Reviews: Hotline Miami

One hell of a trip

Hotline Miami is a strange, twisted, wonderful game that proves that a game can be counted as art without being pretentious, flowery, or non-violent, as most "art games" are. It is unflinchingly brutal, celebrating and mocking its own bloody aesthetic simultaneously.

It is viscerally satisfying: with only a single health point between your character and death, every move counts. The game just a bit faster than the conscious mind can process, demanding that the player enter an almost zen state where they kill first and think second. You will eventually find yourself reducing an entire room full of gun-toting mooks to a bloody pile of bodies in just a few maniacal moments, simultaneously feeling all-powerful and utterly fragile as split-second decisions determine whether you live or find yourself once more tapping R to try again.

Many great minds have attempted to dissect the story of Hotline Miami. Or perhaps the stories. The tale of the Hitman's steadily shattering grip of reality is perhaps the most important one, a tale that draws itself out in hallucinations and silent interactions, reality and madness bleeding together. The story of why the Hitman is being sent to do what he does, easily missed and told in newspaper clippings and fragments, is an unabashed throwback to the raucous tales of action movies of old, strangely satisfying in its utter lack of pretension. Much has been made of the two endings, and the question of which is mocking the player, and which is the genuine one: if only to make up your own mind, it's worth going the extra few steps to obtain both.

Hotline Miami is an experience that simply must be tried to be understood, a brutal celebration of video games that seek to be art, not by imitating the paths of other mediums, but by refining what it means to be a video game to a razor's edge, generating a whirling experience that sucks you in, chew you up, and spits you out... in the best possible way.