Hotline Miami is a Pindaric ode to cheap 80s’ styles, violence, and 8-bit gaming, wrapped around a blanket of new wave Italo disco styled tunes. Set against a cheesy Miami-centered crime story, Hotline launches you into an eerie setting reminiscent of something out of a neon neo noire pulp-zine—if Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch got together to make a game, this would be it. The comedic superfluous violence bring to mind QT’s blood fetish and the surreal dreamlike undertones of the story create an oeuvre worthy of Lynch’s style.
The, never named, always addressed main character finds himself in a conversation with three strangers, each donning an animal mask—a horse, a rooster, and an owl—all of whom berate him on the ethics of being the kind of person he is and, ironically enough, on why he likes to wear masks. They then ask if he remembers how he got to where he is. At which point the game flashes back to the past, to April 3, 1989, Miami—springtime, the time where all the great adventurists begin their journeys, the same time when Dante entered his inferno is when the main character is thrust into his nightmarish hell—where the character wakes up in his apartment and finds a voice mail on his answering machine asking him to open a package he received. Euphemistically referred to as ‘cookies,’ this package contains a mask and instructions on a briefcase he is to locate and retrieve, while killing any and all people, witnesses or not, in the building.
The game seems to happen out of chronological order in the main character’s memories. As he continues to receive these cryptic voice messages, the character finds and rescues a prostitute from one of the scenes and starts a relationship with her à la Travis Bickle—the game seems to allude to the great lost souls of pop pulpy film noire. For an indeterminate amount of time, the character is canon-balled into this life of blood-lusting sycophant for these faceless messengers and their cryptic messages. Again, much like Dante, the character is frequently accosted by three animal figures throughout his adventure.
The controls function smoothly on a WASD-keyboard-mouse formation, making the fast paced action on a top-down POV shooter enjoyable. The style of game play can range from stealth to shoot-‘em-up, depending on the mood of the player—talk about accommodating gameplay. The game challenges your manual dexterity and reaction times all while making you a strategist on how to go about committing mass-murders without being caught.
Now on to the music. There has never been such a dedicated scoring to a video game; the music is what makes this game. If you were one of the few people to brave watching Ryan Gosling stare at objects for the entire runtime of Drive, because the music was fantastic, you will not have a problem with Hotline Miami’s soundtrack of smooth and catchy tracks set against a pulsating background screen of neon color shifting gradients. The 8-bit sprites bring about a great feeling of nostalgia, a big nod to the greats of the 80s.
Indie games have been evolving the gaming industry for the better and this is one prime example of indie developers pushing game design to a level of art form on par with literature and film.
The game was recently set for an expansion, however, the creators decided to just go for a full length sequel. I highly recommend this masterpiece of a game, now available on Steam or GOG.