Alex Phillimore: (alex.phillimore-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2013-07-01 17:04:00
Why You Should Play Hotline Miami (If You Haven't Yet)
With Hotline Miami getting a release on the Playstation 3 and Vita (with cross-play support), this is as good a time as any to revisit the game and talk about its own distinct personality. Few games demonstrate quite as much character as Hotline Miami; whether taking into consideration its phenomenal chillwave soundtrack or delving into its surreal story of mask-wearing violence (that reminds me equally of V for Vendetta and Fight Club), the game is as unique to experience as it is to play.
Hotline takes everything that was good about the 80s (from its cultural and social aesthetics to its arcade games) and blends them together in a satisfying melting pot where murder and mayhem is the order of the day. Levels are constructed in a top-down manner to allow players to see into rooms before entering. As a result, the player can plan their tactics before running in and downing a few dudes with a baseball bat. While enemies generally become bloody messes after one hit, so does the player, ensuring a consistent difficulty level throughout the game's 20-or-so stages.
While the PS3 version of the game is prone to freezes (I had three during my time playing) I never found that repeating the levels to make up for lost data became tedious, given the addictive nature of the game and the multiple strategies the player can try out each time. You might go for stealth kills the first time around and then try running and gunning the next; you aren't penalised for experimenting, and randomised (and unlockable) weapons keep things interesting for the duration of the adventure. Underpinning it all is an intriguing story about revenge that becomes steadily more twisted as it progresses.
One area in which Hotline Miami particularly stands out, though, is in its soundtrack. The game's OST is one of the most original soundtracks I have heard from a video game, mainly because it doesn't sound like your typical video game music. These tracks are much more akin to music that would be released on studio albums by electronic producers, which gives Hotline a unique flavour and makes the OST enjoyable to listen to outside of the game. When playing the game the accompanying music makes everything feel intense; when listening to the music outside of the context of the game, it stands up under close inspection remarkably well. It is an outstanding soundtrack to an already stellar game.
For a low price (under $10) Hotline Miami is a great gaming experience that values gameplay over anything else. As video games modernise, there is a tendency to make games bigger and more cinematic; to sacrifice actually playing the game for watching events play out in grand and scripted ways. Hotline is pick-up-and-play gaming at its best: death comes often but respawning is practially instantaneous; and every time you die you'll get just a little bit better, ensuring that the game is ideal for purists and high-score hunters. It feels like a retro arcade game, but achievements and unlockables (as well as a branching storyline) suggest that a few modern, and much appreciated, elements have also been included in order to compliment the game for the better. Add in that incredible soundtrack and Hotline Miami becomes one of the best game packages of this generation - if you dislike computer control inputs, pick it up on PS3 or Vita; it's not to be missed, regardless of platform.