I was one of those gamers who did not get the chance to experience Hotline Miami when it first launched on PC in 2012 and on PS3/PS Vita a year later. However, with the recent PlayStation 4 release, there was no way I was going to skip playing this title once again. I went into Hotline Miami with a brief knowledge of what the game was about; it’s a crazy, bloody and action-packed top down shooter that embraces the feeling of retro-styled video games. Little did I know, it is much more than that.
At first glance, Hotline Miami may seem like an arcady game with its 8-Bit graphics, simple twin-stick mechanics and goal, which is to simply kill everything that is in your way. But, I found that it goes way beyond its simple game mechanics. Since Dennaton’s game is basically a one-hit kill type of game, there is a lot of trial and error involved in it and that’s where I find the game to be truly unique. Because of its top down level design and constant experimentation, I found that Hotline Miami works like a sort of puzzle game, a really fast-paced one. It’s all about pattern memorisation and mechanic mastering, which, at first, is extremely frustrating to use, since using a controller isn’t the most optimal control option for game that was built for PC gaming. However, I slowly got better at it as I moved further along into the game. Once you can successfully exploit all of Hotline Miami’s control nuances and quick action manoeuvres, it becomes one of the most addicting games ever. Just make sure you’re ready to replay the levels over and over again because you’ll die, a lot.
Set in 1989’s Miami, Florida, you play as a masked murderer who receives mysterious phone calls telling him what “job” he has to do next. These “jobs” are just series of killings involving a Russian gang. If this sounds like an over-the-top plot, it’s because it is. Hotline Miami’s story makes absolutely no sense as it is as crazy as the action that is displayed on screen, but that won’t be why you are playing this game. What makes Hotline Miami so great is with its gameplay. Like I previously mentioned, its levels act like sort of puzzles even though there isn’t any kind of puzzle solving whatsoever. You must have an attack strategy planned once you start killing enemies or else you’ll die repeatedly. The levels are so perfectly designed and balanced that the players always need to change up their approach to them. Giving only a small amount of ammo to each gun keeps the game from becoming too easy and encourages you in switching things up. You’ll be on your toes constantly while playing Hotline Miami.
Since the main character uses masks to cover his identity, they play a big role within the game. Each one of those masks gives you different character abilities to help you or provide a bigger challenge in completing the levels. Some will make you walk faster or give you more ammo for your guns, while others will invert your controls or change the language to French. There are multiple ways you can take on a level in addition to the already required experimentation element present within game. You’ll unlock masks by finding them in certain levels or accomplishing certain high scores. Hotline Miami’s replay value will most likely come out of getting those A+ rankings and collecting all of those ridiculous-looking animal masks.
As much as I enjoyed my time with Hotline Miami, it doesn’t change the fact that it has some serious issues. First off, is with the controls. Since the game was built for PC, the controls aren’t as tight as you want them to be on a regular controller. Sure, they are pretty easy to use, but they take quite a while to get used to, especially with the target locking system that rarely targets the enemy you want to kill. The fact that there wasn’t any other control option was really disappointing because I would’ve loved to switch out some of the buttons to accommodate my play style. For a game where simple mistakes can ruin your runs, it was really frustrating to die because my controller wasn’t doing the right thing. Plus the game is extremely short as it only took me 5 hours to beat the game and less than a week to obtain the Platinum trophy for it.
If you have already played Hotline Miami on other systems, there won’t be any new surprises with this PlayStation 4 port, which is free if you’ve previously purchased the game on PS3 or PS Vita. How great would it have been if there was some co-op play included within this version? Unfortunately, you’ll get the same version as every other player with some additional Dualshock 4 implementations that are annoying and awfully forgettable. Though I did enjoy the colorful spectacle from the controller’s lightbar whenever I killed an enemy, the motion control elements that you can use to execute an enemy are just so gimmicky. They require you to shake the controller vertically as if you were smashing the head out of one of the enemies. After playing for 30 minutes, I decided to simply mash the X button on the controller instead because my arms were getting tired from the amount of executions I was pulling off. And, trust me; there are a lot of executions to be had in Hotline Miami. The touchpad also gives you the ability to look further around the map, but you won’t use it that much because the levels aren’t that big anyway.
Hotline Miami on the PlayStation 4 is as enjoyable as the other versions that were previously released. However, since it was designed as a PC game, you’ll get extremely frustrated with its controls at first, but with practice and determination, I am sure you’ll get through those initial controller hiccups. With its unique design revolving around trial error as well as pattern memorization, Hotline Miami can be considered as a complex puzzler that revolves around shooting and killing everything that is in your way. It is an absolute classic and I simply cannot wait for its sequel.