Monday, 7 January 2013

Belated Blog Update: Hotline Miami (7/01/2013)

Apologies First...

Hello ladies, gentlemen and gamers! Very, VERY sorry for the belated blog post; a particular problem in my game has been kicking my ass recently and thus due to that I had neglected to update this blog.

Anyhow, as promised the topic of this post will be about a game called Hotline Miami (http://hotlinemiami.com/).

So without further ado...

When a kick-ass friend of mine (http://www.dopplerinteractive.com/) introduced me to Hotline Miami, my initial impressions were that HM would be a game that is similar to games such as Dead Frontier (http://www.deadfrontier.com/) or other action-based top-down shooters where you just run in and clear waves of enemies in order to reach the next level. Heck, when I first discovered the existence of HM on Steam before my friend first mentioned it to me, its cover box image didn't strike an impression on me.

I mean, apart from the bloody mangled corpse, I can't imagine myself playing as  a guy in a 1980's letterman jacket and a pig mask...
So yeah, under the notion of studying what other indie game developers are up to, I dove into the 1980's neon-filled world of Hotline Miami.

Let's get that baseball bat ready...

If the cover box art didn't tell me otherwise, HM is, to my surprise, gruesomely violent. For a game depicted in early-era 16-bit glory, the results of every shot, every slash, every skull bash I perform are rendered in such a hyper-violent fashion that it took me by surprise at first. I'm not really a sucker for hyper-violence but having it in a 16-bit-esque game finally got me interested in it as I have never ever seen something like it before.

So, how does it play? 

Unlike my initial impression (admittedly from just watching the game trailer), it plays nothing like the game comparisons I've mentioned before. I'f I were to give a proper comparison, I would say that Hotline Miami is a result of the unholy union between Grand Theft Auto and Metal Gear Solid.

Running into rooms and going Rambo on the enemies is probably the worst thing you can do in HM, as you can be killed in one hit/shot (enemies likewise can be killed in one hit/shot). Even worse is that you start out each "Chapter" with nothing but a rubber mask that, depending on the type, will give you bonus modifiers such as faster movement, one-hit-kill punches or being able to survive two shots from a firearm.

Masks, lots of masks...
To give you a fighting chance, there are a large variety of weapons - split up into melee and firearm catagories, each with their own statistics and properties - strewn throughout the levels that you can pick up; that or you can punch your enemies down and then bash their heads onto the floor until they explode - then pick up the weapon they happen to drop. One important aspect of weapons is that while melee weapons are generally silent, firearms are often loud enough to alert nearby enemies of your presence, even through walls.

Because you are always in a situation where you are out-gunned and out-muscled, rather than running in guns-a-blazing you will actually have to survey the level and plan out your course of action. You can use a variety of strategies such as using stealthy assassinations, utilizing doors to slam into and stun enemies, performing a peek-a-boo to catch the enemies' attention and then attacking from around a corner, or using the element of surprise. The player will also have the ability to throw weapons at enemies to knock them down for a head-banging finisher, or impale them if the player is equipped with a knife.

Surveying the playing field.
Wait for it...
SURPRISE MOTHER F***ER!
One interesting thing to note is that, while the player has infinite lives and is able to restart at the checkpoint upon death, the weapons spawned and enemy behaviour (where it is facing, whether it will deviate from its patrol route, etc) will change each time the player restarts. While those changes are mild, it serves well to keep the gameplay fresh and the players on their toes.

After the end of each chapter, players will be graded and awarded points based on their performance during play. Those points are used to unlock more weapons and masks for players to use at their disposal.

And the Story?

As far as the story of HM goes, I can't tell much as I haven't exactly played it through its entirety. What I can say about the story without having to spoil it is that you play as a hired hitman in the late 1980's as you, on the whims of mysterious phone calls, go on a murderous rampage throughout Miami all the while wearing rubber animal masks and listening to awesome music.

Final Words

Hotline Miami is one of the few games that literally blew my expectations up into bloody chunks and gibs. Despite initial appearances, HM is one heck of a challenging game that forces you plan ahead and improvise, more often than not having you to do both at the same time as situations can change quite quickly between playthroughs. 

As I won't be giving any ratings, what I can say that I will certainly recommend people to try this game out if they looking for a challenging game!

Postscript: As the second closed beta testing period of Age of Wushu is drawing nearer to its end, the next blog update will be dedicated on my misadventures in that MMO. Tune in next week for more of Sonic Punch Studio's shenanigans!

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