How good is Hotline Miami on PC?

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Answered by: John, An Expert in the Action and Shooters Category
In the unsung classic action epic Last Action Hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s jaded hero Jack Slater enters his motel room and, before doing anything else, shoots at the closet door. His comedy kid sidekick Danny is baffled until Jack opens the sliding door and a masked assassin decked out in weapons and rope falls out dead. "How'd you know there was a guy in there?" Danny asks. "There's always a guy in there," Jack says.

That scene sums up my experience of playing Hotline Miami on PC. No matter how meticulously I destroyed all of the Russian gangsters in a house, no matter how I planned my approach and which weapons I would pick up and where, no matter how many hit men I bludgeoned in a row, there was always one more guy. One guy blowing me away from around a blind corner with a shotgun, one guy running at me with a golf club and braining me before I can react, one more freaking guy I missed. And I loved every frustrating minute of it.

Not that the whole game is like the brilliant Last Action Hero, though it is similar in certain parts. Most of the game plays like the kind of movie Tarantino would make if he were on the most eighties form of LSD ever created, and with even more violence than usual. The entire game is a neon-washed flashing fever dream, complete with an amazing soundtrack that alternates between eighties nostalgia synth and deep-bass techno.

Everything is both pixelated in a retro style and sickeningly detailed, from the detailed death animations of your hits to the close-ups of characters talking. Few games, or forms of media for that matter, accurately recreate the feel of a bad trip. Not only does this game do that, it feels like a good trip at the same time.


Ostensibly the story of Hotline Miami on PC follows a rooster-masked murderer who takes his kill orders from cryptic messages left on his answering machine. (This being Miami in 1989, he of course drives a Delorean and all the mobsters he kills are wearing leisure suits.) It quickly veers off into hallucinations and possibly false memories and a whole mess of other narrative craziness. The story is amazing in that, for as off-kilter as it is, it never veers off into pretentious moralizing or pseudo-philosophy. It's messed up, sure, just on (somewhat) understandable terms.

The story and style are amazing, sure, but that wouldn't be anything without a good game. Hotline Miami is definitely a great game. Each level is laid out in a top-down style reminiscent of old GTA games. You can see the other rooms in the space you're invading and where all your enemies are hiding.

There is a wide array of murder choices at your disposal: do you punch out the guy guarding the door, take his golf club and attract roaming enemies into a room where you can swing at their heads one by one? Or do you kill the grab the shotgun in that room first after killing the guys in there and blow the other mobsters away as they run in, alerted by your shotgun blasts? Or both? Or do you miss punching the first guy out and get a nine-iron slammed into your face? After all, you're just as fragile as the guys you're gunning and bludgeoning down, going down in one hit. The game encourages both trying out all these tactics and randomly running in with a knife and just swinging away.

It's an exhilarating mix of planning and pure chaos that's both frustrating and satisfying in equal measures. You also unlock more murder masks with different abilities and more weapons to find in levels by getting better high scores, giving you another reason to keep swinging and gunning away, besides, you know, the game being compelling and amazing.

The game isn't completely perfect, though. It can be pretty buggy at times, with games quitting for no reason and enemies doing things like walking out of levels. It can also be unfair, with enemies getting perfect swings or shots out of nowhere, or your weapons not working as intended or just straight-up not connecting. These are all infrequent enough and so minor that they really don't detract from the game on the whole.

Last Action Hero was not recognized in it's time, which is a sad but unchangeable fact. Hotline Miami on PC, however, has been getting the critical and popular praise it deserves for both it's amazing game-play and compelling style. Go play it, it's a gaming experience like no other.

And go watch Last Action Hero. Seriously. It's pretty good.

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