The gameplay itself is a very odd mix of styles, taking the lightning fast and brutal difficulty of Hotline Miami, and mixing it with the loot grabbing and weapon rarity features of Gearbox’s Borderlands series, it makes the action seem fast and inhumanly unforgiving at times. The RPG mechanics (which I swear seem almost lifted straight from Borderlands) give you a choice of three classes and several skill trees to add hard earned points to, these, after a certain amount of investment has been made into the available skills, see the next set of abilities unlocked. I chose the ‘Ascended’ class as it sounded the coolest and started with energy weapons, what’s not to love? The problem I found, however, is that a lot of my abilities were pretty much useless and instead I had to focus almost exclusively on the shooting aspects.
Perhaps it was just the type of class I picked, but many of the abilities were of no help whatsoever. One of them sounded useful; it was a shield which blocked bullets from enemies out in front, but what the game didn’t tell me is that the shield actually blocked bullets that were fired from around a twenty-degree angle from both sides, meaning that if you were being shot directly from the front, the shield was actually useless. Maybe the skills developed more as I played through the story, but from the start, it never really engaged me. The actual shooting mechanics too are almost unfair, with enemies having sightlines that, as soon as they spot or hear you, seemingly known exactly where you are at all times, and when it takes just take a few bullets to kill you, you’re often dead before you even get a chance to react. I can’t count however many times I have faced an enemy on the other side of a door who, as soon as I opened it, would spin 180-degrees around and immediately open fire, seeing my character left for dead within a few seconds. Unfair doesn’t even begin to describe it. I feel this game would have hugely benefitted from either a fleshed out stealth or cover system that allowed you to hide, shoot around corners or such like, but as it is, it’s just shoot first (and hope your bullets actually go where you aimed) or be killed. Luckily, you’ll be glad to know, you respawn quickly so at least it took that positive aspect from Hotline Miami.