8-bit has never been more violent.
The year is 1989. A man (who may or may not be Ryan Gosling from Drive) begins receiving mysterious messages on his answering machine, causing him to go on a killing spree against the Russian mafia. Things become even stranger when three masked men (a rooster, a horse, and an owl), a group of janitors, and a helmeted biker come into play. Who’s behind all of this?
Each level begins with an introduction, showing the player inside his apartment. This apartment gets more and more degrading over time. Before leaving the apartment, the answering machine can be checked. There’s always a message, as it’s secretly detailing the mission. After the message is received, I hopped into the DeLorean and took off to the destination described in the message.
Hotline Miami’s rules are simple : kill or be killed. At the start of each mission, a mask can be chosen to wear, with each of them having their own unique advantage. However, you’ll never know exactly which mask will help you out until you’ve experienced the layout of the level you’re playing at least once. Each level is laid out differently, because each level is a different location. Usually, the protagonist (or antagonist?) starts off with just bare fists, until the first enemy is encountered. From here, anything from a knife, baseball bat, pipe, gun, and everything in between can be picked up and used at your disposal against the enemies. Many weapons can even be thrown. The game is brutally violent, as you go from place to place cracking every last head open, and slitting every last throat. The best way I can describe it is that it’s an 8-bit Manhunt. Once every enemy is killed in the room, the stage is cleared. Later in the game, several chapters feature two or more floors that must be dealt with before the stage can be completed.
Hotline Miami is a retro-styled game that plays like many NES titles, such as Die Hard and Ikari Warriors. Having said that, those games are much less forgiving. Sure; Hotline Miami is challenging, but I didn’t find it very difficult. I found it very fun! Honestly, it’s not very hard. At least you start off on the same chapter and floor no matter how many times you die, unlike those old NES games! It’s all about finding a pattern that works for you. After that, it’s all patience. Chances are, you’re not going to beat a single level without dying. You will die…a lot. But, with each death comes a lesson learned. Each death moves you one step closer to victory. As a fair warning, you will become addicted to this game. Even when I was done for the night, I’d always end up saying, “Eh….okay. I’ll play just one more level.”
I split my playthrough between the PlayStation 4 and Vita iterations, and Hotline Miami plays very well on both platforms. The cloud sync functionality allowed me to pick up right where I left off. While I didn’t go for the Platinum, I definitely think I will find myself coming back to this game often and earning more of the available trophies. Getting an A+ on every chapter is quite difficult, though.
Let’s just take a step back for a minute and imagine a world where Hotline Miami was actually set be released on the NES in 1989. Do you think it would have been released? Do you think it would have been released and then taken off every single shelf in the world? If this game existed at that time, would its controversy cause all violent video games to be banned? Would Grand Theft Auto ever exist? Boy, I’m glad we don’t live in that world. It goes without saying that the NES did have it’s fair share of violent games, so this was just a hypothetical. I sure would love to buy Hotline Miami on the NES, though.
I can’t recommend Hotline Miami enough. It’s addicting, fun, ultra-violent, and has a ton of replay value. It features an awesome retro soundtrack, and an interesting story full of twists and turns. I absolutely cannot wait for Hotline Miami 2 : Wrong Number. Speaking of which, you all should give this number a call :
In case the number no longer works when this post arrives, I’ve detailed the information from the phone call below :
We are 50 blessings.
Together we march into the future.
You have reached a Wrong Number.
I know 50 Blessings refers to a group in the first game. Hmm…could “march” perhaps mean March, as in the release date? I wonder…