Hotline Miami Impressions (PS3/Vita)

Hotline Miami PlayStation Screenshot 1

These are SideQuesting’s official thoughts on the PlayStation 3 and Vita ports of Hotline Miami. For the full review of the game, you can check out what we thought of the PC version right here.

Hotline Miami wasn’t just one of my favorite games of 2012. It’s easily one of my favorite games this generation.

Its lightning-quick, kill-or-die combat gives every level a sense of video game combat distilled to its purest essence. Each progressive encounter feels less like a conflict, and more like a puzzle with infinite possibilities and limited solutions. Trial and error whittles down each grueling fight until a few, core options are revealed. The reward for the player’s (hopefully) indomitable will is a one-of-a-kind sense of satisfaction. Hotline Miami wraps all of this top-down, one-hit-kill brutality in dirty, violent, 80s-inspired retro visuals, and one of the best (and certainly most appropriate) soundtracks of the games medium.

That’s how it feels on PC, anyway. Now the game is out on PlayStation 3 and Vita as a cross-buy, cross-save, extras-packed $10 bundle which I have the bright fortune of reporting is the best version yet.

Hotline Miami PlayStation Screenshot 2

If you were worried about components of the game being lost in the platform transition, you can cancel your concern. Hotline Miami on PlayStation 3 and Vita inherited everything from its older sibling without an ounce of compromise. The gameplay, surreal narrative, and, of course, the soundtrack are all here without loss of framerate or visual fidelity. In fact, the game looks and sounds amazing both on an HDTV, and the Vita’s always-impressive OLED screen.

Each level remains fast, brutal, and feels perfectly at home on a portable, to boot. Stages can take seconds or hours, depending on how many times it takes you to grok a situation’s solution. With the game’s Super Meatboy-esque reload speeds running, as ever, like greased lightning its easy to fill any stretch of time with repeated failure and eventual success.

Hotline Miami is such a very specific package — a sum of parts which gel together so perfectly — that failing to fire on a single cylinder could implode the whole thing. Chief among those, however, are the tight controls, which allow the twitch-based combat puzzles work as well as they do.

When Hotline Miami first hit PC, a release-day bug meant most were unable to play it with a controller. On PS3 and Vita, of course, the game runs with good ol’ fashioned sticks and buttons, playing much like a twin-stick shooter. There is a very slight loss of precision in aiming with an analog stick when directly compared to a mouse; the trade-off being more direct control over movement. In a game where a single bullet/swing/bite means instant death, however, I prefer the faster, higher fidelity of movement over aiming, which, honestly, never actually feels like a problem under either control scheme.

Peeking around levels and targeting enemies has further been enhanced on the Vita with touch controls (and I do mean enhanced, not just altered) with swiping and tapping the screen fulfilling both functions, respectively. The touch controls are quick, and feel like a natural, organic addition to the game, rather than a shoehorned gimmick.

Beyond the touch controls, there isn’t a lot of new content here. Both versions feature an extra level, “Exposed,” previously only available on PC as a pre-order bonus. The level, as its name implies, is almost entirely without cover. Getting the jump on enemies is tricky, and it’ll probably take the unfamiliar a good while to complete. There’s also one new mask — Russell the bull. Wearing Russell grants the “raging bull” ability, which essentially filters the game to look like the film of the same name (black and white with red blood).

More important than the extra content are the handful of new features. The game now sports leaderboards which, for a game already about honing your abilities through repetition, is a welcome addition. There’s also a full set of trophies, including a platinum, which is sure to appeal to those who want proof of their mastery over the game.

Out of the three versions of Hotline Miami, the one for Vita is my favorite by far. The touch controls feel perfectly at home, and being able to take the game, its music, and flawless design on the go is perfect. Leaderboards, trophies, and inessential-but-welcome extras go just far enough to make either PlayStation port a clear winner. If you haven’t already experienced one of the best games this generation has to offer, this is the version to get.

Author: Steven Strom

Steven is a freelance journalist and editor for SideQuesting, as well as several newspapers. He is a podcast co-host for The Side Quest, Lonely TARDIS and Drunks and Dragons. His interests include comics, books, games you've never heard of and fettucini alfredo.

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