Mindful Miditation: Hotline Miami

By Kiah Easton, Columns Editor
Composed by Various Artists

The experience of Hotline Miami is distilled into its soundtrack with a level of cohesion rare to the world of media. The role of the OST within video games is to support the experience, increasing the immersion felt by the player. Without question, Hotline Miami’s OST accomplishes this with elegance and precision. Despite the inherent challenges when fusing different forms of media, Hotline Miami’s game-play and OST are practically interchangeable in the way they express Hotline Miami’s adrenaline-filled narrative.

Read more: Mindful Miditation: Pokémon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum OST

Even after years, when the song hit my ears again, the experience came flooding back in full. Lofi club tracks interrupted by the occasional dreamy vaporwave interlude produce some sort of inherently mental response that mirrors the disillusioned feelings of your character. On one side we have heart pummeling, sweat-inducing tracks such as “Hydrogen” by M|O|O|N. So repetitive that each progression grants an almost startling effect. Blending perfectly into the game, these high energy tracks fill the player with a sense of determination combined with frustration that supports the game’s addictive nature. There are points where the theme of repetition becomes so intense it begins to have a hypnotizing effect; everything disappears except for the 8-bit enemies and the blur of your avatar, allowing for a more immersive experience. The game’s story also reinforces this sense of cohesion. You play as a schizophrenic man who’s driven to mass murder by the mystical tutelage of a masked group. The trance-like effect that the soundtrack has on the player imparts a crazed sense of vigor that ultimately puts you in the character’s shoes.

These extreme club tracks fill your body with tension and frustration, making the valleys, the moments of calm, so much more impactful. After listening to the same pounding bass line for however long it takes to beat a level, leaving the level and getting fed the warmly distorted, dreamy synth-pop feels like a physical shift in mental pressure. Those pauses of the constant aggression allow you to contemplate the hazy undefined story you are being led through and make you really wonder what it is your character is doing and why. One great example of these softer interludes is “Miami” by Jasper Bryne. Optimistic and flowery, the melodic contrast is almost sickening. 

The only real way to experience the unbelievable cohesion that Hotline Miami has to offer is to play the game. With other video game soundtracks, this is not always true. Although the soundtrack stands alone as an exceptional musical project, there is something especially unique in the way it complements the game, creating one of the most truly immersive experiences. The highs and lows force an emotional response from its consumers, which highly contrast the dull, undemanding nature of many games today. It is hard to say much more about Hotline Miami than that as a piece of media interacted with by its consumers, it provides one of the cohesive and immersive experiences found to date. The music is a perfect example of how OST’s should complement the media to create something beautiful.

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