It’s been almost two years since Hotline Miami 2 continued to steal our hearts with its excessively awesome retro charm and brutal violence. That style of melee and firearms combat in room after room of baddies looking to lay the beatdown has left us ever yearning for more. Fortunately, Devolver Digital knows exactly what we crave and they’ve aimed to deliver with something very similar, and yet very much its own magnificently visceral beast. RUINER is a melee/shooter action game from Reikon Games very much in the same vein of control as Hotline Miami with a 3D isometric view, light-RPG elements and cyberpunk twist, and at PAX South, we got an early taste of what RUINER has to offer.

You are dropped into RUINER’s world with very little understanding. Entering a highly advanced technological facility known as HEAVEN, you are introduced to your character: A nameless fellow in a leather jacket and sporting a helmet reminiscent of that of Daft Punk’s Guy Manuel with all sorts of crazy displays happening on the visor. A face pulses across your screen from time to time with the simple instruction, “KILL BOSS.” It’s clear; whoever this boss is, your job is to kill him, as well as any unfortunate personnel that decide to stand in your way.

Devolver Digital

You start with little more than a lead pipe, but RUINER uses this facility as an intense training area to introduce you to its elaborate tool kit. Guns make an appearance, from standard handguns and light machine guns to automatic plasma rifles and flesh rending shotguns. These guns have only their initial clip to supply until you’ll be tossing them aside or picking up dead adversaries’ weapons on the fly as convenient replacements.

It isn’t long before we’re given access to our first two abilities, the dash and the shield. The dash allows you to flash a short distance in real time or hold down the button and queue up several different dash points in a sequence before letting a rip and quickly making your way through an area. It’s a solid means to get close to or flee from enemies in a hurry as you frenetically dispatch all foes looking to paint the walls with our helmeted hero. The shield is a deployable half-sphere that covers you from directional gunfire. This makes a great means to avoid gunfire and dash to cover to re-assert your position.

Devolver Digital

The grand fun of these two abilities is that they can be combined. Put up that shield and dash at a nearby enemy and you’ll paste them like a flash-stepping battering ram. Both abilities draw from a limited bar of power just under the health gauge, so considering which works best in what scenario and when to combine them on the fly is important to consider, though enemies drop health and power drops to keep your carnage going longer. We learned from Reikon that we can look forward to acquiring more abilities that can be combined in similar fashion to devastating or utilitarian effect.

As we traversed HEAVEN, arena after arena had us butchering opposition as the directive, “KILL BOSS,” continued to flash. Eventually we found a clearly superior foe flanked by numerous henchman and packing some intense firepower. Getting killed thankfully spawned us as the beginning of the current arena because this particular sub-BOSS was one heck of a challenge on his own and even without the henchmen flanking him. Fortunately, after a few attempts, we finally took him out. At this point, our character attempts open the door that presumably leads to BOSS only to be shocked into unconsciousness.

Devolver Digital

Finally, we got a little story. Our character is a tool, subjugated by a shadow organization to infiltrate HEAVEN and kill this so-called BOSS. Our character’s brother is held as insurance against betrayal. Fortunately, we’re rescued by a female hacker that frees our brain and an old codger of a mechanic that fixes our cybernetic implants up and helps us on our way. If we’re going to save our brother and uncover the shadow organization that did us so wrong, we’re going to need to get stronger. That means making friends in the downtrodden district of Rengkok.

Rengkok is a downtown cyberpunk city that looks like it was pulled straight from the scenes of Blade Runner or Deus Ex. It acts as a hub area from which to explore the gossip in the city, gain quests and tasks from NPCs, and enter new levels. You can also shop for upgrades and get your hands on new gear with the help of a currency known as Karma, collected from each scenario and the various side-quests. We didn’t have much time in the hub area, but it was pretty clear that this is a place you’re going to want to explore from top to bottom if you want to gain access to helpful information and tools.

Devolver Digital

This world is dark and oppressive, yet so glitz and glam in the technological flair and fashion it chooses to apply. Neon burns through the darkness and the grunge of the streets is laced with metal and wiring as the downtrodden populace roam it. On top of this is a buzzing electronic soundtrack that throbs with intensity when the fight is on and pulses like a heartbeat when you’re walking the streets. At times of narration, you’re treated to the somewhat grotesque art of various denizens you come in contact with, both friend and foe alike. The sub-BOSS is a sleek, yet hardened looking killer where the mechanic is a grizzled old man absolutely riddled with makeshift cybernetics. These were just a handful of characters in a world chock full of them.

RUINER may not be designed in the retro, pixelated look of Hotline Miami and it may not be heavy on RPG elements like that of Deus Ex or Shadowrun, but it marries sleek and sophisticated design elements of both styles with amazing proficiency and promise of things to come. The action was hectic and occasionally unforgiving, but oh so brutal and made us feel joyfully triumphant when we conquered our first big threat. The hub areas’s side-quests, NPCs and shops hint at a level of progression that will keep us improving into the perfect killing machine. Between the upgrades and promise of other abilities that can be combined like the Shield and Dash, we’re excited to see what carnage we can sow when we get our hands on the full game.

RUINER is due out in 2017 for the PC.