Ever since it released last year for PC/Steam, Dennaton Games' Hotline Miami has been generating a great deal of buzz.  Between its innovative retro-style presentation, its over-the-top violence and its challenging difficulty scale, it's become a big hit amongst the gaming community.  It'll get its due on the console front later this year, as Sony is working with the team to bring it to PlayStation 3 and PS Vita as a Cross-Buy downloadable title.

For all the acclaim, the game takes some getting used to the first time around.  Enemies you face in each stage are vicious and won't hesitate when it comes to blowing you away with a shotgun blast or knocking you down with a pipe.  Plus, there's a bit of strategy involved when it comes to building the highest score possible.  It's not just a matter of running into a room and going crazy with a machine gun... though against larger groups, that's not entirely out of the question.

So we've got some tips to help you out as you play through the game, as well as how to build a massive score in the process.  We'll explain a bit about the different masks you'll wear throughout the game (they aren't just for decoration) and how to take down thugs in each stage.  Read on, and enjoy the crime of your life…

Enemies Aren't Dumb

The first thing you have to realize is that thugs aren't stupid in Hotline Miami.  You may think you can get away with murder, but these guys will run into a room and react at even the slightest sound.

Fortunately, you have the ability to scope ahead and see where enemies are in order to plan your attack accordingly.  Maybe start in the remote corners of a room, where an unprepared thug is sitting on the toilet primed for a quick blast from the shotgun.  Maybe if you're more daring, you can run up and smashing them with a baseball bat.  When you've whittled away enough forces, use the machine gun or another handy firearm to "clean up the mess".

It's also important you don't get distracted by an enemy that's been knocked out.  The fact of the matter is, some of them don't die with a blunt hit to the head.  Some are merely "down for the count," only to get back up and bludgeon you with a quick attack (you die with one hit in this game).  What you'll want to do as you're systematically taking enemy forces apart is go ahead and "finish them off" by smashing their heads into the pavement.  If incoming thugs prevent this from happening, distance yourself and pull out a firearm for when they get back up.  That way you won't get set up for an ambush that will end your run.

You should also try to use cover whenever you can.  Enemies won't hesitate to fire upon you and seeing your character splatter via shotgun isn't pretty.  Shooting and running, there's nothing wrong with that strategy.  Just keep moving and head back into a room to do some damage when the coast is clear,.  This is one of those situations where thinking ahead will keep your score running... and your character from turning into bloody wall decor.

Mix Up Your Attacks

The thing about firearms in Hotline Miami is that you only have a certain amount of ammunition.  Once you're out, you may be in trouble if you don't have a good melee weapon on hand.  It's here that you'll want to learn about the various sharp and blunt implements you have access to in Hotline Miami.

Melee weapons like bats and knives are good, but you'll want to make sure you're accurate with your hits.  If you swing and miss an enemy, you're left wide open to a counterattack.  Make sure you hit accurately and use melee weapons in less crowded rooms.  You also won't make as much noise with one of these as you would with a firearm.

Mixing up your weapon attacks also does something rather cool with your combo score.  While getting points may not be important with learning the basics of the game at first, it eventually gets there as you strive to get the best score on each mission as possible.

Before shooting for a high score, learn the basics of survival first.  Because what good is a scoring run if it ends abruptly?

Masks Are Your Friend

Believe it or not, Hotline Miami isn't just about wearing one mask throughout the game.  You're actually encouraged to try different masks out in order to see what effect they have.

For instance, let's start with the Frog mask used by Zach.  Using this mask, you're able to build combos easier than with any other character in the 10+ kill range.  Those of you looking to boost your scores will want to go with this, despite how ugly the mask actually is.

Next up, there's Brandon with the Panther mask.  Speed becomes a better using Brandon, which helps you get away from enemies and line up "quicker" kills when your score needs it.

Carl uses the Mantis mask and is a bit trickier, as he's slower when it comes to using his weapon.  However, his drill is useful if you need to knock someone down to size in a hurry.

Jake in a Snake mask also utilizes combo-building capability with his kills.  He's similar to Brandon (Panther) that way, but plays a little differently with his weapons.

Finally, there's Don Juan in the Horse mask.  He's based more on firepower but is probably a little higher in difficulty to use.  If guns are your thing, he's your go-to guy.

Other characters included in the game include Louie (with a Chameleon mask) and Richter (with a Rat mask).  Their effects are about the same as other characters, but they're well worth using.

You Will Die…Often

Finally, you need to accept a basic fact with Hotline Miami: no matter who you choose, what your skill level is, or how you approach the game, you're going to die.  It'll be frustrating at first, but as you learn more about the game and the tactics involved, you'll improve and then the high scoring will begin.

Good luck, and we'll see you in Miami!