Developer(s) – Dennation Games & Abstraction Games
Publisher(s) – Devolver Digital
Programmer – Jonatan Söderstrom
PEGI – 16
Inspired by numerous films and documentaries such as Cocaine Cowboys, Drive, and Kick-Ass, Hotline Miami was created by Jonatan Söderstrom, having worked on the game since he was 18, and was first released in 2012, later going on to garnish a great amount of critical acclaim from critics. On the other hand, however, I was left with a very different and much more negative viewpoint f the game, since I found there to be many complications with it, which made it nigh-on unplayable overall.
Graphics – 8/10
The one aspect of this game that I shouldn’t criticize too much, however, is its visuals. Taking place in dark, gritty, trippy, and colorful 8-BIT environments reminiscent of 80s culture, as inspired by the documentary Cocaine Cowboys, it stands as a testament to how far pixel art has come in recent years. The only gripe I have with it in this respect is that the settings and enemies can seem pretty repetitive after a while, but not so much so that makes the game seem rushed in respect of its conceptual design.
Gameplay – 5/10
Although I had few issues with the visuals of the game I had many issues with every other aspect of it; the gameplay being no exception. After having previewed the game several times, my first impressions were that it could be extremely fun and addictive, but it turned out to be everything but that. It combines top-down shooting with stealth, and therefore there is next to no fluency, with players having to constantly backtrack and start again with how mercilessly inaccessible it is. Aside from all that, it’s also one of the most repetitious games I’ve ever sat down and played. Each level simply involves that player having to run through a building, kill everything in sight, and walk back out again; the only side quest being to unlock each different mask granting the player new abilities. There is a small RPG element to it in this respect, but only one of thee abilities can be equipped at any one given time throughout any one given level, taking out a lot of variety the game could have potentially had.
Controls – 5/10
Hotline Miami’s control scheme is also a huge mess. Relying on a questionable targeting system, it can be a massive chore just to move around, let alone aim weapons, or perform melee attacks. The hit detection can also come into question at times, since not every clear-cut melee attack seems to damage enemies, making the game even more needlessly inaccessible.
Lifespan – 2/10
As well as it being an overly difficult, awkward to control, and downright repetitive game, it’s also an extremely short one, lasting no more than around 2 hours. Whilst many critics may argue that this is excusable since the developer would have been on a budget, as is often the case with indie games, I would argue against it, since there are many games out there that have been developed on a budget that has been made to last much longer; even forever. To me, it’s all down to the developer’s imagination, and I see no reason why this game could have had an endless mode to add towards its longevity at least.
Storyline – 2/10
The story in Hotline Miami is also even more of a mess than the game’s control scheme. The game follows a man called Jacket, who is forced to undertake a series of assassination jobs; all the while, his world becoming evermore surreal and having various terrible things happen to himself and the people he cares about. After the first chapter, I stopped caring about the story, since not only is it difficult to follow at the best of times, but it is also presented out of chronological order. Though the developer intentionally implemented all this, none of it worked for me at all. Once more, it’s not as if the gameplay makes up for the lack of story, as was the case with most 8-BIT games released around the time when this title takes place, 1989, so to have the story as distorted as it seems to me like more of a frustration than a surreal artistic expression.
Originality – 5/10
I can appreciate the fact that the developer attempted to make the game stand out in terms of visuals and overall concept. It also stands out in terms of gameplay, but albeit for all the wrong reasons. I’m not sure whether any significant improvements were made with the sequel, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, and there may come a time when I play and review that game, but there certainly would have been significant room for improvement as far as I’m concerned.
Overall, Hotline Miami is one of the most overrated debacles I’ve witnessed within the indie gaming scene. The gameplay is repetitious, the controls are broken, the lifespan is laughable and the story seemed about as nonsensical as a glass hammer.