Hotline Miami is a Masterpiece: Part 1

Posted by BitterAlmond (401 posts) -

At this point I'm about six or seven hours into Hotline Miami. I've got nearly half the masks, and I'm two or three levels from the end. Since the end of the prologue though, I've known this game was something special. From my first encounter with the masked trio in a trashed apartment, I knew this game had bite. It begins with you, the everyman suddenly turned contract killer, taking not-so-subtle phone messages letting you know where to hit. You go in, you kill everyone, you go out. Simple. Oh, and you wear a rubber mask.

On the gameplay side, these masks can give you special boosts depending on which one you choose, ranging from the gruesome "start with a drill" (3600 points for a drill takedown-- this game is brutal), to the life-saving "survive one bullet", to the tactical "silent gunshots". Though the art style is a simple, pixelly top-down throwback, this game doesn't hesitate to slap on the gore. I am in awe of whoever did all the pixel art because it is fabulous. The occasional effect combined with a camera that rotates slightly when the action heats up and a background that flashes neon colours whenever you score a kill cement this sense of speed and panicked aggression. Simply through the art style, we know from the get-go that even if the protagonist is only killing Russian Mafia members, he's definitely not one of the good guys.

Richard's come to see you.

After every job, you head to some sort of business, where the same man in a different uniform will be behind the desk and welcome you and quietly direct you to an object containing what the player is left to assume to be payment. It's not explained how you know to go to these places. In the fourth or fifth mission, you rescue a woman who then begins to live in your apartment with you. You start to root for your character a little because he now seems a little more human. But then Part 1 ends and 2 begins with another visit/kidnapping in the dingy apartment. The masked trio give you a series of questions to ask yourself, the first being "Do you like hurting people?" Without responding, your character leaves and continues his work. You're left to wonder what sort of man your character is becoming.

This mysterious approach to telling the story is brilliant in a video game. The silent protagonist trope always encourages the player to project themselves onto the character. However, giving the player such a narrow view of the character's life also establishes a persona that the player him/herself then adopts. That's the best way I can describe it, anyway. There are countless little things that encourage this sort of immersion, these are just a few examples. This is the first time since Beyond Good & Evil that I've truly been interested by a video game world or story, and it's because it's told so well.

I have yet to see how it ends, and I've heard there are multiple endings, so expect another post soon on how that goes. I've tried to keep this one mostly spoiler-free, giving only minor hints to actual story content, but the next one's definitely going to tell some of the stuff that comes beyond level 4. Stay tuned.

Oh, and by the way it's only ten bucks on Steam. Do yourself a favour and buy it and play a few levels before my next post.

#1 Edited by BitterAlmond (401 posts) -

At this point I'm about six or seven hours into Hotline Miami. I've got nearly half the masks, and I'm two or three levels from the end. Since the end of the prologue though, I've known this game was something special. From my first encounter with the masked trio in a trashed apartment, I knew this game had bite. It begins with you, the everyman suddenly turned contract killer, taking not-so-subtle phone messages letting you know where to hit. You go in, you kill everyone, you go out. Simple. Oh, and you wear a rubber mask.

On the gameplay side, these masks can give you special boosts depending on which one you choose, ranging from the gruesome "start with a drill" (3600 points for a drill takedown-- this game is brutal), to the life-saving "survive one bullet", to the tactical "silent gunshots". Though the art style is a simple, pixelly top-down throwback, this game doesn't hesitate to slap on the gore. I am in awe of whoever did all the pixel art because it is fabulous. The occasional effect combined with a camera that rotates slightly when the action heats up and a background that flashes neon colours whenever you score a kill cement this sense of speed and panicked aggression. Simply through the art style, we know from the get-go that even if the protagonist is only killing Russian Mafia members, he's definitely not one of the good guys.

Richard's come to see you.

After every job, you head to some sort of business, where the same man in a different uniform will be behind the desk and welcome you and quietly direct you to an object containing what the player is left to assume to be payment. It's not explained how you know to go to these places. In the fourth or fifth mission, you rescue a woman who then begins to live in your apartment with you. You start to root for your character a little because he now seems a little more human. But then Part 1 ends and 2 begins with another visit/kidnapping in the dingy apartment. The masked trio give you a series of questions to ask yourself, the first being "Do you like hurting people?" Without responding, your character leaves and continues his work. You're left to wonder what sort of man your character is becoming.

This mysterious approach to telling the story is brilliant in a video game. The silent protagonist trope always encourages the player to project themselves onto the character. However, giving the player such a narrow view of the character's life also establishes a persona that the player him/herself then adopts. That's the best way I can describe it, anyway. There are countless little things that encourage this sort of immersion, these are just a few examples. This is the first time since Beyond Good & Evil that I've truly been interested by a video game world or story, and it's because it's told so well.

I have yet to see how it ends, and I've heard there are multiple endings, so expect another post soon on how that goes. I've tried to keep this one mostly spoiler-free, giving only minor hints to actual story content, but the next one's definitely going to tell some of the stuff that comes beyond level 4. Stay tuned.

Oh, and by the way it's only ten bucks on Steam. Do yourself a favour and buy it and play a few levels before my next post.

#2 Posted by Little_Socrates (5693 posts) -

The end is gonna be pretty important in terms of how you feel about the game.

There's a lot more than immersion and interest in the world going on in Hotline Miami. Let it be said that it's one of the artier games of 2012.

#3 Posted by Nadril (541 posts) -

The ending was interesting. I'm still trying to piece together some of the stuff in the story myself and trying to figure out what it means.

#4 Posted by Oldirtybearon (4867 posts) -

the one thing keeping me from trying Hotline Miami is the art style, honestly. I'm sure others appreciate it, but to me it looks like utter junk.

#5 Edited by BitterAlmond (401 posts) -

@Oldirtybearon said:

the one thing keeping me from trying Hotline Miami is the art style, honestly. I'm sure others appreciate it, but to me it looks like utter junk.

The art style really helps with making the game feel like it's truly set in '89-- just like how movies often put anything happening before 1940 or so in black and white, this game consciously chose the pixellated art style to show that it's the late 1980s. Too bad it puts you off the game.

#6 Posted by McGhee (6094 posts) -

really want to play this but I'm waiting for the controller support

#7 Posted by ApeGantz (217 posts) -

Dude your picture is exactly where I am and I am really wondering where this is going. I know of the mask guys told me about a certain date but I did not expect what happened, and after wards.

Going to be ending it in a hour or so...

This is my most favorite little game on the year!

#8 Posted by Winternet (8035 posts) -

@BitterAlmond: you should talk to about it.

#9 Posted by Aegon (5762 posts) -
#10 Posted by voltronadactylsaurusrex (69 posts) -

There has been alot of theories being tossed around about the story in a thread at the steam forums. The devs have been there replying to the theories.

#11 Posted by Animasta (14718 posts) -

@Aegon said:

About chapter 19

Can someone tell me anything they learned about the dudes in the green and their underground contraption? Maybe I asked the wrong questions, but they gave me shitty answers before I ended them.
you should think about the answers they gave though (and really they don't give any that explain anything). Think about them as though they were the developers, rather than the people who set up the phone service, though the two are really one and the same if you think about it.
#12 Posted by BitterAlmond (401 posts) -

@Animasta said:

@Aegon said:

About chapter 19

Can someone tell me anything they learned about the dudes in the green and their underground contraption? Maybe I asked the wrong questions, but they gave me shitty answers before I ended them.
you should think about the answers they gave though (and really they don't give any that explain anything). Think about them as though they were the developers, rather than the people who set up the phone service, though the two are really one and the same if you think about it.

Whoa there fellas, wait for Part 2 to come out! I'm working on it.

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