Review: Hotline Miami (Vita)
Imagine sneaking up behind someone and slicing their throat, kicking in a person’s head as they lay against a wall after taking a punch to the face, or strangling the life out of someone as they desperately try and crawl away from you after being hit in the head with a baseball bat. These are actions you will perform over and over again as you play through Hotline Miami, and as sadistic as it sounds you will enjoy every minute of it.
Hotline Miami is a different breed of indie game. Set in Miami Florida in 1989 you play as an unnamed person who wears an animal mask and slaughters mobsters as requested by mysterious messages left on your answering machine. Instead of a realistically looking first person shooter or third person action game (which tends to comprise most of the violent videogames these days), the game is played from a top down perspective with retro inspired graphics.
Besides how the game looks the way you need to go about playing it is also different. Running straight into a room with guns blazing is a good way to die very quickly. Enemy placement in each level is always the same and their movements and actions are very much predicable. You also can see more around you then just the room you are in, allowing you to monitor the enemy’s movements and plan out a strategy to most effectively take on the situation. Because of that I played Hotline Miami more like it was a puzzle game, taking in the various attributes of the level and trying to figure out the best way to ‘solve’ the puzzle in the most efficient way. It can be quite thrilling when you pull off a well-coordinated plan.
Of course these plans rarely work out the first time and you will end up repeating stages time after time again trying to clear them especially since you are just as vulnerable as the people you are trying to kill, with it only taking one hit to take you out. Thankfully once you die hitting the X Button instantly reloads you at the beginning of the stage so you never feel much frustration, even though the game is very challenging. This also makes it very easy to keep telling yourself “one more try” over and over again. It became quite apparent how many times I hit that X Button to retry when I unlocked a trophy in my second playthrough for dying 1000 times.
Overall I found the layout of the controls done well on the Vita, only having some trouble with the aiming. Aiming is mapped to the right analog stick and is totally independent of moving, so you need to always be sure you are aiming in the right direction to take out an enemy. It can take a while to get used to fully and even now I sometimes have issues with it. You also have the ability auto lock-on to the closest enemy which, while not always dependable, works pretty well in a pinch and you can tap on an enemy to manually lock-on for those times you want to target a specific person.
Warning: Playthrough Preview may contain spoilers.
As expected taking out these enemies is a very violent endeavor. Each level will have you killing people with guns along with throwing and melee weapons leaving disfigured corpses and loped off body parts. Of course all of this is displayed in retro styled 16 bit graphics with crazy neon colors everywhere, which is quite a contrast to the blood splatters of the ruthless violence. But even with the graphics the violence depicted is very brutal and harsh, more so than what you see in some other games. There were moments (especially in the story related deaths) when I just stopped and took in what was happening on the screen and I can’t deny that there were fleeting moments of feeling uncomfortable. You are really not a good person in this game, and I could see this possibly turning some people off.
But of course you aren’t doing all of this killing without a reason. The game has an interesting story presented in tidbits throughout, with subtle details that could easily be missed if you aren’t looking out for them. It is at times few and far in between but comes together to weave an intriguing one that questions the players morality, which is something I was not expecting going into the game. It also leaves a lot up to interpretation and even after going through the game twice I am still trying to wrap my head around it fully.
Accompanying the game is also one of the better soundtracks I have heard in a while. From the very chill opening title song (Horse Steppin) to the ambient apartment song (Deep Cover) and the great range of electronica music that pumps you up during missions, the music fits perfectly with the style of Hotline Miami and does a great job of getting stuck in your mind. Heck even right now I have Silver Lights playing in my head as I write this. Headphones are definitely recommended.
Unfortunately as of right now there are some trophies that are not working correctly, but the developers have stated that they will be fixed so it shouldn’t be too long until you can get the coveted platinum. But as you can probably tell from what I have said above I really enjoyed Hotline Miami. The game gives you a thought-provoking story and strategic and challenging gameplay over the 20 levels (plus 2 bonus stages) that is very much worthy of the M rating it received. As long as you don’t mind the over the top violence, Hotline Miami is a great fit for the Vita that should not be missed.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Vita version of the game.
What I Like:
- Strategic and challenging gameplay
- Instant reloading when you die
- The story
- Variety of weapons
- Awesome soundtrack
What I Dislike:
- The over the top violence could turn people off
- Glitched trophies
- Aiming with right stick can sometimes be off
- AI is not always the smartest and doesn’t react to dead bodies