Hotline Miami Preview (PC)

Despite having some fierce competition, Hotline Miami was probably the surprise hit of the Rezzed PC and indie games expo held this past weekend. In my experience there was no other title on the show floor that inspired more audible sounds of suspense and laughter from its large crowds of viewers.

The game is obviously a massive throwback to the 1980s, clearly inspired by the likes of Scarface and trying to channel numerous retro games from that era. The most notable comparison is to Smash TV, given the top-down perspective and the emphasis on running and gunning. Its distinctive sprite rotating is also highly reminiscent of the first 2D Grand Theft Auto and I can't help but be reminded of the similar premise, setting and time period of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

Most of the missions we played took place inside luxury Miami housing

Structurally the game looks to be a linear set of missions strung together by a rather odd crime-themed narrative (more on that in a bit). It's not all simply dodging and shooting though as stealth and strategy play a large part here. Since your character, a Miami-based hit man who takes jobs via phone calls (hence the game's name), can only take a small amount of damage before dying you can't run in guns blazing.

Furthermore, you're usually largely outnumbered by foes plus weaponry and ammunition is sparse, usually requiring you to procure such items on site. You'll need to watch enemy movement patterns and use your surroundings to your advantage to make it to the next floor.

Bursting through doors while an enemy is on the opposite side, for example, seems to be a key element to besting the game. This knocks them to the floor which temporarily stuns them, allowing you to silently execute them and not draw further attention to yourself. You'll also need to move behind objects and walls to shelter from lethal hails of bullets when enemies are taking aim at you.

In between missions your character is seen at home, at bars and at convenience stores

Despite the colourful VGA style visuals the game maintains a mature tone. There are lashings of blood, gory death animations (as gory as this retro style permits anyway) and constant references to drug use. There also appears to be a surreal element at play given the often purposefully crappy visuals, trippy atmosphere and a strange reoccurring theme of people wearing animal masks. You yourself also have to choose from a range of animal masks to wear at the start of each mission though I couldn't get a sense if this impacted game play in any way.

Much like Super Meat Boy, dying isn't all that frustrating thanks to a quick restart feature that deposits you at the start of the floor you were on and the often humorously abrupt ways in which you can snuff it. Expect to be biting the dust a lot though as the game isn't afraid to punish sloppy play right from the beginning.

The majority of foes we faced were white suit wearing thugs and their attack dogs

With a fast-paced, trial and error approach this is clearly a game designed for fans of arcade and speed running games. The stylish retro visuals and intriguing yet odd plot will likely grab the attention of a much wider crowd though.

Hotline Miami will be busting down doors on PC and Mac sometime 'soon'.

Most anticipated feature: There's a lot to like across the board but personally I'm most interested in seeing where the crime-filled drug-fuelled storyline takes us.


By HenoKutus (SI Elite) on Jul 11, 2012
I buy that for a dollar!
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