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A bit of the old ultraviolence - A Hotline Miami review

Updated on November 1, 2015

The cover art of the game.

The game's cover art.
The game's cover art. | Source


Hotline Miami is a fairly violent top-down 2D shooter, released in 2013 by Dennis Wedin and Jonatan Söderström, also known as Dennaton Games. You play the role of an unnamed protagonist, who is referred to as "Jacket" by fans and the creators themselves. The levels all follow a specific format of the protagonist waking up in his apartment, answering a strange phone call which gives an address, the protagonist driving to said address, slaughtering all the enemies in the building at the address, driving to a business where his friend works (more on that later), and going home, where he then goes to sleep and wakes up, and the cycle starts over. The general format of the gameplay might be simplistic, but it's bloody (heh) good fun. The gameplay also has a neat gimmick to it; before entering the building full of angry Russian Mobsters, you put on an animal mask, more of which can be unlocked by getting high scores or finding them in rooms. These masks give you special abilities, such as running faster, killing punches, starting the level with a certain weapon, or taking more than one shot. The story of the game is revealed in surreal dream sequences and easy-to-miss newspaper clippings and a pamphlet on "Jacket's" table. I will try to sum it up without too many spoilers, but the gist of it is: The protagonist is in Miami at the height of the organized crime and drug wars, during 1989. The main gang in control is the Russian Mafia, who are the main targets of the jobs you receive. The United States is under Russian control, due to a lost war in Hawaii, during 1985, which is elaborated on in the sequel, which will be reviewed later. There's a political organization which happens to be based in Miami called 50 Blessings. Jacket joins this organization (why he does is never really specified but many fans agree that it's to avenge his friend from the war, who was in San Francisco afterwards, which got a nuke dropped on it), and he begins to receive the odd phone calls and answering machine messages. My ratings for the aspects of this game are:

  • Gameplay: 9/10

The gameplay might be as simple as running in, avoiding shots, and wasting the mobsters, but it's pretty fun. The mask abilities are also fun to experiment with.

  • Story: 10/10

The story is pretty well-told in quiet, dramatic moments in between all the bloodshed, similar to the 2011 film Drive, which the creators were greatly inspired by, even putting the director (Nicholas Winding Refn) in the special thanks section of the credits.

  • Graphics: 8/10

The game may be in simple pixel art graphics, á la NES games of the era the game is set in, but it's pretty well-drawn pixel art.

Overall: 9/10

An enjoyable experience with plenty of replay value (if not for the story, then to get a high score or all the achievements), good gameplay, aesthetically pleasing graphics, and an interesting storyline. All in all, this is a fun indie shooter that goes pretty cheap on Steam. Get it if you like retro-styled games and shooters.


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