Hotline Miami Review
Style over substance is a common argument in videogames, what with their too-often reliance on shiny graphics and explosive set-pieces.
But why can’t we have both? Hotline Miami proves you can, and if all games were as good as Hotline Miami we’d all be very happy gamers indeed.
Put simply, you need this game on your PS Vita. Don’t care how you do it, just do it. Get it. Now.
For those just catching up, Hotline Miami was the indie darling of 2012. It attracted many with its neon 80s vibe, but had them hooked with its compulsive, just-one-more-turn gameplay.
The premise – if such a game even needs one – is the decline in to madness as your playable character devolves into a psychotic killer.
That’s right, there’s blood, bits of sick and plenty of rolling heads. It might not look possible from a top-down original-GTA-esque art style, but there’s an uncomfortable level or gore bubbling underneath Hotline Miami’s vicious surface.
And we love it.
The Gameplay Of Hotline Miami
Each stage is a series of murders each tied to another. Some could call it a stealth game, but the only stealth you’ll employ is the careful isolation of a single guard so you can decapitate him with pleasure.
Getting through the level as stylishly as possible is the key focus of gameplay, whether that’s mixing up your weapon of choice as often as possible, completing a level without being spotted or simply chain-killing your way through 10 or so enemies.
The key to earning the A+ rank is speed, in fact, which requires an insane level of practice and precision as you cut and slice through the level.
The AI of the guards isn’t exactly the best, though; they’re often unpredictable, incredibly stupid – no one seems to care that their allies have all been horribly eviscerated – and seeming unfair in their reactions.
But it’s not a game about pinpoint precision; it’s entirely about fast-reactions. Sure you’ll have a general plan that you’ll try and stick to, but knowing how to twitch fire to counter an unpredictable enemy manoeuvre will be important here.
It’s part of the game, and though that might sound like we’re making excuses for Hotline Miami’s poor AI it never really feels like a frustration. You learn to adapt to its intricacies.
How Is Hotline Miami On PS Vita?
Additionally the port over to PS Vita means that the controls aren’t quite as precise as the PC version either. There are times where you’ll fail a particularly impressive streak simply because your cursor was just off.
But again, it never really feels like a punishment. Death is such an inevitable part of Hotline Miami (an in-game tip even pokes fun at it) that a single slip up – even at the behest of the game’s own flaws – never feels like too much of a set up.
You’ll simply tap X and start again.
Controls wise the system has been converted to a twin-stick shooter set up and it works remarkably well. There’s enough of a responsive feedback to the cursor that it doesn’t hold you back, besides the odd slip-up.
It’s impressive how well it works, in fact, and before long you’ll be cutting it with the best. Quite literally.
The PS Vita version also has a cool little trick, too, that allows you to control the camera with the touch screen. It’s a subtle addition, but surprisingly useful.
It also looks fantastic on the PS Vita’s OLED screen. The art style of Hotline Miami is gorgeous enough, but combine it with the beauty of that screen and it almost becomes the best way to experience the game.
There’s a Cross-Buy function too, as well as in-built cloud saves – in other words you’ll get a free copy on PS3 too which can then be used to continue your save from the PS Vita version without having to transfer or download save files.
It’s a brilliant addition and a feature we really hope Sony emphasises as we approach the release of the PS4. Remote Play is one feature that could sell the PS Vita, but this Cross-Buy/Cloud Save functionality will be equally important.
A PS Vita Must Have?
Ultimately Hotline Miami doesn’t have quite the amount of content to be worthy of the highest marks. With only 19 missions – of which two aren’t ‘proper’ missions – it is over a little too quickly.
If you really get into the zone you’ll be able to polish off Hotline Miami in an evening, and the replayability that is there really depends on how you like to play.
If you’re the kind of gamer who really likes to rinse their games, however, then you’ll get much more out of Hotline Miami. The desire to go back and earn high scores aren’t quite as compulsive as others, but if you’re a fan of improving times and rankings then there’s enough here to chew on – and a platinum Trophy for those of you who appreciate these sorts of things.
The game itself is constant fun, however. Some stages mix things up a little and it’s not always reliant on the puzzle nature of the game, instead opting for more all-out bravado at times, but there’s something special about Hotline Miami.
And it’s this uniqueness that really makes it so compelling in the first place. You’ll likely be drawn in by the delicious 80s visuals and the intriguing storyline, but you’ll stay for the tricky trial-and-error nature of its gameplay.
The PS Vita might not technically be the best place to experience Hotline Miami – it’s impossible to deny the PC is more accurate – but with superb controls, that OLED screen and a free PS3 bundle thrown in it’s hard to deny that it’s one of the PS Vita’s must-have games.
And we’ve not even touched on how brilliant the soundtrack is. Seriously.
Version tested: PS Vita