Hotline Miami is a game with a lot of hype and high ratings: it’s also free for PS+ members (or was, not sure if it still is) – so I gave it a shot.
Looking past the atrocious art direction (just because it looks this way on purpose doesn’t make it look less like shit), the game is essentially a puzzle game with more entertaining pieces – those being mafioso wanting to kill you. Each mission has a building you need to clear all the enemies from, which ends up with every room in that building being about figuring out when to do what, how to do it, and a shit ton of trial and error.
So yes, this is a puzzle game centered around dying a lot to figure out “okay, I died because I did that, but if I do this it’ll turn out differently”. The biggest issue with the game comes into play here. The AI is not consistent. It bugs out a lot, it fucks up, it also genuinely cheats from time to time (albeit, through said bugs, not purposefully on the dev’s part). This takes away that puzzle element, removes any skill component, and replaces the entirety of what once was a fair battle of figuring things out with a game of pure luck and chance. I hate to say it, but this is one time where the always annoying phrase of “artificial difficulty” does come into play quite often.
Now, yeah, you’ll die a lot. That’s fine, I don’t mind it being challenging, I don’t even mind dying a hundred times because of MY OWN MISTAKES. Being shot by a guy who the last 49 times didn’t notice me across the entire building suddenly sniping me with a shotgun because he randomly spawned closer than he’s supposed to on my 50th attempt is just bullshit. Having a dog walk out of the map and thus making the mission UNBEATABLE is bullshit. Having nobody hear that gun shot the other 30 times but somehow the entire building did this time is bullshit.
And then, the next biggest problem with this game: the console port. As I said, I played this on PS3 because it was free – and the controls on the console version of this game are so bad I almost can’t believe it’s not a joke. They put the LOCK-ON button, a button which makes your character stuck in the direction of the enemy you’re locked onto (and doesn’t turn off unless you click it again) as R3. R3 is the right analog stick – the one you use to move where your character is looking, and thus gun and melee attack direction as well. R3 is very easy to press by mistake, and remember, this is a typical console port without any way of reassigning buttons. This got me killed far more times than any of my own actual mistakes as well. I’d sneak up on someone and oops, I lock on to a guy across the hall behind me by accidentally pushing the stick down slightly as I move and now I’m swinging at the air and he’s killing me. Or I’d be being swarmed and, oh, time to lock on to the guy across the building instead of any of the 9 guys right infront of me.
The final, and maybe most important issue for many, is that the gameplay isn’t just annoying and unfair half the time – but also extremely repetitive and monotonous, and this is not a thing that takes awhile to set in. Within the first few levels you’re already feeling tired of it even as you briskly pass through the challenges.
Everything else? Music ranges from a few great songs, a handful of godawful ones, and then mostly ‘okay-to-bad’ stuff. The worst being the song that plays in the MC’s apartment and the main menu, the best easily being “Hydrogen” (the song earlier in the review). The story is fucking terrible. It’s so vapid, stupid, and such a tryhard attempt to be edgy that you can look it up yourself if you care. I’m not wasting time commenting on it further – aside from saying it was also very short. You can beat this game in one sitting because the challenge is not that hard and the game is only a handful of hours long.
Every single mission boils down to this: 1. Pick Tony for your mask, he is a one-hit-kill on all but a few enemies. There is never a single mission where Tony’s mask is not the best option (which goes to show how little thinking you actually need to do). 2. Punch everyone and occasionally toss something at someone. Yeah, it’s fun for maybe an hour – but not after that, especially not after you get stuck redoing a whole mission because a dog decided to walk outside. They put in the other masks for absolutely no reason because the others do just about nothing, some are even outright bad for you to take (like the cricket one, which gives you a shit weapon that works very slowly). The only purpose they serve is to make it SEEM like the game has more to it and that the player has various equal tactics they can pick from that will play differently, yet it all just ends up the same but having to spam-punch people instead (or doing less spamming as Tony). Terrible story, mostly grating music, no real variety in gameplay (TONY TONY TONY) and early onset of that monotonous feeling make for a fairly bad game.
4.5 Tonys out of 10
Not the worst thing I’ve ever played, it was somewhat fun at times, but not ever really good at all either – and definitely not something I’d recommend even while it’s free on PSN. I’d say it isn’t worth the time or possible money. The gameplay is extremely bland and repetitive, the story is fuck-awful, the music is mostly grating to the ears with a couple exceptions that are awesome, and the art is atrocious no matter how “stylized” you may want to claim it is. I’m being lenient with the rating as it is, if I think about it any longer I’ll have to re-make the rating image.