I have absolutely no idea how you philistines have been playing Hotline Miami with a mouse and keyboard this entire time. I salute your ability to walk uphill both ways in a snowstorm. You are my heroes, doing things I don’t have to do.
I’m kidding a bit in my previous statements, but after playing Hotline Miami for the PlayStation Vita, I feel quite strongly that it’s the superior version. The team at Dennaton Games has smoothed out the controls of an already excellent title. If you own the PC version, Hotline Miami on PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 3 - viva la cross-buy! - is worth a repurchase.
I admit, the Vita was the home to the first version of the game I played. Hotline Miami is one of those titles that I picked up on a Steam sale, but had never actually installed. So when the review code for the Vita version popped up in our schedule, I figured I should give the game its fair shot. I installed the PlayStation Vita and PC versions of Hotline Miami and slipped on my murder mask to see how different they were.
The game starts slow. A tutorial, some backstory, and your first home invasion. Kill, pick up a weapon, kill again, bust down a door too early, die. Repeat. When I started playing the game, I played it as a stealth title, taking my time in each room. Using the Vita’s front touchscreen to scope out the rooms ahead. Standing in a safe place, working out how I’m going to get to my next victim before I become the next victim.
Hotline Miami is a bit of a drug, hitting me in the same spot as Civilization: I feel the need for just one more game. On my first night, I started playing at 11pm only to look up after a particularly vicious level and find it was 2am.
After two hours of solid playtime, I found that my idea of what Hotline Miami was had changed. Death after death after death had numbed my fear of dying. And why should you fear it if you’re just going to start at the beginning of the room? Death is but a speed bump on the road to glorious massacre! Each level in Hotline Miami became a test of speed and recklessness. I know the pre-level tips said this was the way it was supposed to be, but I wasn’t listening. Hotline Miami had to teach it to me with every busted skull, bullet wound, and blood splatter.
Once you switch over to this style of play, the Vita’s improved controls start to take off. It plays like a twin-stick shooter, much in the same way the PC game does if you plug in a 360 controller. The Circle button picks up and drops weapons, L button throws, and R is your attack button. The magic is in the details. On the Vita version, the X button is your execute. Unlike the PC version, if you have a multiple move kill, you don’t hit the execute button and jam on the attack button. You just repeatedly slam the execute button. Simple.
Targeting is also better on Hotline Miami Vita. Like the PC version when using a controller, the right stick controls the direction you’re facing. The in-game tutorial tells you that you can tap on enemies with the front touchscreen to lock-on. If you have meaty lumberjack hands like I do, the touchscreen lock-on is a good thing, but I understand that not everyone has my gargantuan thumbs. That said, the game doesn't tell you that you can also hit the Square button to lock-on to the closest target. If there’s only one target, hitting Square again cancels the lock-on. It's an omission in the tutorial that opens up possibilities.
The improved controls had me hopping from room to room, executing, bashing, throwing, and more. It’s tighter physically because everything is right there in front of you, in the little portable you’re holding. The PC version with a controller is close, but after the Vita, switching between the execute and attack buttons for a multi-move kill just seems slow and clunky. Even in death the game is faster: the X button restarts when you die.
The game looks great on the PlayStation Vita, with the 80’s-style neon and blood popping off the OLED screen. The great Hotline Miami soundtrack has made the transition over, but I recommend a set of decent headphones for the best experience. Dennaton Games also threw in an extra tidbit to entice double-dipping: a brand-new mask that switches the game over to black-and-white graphics with bright red blood as a contrast. It’s not much, but it’s a tiny nod to game’s new home on the PlayStation Network.
So you have to ask yourself a couple of questions. Do you feel comfortable hurting virtual people in very graphic ways? Does the idea of repeated deaths put you in an euphoric state? Do you already own Hotline Miami on Steam, but you want to play it with better controls? If the answer to all those questions is “yes,” then spend the $9.99 and pick up Hotline Miami for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.
The Nitty Gritty
- Visuals: Hotline Miami's 8-bit style graphics look amazing on the Vita's OLED screen. The neon screams.
- Music: The same great Hotline Miami soundtrack makes the transition over to the Vita and PS3 versions.
- Interface: It's crazy how much better the controls are for this new version. You could get close with a controller on the Steam version, but small tweaks make the whole experience better.
- Lasting Appeal: After you've murdered your way through 20 chapters, you can still head back in an beat your high scores. And randomly killing virtual dudes helps blow off steam after a rough day.
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