Game Review: Hotline Miami

If an 80s nightclub and a Quentin Tarantino movie had a child, that child would be “Hotline Miami.” It’s ultra-violent, disorienting and looks like someone painted each and every pixel with the insides of a broken glow stick.

Published by Devolver Digital, the top-down shooter/beat ‘em up game was released in October of 2012 and was the first game from two-man developer team, Dennaton Games.

As gamers, we often become jaded to violence in video games since it is so prevalent within the medium. Most of us play games that look far more realistic than “Hotline Miami” where we snipe and stab enemies without so much as a second thought. However, something about the cartoon-like, 16-bit style deaths in “Hotline Miami” made me cringe on the inside. Besides the unnecessary variety of gory death animations, a big part of why the violence in this game is more unsettling that usual is the fact that the character you control seems perfectly happy about all of it.

In the game, you play as a nameless man who repeatedly gets called to kill mobsters in various locations. He shows no remorse for his actions and goes about in animal masks murdering people like he’s going grocery shopping. Of course, almost all you do in the game is kill people, so if you have a problem with video game violence, you should probably steer clear of  “Hotline Miami” entirely.

With each hit you carry out on the mobsters, you complete a chapter and unlock new weapons and new animal masks, which give you different abilities when you wear them. The challenge of the game is figuring out which weapons to use to work your way through the level and how to kill your enemies so that they all don’t jump you at the same time. Not only does all this take quick reflexes, but it also requires stealth and planning.

In case this makes it sound like this isn’t the kind of game where you die and restart chapters hundreds of times, let me be clear: it is. This game is guaranteed to raise your blood pressure. Luckily, the soundtrack is retro, trippy and most importantly not annoying, so you won’t mind hearing it loop as you attempt to clear levels.

As the game goes on, the plot gets more and more confusing, and the world gets more and more surreal. About halfway through the game, you think you know what’s going on, but no! The game pulls the rug out from under your feet and bops you with a baseball bat for thinking that you’ve got it all figured out.

If Tarantino movies and glow sticks sound like good ingredients for a game to you, then definitely check out “Hotline Miami.” It may not be for everyone, but make no mistake: it is not your average beat ‘em up.

The game is available for Windows, OS X, Linux, Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita.