If there's one game that should be on every gamer's computer, then that game is Hotline Miami. It's an indie game, with old-school pixelated graphics, reminiscent of the first couple Grand Theft Auto games, except the carnage level has been significantly raised. Squeamish gamers may not be able to handle the good 'ole ultraviolence.
The player controls a nameless character (fans have taken to dubbing him "Jacket" because of his distinct letterman's jacket) who receives voicemails instructing him where to go. When he arrives on the scene he puts on a rubber animal mask, and has to kill everyone inside the building. As the game goes on, the levels become progressively harder, and more masks and weapons are unlocked. Each mask gives the player an advantage (faster speed for example) or disadvantage (more guns).
The storytelling and aesthetics are also spot on. The film Drive was a major inspiration for the game, and it's quite apparent. The film goes for a brightly-colored, neon look which meshes really well with the pixelated graphics. The soundtrack is amazing and features many 80's inspired electronic tunes. Hotline Miami's story is heavy on surrealism, opening with a bizarre scene of three people in animal masks making mysterious comments to the player. The more the game progresses, the more bizarre things become. The player starts to question what is really happening and what is a trippy fever dream. The game's questions and mysteries are partly answered by the game's ending, but collecting the puzzle pieces also gives the player a "secret ending" where even more answers lie. Some aspects of the game are left open to interpretation, and there are several good theories out there.
As great as the aesthetics are, it's the gameplay itself that will win any gamer over. The controls are simple, but the game can be quite difficult. One hit will kill the player, so the restart button will be hit many, many times. Despite the simple controls, there is quite a bit of thought and planning involved. Overall this makes for quite rewarding gameplay, as finishing a level has rarely felt so good. The levels themselves play out quickly, and the action is very fast-paced, and timing can be everything. Slashing your way through Russian mobsters has never been so fun.
I've already played through the game a couple times, and every friend I've told about it have also become huge fans. Hotline Miami just gets so many things right, that it simply must be played. The game itself only goes for $10 on STEAM, and is half off today.
The soundtrack (which has to be the best video game soundtrack of the year, and one of the best ever) is also up on soundcloud and can be heard HERE.