school sprite models with a vintage-esque soundtrack. This game relies on learning where is what and the skill of doing it quickly. It's a fair score. It's frickin hard too.

 

I personally thought the same thing when first seeing the review. it's worth ten bucks if you're looking for a quick, simplistic, brutal thrill.

RealFabioSooner
RealFabioSooner

@eddieham13 @iHarlequin @00J @Yams1980 I'm with you on this. I do believe Hotline Miami has graphics like this on purpose, it has nothing to do with being capable of doing better or not. Few games are more beautiful than Braid and it was mostly done by one guy. Dust: An Elysian Tail is also great. This isn't an excuse anymore. You can't compete with AAA *realistic* graphics, sure, but there are tons of other ways to make really good visuals. Realism is only one of a thousand possibilities.

eddieham13
eddieham13

 @iHarlequin  @eddieham13  @00J  @Yams1980 Actually I was referring to the fact that he says small companies/indie can't do good graphics, and he used Minecraft as an example of this. I know his point was that it doesn't make it any more or less successful but I was adding that these small companies or indie can do good graphics and I gave the example of Natural Selection 2.I read just fine, you just misconstrued my point.

Hotline Miami

  • PC
  • PlayStation 3
  • PlayStation Vita
  • Macintosh
  • + 2 more
  • Unix/Linux
  • PlayStation 4
Hotline Miami has you step into the neon-soaked underground of 1980s Miami as bizarre messages on your answering machine seem to be urging you to commit terrible acts of violence.
ESRB
Mature
All Platforms
Blood and Gore, Crude Humor, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Use of Tobacco
Check out even more info at the Hotline Miami Wiki on Giantbomb.com
Average User Score See all 607 Player Reviews
7.9
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