March 7th, 2016

Time Played: 8 Hours

Last Played: 3/6/2016

Hotline Miami: Do you like hurting other people?

“Do you like hurting other people?” is probably the single most memorable line from Hotline Miami. In an industry filled with blood, violence, gore, and hundreds of thousands of murders… A game has never asked me this simple question.

And that really made the question stand out, because while I don’t like hurting other people… I do like playing video games that glorify killing… And that made me question  myself. It put me into the headspace of actually physically harming these top down representations of human beings.

But it didn’t stop me from slitting their throats and kicking their skulls in. They’re just pixels after all.
I avoided Hotline Miami for a really long time. It came out back in 2012 and I was a significantly different person back then. I found that the game bothered me, and I felt it was disturbing. Why? I don’t really know. It just seemed excessive to me. Fast forward four years, and after avoiding the game and not giving it a chance I found that I owned it via a Humble Bundle I had purchased. So I decided, “Might as well!” I then installed the game and finished it in the same day… And purchased Hotline Miami 2 the following afternoon.

I was both excited and uneasy going into it. I played through the first level, and after completing it and seeing the game tally up my score I said to myself, “Okay, I get it.”

And then I was hooked.

The sound track, the visceral gameplay, the fast gameplay loop of death and restart… It was great!

It also helps that the game is coy, it doesn’t tell you much. Unlike the violence which is front and center, the story is very subtle as to be near non existent. There’s just enough to keep you interested and pique your curiosity. It’s like a mini-skirt, long enough to cover everything, but short enough to keep things interesting. I can’t believe I just wrote that– but it’s true.

I found that the mystery behind the events of the game were really what enthralled me. The gameplay is very well balanced, and while it is sometimes frustrating it never felt unfair. If I was having trouble, it’s because I wasn’t utilizing everything at my disposal or I was approaching the situation from the wrong angle. 

This has been used many times to describe Hotline Miami, but it’s like a fast action puzzle game. And I find that to be a very apt description. Adjusting your strategy to take down a particularly tough room and getting slightly better at it each time is very satisfying. And when you finally pull it off you feel like an apex predator, pouncing from the shadows on an unsuspecting gazelle. Although in this case I guess it would be the Gazelle doing the pouncing.

You have just enough vision to plan your attack a few seconds before you engage the hapless enemies, and you have to be near perfect with your execution. Otherwise you have to start over… Which you will do a lot. Like, a lot. But there are barely any loading times, and when you die you’re instantly back in the action– with fairly reasonable check-points as well! Plus the great soundtrack will pull you in and make it a seamless experience.

By far my favorite song was Daisuke, by El Huervo.

Overall if you haven’t checked out Hotline Miami by now I would say give it a go. If you were reluctant because it was so violent, well I found that I had a double standard. Somehow ripping someone’s head off in Mortal Kombat was okay, but hitting them with a lead pipe isn’t. This game really isn’t as bad as it comes off in trailers. Everything happens so fast that you barely have time to even think about what you’re doing, or pay close enough attention to the actual deaths.

And as it turns out, that might be the whole point of the game.

The few moments where the game really makes you watch someone be killed, can be gross. I cringed a few times. But it’s nothing that wasn’t already in God of War.

If you’re like me and had reservations, check out Hotline Miami. It’s very good.

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