- Developer - Dennaton Games
- Publisher - Devolver Digital
- Platforms - Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, PlayStation 3 and PS Vita (via the PlayStation Network)
- Release date - Out now
- Price - £6.49
Hotline Miami begs the question "what will it take to stop killing in videogames?" It presents players with thin context, steep challenge and horrifying imagery, then sits backs and watches to see if, despite everything, we'll still go through with it.
And of course, we do. The points counter in the top right corner must continue to be fed; the loud music on our speakers or our headphones is making us. On its surface, Hotline Miami is killsploitation, the kind of under the counter trash that would be sold to Amiga players in paper bags. In actuality, it's a pointed indictment of what's wrong with computer games and the people that play them. It's an erotic, sensory game which slips between its lines the most difficult to swallow commentary on this medium since BioShock. By every measure, it's an important game. Study it.
But do it on PC. This PS3/PS Vita port is perfectly acceptable, but the controls are just ever so slightly more awkward that you may as well get the desktop version. It's not like your computer, so long as it's been updated since 2005, will struggle to run it. The Sony edition of Hotline Miami comes with a few bonuses - an exclusive outfit that turns the game black and white, portability if you have the Vita version - but it's still better on PCs, or laptops.
That's not to diminish the success these ports represent. For Jonatan Söderström and Dennis Wedin to make Hotline Miami by themselves and then, less than a year after its launch on Windows, get the game onto the actual PlayStation, is impressive, especially when you consider the content. By today's loose standards even, Hotline feels mucky, not just in the sense of the violence, but the tone, the ambience, the opaqueness. It's a real video nasty. It's like an old VHS you saw once at a party, which your friends swore was a real snuff movie. It's appropriate Hotline Miami is download only - it feels like something you'd have to order specially online.
If you don't know the set-up, it's Miami, 1989 and you're some nameless X-er who contract kills for a living. The game is shot from a top-down perspective and levels are laid out like puzzles, leaving you to judge exactly when to kill a bad guy (well, we assume they're bad) and what with. If you hit them once, they die; if they hit you once, you die. Hotline Miami is about split-second timing, outmanoeuvring and patience. If you can split that guy's melon with a pipe, then you can grab his shotgun, put your back to the wall and wait for them to come running for you. Alternatively, polish your baseball bat and lumber in arms swinging. Planning and recklessness pay off in equal measure. Sometimes it works to exact your path beforehand, other times it's better to just do a number on the place. It's a puzzle game where one of the solutions is to be unthinking.
And it's horrendously violent, of course: Hotline Miami is the most grotesque videogame ever made. But who cares? The idea is to be seduced. If you're the kind of person who's offended by violence then don't play Hotline Miami, because you won't be able to see what it's getting at.
The soundtrack is excellent. It's all done by bands you've never heard of; aside from killing along to the up-tempo electronica, one of the real joys of Hotline Miami's music is looking it up afterwards. This is music you'll want to download to your phone to listen to while you're out.
In-game, it creates excitement, empowerment, intoxication. Hotline Miami segues from action scenes to brief, stolen moments of downtime, and the score makes these sharp gear changes look effortless. Like its neon visuals and horrific violence, the music of Hotline Miami tugs on your senses. With no spoken dialogue and only the thinnest of narratives, the game still drags out of you a broad set of emotional responses and its down, for the most part, to that music. Oh, that music.
It's difficult really, to pick fault with Hotline Miami. Aside from a few useless complaints about difficult PlayStation controls, there's not a lot to be said against it. It's an intelligent, terrifying videogame which, in its search for answers to difficult questions, never backs away from a fight. Stacked against the other reflective games of the past 18 months - Spec Ops: The Line, Journey and Dear Esther - Hotline Miami is the bravest of the lot, a true post-Call of Duty game, prepared to gleefully rub its face in the medium's filth. It engages with rage, masochism, loneliness and guilt, themes not so much marginalised by the rest of videogaming as ignored entirely, since the start. It takes great pleasure in its own feculence, the feculence of its nature, and consistently persuades you to do the same.
By the end of Hotline Miami you'll feel like a total rotter. Whether on PlayStation 3, PS Vita or PC, everybody should play this.
- Gameplay: 10/10 - Filled with violence and ferocity, Hotline Miami is the first shooter in years to make you feel something.
- Sound: 10/10 - The soundtrack to Hotline Miami belongs in the same language as Amon Tobin's Splinter Cell score, HEALTH's work on Max Payne 3 and Jesper Kyd's arrangements for Freedom Fighters. One of the best, ever.
- Graphics: 10/10 - So much colour; so much style. But it's all a rouse - Hotline Miami revels in disturbing imagery.
- Writing: 10/10 - Arrogant, frustrating and unclear, Hotline Miami's script is a core part of the game's angry manifesto.
- Replay value: 10/10 - Just try and stop yourself.
- Overall: 10/10 - A violent, bitter and hateful videogame which tears its way through the medium's layers to get at the dark, ugly centre. It's absolutely horrible and you'll love it