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Hotline Miami

Developer: Dennaton Games Publisher: Devolver Digital
23 October 2012
Hotline Miami - cover art
Glitchwave rating
3.99 / 5.0
0.5
5.0
 
 
3,031 Ratings / 7 Reviews
#157 All-time
#4 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
4.5
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Engaging storyline, satisfying and unique combat, what's not to love?
One of those games you beat yourself up for not playing or discovering sooner.
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headway8553 2022-11-05T15:07:01Z
2022-11-05T15:07:01Z
5.0
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One of my favorites
Hotline Miami is simply great. Being all the moralism and the graphics, the excessive gore and the good music, Hotline Miami is just a good game. It’s a fun game. In fact, it is an absolutely kick-ass game. Every single fight feels like a heart-pounding engagement because every single fight could (and at some point probably will) kill you. Even just that one random shmuck in a suit who got lucky with a frying pan can bash your brains out. Even the one fat dude who was sitting on the toilet can put a dent in your skull that sprays blood everywhere. Hotline Miami is like an intense fever dream where you think (and in fact know) almost everything is out to get you. The purposeful ambiguity, which was flipped on its head in the sequel, is a very pleasant thing that adds to the focus on the “vibe” of the game rather than the concrete story. The story feels more like a collection of killings than a real story, and it’s well done with that.
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Planet_Telex0609 2022-10-06T15:16:24Z
2022-10-06T15:16:24Z
5.0
21
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Excellent Twin-Stick Shooter
High-octane, intense, thrilling gameplay with a variety of weapons and opportunities for different playstyles with the unlockable masks. Just recently I started getting back into this game and there is something that makes me want to return to it after completing it, be it the achievements, wanting to play through levels differently, use different weapons or complete all the secrets in the game (which I've yet to do). gameplay is great, replay value is great and the story is quite interesting. Absolutely would recommend; you are doing a great disservice to yourself not playing this game. Oh, and I forgot to mention the music; the tracks by M.O.O.N., Perturbator, Scattle, El Huervo and more are absolutely stellar. the pulsing bass and sweeping synths in the score really fit the vibe of the game and is very satisfying to listen to. personal favourite tracks of mine are Daisuke, Paris, Hydrogen and Hotline. 👍🏾
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TemboM 2022-07-11T14:05:15Z
2022-07-11T14:05:15Z
5.0
2
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A Fantastic Game With Horrible Design Choices
If you have played Hotline Miami, you know firsthand how addictive and fun it can be. The game loop of planning an attack, going about it, and getting killed by a guy off-screen is perfect. It lets you experiment with how you can play the game. It rewards the player handsomely when they successfully carry out a plan using stealth, but will also force you to go in guns blazing. It relies heavily on your reaction time, and your ability to think on your feet.

That being said, there are points in the game where it leaves much to be desired. The horrible boss fights are lame and unfair. The one with the van is straight-up ridiculous. It spawns you in the path of the van whenever you die, so if you happen to misinput you are killed. Not to mention the Molotov thrower whose flames not only do not go away but go through walls? All while thugs spawn with shotguns trying to kill you.

It also has one of the worst stealth missions ever put in a video game, that being the hospital level. It is not rewarding in any way, as when you FINALLY complete it the only thought in your head is "Thank fucking God that shit is over!". It kills the momentum of the game and forces you to play a level that is not fun in any way, shape, or form.

You're probably reading this thinking: "Jesus he fucking hates this game!", and you'd be right. However, I also adore this game. When you finally enter the flow state and massacre everyone the feeling you're left with is unmatched. I actually got 100% of the achievements on this game in only a few hours. This, however, does not mean the game does not have its flaws.

The AI is either absolutely braindead, or omnipotent. I think this issue stems from the player not being able to see the whole map at once. You cannot see enemies outside of your view, however, they can see you. This usually is not a problem but it can lead to unfair deaths which of course send you back to the beginning of the stage. Sometimes you will enter a room and an enemy will turn around, one shot you, and go back to looking the other way. It's a weird inconsistency that I noticed pretty shortly after finishing the first few levels.

Not to mention the dogs! God, I fucking hate these things. There were many instances of me going: "Why the fuck can't you punch these things? I wanna fucking punch this stupid ass dog!". Obviously, it is simply there to be another obstacle for you to overcome, however, their increased speed means you will often die without any time to react to the situation at all.

The plot of the game is interesting I guess? It is a clever take on how violence in video games (and sex on TV) has become trivialized, and how we have become completely desensitized to it. With that being said, the story is not very interesting and honestly, I didn't really care about what was going on at all. I appreciate the abstractness and the symbolism, but it just is not my cup of tea.

Obviously, the best thing about the game is the aesthetic, which is why so many people adore this game. I may have my critiques about the mechanics and story, but yeah the soundtrack and visual style of this game are absolutely captivating. I mean what is there for me to say that hasn't already been said? The soundtrack fucks, and the visuals go crazy. The pixelated style works really well making this clean on the surface, but absolutely filthy world.

Yes, this game is hard. Yes, I am not the best at it, which may be why I think some of it is unfair. But even with these issues, I was still motivated to play every level over and over again just to get an A+ ranking on every single one. If you like video games and you're looking for something that lets you shut your brain off, but also lets you strategize and plan out your attacks at the same time, Hotline Miami is for you.

Oh before I forget, the most annoying thing about this game is not being able to turn down the sound. You can change the music, but not the special effects. Which would be fine, if the game wasn't loud as fuck. I mean seriously, the mission with the room that explodes? Good luck wearing headphones and playing that shit, I almost shit my pants when that happened. Oh, and the horrible van boss fight also has a loud ass SKRRRT when you restart. Making those moments when you die like 5 times in a row because you keep moving in the wrong direction on accident feel like absolute torture.


Good game tho
.
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BigRav 2022-08-27T07:04:45Z
2022-08-27T07:04:45Z
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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Catalog

nanowarrior Hotline Miami 2023-02-01T21:09:57Z
2023-02-01T21:09:57Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
shooter
vilthegoat Hotline Miami 2023-02-01T20:21:19Z
2023-02-01T20:21:19Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
kidpetito Hotline Miami 2023-02-01T14:31:07Z
2023-02-01T14:31:07Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
pinkertonne Hotline Miami 2023-01-31T21:29:22Z
2023-01-31T21:29:22Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
1068396 Hotline Miami 2023-01-31T15:42:40Z
Windows / Mac / Linux/Unix
2023-01-31T15:42:40Z
2.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
siickfox Hotline Miami 2023-01-31T10:39:56Z
2023-01-31T10:39:56Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
DiscipleNumbskull Hotline Miami 2023-01-30T19:43:01Z
2023-01-30T19:43:01Z
4.5
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Virevent Hotline Miami 2023-01-30T14:16:33Z
2023-01-30T14:16:33Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
bbgn Hotline Miami 2023-01-30T11:14:22Z
2023-01-30T11:14:22Z
4.5
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
molzi Hotline Miami 2023-01-30T10:48:07Z
2023-01-30T10:48:07Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
PSYCHHH0_0 Hotline Miami 2023-01-29T22:31:51Z
2023-01-29T22:31:51Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
thatoneblkguy_ Hotline Miami 2023-01-29T17:50:14Z
2023-01-29T17:50:14Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
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  • Previous comments (27) Loading...
  • 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
    reply
    • 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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  • JGar40 2022-10-08 06:57:32.041315+00
    This game simultaneously gets more addictive and sickening as you play it and it's great.
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  • feargm 2022-10-24 00:11:41.013703+00
    happy motherfuckin 10th
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  • SpiffyJUNIOR 2022-10-25 17:41:13.21301+00
    damn didn't realize this turned 10 a few days ago
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  • SUPER_Lonely_Panda 2022-11-06 13:43:49.417789+00
    Playing it on controller this time and the gun controls get awkward. Wish it lock-on was better. Meant for mouse+keyboard it seems.
    reply
    • Circuz 2023-01-03 03:09:58.666716+00
      It is 100% meant for mouse+keyboard, why are you torturing yourself
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