Cover art of Hotline Miami
Hotline Miami is a top-down shooter video game by Jonatan Söderström and Dennis Wedin, collectively known as Dennaton Games. The game was published by Devolver Digital and released on 23 October 2012 for Microsoft Windows.
Set in 1989 Miami, the plot consists of two protagonists, Jacket and Biker, who have been receiving phone calls instructing them to commit massacres against the local Russian Mafia. The game blends top down perspective with stealth, extreme violence and surreal storytelling, along with a soundtrack and visuals influenced by 1980s culture. The game itself was influenced in part by Nicolas Winding Refn's 2011 neo-noir crime film Drive, as well as the 2006 documentary Cocaine Cowboys.
At release, the game received very positive reviews from critics, with praise regarding the narrative and themes, soundtrack, and gameplay, and has since became a cult video game. A sequel, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, was announced in 2013 and was released on 10 March 2015.
Hotline Miami is divided into several chapters, each of which is further broken down into several stages. At the start of most chapters, the unnamed protagonist wakes up in his apartment and listens to cryptic messages on his answering machine. These messages tell him to perform an arbitrary task at a certain location, which in each case is inferred as a metaphor for killing every person at that location, such as giving VIPs at a hotel a 'great stay', or taking care of a 'pest infestation'. Prior to commencing a mission, the player is asked to select an animal mask to wear, each of which provides unique advantages or handicaps.
In each stage, the player navigates a building from a top-down perspective, and the goal is almost always to kill every opponent therein. Occasionally the player must also defeat a boss at the end of the chapter or find key items as they explore, but most levels are very straightforward. Some levels will also include hidden masks for the player to find along the way. The player has access to a wide variety of melee, thrown, and ranged weapons, and will need to handle challenges through either stealthy tactics or overwhelming force. However, the player character is no more resilient than the enemies, so mistakes are usually fatal.
Enemy AI varies slightly, causing them to occasionally move unpredictably, making it difficult to plan a perfect approach. To make up for this, the game allows the player to restart each stage the moment they die, allowing them to quickly fine-tune their approach over several attempts. The game grades the player's performance at the end of each chapter based on a number of factors, also granting them points that unlock more weapons, and may also unlock additional masks depending on their score.
Hotline Miami, taking place in Miami in 1989, employs an unreliable narrator and events are sometimes presented out of chronological order. The player takes the role of an unnamed man dubbed "Jacket" by fans for his distinctive letterman jacket. One day, Jacket receives a voicemail about a supposed delivery of 'cookies' to his home. He finds a package outside which contains a rooster mask and instructions to perform a hit on a group of criminals and steal a briefcase in their possession, threatening that he is being watched and that "failure is not an option." After Jacket completes this mission, he receives further messages on his answering machine, each asking him to take care of an innocuous "problem" at a specific address; these locations invariably contain a criminal operation, usually run by the Russian mob, that he must eliminate. Throughout the game Jacket has visions where he is confronted over his actions by three masked figures; the cryptic rooster-masked Richard, the hostile owl-masked Rasmus, and the sympathetic horse-masked Don Juan.
During a raid on the estate of a movie producer, Jacket rescues a woman who was being sexually abused and brings her home. In another mission Jacket is called to a phone company where he finds everyone dead except for a lone biker, whom Jacket then kills. Jacket can find other animal-masked killers dead or dying during his missions, and after each mission he visits a store or restaurant where the same bearded clerk greets him. "Beard" gives him encouragement and free samples of merchandise.
Jacket's perception of reality becomes increasingly surreal. He begins to see the talking corpses of his victims during his everyday life. Beard abruptly dies, his bloody corpse remaining at his places of work, and he is replaced by an abrasive bald man, Richter, who offers Jacket nothing. One day Jacket arrives home to find his girlfriend murdered and a man in a rat mask on his couch, who shoots him in the head. The attack puts Jacket in a coma; he wakes up in a hospital and overhears that his attacker is in police custody, whereupon he escapes and storms Miami police headquarters.
Jacket discovers his attacker was Richter, who had also been following the orders of threatening voicemails, and steals the file on the police's investigation of the killings. With this he raids the mob-owned nightclub the calls were tracked to, finding the address of the headquarters of Miami's Russian Mafia. Jacket then goes to this address and kills the syndicate's leaders.
The game's main story ends with Jacket killing off the Russian Mafia's leaders, but afterwards the player can play bonus levels as the Biker from the telephone company. Another recipient of the mysterious phonecalls, the Biker has gotten fed up of carrying out their assignments and is trying to track the callers down. From raiding the phone company the Biker traces the calls to the mob-owned nightclub, and when Jacket arrives the Biker kills him. At the nightclub the Biker finds a hidden basement, where two janitors have been sending out the mysterious phonecalls. If the player has found secret letters hidden in Jacket's levels, the Biker will crack their computer's password and learn the janitors work for 50 Blessings, an ostensibly-peaceful patriotic organization, and have been using its membership to carry out killings to derail an alliance between the Soviet Union and the United States. The Janitors boast their "experiment" is only the "tip of the iceberg" of a larger conspiracy. Without the password, the janitors claim they were acting out of boredom and mock the Biker's attempt to rationalize his actions.
Most of these names are unofficial because they were not named in-game.
- Jacket - He is the main protagonist of the game. He wears various masks and performs a number of brutal assassinations in response to cryptic messages left on his answering machine. He is later attacked by another masked assassin, who kills his girlfriend. Because of this, he pursues those he feels are responsible. While he is given no name, various pieces of merchandise and cross-promotion have adopted "Jacket" as his official moniker.
- Biker - The protagonist in the chapters that occur after the main storyline is finished. He receives the same phone calls as Jacket, but is less willing to follow their instructions, eventually trying to end his affiliation with the group. This eventually leads him to a confrontation with Jacket. He is playable in the later chapters, but uses a different play-style than Jacket: he is unable to use stray weapons and can only use a cleaver as well as three throwing knives.
- Richter - Another person receiving the same phone calls. He is the one who attacked Jacket and killed his girlfriend.
- Richard, Rasmus, and Don Juan - Three masked personas that Jacket sees within his distorted reality.
- Hooker - A woman the protagonist rescues early in the game. While nursing her back to health, it is implied the two begin a relationship. She is later murdered by Richter.
- Beard - The only apparent friend of Jacket's, who works at every shop Jacket visits.
- The Janitors - A couple of sneering green-attired "janitors", blonde and brown-haired, belonging to the militant American nationalist group 50 Blessings. They turn out to be behind the campaign of brutal terrorist violence in which both Jacket and the Biker are involved as willing participants. They are modeled after the creators of the game, Wedin and Söderström.
Hotline Miami was a spiritual successor to an unreleased game called Super Carnage. Jonatan Söderström started working on the game when he was 18, describing it as a top-down shoot-em-up in which the aim was to kill as many people as possible. The project was cancelled following difficulties programming the game's artificial intelligence's (AI) pathfinding. Söderström later met Dennis Wedin, singer and keyboard player in the metalcore band Fucking Werewolf Asso. They collaborated on a promotional game for the band called Life/Death/Island, which was again cancelled. Söderström and Wedin decided that their next game would be a commercial release, due to financial difficulties. They saw Super Carnage and its potential as a game. They decided to expand upon this, and thus they started developing Hotline Miami. Immediately after being shown the prototype of Super Carnage, Dennis Wedin was excited to start working on the game. When asked in an interview about his initial thoughts on being shown Söderström's prototype, Wedin stated "I loved it right from the start! I played his prototype for quite a while (even though it was just one level) and that was the most exciting part, making a game that we loved to play ourselves. We never really thought about what anyone else would think, we just wanted to play it and to do that we had to make it".
The biggest influence on the game's story was David Lynch. Another notable influence on the story was the 2011 film Drive. Gordon Freeman, the silent protagonist from the Half-Life series, was also of influence. The documentary Cocaine Cowboys influenced the developer's decision to use 1980's Miami as a setting. On the use of masks, the designers said they were inspired by the movie Kick-Ass and tried to figure out a way where someone without a lot of money would be able to disguise themselves.
Marketing and release
The cover art was created by Swedish painter Niklas Åkerblad. Leading up to the release of Hotline Miami, Devolver Digital opened a phone line in Miami, Florida to enable people to call and leave voice messages of their own. Some time after the official release of the game in late October 2012, a trailer was created using these recordings. In early November 2012, an update for the game added support for gamepad control, multiple bug fixes, a few gameplay tweaks, graphical adjustments, and a new bonus map called 'Highball'. By mid-December 2012, the game's publisher, Devolver Digital, revealed that 130,000 copies of the game had been sold in the seven weeks since it launched. In an interview at Eurogamer, project manager Graeme Struthers was "chuffed to bits" for Hotline Miami creators Jonatan Söderström and Dennis Wedin, adding that "those are some talented boys."
In an interview with Pocket Gamer, Söderström was quoted as saying that his team had been talking to Sony about bringing the game to PlayStation devices – including the PlayStation Vita – although they would require a third party to port it for them. The creators were also considering porting the game to iOS and Android touchscreen devices, The OS X version was released on 19 March 2013. In mid-February 2013, Devolver Digital and developer Dennaton Games confirmed that the game would be coming to PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita in the summer of the same year. The title would be Cross-Buy, allowing those who have purchased the game on either Vita or PlayStation 3 to play it across both platforms, only having to buy it once. The port was handled by Abstraction Games, who shifted the engine from Game Maker 7 to PhyreEngine, also adding enhanced controls, an extra unlockable mask, and online leaderboards. These features were later added for existing PC owners as a patch. It was also revealed that, at this point, over 300,000 copies of the game had been sold.
On 28 May 2013, it was featured on the eighth Humble Indie Bundle as one of the games offered if paying above the average amount. The Linux version for Hotline Miami was released concurrently with the bundle as at that time. On the night of 24 June 2013, the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita version of Hotline Miami was released early, due to scheduled maintenance of the PlayStation Network. On 24 March 2014, Devolver Digital announced that the game would be headed to the PlayStation 4 with cross-buy support. The PlayStation 4 version of Hotline Miami was released on 19 August 2014.
On 11 September 2014, Overkill Software, the developers of Payday 2, released an announcement that there would be a downloadable content pack based on Hotline Miami, released on 30 September as a collaboration between Dennaton Games and Overkill Software.
In Japan, the localized editions of Hotline Miami and Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita were bundled together and released as Hotline Miami: Collected Edition on 25 June 2015.
The Hotline Miami - Official Soundtrack could first be found on Devolver Digital's SoundCloud account. It was later made available to purchase on Valve Corporation's digital distribution platform, Steam, as downloadable content for the main game. Although the soundtrack is available for purchase, all of the music files can be found within the game folder in Ogg vorbis format (albeit often in edited versions).
|1.||"Horse Steppin"||Sun Araw||10:10|
|6.||"Deep Cover"||Sun Araw||8:05|
|10.||"Musikk per automatikk"||Elliott Berlin||3:05|
|13.||"A New Morning"||Eirik Suhrke||2:28|
|16.||"Daisuke"||El Huervo feat. Shelby Cinca||2:42|
|21.||"It's Safe Now"||Scattle||2:43|
|22.||"To The Top"||Scattle||1:58|
Hotline Miami received positive reviews from critics, with praise given to its neon-soaked depiction of 1980s underground Miami, overflowing with raw brutality and ultraviolent close combat as the player finds himself outgunned and using his wits to choreograph a way through impossible situations. The game's soundtrack was lauded for accentuating the already heightened tension and gritty violence. Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic gave the PlayStation Vita version 89.17% based on 12 reviews and 87/100 based on 12 reviews, the PlayStation 3 version 86.06% based on 17 reviews and 85/100 based on 27 reviews and the Microsoft Windows version 85.33% based on 32 reviews and 85/100 based on 51 reviews.
PopMatters scored the PlayStation 3 version of the game 9/10, reviewer Eric Swain wrote "Hotline Miami is still an introspective surrealist dive into the mind of a maniac who lives within the neon gloss of the late '80s. You still go around killing groups of thugs at the behest of a voice on the other side of the phone calls, which is somehow sufficient to addle you into killing everyone you find at an address that that voice provides. You still choose an animal mask to wear before entering these kill zones, and you still have a variety of weapons at your disposal to stab, shoot, and bludgeon your way through crowds of Russian thugs and the police."
IGN gave the game a score of 8.8/10 emphasizing its "striking blend of fast ultraviolence, a dense, challenging story and brilliant presentation." In its final verdict for the game, the reviewer Charles Onyett stated "Hotline Miami's momentum of mystery builds right up to its finale, where snarling cynicism is offered as a justification for why all this machinery of neon fuzz and thumping bass, bright blood and fractured identity was started up in the first place. Yet the justification is also disarmingly simple, the same reason why quarters were dropped into arcade machines built during the late '80s era Dennaton Games so clearly reveres. Why bother with Hotline Miami? Because it exists. Because it's fun. Because it deserves to be played."
The game received the "Best PC Sound" accolade by IGN from its "Best of 2012" awards. It was also nominated for "Best PC Action Game", "Best PC Story", "Best PC Game", in addition to "Best Overall Action Game", "Best Overall Music", and "Best Overall Game".
It was the recipient of both Eurogamer's and Rock, Paper, Shotgun's Game of the Show award at their inaugural EGX Rezzed expo. On 24 December 2012, PC Gamer awarded the game with "The Best Music of the Year 2012".
When questioned about piracy issues by Eurogamer, Graeme Struthers of Devolver Digital said "[Söderström] just felt he didn't want people playing the buggy version of his game however they got it. He wanted them to get the patch. He basically said, 'I'm not going to criticise this, it's a fact of life. It would be nice if guys could find it within themselves to pay for it, but that's the world I'm in, so you know, you just have to take it for what it is.' It has been torrented to such a staggering level, and given the file size of it, I mean, you can't really be surprised, right? You could pass this thing around on the world's smallest memory stick. So it has been torrented to extraordinary levels."
In an interview with Jonatan Söderström and Dennis Wedin at Eurogamer, the creators shed some light on possible new future game content. When prompted with the question of upcoming downloadable content, the creators revealed "I think we're going to do quite a big project. It will probably be about as long as the full game, so probably we'll charge something for it. It will be like a sequel kind of, but building on the story. We don't want to reveal too much, but it will probably have more playable characters than the first game did. And a couple of different stories and angles. A lot of people have been asking about a map editor to build their own stages, so we're looking at if it's possible to do that. I think it would be really cool to let people do their own stages."
In terms of the new soundtrack, Söderström said "I'm not sure for the second game yet. Last time we had nine different musicians doing the soundtrack. Looks like a couple of them might do more tracks for the sequel, but we've been looking at some other bands as well. Want to keep it fresh."
Hinting that the sequel may be some way off, Söderström insisted that he was still committed to working on patching and fixing the original game. The official Hotline Miami Twitter released photographs revealing the title screen of the sequel, revealing its full title, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number. On 19 June 2013 the first teaser trailer for the sequel was released on the Devolver Digital YouTube channel. The game was initially announced for 2014, but was eventually released on 10 March 2015.
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