If you didn’t play Hotline Miami when it came out on PC, then you missed an incredible game. From the second you turn on the game, you will know that you are in for an experience that you haven’t had before. The graphics are lo-fi and just feel grungy and weird. The title screen is filled with eye-crossing colors and a text that is maybe Russian? Who knows. While the pseudo 8bit graphics are clunky, they are also very expressive – when you slice an enemy’s throat, you know you are seeing arterial spray.
The sound track for Hotline Miami is so good that it deserves its own paragraph. It is confused and moody and sinister and sets the perfect mood. You are a bad person doing bad things in a bad place. The tracks by M O O N have a special place in my heart. Get a hold of the soundtrack, it will stay in your playlist for ages.
Besides mood, Hotline Miami is all about combat, and once you get the hand of it, it is wonderful. You will die constantly, but similar to games like Super Meat Boy, you are thrown back into the action so quickly that you won’t get too frustated. More like deliciously frustrated. There are endless options for dealing with enemies. Every floor is a puzzle that you can approach from 10 different ways. The enemy AI is unpredictable enough that you will have to improvise and do it in a split second. If you are caught flat-footed you will most certainly be dead.
Here is a typical combat scenario: Burst through a door knocking over an enemy – throw your knife at a second enemy before he can shoot you – grab the baseball bat dropped by the first enemy and cave in the skull of a third enemy coming from across the room – drop down onto enemy one before he can stand back up and gouge his eyes in. This will happen in a span of less than two seconds. Everything is fast and brutal and just gross. You will feel like you need to take a shower afterwards.
I played through Hotline Miami on PC and adored it, but having it live on my Vita is just a pleasure. It plays perfectly, and using the Vita’s sticks is a big improvement over mouse and keyboard. One of the absolutely key components to survival is selecting an enemy as your target. It always felt a little clunky to me on the PC, but the Vita’s touch screen makes it effortless.
Why are you doing this stuff? Why are you wearing weird animal masks? Man, who knows. So much of Hotline Miami feels like a bizarre fever dream. You finish a mission and go into a store and you are given a pizza or a VHS tape. I still have no idea why. All I know is that Hotline Miami has a singular feeling and mood that you can’t get anywhere else.
In my brain I know that Hotline Miami probably deserves 4.5 stars. Okay, maybe 4. I just love it so much though – so fuck it:
This review is based on a retail copy of Hotline Miami provided by Devolver Digital. It is also available on PS3 and PC.