Review Summary: do you like hurting other people?
Violence is important. In a civilised society however it is regrettably scarce and so to sate such primal needs to cause harm and injure and destroy, humans must find release in other ways like reading banned books or watching Arnold Schwarzenegger movies or posting on forums dedicated to tentacle rape manga or lengthily playing computer games in which the aim is to kill people. One such game is the critically lauded Hotline Miami wherein the player, through the considerable disconnect of a birds eye view, controls the protagonist known only as Jacket on his long and meticulous killing spree. Nothing is a good reminder of one's own precarious mortality like experiencing the satisfaction of slicing someone neatly in half with a machete or caving some idiots face in with an iron pipe or hitting a guy right in the sternum with a knife thrown from all the way across the room or ending someone's life using a door or boiling someone's brain alive with a pan of hot water or just totally mowing down a row of three or four dudes with a frantic spray of last-ditch machine gun fire.
The soundtrack to the game reflects the grotesque and garish re-imagining of the eighties in which the game takes place; where the only things that exist are buildings full of guys to slaughter built upon a surreal backdrop of gently pulsating neon oblivion. Flagship artist M|O|O|N encourages the profoundly stylized violence with intoxicating glitchy synth lines and irrepressible sinister throbbing bass grooves in songs like “Hydrogen” and “Crystals” that mirror the addictive game-play in their haunting hypnotic gratuitousness. Other artists such as Perturbator and Scattle contribute similarly shimmering, glamorous, militantly retro synth-pop numbers which evoke some kind of vengeful cocaine-addled ghost of the eighties that manifests itself inside of Jacket to prove that actions speak louder than words, deafening mother***ers in a flurry of gleefully gratifying carnage.
Clocking in at over an hour and a half, the soundtrack demonstrates some welcome and measured variation that echoes the excellent pacing of the game itself; the more bombastic and high-octane tunes are tempered by the subtlety of songs like the subdued and relaxing “Daisuke” by El Huervo which are like a thoughtful brief resurfacing from the depths of insanity. Such tracks are basically interludes that play as Jacket drives the purposefully paper thin plot in his compliance with the bizarre anonymous phone-calls he receives or meetings with characters such as a ubiquitous ginger creep whose suggestive dialogue does its best to piss all over the fourth wall, adding to the decidedly psychedelic feel of the whole game. Sun Araw's effervescently detached droney anthems “Horse Steppin” and “Deep Cover” meander like the mornings after hazy, half-forgotten night befores; the latter plays at the start of each level when Jacket awakes to a new day in his apartment and serves as an opportunity to refresh and reflect upon his vast amounts of ownage over cold pizza.
Other tracks such as “Crush” again by El Huervo or “Silver Lights” by Coconuts offer chilling foreboding ambiance during thoroughly disturbed dream sequences in which Jacket confronts mask-wearing incarnations of his consciousness who offer him conflicting advice and encapsulate the hallucinatory madness of the entire experience.
Naturally, when taken out of the context of the game, the soundtrack loses some of its uniquely psychopathic edge, and even though as a standalone it is still excellent, ideally you should play the game to completion so the songs bring you back to blissful memories of glorious, glorious violence.