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Hotline Miami

Developer: Dennaton Games Publisher: Devolver Digital
23 October 2012
Hotline Miami - cover art
Glitchwave rating
3.97 / 5.0
0.5
5.0
 
 
2,665 Ratings / 5 Reviews
#177 All-time
#6 for 2012
A masked individual receives anonymous phone calls to exterminate the Russian mafia in late 80's Miami.
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(This review is based on the game as it was on release. Some of the things covered have since been patched out or improved.)

Pointing a gun and firing comes easy in video games. Ethics and morals never factor in during those moments of decision and there certainly isn’t any remorse. These are virtual bullets reserved for virtual enemies, after all. This thoughtless violence has become central to many game narratives as of late, including Dishonored, Spec Ops: The Line, and now Hotline Miami.

“I’m here to tell you how to kill people,” a grizzled homeless man tells the player upon starting the game. As if we don’t already know.

Hotline Miami is a game about impactful killing. It asks players to focus on the details of invasion and murder that we don’t often consider in games. If Max Payne diving through a window, holding guns akimbo, is on one side of the spectrum of action games, Hotline Miami exists on the other side. And, it’s a very lonely place.

After a brief, ominous intro where a horse and rooster boss the player around, you are sent off to do some good old-fashioned killing. While the top-down perspective brings to mind Smash TV and Loaded, Hotline is not so generous with health and ammo. You’ll be lucky to find a gun with a full clip and even luckier if a bullet doesn’t send you back to the start. One bullet is all it takes, so being quiet and clever is essential to survival.

As a result, the game puts an emphasis on stealth and environmental awareness. The quicker you take down a room of enemies, the more likely you are to move on to the next. Knocking an enemy down by slamming the door, grabbing a melee weapon, and pummeling him while he is on the ground are regular acts of aggression in Hotline. There are plenty of guns, but firing one will summon most enemies in a level -- and they have plenty of guns, too. In some cases, you'll need to go in guns-blazing but it's not always the most effective approach.

Hotline doesn’t have the gentlest learning curve. Knowing when to swing a golf club and figuring out which doors you can blast through with a shotgun will take time. The game can be defined as brutal in more ways than one. There is no difficulty option and you’ll often find yourself stuck, as you try to figure out how to approach a punishing level. Dogs can’t be punched, big guys take more than one shot, and enemies can see you through windows: Finding your way through these constant obstacles gives Hotline almost puzzle game-like qualities and keeps combat mentally engaging.

Narrative and mechanics share the spotlight equally. Each level starts with a new week where you receive a new phone call, directing you to the next assignment. Once you clear out an area, you’ll head over to a pizza joint, bar, or video store for a brief story segment. Your actions are rated at the end of each chapter through killings, boldness, combos, time, flexibility (never score above a zero in this category), and mobility. The game never explains its system, but you’ll want to learn it to the best of your ability since doing well unlocks new weapons. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for masks which you can equip before a mission for perks. These perks range from starting off with a certain weapon to turning dogs into passive enemies. For whatever reason, you can't change masks at the start which can be very frustrating when you choose one not fit for the current mission or, even worse, when you choose a novelty mask without having a clear understanding of its effects (such as, making the screen look like a Virtual Boy).

I had no intention of playing this game in one night. It just kind of happened. Hotline is a game that will beat you down, enthrall you, and make you beg for mercy, often all at the same time. Brilliance is abound in Hotline. Its low-rent visuals could have been a disaster, but smart neon filters make it an oddly immersive and nauseating nightmare that you can’t easily walk away from. The soundtrack adds to the atmosphere, bordering on David Lynch and David Cronenberg fandom with a dash of ‘80s cool (think Drive). VHS shops and a sweet DeLorean are there to remind you this is 1989.

Back to the beating you down thing: Hotline Miami is 2012’s damaged gem. It’s an addictive, fun, and clever game but Goddarn if it couldn’t have used another month in development. Many if, not all, of its systems lack a layer of polish that is to be expected for a retail game. For example, its save system is a mess. Not only does the game not save checkpoints within chapters, upon leaving the game, it also occasionally will not even save when you start a new level. I had to replay an entire level as a result, which wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't the worst level in the game (and maybe the entire year -- it was a stealth level ...) I was right to play through Hotline in one sitting, because I regretted every time I exited the program.

Hotline’s controls could also have used some more work, as well. Walking with the WASD-keys and looking with the mouse feels okay but there should have been a sensitivity option for aiming. Since you’ll be dealing with large areas, you’ll need to hold down shift in order to look down a hallway. I’m baffled that the game restricts your view, yet offers a mask that increases your eyesight. This design decision often cuts into the playability of the game. The game wants you to be cautious, but how can you be cautious if you don’t even know what’s around the corner? Being able to see the entire map should have been the default option, not a bonus. Thankfully, restarting from a checkpoint happens in a flash, making for some painful stop-start sessions that bring back repressed memories of Super Meat Boy.

I blew through Hotline in four or five hours, occasionally managing to regain my breath and sanity in between intense firefights. I probably would have got through it faster if not for the misguided boss fights that act as the game’s biggest offender. These poorly designed sequences often are only solved in one way which goes against the freedom of play that the rest of the game promotes. Even worse, these fights are brutal and awkward. One has an enemy throwing Molotov cocktails that start fires that never go away. Yet, you need to fight against numerous enemies in a tiny office space. Yeah, good luck with that.

The game’s AI is dumb as rocks but it suits the pacing and style of combat. Yet, one has to wonder why enemies can’t hear their comrade’s shotgun fire or why they continue to sit on a couch after you blew their friend’s head off. Maybe it’s best to not think about these things, as they are the least of Hotline’s problems and contribute to the bizarre world the game creates. You'll be grateful of the AI's quirks once the difficulty ramps up. You'll savor every cheap kill you can get, even if it means repeatedly swinging a door to knock down 5+ guys.

Hotline is a confident and addictive shooter that stands out among releases in 2012, even though its flaws bog it down. It can be sickening at times and brutal at others, but it all builds up toward a commentary on games and pointless violence. The narrative's downward spiral of violence, insanity, and crime will not light up your day but it's very engaging in its own way. Hotline contains a surprisingly good plot full of mysteries and dark twists that players won't see coming. The morbid nature of the game won't be to everyone's taste, but it's a refreshing story for a videogame.

In a medium where taking a life means so little, Hotline Miami has a way of making each death feel significant. Each step toward a higher score is one further away from your character's sanity. Picking up the gun comes naturally, and Hotline Miami wants to explore why. The game may tease you, exhaust you, and possibly destroy you with its boss encounters and awful forced stealth level, but it all builds toward a focused, dark vision unlike much else in the medium.
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SUPER_Lonely_Panda 2016-04-05T00:17:32Z
2016-04-05T00:17:32Z
3.5
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Probably my favorite game of all time. If it isn't this it is probably its sequel although I still do have some gripes with HM2. I just will never forget the first time I played this game. I remember buying it just thinking this is going to be a fun game to play a bit. But that was not exactly my opinion on it once I got the chance to play it. I was blown away with the gameplay and it just made me feel a way that no game has ever made me feel ever. I remember sweating profusely with my heart beating at 90 mph. I had so much anxiety playing that game but that's a good thing. The best games are the ones that immerse you in their world and let you zone out from reality. And that is what Hotline Miami does for me. Although it's pixelated and minimalistic with its retro graphics, it leaves so much work for the brain and you vividly envision all of your actions in the game not through a 16-bit environment but in a realistic sort of vision. Once you put thought into it, you think about each level as surreal. You are going into these decrepit drug houses wearing an animal mask cleaning out the Russian mafia that inhabits these locations with their own weaponry. After all is cleared out, you make your way towards the entrance of the building in which you came in, stepping over the bodies of those you have defeated with this eery and ominous synth drone being pumped into your ears through your headset. Just thinking of all of this gives me goosebumps and feels so intimidating to imagine this man in a letterman jacket and a rooster mask with a baseball bat being the last thing you see as a member of the Russian mafia. One of the most important aspects of the game is obviously the soundtrack. You can't talk about this game without talking about its soundtrack. One of the best OSTs in all video games and it provides so much immersion to the dark 80's neon-filled environments of the game. Overall, Hotline Miami is probably my favorite game of all time. It's so immersive and surreal for me in a way that no other game makes me feel. So yeah. I think Hotline Miami is pretty freaking cool.

Perfect 10/10
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MookidRhubarb 2022-03-12T17:23:16Z
2022-03-12T17:23:16Z
5.0
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Extremely fun top-down slasher with a fantastic soundtrack. Enemies are dumb as hell, which is a great thing as the game is already too hard as it is. I died a billion times, but you are back on your feet so quickly that it rarely gets frustrating. I do not recommend this game on Nintendo Switch, though, unless you have the pro controller. The shoulder buttons are so tiny and hard to reach that I got cramps in a few minutes.

Even though some might be turned off by the 8-bit graphics, I thought the late-80s retro vibes combined with a trippy, somewhat surreal mood were perfect for the gameplay. The plot is very basic, offering just a few dialogues in between chapters and providing little details of level design that show how things are changing around the character. The vague events in the middle and the change of perspective in the last chapter spawned a number of fan theories, but honestly, I don't think that was the developers' intention. It's just a game to enjoy for the gameplay and overall atmosphere.
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manicure 2021-09-23T10:13:56Z
2021-09-23T10:13:56Z
70
1
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Now THIS is how you do an 80's throwback! The neon drenched aesthetics, the low brow humor and sprites and the deliciously repetitive synth heavy soundtrack all contribute to put the player in an almost dream-like (or drug-like) trance, as they gruesomely take out increasingly hard levels of russian mobsters, as the character's sanity fades away with every cracked skull and cut throat. The commentary on the trivialization of violence in video games is subtle, but effective, and that alone would make it worth the price of admission for an indie game, but, by making the senseless killing so fun and engaging, the message packs much more of a punch, since it blurs the line between you and your character, who doesn't really know what's going on but jumps from massacre to massacre without saying a word. The increased challenge and tight mechanics makes for a surprisingly deep top down shooter, which encourages experimentation and stealth, to the point it almost feels like a puzzle game, in which you have to analyze your surrounding and choose the best possible course to get though without getting shot and going back to the start, which makes the experience so much more rewarding and enjoyable than 90% of modern shooters it's not even funny. All that packed with an elusive narrative that's quite gripping, with memorable characters. Just wish the mechanics weren't so unpolished, specially the unreliable save system, that almost drives you to beat it one sitting, which is probably the case, since the game is so goddamn short, i beat it in 5 hours and took my time in a lot of spots.

PROS:
-Really satisfying and deep gameplay
-Amazingly dreamy 80s aesthetics
-Cool narrative and themes
-Clever commentary on gaming violence

CONS:
-Really clunky controls, both with mouse and keyboard and controller
-Nearly broken save system, it never quite warns you when it's gonna save
-Kinda lame boss fights
-Way too short
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palceu 2020-11-28T13:05:54Z
2020-11-28T13:05:54Z
9.0
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Hotline Miami is a game is a game I knew about for a long time but never really played back then. I knew it was a difficult game and even watched some of the gameplay videos, and it looked alright, but I guess I couldn't justify spending the $20 or so dollars it was at the time for a game that looked pretty basic and short. I'm glad I waited because I ended up snagging this up for like $4 along with the sequel on a PSN sale. Hotline Miami is a pretty solid game that relies heavily on trial and error and planning. Its a game where you have to hit your head against the wall over and over until you finally make it. The concept is simple, its a 2D top-down shooter where you go to various locations and pretty much murder everyone. You get various weapons you can grab in the levels, bats, golf clubs, pipes, multiple types of guns. The game gives you a little variety in how you approach, you can sneak up on enemies and beat them all silently with a bat, or go guns blazing and alert all the enemies around you.

The game is fairly challenging, but its manageable if you use lock on, although their are some bullshit cheap moments near the end of the game that require trial and error. But the sequel is way more frustrating and cheap than this and often you are only set back a minute or 2 max at most when you die. Then you have the story which takes place in late 80s Miami, and revolves around masked psychopaths going out on killing spree from mysterious phone calls they receive. Its a pretty basic story, but it does feel a bit like something out of a David Lynch movie almost.

I mean there's really not too much to say, the game is fairly basic and once you understand the concept and get used to the controls, it kind of gets a bit repetitive. Its not a long game and can be beaten in roughly 5 hours. Its fun to play one time for the experience and if you just want a simple game where you can just kill everyone on a blood thirsty rampage, but also a game that provides enough challenge where you do have to plan and think a little. It's nothing groundbreaking or revolutionary, but its a pretty good one off experience and a fun game to play with friends if you're looking for a game to switch the controller off between deaths.
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jweber14 2020-03-14T08:16:13Z
2020-03-14T08:16:13Z
3.5
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In Hotline Miami, each stage begins in your house, where you take a cryptic call, stating which building you need to go to. After you leave your house, you are placed by the door of the building and given the choice of what animal mask to wear; each with its own unique abilities. Then in you go to wreak havoc; eradicating all gang members in the building. Over the course of the game, you are presented with different building layouts and over multiple floors.

There's various types of mêlée weapons and guns which you can use, in addition to your fists. Mêlée attacks are silent and won't attract nearby enemies, whereas guns are noisy and attracts attention. Guns have the range advantage though and can quickly dispatch numerous enemies within seconds. You can also throw the gun long distances to knock enemies to the ground. In a similar fashion, you can use doors to knock down enemies. When an enemy is lying on the ground, you must execute him to finish him off, otherwise they will get back up, pick up the nearest weapon, and come straight at you.

You have the ability to lock on to an enemy although I didn't like this feature. It is mapped to the middle mouse button which is my scroll-wheel. I also couldn't find a way of losing the lock other than killing the enemy.

Taking one hit is instant death, and this puts you back to the beginning of the floor. It becomes a game of trial and error, and as you begin to learn the level, you will quickly pick up the pace and play with less caution. Each floor can be completed in around 30 seconds if you know exactly what to do.

Killing enemies quickly gives you a combo which is good for those who like to compete on high scores. Mixing up your killing style in addition to the rapid pace is key to achieve this.

The violence is actually very brutal for a game so graphically simple. Blood is splattered with every kill, with a cringe-worthy thud as your character staves people's heads in. Sometimes, your victims are clinging on to life, trying to crawl away leaving a blood trail in their struggle.

Enemies have brilliant vision and will even detect you if they have their back turned to you (although in this case, you seem to have about a second advantage before they react). The AI is simple and predictable though, so often enemies can be lured out for easy kills. Enemies won't react to dead bodies, so they continue on their predictable patrol route regardless of suspicious activity.

Some levels have a boss fight which are often awkward and unfair. There's a set strategy to take down the bosses, and that isn't playing to the game's strengths.

After you defeat the final boss, there's some bonus missions where you have a knife and three throwing knives, and cannot pick up weapons. Again, this isn't playing to the game's strength which is giving you the freedom to choose how you defeat enemies and plot a path through the level. Instead, you end up trying to exploit the AI to gain the advantage, so these levels aren't fun at all.

The story is vague and pretty cryptic, but it seems the main character starts losing his sense of reality as he commits more massacres.

Although the music is great, you will hear it too often, so I found myself gradually lowering the volume each time I played.

The main levels seem at the right level of difficulty. No matter how many times you die, you will feel like the level is achievable and your death was mostly down to a mistake you made; be it stepping out too far, a missed shot, or choosing the wrong type of weapon. Overcoming the challenge brings a large amount of satisfaction. If you enjoy a simple, fast-paced, brutal game with guaranteed failure for each mistake, then this game is for you.
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CaptainClam 2019-10-28T14:30:57Z
2019-10-28T14:30:57Z
4.0
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tinchou Hotline Miami 2022-08-16T06:22:33Z
2022-08-16T06:22:33Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
goddamruskies Hotline Miami 2022-08-16T06:18:13Z
2022-08-16T06:18:13Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
flymetothestar Hotline Miami 2022-08-16T03:30:34Z
2022-08-16T03:30:34Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
blankdfieldd Hotline Miami 2022-08-15T19:01:44Z
2022-08-15T19:01:44Z
2.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
jakkos Hotline Miami 2022-08-15T09:36:42Z
2022-08-15T09:36:42Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
ilya_classic90 Hotline Miami 2022-08-14T21:21:24Z
Windows / Mac / Linux/Unix
2022-08-14T21:21:24Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
bgnd Hotline Miami 2022-08-14T14:40:30Z
2022-08-14T14:40:30Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
RedMorley Hotline Miami 2022-08-14T10:34:30Z
2022-08-14T10:34:30Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
donkle Hotline Miami 2022-08-14T06:43:32Z
2022-08-14T06:43:32Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
D0mino Hotline Miami 2022-08-13T13:25:23Z
Windows / Mac / Linux/Unix
2022-08-13T13:25:23Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
stealmycorpse Hotline Miami 2022-08-13T09:52:07Z
2022-08-13T09:52:07Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
man19572160 Hotline Miami 2022-08-13T01:39:58Z
2022-08-13T01:39:58Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
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  • Previous comments (23) Loading...
  • wallrooseyes 2021-12-12 02:04:52.001967+00
    perfect game? perfect game.
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  • C001 2022-02-07 20:28:25.468925+00
    So goddamn hard
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  • ottorene07 2022-03-15 09:12:31.033206+00
    everything about this fucking game is amazing.
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  • suzannevegan 2022-04-28 00:28:14.162606+00
    ugliest thing on earth
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  • wallrooseyes 2022-05-02 00:52:29.727338+00
    thats why its so good tho
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  • m_crowley 2022-05-08 04:45:00.809868+00
    love the biker just chilling back there and reading Boobs Magazine
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    • mohee 2022-06-30 06:26:28.028982+00
      real as fuck for that
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  • cosmicjoke_astronomer 2022-06-09 02:12:35.291686+00
    Amazing soundtrack, but it's too difficult
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  • plastiquey 2022-06-20 22:17:37.021333+00
    i dont know what it is about this game that makes it better than most others when it comes to deconstructing the player's violent desires, but it seriously just.... absolutely fucking pulls it off. still one of my favorite stories in any video game even though its so barebones, its all about the player's actions and the player's desires to be brutal, and the way the game plays into violent tendencies by the game's necessarily difficult game design, making you angry, making you want to be brutal. i adore it, and thats like.... without going into everything else that makes the game brilliant.

    honestly i think this might flatout be a 5/5 for me. maybe the true ending with the janitors talking 50 blessings is lame (the ending where they mock you feels much more in line with the postmodernist angle of the game), but thats the most i would call bad here.
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