Monday, 1 July 2013

Hotline Miami - Review (PSV/PS3)

Due to the high level of brutal violence, this game is not for Little Gamers (EVER!)

Hotline Miami is the kind of game that the Daily Mail loves to write about. It is essentially the fabled murder simulator that people on Fox News have been banging on about for years. It should be banned, there should be liberal parents and moral do-gooders campaigning constantly that this game will destroy us all. Is it because of the games retro styled graphics that it can away with it in this era of 3D realistic shooters?

I know the real reason why... its because its so damn fun!
Hotline Miami started life as a small indie game on the PC and took the PC world by storm. Its blend of hyper violence, puzzle stealth gameplay and sublime soundtrack had all the hallmarks of a cult classic. The fact the idea for the game came from the cult classic movie, Drive makes it even more of a cult classic. It is the best example of "Just one more go" to emerge in recent years.

Now, Sony have partnered with Devlover and Dennatron to bring their hit game to the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. Now over the last few days since the games launch I have been playing Hotline Miami on the PS3, Vita and the original PC version to get a feel for each version. I can safely say that the Vita version of Hotline Miami is not only the better version on PlayStation, but also the best version of the game so far. Although the touch controls for locking on are a bit wonky, it doesn't detract from the fact that the game just seems to flow better on the Vita.

The game itself is simple enough, you play a unnamed character (known as Jacket to fans) and he is sent to various locations to deal with white suited bad guys that are there. The levels form a series of rooms filled with patrolling mobsters armed with knives, bats, clubs or guns. You need to kill every one of these thugs in order to proceed to the next floor. Simple enough? Did I mention that you are just as vulnerable as your prey, so that one hit will kill you most times. Dying in this game is more frequent and necessary than in Dark Souls and I spent most of my time in that game dead.

You can attack your foes with your fists (using R) and then brutal execute them (using X). You can pick up a myriad of weapons (using L) and can use them or throw them at the enemy. A good tactic is to wait until someone is passing a door and then charge through it knocking them down and allowing you to deal with the rooms other occupant whilst they are dazed. While some will like the stealthy approach to dealing with each floor, sometime you just have to go all out nuts and go on a spree to get through some areas. Jacket wears a animal mask to protect his identity on his vigilante murder-fest. By completing chapters you unlock more masks of different animals. Each of these masks offer different boosts or abilities to help. The owl mask allows you to see secrets, the tiger gives you one hit kill punches and PlayStation exclusive mask Russell the cow turns everything black and white except for the blood. Very Sin City!

The original PC version was a mouse and keyboard affair and for all thumbs gamer like me, quite challenging that way. With the move to consoles and dual stick controls the game feels more at home on a joypad as the fast paced action works better with a twitch based control scheme rather than a precision one. The Vita version even includes touch screen scrolling to look at the level and lock on by tapping on a baddie and it works quite well. As I said earlier, the Vita version just flows better and I am sure that hardcore players will be able to rack up their best scores on that platform.

Graphically, Hotline reminds me of Amiga classic"Dreamweb" with its top down visuals and approach to violence. On a large TV screen the game looks very retro and hard on the eyes. Its meant to look like that though and really adds to the style of the game. On the Vita's wonderful OLED screen, Hotline Miami looks crisp and awesome. It takes on a new lease of life on the handheld with every blood spurt looking gorgeously vibrant and every neon effect more luminous. I heard of people who have immediately dismissed this game because "It looks s***!". Do not be fooled, although the graphics resemble the games of yesterday, the style and level of pixelated violence they can get away with is fantastic.

The only thing left to be said is about the games music score. Featuring such artists like M.O.O.N., El Huervo, Scattle, and Jasper Byrne and many more that a man approaching his forties has never heard of, but feels like he should of. The music is fantastic and really soars when listening on a decent pair of headphones. It is all very eighties style electronic with very hypnotic pulses and really suits the tone of the game.

So, to sum it all up Hotline Miami is a good buy for any PlayStation 3 owner, if you have a PS Vita, this game is the simplest must buy of the year so far. Another huge indie game given a new lease of life on Sony's handheld, Hotline Miami joins the ranks of Limbo, Thomas Was Alone and Machinarium. With huge indie titles like spelunky, terraria and Luftrausers coming to the Vita in the next few months, it is  a great time to pick up a Vita and take some of the best loved games of the recent years on the road or the tube, wherever you are. If you do, for just £6.49 you can own Hotline Miami and indulge in a game that feels wrong but just feels so right at the same time.


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