||Nov 29, 2012
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Pure as the driven snow
Hotline Miami is complete in it's aesthetic. Everything from Cactus' art and visual style, which in over 40 games has never seemed more fitting, to the fusion of baseball jackets, late disco, neon, and ultraviolence, to the extraordinary hallucinatory pumping soundtrack which mixes 80s synth, hard techno, and some kind of wild-west folk music, to the fluidity of the game mechanics, which is the result of some kind of mad genius or luck, playing, as it does, like a stealth game, an action game and a racing game all rolled into one, with speed as the crucial element (the more you play, the more "press R to restart" seems redundant - you just want to get straight back in with no-one interrupting your racing line, furthering the utterly hypnotic effect it's all having on you), to the obtuseness of the story, which is definitely there but which you can't quite grab, to the simplicity of the systems and the simplicity of the violence and the simplicity of the motivations and to the enormous complexity which it then implies in terms of meaning, which has led dozens of writers to write long articles about the game even before it's release, to the animal masks, which are already iconic, to the directness of a character in the game asking you straight up "Do you like hurting people?" and then not providing anything like an answer or judgement or even bringing it up again.
It is one utterly complete package. It is not a story that is being told through the latest game technology. It's not a first-person shooter in the Unreal3 engine because that is the latest engine. The engine, the art, the sound, the mechanics of the game and even the experience of playing it are tied together. It is absolutely art. It's based heavily on the movie Drive, but it communicates...whatever it's trying to communicate...better than that movie. Hotline Miami is driven. Drive isn't, it's a slow examination of something that is empty. Hotline Miami doesn't give the character or the player space to examine the violence being created, only enough space to commit it. Seeing this game in passing, it looks ugly and stupid. Playing it, it's beautiful in it's ugliness and is the work of some serious intelligence.
It's also very fun.
Upon completion, you won't get many answers. That might be the point, but there is a special ending where you will get them and which you have to go through a lot of work to obtain. Those answers, if taken at face value, imply the story could have been told better. Exposition right at the end is a bit weak, generally speaking.
The lack of a failstate and the speed of getting back into the action means the game is rarely frustrating (I once attempted a mission at least 150 times, convinced for the whole time that it wasn't actually difficult and that I was not trying properly), but there are exceptions.
The Bottom Line
Perfect, in the way a flower is perfect.