ADAM SMITH / ALEC MEER / CARA ELLISON / LEWIE PROCTER
Alec: Right, let us begin our discussion as to why we believe Hotline Miami is the worst game ever created. it is traditional to start with a description of sorts as to what the game is. Anyone burning to depict it in a particular way?
Lewie: Hotline Miami is an above average word puzzle game with the best hyper violent combat simulator minigame ever.
Adam: Explain yourself, sir
Lewie: It has secrets. Without ruining the fun, have we all done the puzzle yet?
Cara: I haven’t, but that is because I keep replaying all the early levels to see if I can get a better score. I don’t mind spoilers though really.
Alec: No spoilers! I haven’t done it but I did find out what it was and stuff. I suppose we’d better loop back onto plot stuff later
Adam: I will say this – the ‘r’ key, to restart after dying, is the most important key in the game.
Alec: R TO RESTART
Adam: It’s a game in which death is only ever a second away, but so is rebirth. And by the midpoint it’s as natural to hit ‘r’ as to hit a man with a pan.
It’s like playing a symphony of violence and that ‘r’ key is the basic chord that holds it all together.
Alec: My left index finger is always over R, every single picosecond I play
Cara: I like to see it as being like the ‘reload’ of arcade House of the Dead, rather than a restarting of a level, it feels like that in rhythm
Adam: Exactly so
Alec: Yes, death is part of the process rather than a failstate.
Lewie: It’s so crucial that things are slightly different each time.
Cara: The more you die, the more variations of AI behaviour you encounter, the more reactive it forces you to be, the better, more violent you become. Things take you by surprise. Reacting is so important.
Alec: I’d even, upon R to restarting, assess the state of the ‘new’ level and, if it wasn’t to my liking – like, if the first guard had a gun rather than a bat – I’d restart anyway. It wasn’t part of my plan that way.
Lewie: It forces you to make a plan, but be ready to abandon it if there’s a scary Russian man with a gun.
Adam: Interesting that so many people have called it difficult and yet it is a game almost entirely lacking a failstate. I never even got frustrated and left it for a while.
Cara: It HONES you. Also owns you.
Lewie: You can also brute force it. Trying basically the same strategy again and again can eventually work.
Adam: We have established that Hotline Miami is a lathe.
Cara: Ha, yes, it is very like being a woodwork shop. A VIOLENT ONE.
Adam: A true to life lathe
Cara: yeah – it’s constant plan making, plan revising. HLM is propulsive compulsive hyperviolent hyperpleasure lathe machine
Alec: OK, you win.
Alec: This is a faintly ridiculous thing to say, given the known opinions of those assembled here, but… does anyone have any issues with it?
Lewie: You can’t throw the lamps.
Adam: The stealth bit was really annoying. Which may be intentional – it’s still annoying though.
Cara: Occasionally I think you can kill someone and their weapon clips through walls
Alec: I had a dog walk out the level once. It just kept on going. Stupid dogs.
Adam: That should happen more often in games
Lewie: The boss fights are a bit too boss fighty.
Cara: Yeah although there’s nothing wrong with it being ‘gamey’. It revels in old school.
Alec: They are, but they did retain the same in the zone, teeth-grit flow of the main levels
Lewie: it was the flow of them I didn’t like
Cara: Yeah I agree with that
Alec: it’s not like Deus Ex where it’s a total departure – they’re sort of a whole HLM level crammed into 10 seconds.
Cara: Yeah, a microcosm of HLM but less fun usually.
Alec: They are bastard hard, the closest I came to being angry with the game.
Lewie: Occasionally the game lets you skip cutscenes all together, if you plunge your thumbs into the first boss (I think level 3) you kill him before he launches into dialogue.
Cara: Yeah I did that yesterday.
Alec: It says a lot about what this game has done to our heads that the important part of that statement is skipping cutscenes, not blinding a man with our thumbs.
Lewie: And Clean Hit (I think) you can shoot the guards at long range, and avoid the trip outside, past the cleaner.
Adam: I found myself swearing at the screen quite a bit – I was angry at people when they killed me, particularly if they happened to be the last man on the level.
Cara: Hmm. HM is actually the only game that I grin maniacally at whenever I die – it is actually funny how abrupt death happens – it is almost comical, and of course it means you get to play again, only faster, better.
Lewie: I wince watching other people playing it and dying. But I just power through when I’m playing it.
Adam: There’s something to be said for the fact that I really, really enjoyed killing those pretend people, as the game slyly suggested I would.
Alec: I have an awful confession to make.
I never once got a flexibility score.
I don’t even know how to.
Adam: NEITHER DID I
Alec: Help me. Kill me.
Adam: Isn’t it a gag?
Lewie: it was broken until yesterday
Cara: Yeah. I started getting them
Alec: I thought it was a gag, then I saw Cara mention it on Twitter, and just presumed she had superpowers
Cara: I AM GODDESS. Nah. I just like swapping weapons
Adam: I actually thought it was a joke about the inflexible nature of man. What this tells us is that me and Alec will read faux profound statements into bugs.
Alec: I thought it was moral flexibility. I WILL NOT WAVER. I MUST KILL.
Lewie: I think it’s just using a variety of weapons
Alec: well I variety the hell out of that.
Cara: Pool cue, crowbar, knife are my favs.
Lewie: lots of people have said that.
Adam: I scorn guns.
Cara: Me too. They are for PHILISTINES. The purity of a knife is what I crave. Do I look like a psycho?
Cara: I am morally flexible
Lewie: I am an EXECUTION MASTER
Cara: Me too. TONY THE TIGER
Alec: I like throwing crowbars at people. . and I always wear the mask that means people die if you open a door on their heads
Adam: I am Don Juan. Doors are like fists of fury through the brains of my enemies.
Cara: I like throwing crowbars at people and screaming PICK IT UP, PICK IT UP
Lewie: I enjoy how clearly the character you are playing isn’t a hero, but it manages to align your motivation with his. I want to get revenge for him, even if he is just a killer.
Alec: I just don’t want to be a punk-ass wimp. That means everyone else must die, rather than defeat me.
Adam: Yeah, I want to be faster, deadlier and more preposterous than everybody else.
Cara: Does anyone have some camomile tea I am getting very hot under the collar talking about this.
Adam: Beyond the sheer joy of playing the damn thing, I’d like to say something about why I think it matters in a broader sense. I really hope that it sets a trend – not necessarily of ultraviolent pixels – but of indie developers making more long-form games and selling them for money.
People complain more and more about free to play games from large studios but there are so many VERY GOOD games being released actually for free.
Cara: Yeah – it’s really something that they decided to make it in Game Maker
Adam: Yeah. How often does a promising gamejam title, or something along those lines, actually receive the development time to take the next step and become a commercial release?
Alec: I have worried that yer Catcuses and your Messhoffs have been a bit too cool for school, that doing something big and with a pricetag was considered selling out, and that was denying us greatness. But HLM would seem to suggest you can do it without looking like a mainstream schmuck
Adam: Precisely. It could be a PARADIGM SHIFT. Indies AND publishers should take notice of this success. It’s absolutely goddamn brilliant that people have responded to it so well and I reckon it’s just as encouraging a sign of the way things are moving as Dishonored and XCOM.
Cara: There is a claim that the games press is being contrarian or hipster in some way by raving about this game – but I don’t think it’s an unusual hit. This is a game that feels good to play. It primarily feels good.
Alec: Yeah, we’re not getting all hot about it because it looks like it’s from Hoxton. It’s because playing it does something sweet and brutal to our brains
Cara: It DOES look like it lives in Dalston and only eats vegan. But it’s so sweet and pure
Lewie: To me it just feels like the next significant indie game. I don’t know if it’s important for those reasons.
Adam: I get that too – but I think because of where it came from, specifically, it seems to be from a different part of the indie culture to me. It has the late night gasoline whiff of the Gamejam about it. And I want more of those feelings to find a bigger audience. Preferably one that’ll pay.
Alec: it’s a different late-night whiff I get from it. But I don’t want to defame anyone.
Cara: Like I originally said about when I saw it at Rezzed – this is the game that all PC gamers imagine when they think of themselves as being cool. it’s like Hackers. It’s that neon future we want to live in. It should be in a club with the music up loud. DEAR LORD THE MUSIC.
Lewie: I should be clear about this, I do think it’s a masterpiece.
Alec: The other thing, I think, is that it makes no bones about what it is, and what we do in it. Compare it to something like Medal of Honor, where there has to be heroic purpose for shooting men in the head. Even GTA has to have a rise and fall, wronged by worse men narrative. This is absolutely honest that extreme violence is an entertainment. It doesn’t try to mask its black heart.
Lewie: Well that’s basically my final take away from the story. It’s a game about the things that you do in it.
Alec: And while that should be abhorrent I find that honesty more palatable than other games’ pretence towards nobility
Cara: Yeah – I love that bit at the start where your character stops and pukes up. There are no bones about this. It is not meant to be apologising for violence
Lewie: Not if you run fast enough. I assume he pukes in the car…
Alec: I dread to think what the inside of that car is like. Blood and brains and puke and coke and sweaty rubber masks.
Adam: Cara mentioned musics. Isn’t it great to be able to rave about a game’s music and it not be chiptunes? Not that I mind chiptunes…but, man.
Alec: Yeah, soundtrack of forever. I kept expecting to tire of it, but no. It meshes with the flow, the action, the tension so well
Cara: I said this yesterday, but HLM and GTA are the only games that I turn the sound up as far as it will go, and just sit there vibrating in the sounds
Lewie: I could go horse stepping for hours.
Alec: I left the game alt-tabbed, just playing its music, for best part of a day. Does the universe realise the soundtrack is in the game folder, by the way?
Adam: This part of the universe does not
Cara: I wonder how the artists feel about that? It must be okay with them that everything is in there, loose, rumbling around.
Alec: I suppose for a lot of them it’s getting them attention they otherwise wouldn’t. And hell, I’d pay quite a lot of shiny British pounds for a vinyl soundtrack because of it
Adam: I reckon it’d have to be on cassette, battered, spools all shot to shit only works in an eighties tapedeck.
Alec: You goddamn hipster
Lewie: Everyone has been linking to bandcamp pages
Cara: Moon is amazing. But Paris is my fav track
Alec: Let’s talk plot before we wrap up Was anyone playing it for the story?
Lewie: it snuck up on me.
Cara: Nope. I mean it was an interesting distraction.
Alec: I do like the purity of “these men must die”, with no stated reason for why
Lewie: It gets a great deal from very little. How your home changes over time. The dialogue in shops and bars.
Cara: Actually what am I saying they did a good job with it. It didn’t interrupt the flow of the game at all. it was part of it
Alec: The unstated stuff was fantastic, especially the girlfriend sub-plot
Adam: Yeah, I’m so glad all of that was in there, but it wasn’t the thing driving me on.
Alec: though the repeating friend/shopkeeper/barman guy just made me think of Sam & Max
Cara: I wanted to see the tape that he got from the video stores. It was probably rude. Or it was Leisure Suit Larry.
Alec: I bet it was CCTV of himself poking someone’s eyes out
Adam: I reckon it was To Kill a Mockingbird. Just going through all the films with ‘kill’ in the title. Very disappointed by that one
Alec: OK,so we’re all agreed that it’s a danger to our children and must be stopped at all costs, yes?
Cara: I was going to write 2000 words of sex noises as a review on this game but I decided against it.
Adam: Oh God yes
…that was a response to Alec, not Cara.
Alec: Adam Smith will now be the first man to make sex noises on RPS
Lewie: My biggest worry is that Cactus has said he’s thinking about adding and endless/randomised/permadeath mode. I don’t think I would be able to stop playing it.
Cara: Oh no. Bargain Bucket will never ever go up again
Alec: I’d love a level editor myself. One knife, two hundred dogs
Cara: I’ll get the RSPCA on you
Adam: BAN THIS SLICK FILTH
Cara: SLICK FILTH?
Adam: Another one of my sex noises I’m afraid.
Alec: Anyway, you’re all wrong, Hydrogen is the best track.
Cara: SURPRISE DOG.
HOTLINE MIAMI is out now.