The Good: Awesome art style, solid and fast paced game mechanics, genius level design, great scoring system, AlienFX support
The Bad: Too many bugs and glitches, poor gamepad support, music grates after a while, constant trial and error will turn some players away
This game was a complete surprise to everyone. An old-school action game with 8-bit graphics that has a very weird story, but is still fun and interesting? Can't be possible! Well it is because of the genius level design and over-the-top perspective where special game mechanics were worked in to. Enemies can shoot through windows, you use doors to your advantage, and there are so many different weapons, the fun is endless!
The game is based on cheesy 80's snuff films where you are a hitman that goes to different spots and just kills everyone in the building. The story is very weird yet entertaining, it doesn't make sense, but it doesn't need to. That's how great this game is. You start out by picking an animal mask that you have unlocked, then you go in and try to clear the stages without dying. One hit and you're dead in this game, let me make that very clear. You get a split second window to kill someone before they kill you whether they are facing you or not. If you are behind them you get an extra split second, but you won't clear a hallway before they shoot you. Enemies who have melee weapons are easier because they have to come towards you. The strategy is to see where the enemies are placed in each room and clear the stage accordingly.
It starts out simple, but you will see how addictive and fun it is when your character slices open a neck, smashes a head into a carpet, or blows someone's brains out. The second genius thing with this game is that you are punished for using guns which makes the game very easy. Shoot someone and every enemy in the level comes after you. You are to clear the rooms quickly, not quietly, which is the key here. There are a few different types of enemies like dogs which are really fast, and big fat guys with scarfs that can only be killed with gunfire. Save these guys last so the entire level doesn't come after you. A good strategy is to step out of a corner and hide again and just stick out enough to you can whack anyone who walks by. This is another key strategy to winning the game.
The boss fights are really tough and require thinking outside the box to beat. One enemy has two wild cats that come after you, a female ninja, then he has two uzis that will pulverize you. You have to eliminate each one in sequence without dying. Remember, one hit and you're dead. The trial and error is very rewarding because it just feels good to clear a whole level without alerting anyone. The game is very fast paced so a level can be cleared in less than a minute or just seconds. Learning the strategy of each level allows you to get better scores.
You need to use combos to rack up scores, and gunfire is frowned upon in this game. Switch up weapons, use doors to knock enemies down, be bold and lure enemies around corners, kill several enemies at once, it is all based on skill and not luck. This game just feels so good to play and I couldn't put it down. There are 18 chapters in this game, and at the end I wanted more (hopefully DLC will follow).
There are some major issues that keep this game from scoring higher though. When the game was released it was nearly unplayable. Even now the controller layout sucks, before there wasn't even controller support and the keyboard and mouse controls are terrible. There are game breaking bug and glitches that don't let you progress in the game, and while the music is pretty original, it repeats way too often and you end up muting your speakers. The game should have just gone through some more testing or a couple more months of development time before being released. Even now there was a bug that kept me from advancing past chapter 16. I finally tried it one more time and I passed it, no idea how or why.
Hotline Miami is a fast paced action game that has genius level and strategy design. The graphics work very well for the setting, and the mechanics are just extremely solid. I just wish it was more stable and had better controller support. People with Alienware computers will get AlienFX support here which is unheard of in an indie game. As it stands, this is one of the best games of the year.