Hotline Miami is a retro, top-down arcade game, where you play an unnamed character who is sent on murderous missions in 80s Miami. It's very challenging, and while it's extremely violent and disturbing, it's one of those rare games that makes players question what they are doing.
Do you like hurting other people?
Hotline Miami starts with a phone call. Waking up in April 1989, a voicemail message asks you to go on a mission to collect a briefcase. Before you know it, you find yourself in a building killing everyone in front of you. Unlike most video games, when you complete a level, you then have to walk back through all the carnage you created to move on to the next one. This makes the violence more affecting. This is at least part of the point of Hotline Miami.
The game's creators want to make you uncomfortable about what you're doing - at one point a character even asks 'Do you like hurting other people?'
Great gameplay and thought provoking
If this was just trying to make you think about video game violence, that would not make for a great game. However, Hotline Miami's gameplay is excellent. Each level requires thought and quick responses, and you'll probably die a lot trying to complete each one.
Every building you enter is populated with enemies out to kill you, and they are so carefully constructed it's almost like a puzzle, albeit one that, once you've planned your assault, is completed in a rush of bloody, premeditated murder.
If you like tough, retro arcade games, you'll love Hotline Miami. But it's the story, alongside the stylized retro graphics and excellent soundtrack, that lift it into something really special. On top of all that, it has excellent replay value - you collect masks throughout the game, which give you different abilities, allowing you to beat the game in different styles. It's not a game for kids - despite the 8-bit graphics, this is a game with very adult themes.
Retro done right
Brutally tough and brutally violent, with an incredibly atmospheric and disturbing retro, 8-bit world, Hotline Miami is a remarkable achievement.