When Hotline Miami released back on October 23rd, 2012, it was met with universal praise for its bright colors, catchy music, and slick gameplay. It’s a top-down twin-stick shooter where you play as a nameless character with one goal: kill everyone in sight. In celebration of its 5th anniversary, I’m going to take a look back at the themes and mechanics that made Hotline Miami so standout.
At a distance, this game looks like a mindless over-the-top gorefest with no rhyme nor reason to it. If you wrote it off based on images and footage alone, I couldn’t blame you. Hotline Miami looks like it would evoke the same emotions as 2015’s Hatred. The reason it doesn’t is that Hatred had no idea for its violence. Hotline Miami does, and it’s a damn good one.
Hotline Miami was made by two people at Dennaton Games. It was one of the first successes to be published by Devolver Digital. The game takes considerable influence from both the 2011 film, Drive, and the 2006 documentary, Cocaine Cowboys.
Basic gameplay revolves around the player character receiving a phone call and going on a murder spree with little explanation as to why. Hotline Miami sports a variety of weapons and move-sets to diversify your kills and become as creative a murderer as possible.
The player also receives masks as a reward for a high score, which provide different abilities like a faster move speed or the power to withstand one bullet. Enemies are placed in the same positions each round, encouraging you to learn the layout of each map and plow through as quickly as possible for the highest score.
Nailing down a flow and executing it in real time is a feeling like no other. Hotline Miami provides you the tools to do so and supports it with hyper-stylized visuals and soundtracks. It’s entirely worth your time and attention.