So since I took part in TheBlondeBass's game shuffle truffle thing, I was randomly selected to be the one playing Hotline Miami. This is a replay for me, but it's been a few years since I played the game and back then I played the PS3 version, while now I played the PC version for a bit of a different experience, so I really don't mind it. Huge thanks to Amna Umen, who was also the one who put the game in the shuffle, for gifting me a copy of it on Steam!
My previous experiences with this title in particular have all been very positive, aside from when it got me a bit mad at the TV, but ultimately I have always enjoyed the game quite a bit. But what do I think now, after so much time has passed since I played it? What is it even? I don't doubt that most of you can answer at least one of those questions, but for those that can't, I will still explain a bit about it.
Before I really start I'd just like to say, don't expect an actual review or anything here, this is just a kinda short impressions thing. Or that's what I intend at least, haha.
Hotline Miami is a weird game. You're kind of a very violent serial killer and the usual procedure of how you get your "job" is usually just that someone calls you, you get told to go clean a party up or something along those lines and then you head there and conduct your business. In-between that you go to stores where the owner always looks the same or something, pick up a pizza or just go back into your car without even talking to the store owner (which actually works for some reason) and then you're at your home again, picking up the phone again to take your next job. In-between that there are also some dead people lying on the floor as store owners talk to you about how your DVDs are for free and things like that... completely normal stuff, like you'd see every day.
In stages, you basically go around in a top-down perspective, kill everyone on the floor you're on and go on with your life to kill more people. Most stages have multiple floors, between which there's always a check point, which is a good thing because you'll die. A lot. You see, aside from there being a lot of enemies that just love to rush you as soon as they spot you and a lot of them having guns or being otherwise dangerous, your incredible fragitility makes it very easy for you to die before you even know what got you, if you're not careful. There are also different enemy types to make your life harder, such as dogs, that can only be killed if you hold a weapon yourself or fat guys, which you can only kill with guns. And guns make a lot of noise, so if you just carelessly shoot them, you can very well expect to be rushed by a lot of people at once.
This is all fine though, as this game provides you with all the tools you need to avoid death. The maps themselves are big enough to provide a challenge, but small and enclosed enough so that you can easily scan a big chunk of it just by looking around. As long as you pay attention, there's rarely a moment where you don't at least know what's coming for you. In theory, you could easily plan out what you're going to do and at least try to execute that plan. The fact that deaths don't detract from the score you get at the end of a stage and that you only have to do well at one floor at a time, as well as the fact that you can jump right back into the action without any waiting time, makes death much less of a punishment and much more of a welcome thing to try out new tactics and experiment with what you're going to do.
There's a certain amount of unpredictability to the enemies' behaviour, as, even though you can plan out a lot, the enemy AI doesn't quite always just work the exact same path as it did before and not all, but some weapons throughout the stage randomly change what they are every time you die, forcing you to be a bit more flexible than you'd have to be otherwise. Once things get going there might very well be a moment where you have to make split-second decisions to avoid being shot or having your head smashed off. I like that though, as it provides a certain adrenalin rush when it happens and even though it usually ends up in death (for me at least), the moments where you have enemies rush at you and you somehow make it out alive are among some of the most satisfying to me. Being able to pick up any weapon an enemy used and being able to throw them at new enemies or just trying to use them to defend yourself in a moment like this is what gives you a bigger chance of survival that should be welcomed.
But even if you die a lot, the satisfaction from finally making it through a level is definitely there and it feels very rewarding. I had 861 deaths at the end of the game and the only deaths that I wouldn't say were my own fault were ones where my mouse randomly decided to malfunction, which is hardly the games' fault. The controls took a little bit getting used to for me at first, but once you do get used to it you really can't blame your deaths on them at all anymore.
One thing I'd also like to talk about with this game is the soundtrack. The soundtrack is amazing to this day and it's the biggest reason why I'm able to take any death, no matter how much there is of them, without stopping. The soundtrack makes this game what it is and I have no doubt I'd think a lot less of it if it weren't for that. While not every single track is entirely great to me and I overall prefer the sequel's soundtrack, this one still stands on its own very strongly and definitely pushed me onwards as I kept dying and ultimately triumphing over whatever the game threw in my way. Some of my personal favorites include Musikk per Automatikk, Inner Animal and possibly my favorite of them all, Miami Disco. Give them a listen if you'd like! I'm pretty sure 99% of you won't regret it.
Aside from just being a blast to play through once, Hotline Miami also has a very decent amount of replay value. Whenever you finish a level you unlock a new weapon that might randomly appear in the stages and the more important thing, new masks. Masks are a neat little gameplay mechanic because, depending on which you choose to wear at the start of a stage, they will give you different little effects. For example, one mask might make it so that more melee weapons appear, one might make you survive a bullet or there's also one that just makes your fists so strong that they kill everything they punch. There are also some other extremely useful masks, such as one that translates the game's text into French that apparently sounds like it was created through the beauty of Google Translator. You don't only unlock those masks as you go, but some are also hidden inside stages for you to find and the same goes for pieces of a puzzle, which you can find to unlock the game's true ending if you're so inclined.
You also get graded at the end of every stage and depending on how much of a high score person you are, this is where you can likely get the most of your replay value from. You get graded on basically everything you did, in what way you killed people, how quick you were, stuff like that. Stringing together kills quickly counts as a combo and depending on how well you do with that, you'll get a higher score as well. Melee kills generally give more points than kills with firearms, but that doesn't mean you can't get a good score using those either, although it will certainly be harder to get an A+, which is the highest possible rank, with those. Even as someone who's not very eager to always get the highest rank, I can't deny that it felt very nice whenever I managed to get an A+ and I always tried my best to get one, even if sometimes it would end up being more of a B or C for me. It just feels good to be told that you're good!
Hotline Miami spans 20 chapters, plus two extra chapters that aren't part of the story, in total and while a lot of them are great, the last few of those are also my biggest and really my only real criticism with the game. A lot of those last few chapters were very short and easy and thus felt less like a real climax to me and more like a bit of an afterthought. I can't deny that what came before that more than makes up for it, but I just would have liked to have a bit more of that! This isn't a very long game, it's only been about 4-5 hours long (6 if you count what I did afterwards) and I would have liked to play some more, which is really a testament to how strong the game actually is.
Overall, going back to the game after all this time is something I ended up enjoying a lot more than I thought I would! It's been a blast and while I expected to like it a bit less than I used to because I already know everything and I know the sequel and stuff, I actually ended up enjoying it more than I ever did before. I even ended up going for the true ending and getting all the masks, which I had never done before, and I do have to say that the true ending is at least a little bit better than the other one. It's not much, but it gives at least a little bit of clarity and getting the puzzle pieces is not a hassle at all, as long as you actually know that they exist (which I didn't the first time around...), so there's really no reason not to get it. I did have to replay a few stages for both that and some of the hidden masks but the stages in this game are short enough that that's not a problem for me at all. This is definitely a game I can still see myself going back to occasionally and it was very nice to be reminded of how fun it actually is!
So thanks to Amna Umen for putting this game in the truffle shuffle and gifting the Steam version to me and thanks to TheBlondeBass for actually making that thing! It's the reason I'm even on this site now and even if it's just been like two days, I am in love and I'm addicted to you all already. That and yesterday a thing happened and I'm just happy to know all you people! It's been a while since I felt this good about something. I love you all. <3
Excuse my little game-unrelated tangent there but I just felt it was appropriate because it's what made me come here after all! Now for the end of this I'd like to say, I hope you enjoyed reading this and I hope I did at least a bit well with my first "real" blog post! I'd love to do more of those in the future, so please leave any feedback you have for me so I can improve and make more interesting stuff for you to read through!
Thank you very much for reading through this and have a fantastic day!