Hotline Miami is a Masterpiece: Part 2

Posted by BitterAlmond (401 posts) -

Note: this article's a bit of a pictorial in order to give people who haven't played the game a good idea of what is going on, as well as to make sure everyone who has played didn't miss any of the clues I'm talking about. Part 3 will be more text and fewer pictures, I promise. The main body of text can be found at the bottom, under all the pictures. Also NB that this article is chock-full of spoilers.

Well, I did it. I finished the game, got most of the masks, and saw the extra content on YouTube (I'd rather replay without having to hunt down little tokens). She's a doozy alright, but let me catch you up on the first half of the ending: the psychological thriller and twist.

You're slowly going crazy

As I said in Part 1, the game is unforgivingly violent and it takes some getting used to. Especially since at first you're not sure who it is you're killing. After you clear one building, the phone on the 3rd floor starts ringing and you pick it up.

You're called away to the second half of the mission. You don't go home yet.
You're instead sent to another building. But when you get there, everyone is already dead. And they aren't dressed like regular enemies.
You go upstairs and find the asshole responsible.
He comes at you with a knife, but you beat him to death with a conveniently-nearby set of golf clubs.
After that you suddenly start seeing corpses.
And all hell breaks loose.
You get another visit from the mysterious threesome. They tell you that "nothing you do from here on in matters."
And after your next job the man behind the counter doesn't know you.
You start seeing dead people in your own apartment. You carry on.
You get a visit from a man in a rat mask. He's here to kill you. And he does.
You wake up in the hospital. Big surprise: you're a prime suspect in a big murder investigation.
You shoot up the entire three-floor police HQ and take the keys off the dead Chief just to see a prisoner who is the other suspect. He tells you where to find the people who've been making the phone calls.
The documents reveal that you've been mostly killing Russian mobsters, and that the phone calls have been traced to a club downtown. You go to kill the club owner. Turns out he's a Russian mob boss.
You go upstairs to find the boss's father. He says "I've done so many terrible things... nothing seems to matter anymore, does it?" You kill him then go for a smoke on the balcony. The credits roll.
But it's not over. The clock rewinds two months and Part Five starts with you now playing as the biker you killed at Phone Hom. Unlike the protagonist, he speaks.
You shake down a few people who eventually tell you to go to Phone Hom. You can probably guess how that one will end.

That's enough to digest for now. I've skipped a few steps in the story, but you've now got all the main beats up to near the end. I'll leave the very end to Part 3, but let's take a look at all that happened here. There's something quite interesting going on in how the gameplay evolves to perfectly match the tone of the story.

First off, your worst fears come true when your character starts going more and more insane. As you unlock more weapons and masks, your kills also get faster and more brutal. By the time you make your assault on the police station, you've probably unlocked some of the better masks, giving you superhuman powers to kill with any thrown object, or move even faster than normal. Using these powers you're an unstoppable force, and as one that doesn't speak the player is left guessing how much sanity there is left. This is very effective in preserving the dark tone in the later levels as the game becomes more outlandish, as well as keeping it edgy and uncomfortable as the player gets used to all the violence in the game.

Nobody knows you

A crucial turning point comes when the shopkeepers stop all being that one same "friend" of yours. Until this point, the quiet visits to collect your payment[1] have been a welcome break from the intensity of the missions themselves. The camera moves slower, the music is pleasant, and the man behind the counter knows you. All is still well. As soon as this is removed, the player is given no quarter as their character descends into cold madness. Every mission until your eventual triumph over the Russian Mob is a sick revenge fantasy that's both engaging and repulsive.

I'm not going to give away the end quite yet, but know there's another twist coming. As you've guessed from what our motorcyclist friend is discovering, it's not just the Russian Mob behind the calls. Stick around for Part 3 sometime this week.

[1] I'm thinking that in your "payment" is also a new rubber mask-- this would tie in well with how you unlock a new mask at the end of each level.

#1 Posted by BitterAlmond (401 posts) -

Note: this article's a bit of a pictorial in order to give people who haven't played the game a good idea of what is going on, as well as to make sure everyone who has played didn't miss any of the clues I'm talking about. Part 3 will be more text and fewer pictures, I promise. The main body of text can be found at the bottom, under all the pictures. Also NB that this article is chock-full of spoilers.

Well, I did it. I finished the game, got most of the masks, and saw the extra content on YouTube (I'd rather replay without having to hunt down little tokens). She's a doozy alright, but let me catch you up on the first half of the ending: the psychological thriller and twist.

You're slowly going crazy

As I said in Part 1, the game is unforgivingly violent and it takes some getting used to. Especially since at first you're not sure who it is you're killing. After you clear one building, the phone on the 3rd floor starts ringing and you pick it up.

You're called away to the second half of the mission. You don't go home yet.
You're instead sent to another building. But when you get there, everyone is already dead. And they aren't dressed like regular enemies.
You go upstairs and find the asshole responsible.
He comes at you with a knife, but you beat him to death with a conveniently-nearby set of golf clubs.
After that you suddenly start seeing corpses.
And all hell breaks loose.
You get another visit from the mysterious threesome. They tell you that "nothing you do from here on in matters."
And after your next job the man behind the counter doesn't know you.
You start seeing dead people in your own apartment. You carry on.
You get a visit from a man in a rat mask. He's here to kill you. And he does.
You wake up in the hospital. Big surprise: you're a prime suspect in a big murder investigation.
You shoot up the entire three-floor police HQ and take the keys off the dead Chief just to see a prisoner who is the other suspect. He tells you where to find the people who've been making the phone calls.
The documents reveal that you've been mostly killing Russian mobsters, and that the phone calls have been traced to a club downtown. You go to kill the club owner. Turns out he's a Russian mob boss.
You go upstairs to find the boss's father. He says "I've done so many terrible things... nothing seems to matter anymore, does it?" You kill him then go for a smoke on the balcony. The credits roll.
But it's not over. The clock rewinds two months and Part Five starts with you now playing as the biker you killed at Phone Hom. Unlike the protagonist, he speaks.
You shake down a few people who eventually tell you to go to Phone Hom. You can probably guess how that one will end.

That's enough to digest for now. I've skipped a few steps in the story, but you've now got all the main beats up to near the end. I'll leave the very end to Part 3, but let's take a look at all that happened here. There's something quite interesting going on in how the gameplay evolves to perfectly match the tone of the story.

First off, your worst fears come true when your character starts going more and more insane. As you unlock more weapons and masks, your kills also get faster and more brutal. By the time you make your assault on the police station, you've probably unlocked some of the better masks, giving you superhuman powers to kill with any thrown object, or move even faster than normal. Using these powers you're an unstoppable force, and as one that doesn't speak the player is left guessing how much sanity there is left. This is very effective in preserving the dark tone in the later levels as the game becomes more outlandish, as well as keeping it edgy and uncomfortable as the player gets used to all the violence in the game.

Nobody knows you

A crucial turning point comes when the shopkeepers stop all being that one same "friend" of yours. Until this point, the quiet visits to collect your payment[1] have been a welcome break from the intensity of the missions themselves. The camera moves slower, the music is pleasant, and the man behind the counter knows you. All is still well. As soon as this is removed, the player is given no quarter as their character descends into cold madness. Every mission until your eventual triumph over the Russian Mob is a sick revenge fantasy that's both engaging and repulsive.

I'm not going to give away the end quite yet, but know there's another twist coming. As you've guessed from what our motorcyclist friend is discovering, it's not just the Russian Mob behind the calls. Stick around for Part 3 sometime this week.

[1] I'm thinking that in your "payment" is also a new rubber mask-- this would tie in well with how you unlock a new mask at the end of each level.

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