This is the most captivating game I’ve ever played.
In the current state of gaming that promotes better graphics, advanced interfaces and timely storylines, Hotline Miami went against everything that we’re used to and returned to the fundamentals. This retro-graphic, ultraviolent, fast-paced twitch-shooter game revolves around a single protagonist and his unstable consciousness, which shifts between the reality and an alternate reality in his mind. The somewhat convoluted storyline becomes less important as the game progresses.
After finishing the first chapter of the game, it appears that the only goal is to kill every Russian mobster you see. This might sound very superficial for a game, but Hotline Miami is not some ordinary, low-production shooter. The continuous, mindless killing gradually builds up momentum as the protagonist struggles to discover what’s happening to himself. As the game reaches its climax at the end, I got confused because the ending didn’t make sense to me. I guess I should’ve paid more attention to the storyline and the talking. Therefore, I went back and walked through the game for the second time.
That’s how captivating this game is.
The story, as the name suggested, takes place in Miami in 1989. Players take the role of a nameless man who wears a letterman jacket (let’s just call him “Jacket”). One day, Jacket receives a voicemail about a cookie delivery to his home. Instead of receiving cookies, Jacket found a rooster mask inside of the package. In the midst of confusion, Jacket receives another voicemail, saying that he needs to follow some instructions and obtain a briefcase by any means. The voicemail also threatens him that he is being watched.
At this point, the player is playing a game with a mysterious character in a mysterious story. This mystery remains throughout the game as Jacket is asked again and again to take care of “problems” in various places. What at first seems like a story about a contract killer evolves into an entirely new entity, as Jacket becomes increasingly confused about which part of his life is real or fake. Is he a contract killer? Is he a psychopath? Who’s on the other side of all the voicemails? Why doesn’t Jacket contact the police and try to solve the mystery? Maybe Jacket enjoys butchering people, lots and lots of people, to a point where he doesn’t care about the mystery anymore. He just wants an address and a mask to hide his identity when slaughtering Russian mobsters.
The graphics and soundtracks of this game are phenomenal. I’m glad that the creators made this game in 8-bit because I’m sure I won’t be able to handle the blood, gore and violence of this game if it’s made into some next-gen graphics. Heavy techno music is both appropriate for the style of the game and it adds a tinge of tension to the gameplay. The music works perfectly with the mechanics of this game: if you get hurt, you die and start from the last checkpoint. In other words, no mistakes allowed. The player needs to plan and perform a perfect run in each level, which can be frustrating sometimes. In some occasions, I find myself repeating the same level 20 to 30 times. The magic of this game is that the more frustrated you get, the more you want to finish the level. You will get a solid 3-4 hours of adrenaline-filled gameplay. Trust me when I say it’s pretty addicting.