Console, portable, PC gaming…it’s all the same to me. This transforms my gaming into a pilgrimage instead of a past time, as I travel to great lengths to see my decisive journey unfold. Even when I’m at the whim of time, I grasp a certain sense of responsibility, and exhaust all of my options to enjoy my gaming the way I see fit.
And sometimes, I just step right off the cliff of sanity for progress sake.
I am restricted more so within the realms of the PC than console, at least for now, from a technical stand point. I find comfort in the reality that not all PC gaming needs to be high end for enjoyment, and titles that even require a certain sense of technical bravado may still be enjoyed at a bare minimum. When one has to ask the question of how awesome they want their Aliens vs Predators to be, the answer is simple.
Steam does short work of my gaming time, when I let it. I’ve made comments recently about the infinite mire of games yet to be played. Despite this, and a couple hundred strong library of Steam titles, I still buy more. I disregard the Catch-22 as mere child’s play, and reassure myself I am crazy, if only for the safe benefit of knowing I’m not.
Craziness with standing, I downloaded a game (one of several) during the Steam Holiday sale by the name of Hotline Miami. I had read a review in a local magazine, much to my delight, and some of what I gazed upon intrigued me. The way the game was described sounded a little warped, and I knew from that instant, the game had already passed two of my three important litmus tests.
1. Is it available for purchase?
2. Do I have time?
3. Will Shadow the Hedgehog be absent?
Meeting two of my three requirements, and having not mentioned any affiliation with Sega in the article, I knew the game signified a viable option of fun.
Hotline Miami’s tutorial get’s straight and to the point. Opening up with the line “I’m here to tell you how to kill people” help makes the following action unapologetic. You have an easy time of understanding you’re about to enter a world of sick degradation, and you better be as ready as possible to enjoy it.
HM has a betraying simplicity. While poised as a straight forward 2-d beat em up, the game’s style runs much deeper. While a top down point and click at it’s core, you’ll soon realize stealth is a far savvier strategy to dispatch foes than going Rambo. The fast paced nature of the game will have you dying within seconds of your first real battle, and your health bar is represented by the lack of your blood on the floor. With little exception, if hit, you die. To give you an idea of what kind of survivalist play style this will breed, I have played few games that appeals to this base level of brutality. The moment of stubborn fear, when hiding behind a door way for your chance to bleed out that unknowing son of a bitch for another couple seconds of precious life is a commodity.
This rather brutal nature is a fatal two way street. What goes for you, goes for them. Armed with this knowledge, and only the weapons you pry from smashed hands, the blood shed that unfolds is pretty gruesome. The crime scenes always decay into something completely jarring, despite the games outdated aesthetic. The retro façade does little to tame the lighting and music, which combines flawlessly into a sense of haunting isolation. Most games about mindless fighting would have you in a comfortably confident mood, Hotline Miami does the exact opposite.
Beyond the beatings and shootings, and even taking stealth as a regular means of conquest, the game wears yet another mask of mischief. The nature of your missions allow you to scope out the area pre-hand, so you may better be prepared for the violent fiends in wait. Due to the fast deaths and quick respawns, you’ll often find yourself trying to calculate some kind of blood math, which gives way to some perverse sense of puzzle solving.
Okay, so if I slam the door into the first guys head, I can than quickly throw the baseball bat at his buddy who will rush the door at a quick pace. He’ll drop the pistol in a bloody daze, which I can than use to take the first guy regaining his footing hostage, which will help me survive his eavesdropping friend with the shotgun. After his buddy slumps to the ground, I can than steal the shotty, and blast through the wall to my left killing the two men who haven‘t been alerted, rendering their assault weapons for my own designs…and the possibilities go on. At any one moment, the plan may change, and you’ll soon reexamine the fastest way to not bleed out.
A hybrid truly, with action, stealth, and light puzzle solving all in one. The narrative makes you think of a detective story, but the clues are non existent, and the only suspect is you. I even want to say it’s survival horror. It’s not, but this strange sense of vague creepiness keeps you on your toes. The game’s depraved ethos and merciless brutality is evocative of what would happen if Kubrick and Tarantino co-created a video game.
Due to all of this, I think the most unsettling quality of the game, that despite the unique stealth options, odd sense of puzzle solving, and relentless action, there lies a dark overtone. The game starts off as grim mystery, and only entices you with a sense pf psychosis. The mysterious reality of who you are, and why you are committing to these savage acts of massacre motivates you uneasily. You sulk along, back dropped by the eerie ambiance from one blood bath to the next, as confused and helpless as all of your victims. You’re presented with these horrific circumstances drenched in a 2-d facade. You look on in terror at what you’ve created, but that never stops you from doing it over again.
Not often do I stand, so disgusted at the scene of horror I’ve helped to unfold like in Hotline Miami. The brooding sense of explicit carnage bothers you on some level, like few other 3-d games achieve, and what most other 2-d games dare not to do. HM is a unique and fascinating game, due to a collision of contradictions that coerce addictive insanity. HM, in essence, has an odd sense of emotion most would not think coding capable of.
Hotline Miami force feeds you a fetishes disavowal, making you endlessly hunger for an emotional slaughter.
In this neon lit foreboding, we’re all victims armed with only the potential of just one more breath.
Just one more.