It’s hard to say what made Hotline Miami just so damn good. Maybe it was the ultra violence; perhaps it was thrilling soundtrack; or could just have been the fast-paced high-stake action. Either way, it was a rollercoaster of action that few games were able to match.
Project Downfall attempts to recreate that feeling as an FPS with more than a dash of John Wick and even Severed Steel mixed in. It’s a bold challenge, and the game almost manages to succeed – albeit with some major issues.
Many thanks to the publisher for the review code.
Our Keanu Reeves-esque protagonist has a little bit of a medication problem, and given the dystopian cyberpunk world he lives in it’s rather understandable. Not only that, but between his meds and the monotonous daily routine, he’s not in the best mental state either. Which is probably why he finds himself taking on gangs of criminals in his spare time. It’s very much Hotline Miami in that regard without the depth of storytelling that Dennaton’s classic manages to pull off. A lot of the story is environmental and can be found through magazines and NPCs, but I didn’t personally find it that engaging enough to bother seeking it out after a while.
On the flip side, the overall presentation is pretty superb for the most part. The bright neon lights and warped screen really help add to the overall atmosphere, and the graphics manage to mostly pull off that low-fi look whilst still being appealing. Probably the worst element are the actual enemies, which consist of flat sprites that aren’t very well animated. Their actual designs aren’t all that bad, but they feel very stiff and out of place with the rest of the world.
As is to be expected, Project Downfall relies a lot on fast shooting and quick reflexes. However, your character is no superhero and suffers from a slightly too slow movement speed and even lower amount of health. That speed is made even slower after popping a pill to gain certain buffs, such as one hit melee kills, and feels like a crawl even when running. It does work, but playing a shooter that expects you to feel like an action hero at such low speeds does feel a little off at times. On the plus side, the game does offer quite a lot of customisation to help you adapt the experience to your own personal preferences, allowing you to remap controls, toggle run mode, and much, much more. The only thing really missing is gyro aiming, but the simplicity of the shooting also means that you never feel like you need to be overly precise either.
That is mainly due in part to the many, many guns and just how well the shooting works. Starting with nothing at the start of each level (I guess his arms get tired after a while?), you’ll need to quickly grab something to defend yourself against an oncoming beatdown. Every enemy carries some type of weapon, but they don’t have a lot of ammunition, meaning that it’s vital to grab what you can in order to pop off the next foe. The standard difficulty limits you to only three weapons, but given how quickly ammo runs dry it never feels like a problem when you have to throw one away.
These weapons don’t have the greatest amount of variety, due to the weapons being held out a little bit too far to distinguish between many of them, but they all pack a satisfying punch. The shotgun is an obvious choice for filling your enemies full of lead, but my personal favourite ended up being the minigun for that ultimate feeling of spray and pray.
Where things fall down slightly are the enemies themselves, as the lack of variety is only made all the more apparent by their dumb AI. With a top down shooter, you can get away with simple ‘see you and shoot’ AI, but with an FPS it feels notably dull – especially as it also allows you to exploit the enemies to your advantage by simply edging towards them around corners and shooting their elbows. Unrewarding, perhaps, but given how easy it is for you to die, it also feels beneficial to help swing the odds in your favour.
I also found that there were some hit detection issues too when it came to picking up certain items. In theory you are able to pick up any item with X, but it seemed far too finnicky at the best of times leaving me with no ammo to defend myself against oncoming threats as I desperately mashed the button trying to grab something off the floor. With a game like this, you should be able to pick stuff up from a very lenient distance, and this game just doesn’t have that. It’s not enough to spoil the action, but when you unfairly die due to something out of your control, it can feel more than a little annoying.
Project Downfall is a very unique and stylish shooter that is let down a little by imperfect controls, crap enemy AI, and a rather forgettable story. Despite those problems, it does do a lot right and may be worth looking into for fans of first person shooters. It’s a little too unpolished for the high price point, but worth grabbing in a sale at the very least.