One of the games I'm most looking forward to this fall involves wearing disguises, infiltrating strongholds and taking out assassination targets in as smooth a way as possible. No, I'm not talking about Dishonored (though that game looks perfectly fine), I'm talking about Devolver Digital's Hotline Miami, a new top-down killfest from artist Dennis Wedin and game developer Jonatan "Cactus." Söderström.
I've been playing an early build of the game, and it is bonkers. Hotline Miami plays fast and hard, with merciless difficulty and twitchy controls that will see you die and restart a level ten, twenty, even thirty times.
The game's retro art style feels alive; Wedin's environments are delightfully seedy, and everything in the game just feels off somehow, the stinking underbelly of a city that has no overbelly to begin with.
And man, the soundtrack is incredibly good. It's a wet, thrumming mix of fantastic electro from a bunch of great electronic music artists.
A bunch of stuff from the game is by M.O.O.N.:
As well as Sun Araw:
With more music to come, including some stuff by Jasper Byrne, whose terrific horror game Lone Survivor has one of the best not-yet-discussed-on-Kotaku soundtracks of the year.
Hotline Miami itself is a top-down shooter something like Smash TV or the early Grand Theft Auto games, though with fewer (and more lethal) enemies. The story is a David Lynchian mystery set—where else?—in Miami, in which you play a psychopathic killer-for-hire who wears animal masks and lays waste to even the most dangerous enemies. (The animal masks give specific power-ups. They're also really creepo.)
In practice, Hotline Miami moves fast: really, really fast. Walk into a room and you've got a split second to take out the guard looking at you, or you're dead. But death and restarting are part of the game, and you're expected to spend a long time perfecting your approach. The kills are brutal, bloody, and wildly entertaining in a grindhouse sort of way, and the game itself is fast and fun as hell—faster than anything I've played in a long time, due largely to the speed of the mouse and keyboard combination.
You can get a pretty good sense of it from this trailer—each mission starts with you getting a weird message telling you to go to a place and get a thing, or off a guy… the usual thing. What's unusual is how each level plays out, and the game's overall pastiche. It's the coolest I've felt playing a video game in a long time, and I can't wait to see how the whole (twisting yet coherent) story plays out.
The team at Devolver Digital has also just announced that Hotline Miami will be playable at Gamescom, and will be released on Steam; big news for one of the most interesting indies I've played this year. Games like this deserve a wide audience, and it's great to see that Hotline Miami will have a platform worthy of its cold-hearted, psychotic thrills.