Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
The second game in this hyper-kinectic retro-violence series keeps making headlines for all the wrong reasons, and I'm not at all willing to make any sort of judgement about all that until I've played the thing. What I do want to do is flashback to when Hotline Miami, Dennaton's hallucinogenic Drive-like stealth-murder game came out of nowhere rather than was any sort of known quantity. I'd so love to be able to play it again with knowledge or association, to be back in that 'what the hell is this / this is incredible' mindset.
I don't mean that purely for the surprise factor, but for the freedom to appreciate what Hotline Miami does so well.Given the disorientating style, hyper-violence, Gosling-homage and apparently lo-fi aesthetic, one thing that's easy to overlook in Hotline Miami is how precise it is. It's not some churned-out, show-off hipster experiment, it's an evil machine which requires care and education in order to operate it at all correctly.
Its levels look like sandboxes, but really they're intricate puzzles. For every action a reaction, and a requirement to know exactly what the next action should be. 'Beating' a Hotline Miami level entials planning a route around it, and precisely what you will be doing/who you will be hitting/shooting/stabbing at every point within it. Every door, window, enemy, weapon and obstacle in that level is there for a reason: nothing is superfluous.
Whatever else it is, however much that soundtrack helps and however much all that violence hinders (for some), Hotline Miami is an incredible, impeccable machine.