previews\ Oct 19, 2012 at 7:30 am

Preview: Hotline Miami is a pleasantly brutal blood fest


If I could only use one word to describe Hotline Miami after spending some time playing it, I’d say the game is bizarre. Thankfully, I’m not restricted to using only one word, so I can tell you that Hotline Miami is not only bizarre, but also full of fast-paced action, calculated stealth, ‘80s themes, tons of pixelated blood, and surrealist influence. The whole thing is intended to be odd, thought-provoking, and challenging, and developer Dennaton Games hopes to deliver on all fronts with this crazy, murderous adventure.

In Hotline Miami, which takes place in a pulp ‘80s setting, you play as a deranged killer who receives his objectives via nonchalant phone calls. After picking up the phone in his apartment, he’ll be asked to complete a number of different tasks including cleaning up messes, taking care of customers, and attending fancy events. Of course, all he’s really being asked to do is head to different places and slaughter a bunch of people. It’s an odd series of events that’s very reminiscent of games like Killer7 and No More Heroes due to its ever-so-discreet method of approaching assassination.

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Once you get to your destination, it’s up to you to don a mask of your choosing (you can wear rooster, owl, and giraffe masks among other things) and shed some blood. You’re completely unarmed upon entering a new stage, so it’s up to you to secure a weapon by any means necessary. You can usually get the jump on an armed enemy right from the get-go: enter a room, knock him down, and take his baseball bat. You can then follow that up by taking said baseball bat and spilling the dude’s brains all over the wall. You can also simply pound his head into the ground or kick it while he lies prone against a wall. The choice is yours.

This is just the first in a series of soulless murders you’ll be conducting. That first room in every building you enter is like a rite of passage. You kill your first enemy, secure a weapon, and prepare to enter several new rooms rife with targets. Hotline Miami approaches murder in various interesting ways that often require you to plan ahead before you can continue. Because the game features an isometric perspective, you have a good view of the buildings you enter. If you see an enemy standing by the door, barge in and knock him down. If you spot armed thugs, you can always enter a room, get their attention, and then go back to the previous room to lie in wait so you can properly ambush them.

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Of course, you’re not just relegated to using melee weapons. You can equip any firearm your enemies may be wielding if you simply eliminate them. Doing so means you’ll draw plenty of attention with every shot, but because that allows you to pick off more enemies, being indiscreet is something that needs to be turned into a tool rather than a hindrance. For every bit of stealth gameplay that Hotline Miami allows you to explore, the game manages to encourage recklessness in an equal capacity.

You control your character using the WASD keys, meanwhile aiming is handled with the mouse cursor. Holding down the shift key allows you to look around without moving. Left clicking on the mouse handles both melee and firearm attacks. And right clicking will allow you to either pick up new weapons or toss your equipped weapon, which happens to be perfect for knocking enemies down. Admittedly, the controls take a bit of getting used to, and the game is probably more challenging than it should be as a result, but after a while, you should be able to get a good grasp of the game’s functions.

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Hotline Miami will kill you. The game relies heavily on trial and error, and you’re bound to spend plenty of time experimenting with different ways to kills your enemies. Luckily, the game is incredibly satisfying, and picking off your targets one by one is strangely rewarding. There’s this underlying visceral thrill that’s constantly exploited, and seeing the main character go out to rent a movie or grab a pizza after finishing up his “job” is enjoyably disturbing. Add to that some truly dark themes of murder, a great soundtrack, and neon-colored pixelated visuals and you’ve got a strange and intriguing action experience.

Hotline Miami is an action game that looks to deliver some incredibly odd visual themes. The story is dark and gruesome, and the gameplay mixes together elements of sneaky stealth and straight-up action seamlessly. If you’re looking for something that’s a bit different in terms of subject matter but still offers straightforward action gameplay, definitely keep a lookout for this title. Hotline Miami will be downloadable on PC on October 23 for $9.99.

Want to talk about indie games, Kirby, or cheap pizza? Follow me on Twitter @dr_davidsanchez.

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David Sanchez David Sanchez is the most honest man on the internet. You can trust him because he speaks in the third person.
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