What drives a person to do terrible things? Is it willingness? Is it fear? Is it a belief that they have to? Hotline Miami asks players those very questions, but the answers are up to you.
Hotline Miami, the intensely violent top down brawler from developer Dennaton Games, has been gaining attention on the PC market since it released later last year. Now it’s been ported to PlayStation 3 and PS Vita courtesy of Devolver Digital, but should console players even bother with this version?
It’s easy to guess what Hotline Miami is and isn’t from just the opening. The gruesome, unsettling tutorial immediately sets a confusing, unclear tone for both the storytelling and the experience as a whole. You see, Hotline Miami isn’t a deep, involving character study about the struggles of a man trapped within his mind, unable to cope in a world he no longer can find sense in—no, it’s a game about killing people, getting revenge, and uncovering a conspiracy. The shift in storytelling is as sudden a shock as any of the main character’s delusions, and was a major disappointment in my eyes.
The gameplay, however, is tightly polished and often works well on the PS3’s gamepad. It controls very much like a twin stick shooter, with left and right stick controlling movement and direction, respectively. R1 is used for attacks, and L1 equips and discards weapons. L2 gives you a greater viewing area, and R2 is used for the almost vital lock-on.
Most often, the game plays without a hitch and the hundreds of deaths you’ll experience in Hotline Miami are your own fault. Other times, the lock-on snaps to an enemy through a wall while three other enemies are charging hard to bludgeon your animal-decorated face in. What’s worse, the lock-on stays until you tap R2 again rather than adjusting your aim with the right stick, which caused many unfair deaths and lots of frustration. A smarter lock-on system could have alleviated many of my issues with Hotline Miami.
It would have made replaying levels more fun, too, especially if your game crashes. Unfortunately, mine did three times during my time with the game. At least two of those occurred at the end of a level later in the game, causing me to have to replay several tough sections. Thankfully, the levels are short, but the bugs were enough to make me put down the controller more than once.
I’d be remiss not to mention the amazing style in Hotline Miami. The music, the art, and the surreal atmosphere are very inspired. The composers were able to find a very interesting midpoint between eerie psychedelics and quintessential 1980 synth. The rest of the game is crafted with the same eye for detail, giving the game a very unique vibe. The PlayStation version also comes with an exclusive mask that puts a black-and-white filter over the action, much like Frank Miller’s graphic novel Sin City.
It’s unfortunate that Hotline Miami has so many faults. It’s a well-crafted, blisteringly violent game that seems to have a lot to say, but disappoints at the finale. If you’re looking for a tough-as-nails throwback game with a fantastic sense of style, Hotline Miami is exactly that. If you’re looking for a game with something on its mind, then I’m afraid you’ve dialed the wrong number.