Kill everyone. And then...?

Posted by Sweep (8824 posts) -

I shouldn't need to tell you how great Hotline Miami is. This blog post is not being written to inform, but rather to appreciate. Praise for the game seems unanimous in a way which I consider appropriate; Hotline Miami deserves both your time and money. It also deserves your house, your family, and your collective metaphysical and material wealth. But for now, your time and money will suffice. That seems fair.

It wasn't until today that I made the connection between Hotline Miami and Norrland.

Norrland is an entirely fucking insane "art" game made by Hotline Miami dev Cactus for an exhibition in Sweden. I played it months ago, after RockPaperShotgun wrote an article about it. It's a 2D hunting game in which you progress from left to right, each screen spawning increasingly crass and warped mini-games. One such game forces you to piss on a line of ants, another where you must tap arrow buttons to masturbate, and I vaguely remember another where you shoot a bear, then rape the corpse. All the while, you must desperately attempt to prevent the obnoxious music and strobing colours from dribbling your brain out through your nostrils; That is not part of the mini-game. That shit is a physical consequence that you, the player, must somehow internalise and conquer.

Yeah. It's that kind of game.

I take no responsibility for the inevitable mental scarring that will take place during your time with Norrland.

Hotline Miami is similar in it's ambiguity towards obscene brutality. However, the most interesting parts of the game are, arguably, those with an absence of violence. The game interjects your Miami massacre with everyday occurrences such as; going to a video store to rent a video, or picking up a pizza after work. The characters are polite, even friendly, creating a wonderful undertone of tension. Upon completing each mission the game immediately cuts all music, leaving you to stumble back to your car, meandering clumsily back through a trail of bloodshed and carnage. It emulates a sense of empathetic shock remarkably well, on a level which very few other games have been able to replicate successfully.

As the game continues, these brief periods of tranquillity become marred by your increasing mental instability. Eventually all sense of reality is lost, the core experience revealed as brutal and surreal. It is unapologetically fucked up in all the right ways.

It's perfect.

I'm not going to tell you to go and play Hotline Miami because you have already played it. The idea that you haven't is somehow troubling on a level that I find difficult to articulate.

Thanks For Reading

Love Sweep

Moderator
#1 Edited by Sweep (8824 posts) -

I shouldn't need to tell you how great Hotline Miami is. This blog post is not being written to inform, but rather to appreciate. Praise for the game seems unanimous in a way which I consider appropriate; Hotline Miami deserves both your time and money. It also deserves your house, your family, and your collective metaphysical and material wealth. But for now, your time and money will suffice. That seems fair.

It wasn't until today that I made the connection between Hotline Miami and Norrland.

Norrland is an entirely fucking insane "art" game made by Hotline Miami dev Cactus for an exhibition in Sweden. I played it months ago, after RockPaperShotgun wrote an article about it. It's a 2D hunting game in which you progress from left to right, each screen spawning increasingly crass and warped mini-games. One such game forces you to piss on a line of ants, another where you must tap arrow buttons to masturbate, and I vaguely remember another where you shoot a bear, then rape the corpse. All the while, you must desperately attempt to prevent the obnoxious music and strobing colours from dribbling your brain out through your nostrils; That is not part of the mini-game. That shit is a physical consequence that you, the player, must somehow internalise and conquer.

Yeah. It's that kind of game.

I take no responsibility for the inevitable mental scarring that will take place during your time with Norrland.

Hotline Miami is similar in it's ambiguity towards obscene brutality. However, the most interesting parts of the game are, arguably, those with an absence of violence. The game interjects your Miami massacre with everyday occurrences such as; going to a video store to rent a video, or picking up a pizza after work. The characters are polite, even friendly, creating a wonderful undertone of tension. Upon completing each mission the game immediately cuts all music, leaving you to stumble back to your car, meandering clumsily back through a trail of bloodshed and carnage. It emulates a sense of empathetic shock remarkably well, on a level which very few other games have been able to replicate successfully.

As the game continues, these brief periods of tranquillity become marred by your increasing mental instability. Eventually all sense of reality is lost, the core experience revealed as brutal and surreal. It is unapologetically fucked up in all the right ways.

It's perfect.

I'm not going to tell you to go and play Hotline Miami because you have already played it. The idea that you haven't is somehow troubling on a level that I find difficult to articulate.

Thanks For Reading

Love Sweep

Moderator
#2 Posted by GetEveryone (4455 posts) -

@Sweep said:

The idea that you haven't is somehow troubling on a level that I find difficult to articulate.

I feel like I've seen/read enough about it, that I literally have no desire to play it anymore.

#3 Posted by Sweep (8824 posts) -

@GetEveryone said:

@Sweep said:

The idea that you haven't is somehow troubling on a level that I find difficult to articulate.

I feel like I've seen/read enough about it, that I literally have no desire to play it anymore.

I wasn't able to start playing until a few days ago as I have just moved into a new flat and had no internet for a couple of weeks. After the quick-look, bombcast and people repeatedly shouting about it on steam, I was getting pretty burnt out on the hype myself. But then I played it....

Moderator
#4 Posted by Tylea002 (2295 posts) -

I haven't played it. I was gonna, then a vague tweet about the ending was just vague enough to where I could work out exactly what the ending was, and my desire to play it was diminished.

#5 Posted by GetEveryone (4455 posts) -

@Sweep: @Tylea002 said:

I haven't played it. I was gonna, then a vague tweet about the ending was just vague enough to where I could work out exactly what the ending was, and my desire to play it was diminished.

I'll likely still play it at some point, but Tylea's comment is relevant as far as I'm concerned, too.

#6 Edited by CosmicBatman (317 posts) -

I would love to play an RPG with this sort of style. Reminded me kind of the unsettling feeling I got when playing Deja Vu back in the day.

Edit: I meant more of an adventure game than RPG.

#7 Posted by ShaggE (6338 posts) -

NO "AND THEN"!

My favorite thing about this game is reading what other people are taking away from it.

#8 Posted by Mento (2443 posts) -

No point buying any Steam games this close to Thanksgiving. I appreciate it's the sort of game that's worth the full asking price, but I'm just conditioned to ignore everything that comes out in November/December in case it ends up being a sale item/Crimbo present.

But man, were there a lot of great Indie/XBLA/PSN games this year. I really need to catch up on a whole lot of them, including Hotline: Miami, before GOTY deliberations start getting... deliberated.

Moderator
#9 Posted by gaminghooligan (1418 posts) -

This was a great read. That music cut at the end of a level just makes me feel like a piece of shit as I stumble over the bodies of my victims.

#10 Posted by TwoLines (2788 posts) -

If I were to describe Hotline Miami... Well, I'd say It's like I'm absorbing a pink/violet gradient through my ears, and then beating the DJ to death with a club.

#11 Posted by punkxblaze (2957 posts) -

I honestly don't understand the reactions people are having to Hotline Miami. At no point do I feel jarred/introspective/remorseful/like a terrible human being in that game. I feel a sense of accomplishment from figuring out how to beat that goddamn room full of assholes, but I really don't see how it is supposed to effect me on any deep level. It's no different than any other video game where you participate in gratuitous slaughter, except people have decided to make a big deal out of it.

That said, I'm not calling it a bad game. I like the aesthetic, it's unique for sure, and the soundtrack is all sorts of fun. I just don't get what I'm supposed to feel about it.

Online
#12 Edited by Phatmac (5721 posts) -

Hopefully it'll go on sale during the Christmas sale so I can play it. I just have too many games to play at the moment!

#13 Posted by Ravenlight (8040 posts) -

Let's not forget Cactus' Keyboard Drumset Fucking Werewolf:

said:

Upon completing each mission the game immediately cuts all music, leaving you to stumble back to your car, meandering clumsily back through a trail of bloodshed and carnage.

For whatever reason, I'm super hella clumsy on the walk back to the car. I can murder a building full of dudes and make it look like a friggin' ballet, but I bump into every wall and get lost after the music stops :/

#14 Posted by TwoLines (2788 posts) -

@punkxblaze: I guess it varies from person to person. But I did have a "ugh!" moment the first time I based a guy's head in untill his brain started to leak out. I mean, I don't even know if what I'm doing is okay or not. Am I the antihero? I guess if I'm asking myself that question, that makes me the antihero by default.

I don't know WHY I'm killing, and I'm not even looking for answers. But I do participate in this blodlust willingly. I'm slitting this guy's throat like it's a mundane thing. I do horrible things because the game told me to do them. It's that notion that makes the game stand out. The fact that you're not even bothered by the murders, and do not question the rationale of your virtual counterpart is, in itself, interesting, don't you agree? Other games give you, at the very least, an outline of a story. You're killing terrorists/nazis/aliens/zombies/evil demons. Here it's hazy, unclear, scary. Just like the soundtrack.

#15 Posted by Doctorchimp (4069 posts) -

If there's one thing I've taken away from all this Hotline Miami business and learning about his older games...

Is Cactus has a fucking great taste in music.

#16 Posted by punkxblaze (2957 posts) -

@TwoLines said:

@punkxblaze: I guess it varies from person to person. But I did have a "ugh!" moment the first time I based a guy's head in untill his brain started to leak out. I mean, I don't even know if what I'm doing is okay or not. Am I the antihero? I guess if I'm asking myself that question, that makes me the antihero by default.

I don't know WHY I'm killing, and I'm not even looking for answers. But I do participate in this blodlust willingly. I'm slitting this guy's throat like it's a mundane thing. I do horrible things because the game told me to do them. It's that notion that makes the game stand out. The fact that you're not even bothered by the murders, and do not question the rationale of your virtual counterpart is, in itself, interesting, don't you agree? Other games give you, at the very least, an outline of a story. You're killing terrorists/nazis/aliens/zombies/evil demons. Here it's hazy, unclear, scary. Just like the soundtrack.

I suppose when you put it in those terms, I can see where someone might be unsettled by it. I guess maybe the reason I'm so unfazed is because I've taken to looking at it more as a puzzle game than a murder simulator. I'm thinking about how to exploit patterns and use the game's systems to get through a chapter, and maybe that takes me away from the idea that I'm killing. I dunno.

Online
#17 Posted by prestonhedges (1965 posts) -

@TwoLines said:

I don't know WHY I'm killing,

You're not. It's a video game.

#18 Posted by cannonballBAM (591 posts) -

I think violence is an inevitable subject no matter what type of fiction you enjoy. I would argue (but am I in now way correct) that the taste is ultimately what is important. Superheroes fighting Villains and Solider fighting terrorists, its all been done before. In the end it is just fiction and you could argue that either its all okay or none of it is. But I agree and think sometimes it just goes too far.

I was talking to my friend about the Walking Dead show and somehow we came across the new Kick-Ass comic. This article summarizes my feelings towards what Mark Millar strives to achieve.

http://multiversitycomics.com/news/violence-in-comics-how-far-is-too-far/

It reminded me of the opening of A Clockwork Orange, it just never sits right. I know you could argue that it is the reality of human actions but it doesn't mean its right to put a spotlight on it.

Just some food for thought.

@Sweep: Nice blog.

#19 Posted by TwoLines (2788 posts) -

@punkxblaze: Yeah, as with most indie games nowadays there are two sides to this. You can look at the mechanics, and try to A+ the game (which is realy fun!), or you can try to look at it as if it were a commentary on violence in vidja games. This game has both. But here one exists with the other. The notion that killing is fun (even in a video game) is kind of fucked up. And the game exploits its fun gameplay to make you feel a lil' bit guilty about all this. If you didn't feel guilty or shocked, that's even better! Means you're used to the violence, and the commentary is even more important.

@gladspooky: Uhuh. Sure it is.

#20 Edited by punkxblaze (2957 posts) -

@TwoLines: Holy shit, I think I get it. The fact that I am so used to the wonton slaughter in my bideo gaems is what this game is pointing out to me.

Online
#21 Posted by Sweep (8824 posts) -

@punkxblaze said:

@TwoLines: Holy shit, I think I get it. The fact that I am so used to the wonton slaughter in my bideo gaems is what this game is pointing out to me.

Naw, the ending of the game explains:

Essentially saying "Nope, there was no hidden agenda here, this wasn't a metaphor designed to make you question your actions or how easily you cater to excessive violence. It's just a videogame." Which is kinda funny because it's deliberately going out of it's way to expose all the pretentious idiots like me who spend the entire game desperately searching for some hidden meaning.

Moderator
#22 Posted by Guided_By_Tigers (8061 posts) -

@Tylea002: The gameplay is the reason to play the game though, the story really isn't that great IMO.

#23 Edited by Ravenlight (8040 posts) -

@Sweep said:

Which is kinda funny because it's deliberately going out of it's way to expose all the pretentious idiots like me who spend the entire game desperately searching for some hidden meaning.

Well, there are those hidden puzzle pieces you can scour the game for, so you don't have to feel totally left out.

#24 Posted by TwoLines (2788 posts) -

@Sweep: You can totally still be a pretentious idiot about it. Even though there IS a (somewhat) coherent story here, it doesn't mean we can't be pretentious about the... "hidden depth" if you will.

#25 Posted by jayc4life (111 posts) -

@Ravenlight said:

Let's not forget Cactus' Keyboard Drumset Fucking Werewolf:

What the hell did I just watch? O_O

Online
#26 Posted by yoshisaur (2661 posts) -

I guess I just don't understand the love behind the game. I gave it a try, but it just doesn't seem to be for me. Glad to see it pleasing others, though. That's only good for the industry.

PS: I have a stigma for Adult Swim, and this reminds me of it. Maybe that's what it is.

#27 Posted by deadmoscow (261 posts) -

@Sweep said:

@punkxblaze said:

@TwoLines: Holy shit, I think I get it. The fact that I am so used to the wonton slaughter in my bideo gaems is what this game is pointing out to me.

Naw, the ending of the game explains:

Essentially saying "Nope, there was no hidden agenda here, this wasn't a metaphor designed to make you question your actions or how easily you cater to excessive violence. It's just a videogame." Which is kinda funny because it's deliberately going out of it's way to expose all the pretentious idiots like me who spend the entire game desperately searching for some hidden meaning.

I had a different interpretation:

The "hidden meaning" isn't really hidden - "We made a videogame for you to kill people because you like killing people." I think the lack of a hidden agenda pretty much applies to the narrative itself, not necessarily the developer's message to the player. You're not completing a heroic quest, but you're definitely being poked at by the developers. The message may be simple, but I think it's still there. It just depends on how much you want to read into it, and how provocative you think the game is in the context of the current game industry.

I think there's a lot of Hotline Miami that isn't explicitly stated, but it definitely opens itself up to some really interesting thinking about the game industry and the psychology of gaming.

#28 Posted by Laiv162560asse (487 posts) -

If people think that this game has no plot other than a pretentious meta-narrative on violent games, they should really check the Steam discussion thread. I'm not saying that the social commentary isn't there, or that it isn't interesting, but I totally reject the idea that the game doesn't have an interesting, self-contained plot of its own. I've seen some people (not necessarily in this thread) dismiss the 'true ending' as just another sop which satirises gaming conventions like collectables. In other words, those people think the plot is throwaway BS, as a commentary on how most game plots are innately throwaway BS, just justifications for us to engage in mindless vidyagame slaughter. That reasoning is the type of cop-out that the Spec Ops writers used, but if you look at how enthusiastic Dennaton is in discussing the plot it's obvious that this wasn't the intent of Hotline Miami at all. He frequently contributed to the thread in order to nudge people towards a certain interpretation or to get them to ask questions they hadn't been asking.

I haven't participated in that thread but it's worth pointing out that practically all the discussion involves the minutiae of the plot - identity of characters, motivations, chronology, etc - as opposed to socially relevant meta-commentary.

#29 Posted by Tennmuerti (8009 posts) -

... and then you drink Sweep.

And then you drink.

#30 Posted by deadmoscow (261 posts) -

@Laivasse: I'm not denying there's actual narrative in the game, and I've seen the "true ending" and read all about what's actually going on in terms of the game's narrative. It's a fun and interesting story, but personally I've found the game to hold more value as a cultural critique than as a self-contained narrative. Whether or not the intent of the game was to be cultural criticism, I think it's still valid to view it in that manner. I think there's still a lot to discuss in the game that has nothing to do with its violence, like its chronologically out-of-order story. But I think it's totally valid to see the game as commentary, even if Cactus doesn't give a crap.

#31 Posted by Laiv162560asse (487 posts) -

@deadmoscow: I think it's perfectly valid to find the social relevance angle more interesting than the story, since that's a matter of personal interest and preference. What I'm taking issue with is the idea - again not necessarily expressed so much in this thread, but I've seen it in other places - that the game is essentially all about commentary on violence, and that the story is intentionally disposable and hokey because that's just another element to the meta-commentary. I think that's objectively wrong, since the makers seem quite proud of the story - which is fair enough IMO because it's actually pretty cool. There are some intriguing unanswered questions left over and it's executed really well, lots of sophisticated touches nestled in the minimalism.

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