Hotline Miami Review: Old-School Shooting Done Right
Don your animal mask and grab the nearest lead pipe because it’s time to dish out some pain to a funky 80’s soundtrack — This is “Hotline Miami,” an old school top-down shooter that mixes bloodbath-filled combat with thoughtful contemplation on how to pull it off.
After being confronted by three mysterious figures all wearing different masks inspired by zoo animals it’s hard to tell the difference if this is reality or an acid trip that’s gone horribly wrong.
What is known for sure is that if what these masked men are saying is true, you’ve been up to no good and it’s time to relive the moments that led up to the present.
This adventure is paved in blood and bodies within the first five minutes of gameplay. Most situations have you juggle multiple enemies at a time which creates awesome moments of badassery as you dispatch roomfuls of thugs with brutal elegance.
Take all the time you want to plan your massacre but the action will last only a few seconds and you’d better be quick about it because there’s a one hit and you die system. This mechanic and the difficulty is reminiscent of the days of “Contra,” and much like it’s predecessor this game is strangely addictive with death serving as a motivator.
Restarts are common and handled very well with a checkpoint system that lets you replay the floor that you were already on. Thinking before acting is strongly encouraged.
Strategy plays a strong role in each level and without a game-plan, you’ll encounter multiple restarts. You’re allowed to scan the map up to a certain point by using the shift key, but other than that, you need to think and act quickly. It’s necessary to know how each guard will be disposed of and how you’re going to handle any guards you were unable to see in your field of vision.
Careful planning aside, the main star of this show is the ruthless combat. Every kill scores gratuitous amounts of gore and dismemberment. This can be achieved by a shotgun blast through a window or slugging a baddie with a baseball bat and then bashing his head in, in a takedown sequence. There’s something beautiful about the butchery you commit on these lawless hooligans.
If full frontal barbaric combat isn’t your style, there is an option for stealth in each level. Move silently through the corridors with a knife in hand taking out foes with savage grace. Guns alert more thugs to your position while melee weapons do not.
There is one level that you’re forced to stealth through which should be easy for those who already favored this gameplay style. On the other hand, if you were going through each level like a blood-crazed psychopath this will put a slight hindrance in your enjoyment of the game.
After each level you get a letter grade and a number of points indicating how well you performed, which adds to the arcade game type feel. With the high scores, you’re able to unlock more masks that have some game changing abilities such as more ammo or increased character speed. Weapons also get unlocked through this system and will randomly spawn in the maps you traverse.
The gritty feel and the overall ambiance of this neon-tinted game is something to be seen first hand. Despite the relatively short length, “Hotline Miami” delivers a triple-A game title experience in a small package.
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