Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hotline Miami Gameplay Review

I'm playing Hotline Miami, a top-down puzzling shooter by Dennaton Games and Devolver Digital.

While the game certainly plays out as a typical top-down shooter, the map layouts and overwhelming odds means there are some puzzle-like attributes as well, as you formulate and execute your strategy for each chapter. The game features fifteen multi-story buildings you must clear of all enemy units, each with predictable (or semi-random) AI patterns and doors you can use to ambush the enemy. There is an odd story that is described between missions. Hotline Miami does not save your progress during a mission if you exit the game, which is really disappointing since it is quite difficult. Enemies spawn with a variety of weapons (knifes, pipes, bats, pistols, shotguns, rifles, bottles, swords, and more), and all of these can be thrown as part of your tactics. Since each non-melee weapon has limited ammunition, you’ll be switching items often. Melee kills do not warn nearby enemies of your nefarious deeds (the bloody, dead bodies aren’t enough of a giveaway, apparently), so usually you’ll go for silent kills until you can funnel the remaining opponents through a narrow doorway. Before each mission, you can choose a mask (additional masks are unlocked throughout the game) that grants a subtle bonus, like faster movement speed or lethal doors. The controls use the WASD keys to move and mouse to aim, a fine combination that would have been better with the inclusion of mouse sensitivity settings. The retro graphics are memorable and the gore adds a level of disturbing brutality. The soundtrack is very well done and marries well with the neon hues and fast pace of the game. Hotline Miami has very high difficulty since everyone is a one-shot kill (including yourself) and you are usually outnumbered fifteen-to-one. Still, the game doesn’t feel unfair, as there is always some way to dispose of the enemies, and the level design makes more than one plan plausible. However, the boss battles are tedious and out of place, slowing the pace of the game considerably. Overall, Hotline Miami is a great mix of top-down shooting and careful planning, though its high difficulty may discourage some.