Preview: Hotline Miami’s thoughtful violent psychedelia

October 17, 2012

Hotline Miami is not a comfortable game.

This isn’t due to the game’s controls; the WASD-and-mouse setup works about as well as it usually does. No, Hotline Miami causes so much unease because of its dichotomous pacing, contrasting moments of extreme, bloody violence with ones of walking down empty hallways and checking answering machines.

In the game, by two-man studio Dennaton, you’re essentially a hitman, heading to locations and taking out groups of thugs with bats, guns and fists. Sometimes you need to make sure you’ve made the kill, snapping the neck of a downed enemy. Sometimes you need to make swift movements through doors to take people out before they do the same to you. Sometimes an enemy seems relatively defenseless. Every time, it’s methodical. When you’re done, you take a calm and silent walk out of the building and get back in your car to drive home.

Hotline Miami is a score-attack game.

These movements, these actions, all in the context of pixel art with a psychedelic filter and animal masks, seem too significant. Too… real. You’re very fragile. So is everyone else. And sometimes you just stop for food. It’s an unsettling experience, this arcade-shooter, and an affecting one in a way it really shouldn’t be able to be.

Hotline Miami releases for PC on October 23.