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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hotline Miami

So I'm about three months late on this, but last weekend, Hotline Miami went on Steam Sale.  Hotline Miami had be mentioned on the other podcasts I listen to, usually in glowing but hushed tones.  After having played it, I feel this is probably the correct tone.

Mechanically, its a "tactical puzzle shooter".  Each enemy is incredibly deadly.  Every single fight is lethal, and the consequences for dying is starting over on the level.  This sounds draconian, and it is, but not in a frustrating way, as each level, if properly executed, can probably be done in one or two minutes.  You'll spend much longer, dying and restarting, find the proper order, weapon and path to take out the Russian mafia in your way.  When I say "tactical puzzle" I mean you have to figure out how you are going to take out the three guys in that one room.  The order you take them out in is important and the broad strokes are repeatable.  However, the A.I. has just enough variation in it so that you have to react and adapt on the fly.  It's an exercise in controlled violence, and its super satisfying to execute a plan correctly.  The various masks you get throughout the game create enough variation on the tactical level to make replaying a level with a different mask a different experience.

The story is hard to follow.  You are clearly some sort of deranged individual, and that's clear from the start.  You recieve vague phone calls that insinueate your next task (spoiler alert: it involves murdering a bunch of people.)  There are also no moral shades of grey here.  You are a bad person and you hurt people.  The more powerful moments in the game are after the completion of a level.  The game has you walk back through, through the carnage you just caused, this time without the adrenaline, and with the time and clarity of not having to do anything.  It's sobering to walk down a hallway, caked in blood and filled with bodies and realizing you did this not a minute before
 This is not a game for kids or for people who don't like violence.  Hotline Miami is clearly trying to make you think about violence in video games, though it doesn't try to push a message on you in either direction.  It's a gift of introspection, which is well worth the $4.99 I payed (normally $9.99), on top of being a really good game.

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