I run down a hallway and wait by a door. A guard walks past the door and I swing it open, knocking him down. I dash at a shotgunner before he has time to react and swing my katana, decapitating him. I turn back to the stunned guard and finish him off with a quick sword swipe. I check the next room. A rifleman is standing guard with two dogs. I wait for the dogs to pass the door and I charge in and swing my katana, cutting the rifleman in half. I swing at one dog as it lunges at me, but the second bites my neck. That’s the thirty-seventh time I have died this level.


If you come into Hotline Miami expecting a game where you can just absorb punishment, look elsewhere. In this game, you can only take one hit. It doesn’t matter if your attacker has a sniper rifle or a baseball bat, you must always strike first. To survive this game you must stay fast and efficient. If you mess up however, you can instantly hit R to reload the last checkpoint. Like Super Meat Boy, levels aren’t long so you will never be losing too much progress.


The levels may be tough as nails, but the combat system makes up for it. You use your weapon with left click, and throw it with right click. Throwing allows you to quickly take out far-away enemies with weapons before they get a chance to shoot. Guns have very limited ammunition, and firing them alerts guards to your location. The best weapons are weapons like knives, swords, and machetes that let you quickly take out enemies without being noticed. Throwing most weapons stuns enemies, giving you time to finish them off. Finishing moves are brutal but slow, so they should be used when there are no guards trying to kill you.


The graphics are crisp and pixelated to give a classic feel to the game. The game’s neon lights and flashy letters really add to the 1980’s Miami atmosphere. This game is not for people who are easily disturbed by gore. By the end of the level the floors are covered in heads, organs, and blood. The deaths are brutal and stylized in the vein of Madworld or Kill Bill.


The techno soundtrack in the combat levels is perfect for the slick action the game has, and by the end of the game you will be humming some of the great tracks. However, the songs can also be ominous and disturbing during the non-combat sections, and when something weird happens the creepy songs kick in full force to let you know that this game means business.


Speaking of weird things happening, this storyline may be more crazy and disturbing than any other game I have ever played. You are an amnesiac who is captured in his apartment by three people in animal masks. You have frequent flashbacks to brutal kills you have committed. You always get a message on your answering machine telling you to do something from playing music at a club to babysitting, but there will always be armed killers waiting for you. As the game progresses on, reality starts bending and ‘things’ start talking to you. Without spoiling too much, the sequences where you go to buy a drink or pick up a pizza take a turn for insane as the game goes on. The more you go on, the more you realize that you are no hero. You brutally kill people without a second thought and obey whatever the answering machine tells you to do. You are a bad man.


However, the missions are flawed to say the least. The more you play the more repetitive the combat sequences feel, occasionally broken up by new enemy types or set-piece moments. Enemy AI feels unfair at certain points, turning around to attack you when you are sneaking up on them. There are barely any enemy types, and the new types don’t do much to change the pace of a level. Boss fights are completely one-sided and unfair, with them being able to oneshot you while you must dodge their attacks and wait for the right time to strike.


FINAL VERDICT: At its core, Hotline Miami is a stylish and frustrating romp through the fragmented mind of a killer. If you are a patient gamer that wants a twisted adventure and is ready for a tough challenge, take a look at it. If you come into this game looking for a normal brawler and fair difficulty however, you will be thoroughly disappointed. Hotline Miami will make you have fun killing. And I guarantee that by the end you will feel horrible about it.