When Abstraction Games brought out Hotline Miami for PC/Steam last year, it created a ludicrously difficult yet thoroughly entertaining game that pit masked thugs against other criminal types in a complete murder-fest. This means using a club to knock them off balance in the bathroom then finishing them off with a "thwack" to the head; or running into a room while laying down gunfire from your shotgun before they have the chance to do so in return.
The game was a huge hit, which prompted Sony to talk with Abstraction about bringing the experience to the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita. Later in May, you'll be able to experience it for yourself when Hotline Miami makes its debut on PS3/PS Vita with additional content and the helpful Cross-Buy option (both games for $9.99) in tow. We recently had the chance to go hands-on with a near final version of the game, just to see how it was shaping up.
If you're expecting this version of Miami to take it easy on you, you're sorely mistaken. Through our hands-on time with the demo we died... often and bloodily. Whether it was a thug catching us off guard with a bat strike (one hit can easily send you to your grave here) or a shotgun-carrying fiend getting the jump on us because we didn't aim completely in his direction, we perished many times.
This can be frustrating for some (I admit I cursed under my breath a little) but persistence goes a long way in Hotline Miami. You're actually able to scope ahead to see how levels lay out so you can plan your strategy of attack. These thugs are quite perceptive to any loud noises like shotgun blasts and respond rather quickly without any hesitation for taking you down.
Often your best bet is to simply take the stealth approach. In one of the earlier levels of the game, we made our way through some empty rooms and spotted a thug taking a break in the john. You need to react quickly and take him out, because he won't hesitate to get up and kill you. The name of the game in Hotline Miami is survival and it shows right from the start.
Fortunately, the game does allow you to come back to your area if you make a mistake. The checkpoints are rather fair, instead of having you start way back at the very beginning. You can always go through and try a different weapon and lay down your own law. Always survey ahead first, because otherwise you're a sitting duck for an angry mob.
Though the demo didn't give us the chance to try out the different masks in the game (as broken down in our beginner's guide), it did represent how the controls would work when it came to executing your brutal actions. There is some imprecision here, especially when it comes to pointing and shooting at someone on the fly. However, the learning curve is rather simple to get into even if the game itself is not. Soon you'll be mowing down enemies like a champ, before heading back home and getting a voice message that provides you with your next mission.
For the PS3 and Vita versions of Hotline Miami, Abstraction Games will be adding a new online cooperative component so you can work together as a team to bring down rooms of thugs. Though we didn't see this in action in the demo, it's bound to be helpful when it comes to the later levels of the game. Now the only thing we need to know is if "friendly fire" is turned off or if our friends are open season for our attacks...
One final piece of the puzzle that Abstraction will be filling in is a lock-on system. In some ways, this will be a lot easier for killing marked targets. It can could also be a pain for dealing with a group when you aim at one person, only to have another mow you down. But it certainly beats running in unfocused only to become a bloody mess on the carpet.
It's challenging and not everyone will be able to stomach the humorous 80's style blood and gore (this is right up there in pulp value as this week's forthcoming Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon), but Hotline Miami is certainly a one-of-a-kind game that will leave PS3 and Vita owners happy when it releases later next month.