Platform : Reviewed On PC (Available for PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3)
Release Date : Oct 2012
Price : Game £6.99 / Soundtrack £6.99 (Steam)
One of last year’s indie darlings, Hotline Miami has this year also been released on the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita, opening it up to a wider audience. Set in a bright and colourful 1989, the game casts you as an unnamed hitman, carrying out jobs throughout Miami. Most missions begin in much the same way, with you character receiving a phone call requesting his services (usually in code, asking him for a delivery or cleaning services and so on) and you then get in your car - which appears to be a Delorean because, you know, it’s the 80’s – to go to a specific address where you don an animal design mask to disguise yourself and proceed to kill everyone inside.
Each level is several floors of enemies, who at first be armed with knives and bats but soon will have shotguns and assault rifles. Clearing a floor allows you to proceed to the next, and then clearing the building will congratulate you on completing the level and tell you to get back to your car. Between each level there are short interactive cutscenes where you have to visit various places and have conversations with other characters. These are quite uneventful at first, but become increasingly bizarre as the game goes on. As you progress through the game you unlock additional masks that give you special abilities. My particular favourite is unlocked quite early, the Don Juan mask, which allows you to slam doors into enemies to kill them.
Be prepared to die. A lot. This is not a forgiving game. Each area you visit will have a large number of enemies, who are all perfectly capable of killing you in a single hit or shot. You’ll need to be incredibly quick when faced with enemies to take them out before they get you. On clearing each floor the game will inform you that the stage is complete, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see onscreen prompts before in my life. Some levels you’ll end up playing over and over and over to get through, as just as you think you’ve cleared everyone in the area suddenly a guy with a shotgun or an attack dog appear and you’re dead again.
The game scores you on your performance, giving you a rating at the end of the level and experience points. I’ve not yet managed to get higher than an A- score, so for the achievement hunters out there the A+ on all levels achievement will likely be a tough one to get.
I had a lot of stability problems with the game on level 10. This is apparently an issue with the number of sound effects (mostly from breaking glass) that the game is using and is particularly a problem with Windows 8. This causes the game to crash, and for a lot of people prevents them from getting any further.
Handily, there is a beta version of the game also on Steam, which does not have this problem that you can easily change your game to if you’re having this problem. This version also adds support for a wider range of resolutions including native 1920 x 1080, as previously the game seemed to do some strange upscaling magic – my second monitor wasn’t adjusting resolution so the primary was staying at 1080p, but the screenshots I was taking were significantly smaller.
The controls couldn’t be simpler. On a gamepad, the left stick moves your character while the right stick controls the direction he faces. Then you have one button for picking up and throwing items, and one for attack, and then a final button for interactions and finishing moves. That’s it. Updating to the beta version moves the attack and pick up buttons from the right and left triggers to the right and left bumpers respectively, which is a bit of a shift control wise if you’d gotten used to the controls before and I don’t think works quite as well but this will be the control layout for the PlayStation versions. The options box on the beta allows you to revert this to the old style controls however. After updating I became aware of a look mode, which allows you to move the viewed area on screen to see enemies, I’m not certain if this was in the game before or not but I certainly never saw it documented before then. In fact, I’d very much recommend the beta version to anyone playing with a pad, as aside from the stability fix it also enhances gamepad support, adding proper onscreen prompts with the correct button assignments.
Graphically, the game has a pixelated style, with chucky character sprites and bright levels. The artwork is very stylish and verygood, despite the limited amount of detail pixel art affords you’re never in doubt about what you’re looking at. It’s also
incredibly gory. Some enemies literally explode with blood when killed, and after a hectic fight you can be left with quite a mess.
The music in the game is fantastic, if a little weird. It has a very retro sound and some tracks, particularly those that play between the levels in the cutscenes, can be quite surreal.
All in all it is a very fun and challenging game, but not without its technical problems. People not wanting to experiment with beta software should probably hold off on the PC version for the time being, but anyone with a PS3 or Vita should definitely pick this up, as these versions all work perfectly.