Hotline Miami (PS3/Vita) Review
Kill them, kill them all. That is the premise of Dennaton Games’ 2D, top-down murderfest called Hotline Miami. Last year, this two-man team put unleashed one of the most violent mass murder simulators (read: only half of that is true) on PC that had us questioning our mindless slaughter by the end. Now, Dennaton has found a new home in Sony and have released their critically-acclaimed, 8-bit killing spree on PSN and Vita, spreading the murderous joy to a whole new crowd. With DualShock 3 and touch screen control options brought into the game, does Hotline Miami’s fast-paced gameplay hold up without the speed and accuracy of a mouse?
Let’s find out what’s HOT and what’s NOT in our review of Hotline Miami on the PS3 and Vita.
Effective Control Schemes
Let’s address this one right away: Hotline Miami handles well on Sony’s hardware, regardless of whether you’re using the DualShock 3 or the PlayStation Vita. Both play similarly to a twin-stick shooter, although the Vita incorporates its touch screen for various actions (ex: looking further ahead) since it lacks shoulder buttons. It takes a while to adjust to the new aiming controls, especially if you’ve been an avid player on PC. This is where you’ll see a split in opinion. I’ve listed the controls as a “pro” for this port and that’s because for first-time players, they get the job done. However, this topic could easily be seen as a “con” from a PC player’s standpoint given that the accuracy of the mouse is lost in the transition to controller. This isn’t anything new to multiplatform titles. We all know that the mouse provides unrivaled precision. But for the sake of this review, I’ll be judging the PS3/Vita version of Hotline Miami while using PC comparisons as a reference point for those who are not new to the game, or are debating on which platform to play on.
Attacking with R1 and picking up/throwing weapons with L1 feels right. After a small adjustment period, you’ll be swinging bats, pipes and knives around at enemies with fairly good accuracy. And for those guys that go down but not out, feel free to press X to kick their head into a wall or bash their face in with your fists (or some blunt object). The control scheme was thoughtfully laid out when it transitioned to console and handheld, that much is obvious. On the Vita, you’ll be given the option of either “tapping” enemies to lock-on or simply using the Square button to lock-on to the nearest foe. All in all, I must commend Dennaton for ensuring that Hotline Miami didn’t lose its very essence in the journey across platforms.
Brilliant and Bloody
For those that don’t know, Hotline Miami is a stylized, 8-bit, top-down title that serves up countless beatdowns, brutalities and first-degree murders over the course of 19 chapters. Oh, yeah. And you die in one hit. The story starts off with your nameless brute speaking to other unknown individuals sporting animal masks. Weird, right? Things only get more unusual as you, yourself, don an animal mask and begin taking hitman-style jobs via coded answering machine messages. The plot slowly unravels, not really picking up until the end, at which point it reveals its true nature and complexity, and gets you thinking. While there is plenty of things to kill, the game is much more than that.
But let’s talk about that killing, since it is the core of the game. The shear brutality of this game is sure to make some people wince, despite the fact that this is all done in 8-bit graphics layered behind old-school, VHS-style animations. Heads will explode when struck with bats, leaving brain matter behind; torsos will be separated by katanas; necks will be slit by short knives; eyes will be gouged out with just your thumbs. I think you get the point. Hotline Miami doesn’t hold any punches. Chances are you haven’t seen anything this sadistic since Manhunt. The killing is, for lack of a better word, enjoyable. It’s fast, fluid and fun. This is credited to the trial-and-error nature of the game, mostly because anything and everything will kill you in one hit. A single swing of a pipe; one bullet; a blood-thirsty dog. These are the things that can kill you and bring your brag-worthy combo to a bitter end. You can kiss that sweet score you were racking up goodbye.
This is a game where one miscalculation, whether that be a poorly timed swing or a gunshot that barely missed its target, can set you back to the beginning. The checkpoint system is really only “by floor”. By that, I mean that each new area (or floor) that you enter in a building is the checkpoint. So, for example, if you clear at the bottom floor and head upstairs, you’ll restart at the beginning of the upstairs floor if you die, instead of redoing the entire level. Some of you may have found that thought comforting. Don’t. Each floor is punishing and will test your ability to adapt and strategize. Expertly taking out six men only to have the seventh catch you with your pants down and start over is common, and it’s part of the entire experience (one you’ll grow to love, actually). Just press X and restart.